Pop-up hubs and flip-overs: The pros and cons of ice-fishing's two hottest houses.
Ice-anglers have more options than ever for seeking shelter from winter's wrath inside a cozy portable shack. These mobile units have experienced big gains in technology and performance in recent years.
Meanwhile, manufacturers have expanded their lines to offer models and features to accommodate virtually any style of fishing.
Today's portable-shelter landscape is dominated by two basic designs: flip-overs and pop-up hubs.
Where flip-overs once ruled the ice, hubs have come on strong in the last couple of years — grabbing a sizeable chunk of the market and even gaining the majority of new house sales in some areas.
Here's what you need to know about each type so you can choose the right shelter for your fishing adventures.
HUBS ON A ROLL
Pop-up hub-style houses are lightweight, inexpensive, easy to transport and set up, and offer far more elbow room than flip-overs.
Once fragile and plagued by mechanical problems, hubs have become infinitely more durable. Anchoring systems for securing them in place have likewise improved.
"I pulled an Otter flip-over literally thousands of miles across the ice each season, and was hesitant to try hubs at first," said veteran guide Jon Thelen, who travels the north country each winter filming "Fish Ed TV" and online programming. "Once I did, I quickly became a believer, and today I use hub houses in at least half of my ice-fishing trips."
Since Thelen is often on the ice in sub-zero conditions, he's thankful for how well hubs keep the cold at bay.
"Hubs seal to the ice to lock out drafts, and the latest round of quilted, insulated fabric really holds in the heat," he said. "You barely have to run a small heater to stay warm."
Thelen also appreciates hubs' ample fishing space. "They're so spacious compared to flip-overs," he said. "You go from sitting in a chair, fishing a hole or two in relatively close quarters in a flip-over to being able to stand up, move around and fish multiple holes in a hub.
"A pop-up's extra room also makes it a great option for fishing with friends or family," he adds. "Thanks to the space, comfort, and ease of moving in and out via multiple doorways, the pop-up quickly becomes a hub of activity."
More on Ice Fishing
Thelen also notes the affordability of hub houses. The lower price point allows anglers on virtually any budget to get into the ice-fishing game, or add a hub to their existing gear.
Since hub houses collapse into light, compact packages, they can be transported in cars and other small vehicles that couldn't carry a full-size flip-over shelter. And they're easily towed in a sled — even by anglers on foot where ice thickness or other factors preclude the use of ATVs and snowmobiles.
"That last factor alone is a main reason hubs are such big sellers in areas where the majority of anglers walk to their fishing areas," said Matt Roberts, an ice-fishing specialist on Cabela's Upper Midwestern merchandising team. "They're extremely big sellers in western states like Montana and Colorado, and even outsell flip-overs in Utah."
THE FLIP SIDE
As the name implies, all that's involved in setting up a flip-over house is flipping the frame over your head with an ease that engenders extremely fast set-up and take down.
"Flip-overs definitely have the edge in mobility," said longtime guide and noted Northwoods fishing expert Scott Glorvigen. "You can bounce around pretty quickly on the hunt for a bite, or when following a school of feeding fish — such as hungry walleyes moving across a point or bar during peak activity periods at dawn or dusk."
The ability to break camp quickly and easily, especially in brutal conditions, also encourages anglers to keep moving instead of hunkering over unproductive water.
The quicker you can move, figure out patterns and take advantage of small windows of feeding time, the more fish you'll catch — especially when the fish are in a neutral to negative mood.
"Flip-overs have the advantage there, but that's not to say hubs don't have their place," he said. "They offer practical benefits in cost, transportation and space. I think they're great for groups of anglers, walkouts and whenever frequent moves aren't part of your game plan. Hubs also work well for deer hunting blinds."
When it comes to choosing a hub vs. a flip-over, both Thelen and Glorvigen remind us that there's no rule saying you can only pick one kind of portable.
"Hubs are so inexpensive, there's no reason not to have both," Thelen said. "I often strap my pop-up to my flip-over and tow them both behind my snowmobile. The flip-over is great for running and gunning, but once I'm on fish, the pop-up is awesome."
Cabela's Six-Side Thermal Hub Shelter
Roomy and durable. Weighs 45 pounds yet spans 65 square feet and houses seven anglers. cabelas.com
Clam Outdoors Escape Ice
Decked in "Cracked Ice" accents, towers 90 inches and comfortably holds five ice-men plus gear. clamoutdoors.com
Frabill Model 2255 Bro SideStep
Fully quilted insulation, two-person modular seating, SideStep entry and easy-to-deploy frame. frabill.com
Otter XTH Pro Resort
ThermalTec 600 denier fabric with quilted insulation, Ice-Lock anchors and reinforced poles and wear points. Covers 101½ square feet and seats eight. otteroutdoors.com
Clam Outdoors X300 pro thermal
Three-person, 40-square-foot flip-over with front and side doors, full thermal fabric, deluxe swivel seats and rugged 1¼-inch poles. clamoutdoors.com
Heavy-duty, loaded with features and cloaked in four-layer, insulated StormShield fabric. geteskimo.com