Best Ice Fishing Heaters Reviewed: Keeping Warm on the Ice

Even fishing at its best can present many challenges. Anglers who fish in hard water have to face new difficulties. Frozen lines, iced-over guide, and fingers that are too numb or unable to tie a new line can ruin even the best fishing days. If you have ever been shivering in a 10-inch hole, then you will know what we mean. These problems can be solved by having a good shelter and warm boots.

You will need a heater if the weather is extremely cold. It’s not enough to keep your shelter at a comfortable temperature. Your gear must also be kept above freezing to ensure it offers the best possible fishing experience.

We’re going to help you choose the best ice fishing heater. We will also be giving thoughtful reviews to some of our favorite heaters.

The Best Ice Fishing Heaters in a Glance

  • Mr. Heater BuddyOur Choice!
  • Mr. Heater Big Buddy
  • Mr. Heater Little Buddy

The Best Ice Fishing Heaters – Reviewed

Mr. Heater Buddy – Our Choice!

Mr. Heater F232017 MH9BXRV Buddy Grey Indoor-Safe Portable RV Radiant Heater (4,000-9,000-BTU)

Rating BTU:4,000 to 9,000 (upto 225 square feet).

Source of fuel:1 1 lb. cylinder, or a 20-lb. Optional filter and hose for the cylinder

Auto tip-off:Yes

Oxygen sensor: Yes

Weight:10.6 lb

You can see that Mr. Heater is the market leader in propane-powered portable heaters. This is not favoritism, but a fair assessment of the company’s products. We were unable, despite extensive research to locate another company that produces indoor-rated propane heaters suitable for use with ice.

Their most popular model is the Buddy, and it’s because of its unique features. It was previously available in bright red but is now available in light gray. However, it still delivers amazing performance. You can ignite the heater by pressing a Piezo key while switching to “pilot” on the control switch. With a high or low setting, it can produce a steaming 9,000 BTUs per hour. Or as low as a fuel-sipping 4000. A single fuel cylinder of one pound will last for three hours on the high setting. The low setting is more common, which can last up to six hours.

The Buddy can be connected to a 20-pound reusable gas cylinder using an optional filter and hose. This means you don’t have to worry about the fuel but it can add quite a lot of weight and bulk.

Warmth is a concern. Even on low, a standard portable shelter will be hot quickly. You’ll need to cycle your Buddy on and off depending on the temperature. This may seem like a lot, but it is actually the best choice.

The Buddy’s ability heats up to 225 square feet is a great option if you fish from a bigger shanty or require heat in an RV or trailer that you park by the lake. We feel very comfortable using this heater in enclosed spaces, thanks to an oxygen sensor and an automatic tip shutoff. Make sure to allow for adequate ventilation.

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The heater’s handle folds down to reduce its footprint. Although Mr. Heater warns that the heaters may not work above 7,000 feet, users report no problems.

This Mr. Heater Buddy is our top pick for the best ice fishing heater.

Pros

  • It’s easy to get started
  • Low and high settings
  • Great fuel consumption
  • We believe safety features are essential
  • Minimal footprint
  • It can be connected up to 1 lb. Or 20 lb. Cylinders

Cons

  • It’s probably a little too warm for most portable shelters
  • Cannot function above 7,000 feet

Mr. Heater Big Buddy

Mr. Heater F274830 MH18BRV Big Buddy Grey Indoor-Safe Portable RV Propane Heater (4,000 , 9,000 and 18,000 BTU)

Rating BTU:4,900, 9,000, or 18,000 (up to 450 square feet).

Source of fuel:2 1 lb. cylinders, or a 20-lb. a cylinder with an optional filter and hose

Auto tip-off:Yes

Oxygen sensor: Yes

Weight:17.1 lbs.

The Big Buddy is essentially a bigger, stronger, fan-assisted brother of the standard model. The Big Buddy is almost certainly too powerful for a tent. However, it has all the power you need to use trailers, RVs, and camps as your fishing headquarters.

This model is similar to Buddies. It starts by turning the control knob to “pilot” then pressing the Piezo button. You can adjust the output of this model by selecting from 4,000, 9,000, or an amazing 18,000 BTUs/hour. The Big Buddy can be powered by 4 D-cell batteries, or connected to a standard socket. It will then push heat with great power.

The Big Buddy can heat up for five hours on low using either two disposable cylinders, or an optional filter and hose to connect to a full-sized tank. It can be hooked up to a large tank for a long time.

This heater can heat large areas quickly on high. It also has safety features that will give you peace of mind. Venting is still necessary.

Although technically portable, it is not something we would take out on the ice to use as a tent or shanty.

Pros

  • It’s easy to get started
  • Setting options include high, medium, and low.
  • Great fuel consumption
  • We believe safety features are essential
  • Minimal footprint
  • It can be connected up to 1 lb. Or 20 lb. Cylinders
  • Ideal for RVs, trailers, or camps that double as fishing headquarters

Cons

  • Portable shelters need way too many heaters
  • Cannot function above 7,000 feet

Mr. Heater Little Buddy

Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium

Rating BTU: 3,800 (up to 95 square feet).

Source of fuel:1 1 lb. Cylinder

Auto tip-off:Yes

Oxygen sensor: Yes

Weight:5.85 lbs.

The Little Buddy has you covered, whether you want a flip-over, a hub, Eskimo, or Clam. The average portable ice shelter is approximately 80 square feet. With 3,800 BTUs per hour, this small propane heater will heat the air to a comfortable temperature in minutes.

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This heater can be ignited using a Piezo sparking mechanism that is connected to one button. You can expect to heat for 5.6 hours using a single, 1-pound propane cylinder before you have to change to another one. We recommend that you have a spare for all-day comfort. You won’t need much weight to carry on the ice, as it weighs in at under 6 pounds

We love the features of the Little Buddy, such as an oxygen sensor and tip shutdown. However, it is best to not move the unit while it is lit. It will shut off if you give it a slight push.

The basic design of this heater is what we don’t like. The heater’s element is mounted on top of the cylinder. The propane tank rests inside a plastic cradle. It is only eight inches wide, so it’s not the strongest platform. Also, it can freeze to the ice. Some users also have difficulty getting the Little Buddy to work.

The heater’s head is set at 45 degrees and is non-adjustable. This is fine with us, but it means there is no way to control the heat output. Off/on is the only choice.

Overall, we don’t like this Mr. Heater line.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Simple controls
  • A portable shelter requires a lot of BTUs
  • We highly recommend safety features

Cons

  • There are no output controls
  • It is not the most stable and can freeze to the ice.
  • Sometimes, things can be finicky
  • Cannot function above 7,000 feet

Our Pick: The Mr. Heater Buddy

We tried everything to find other heater options but couldn’t find any. We do know that the most popular option for ice is sunflower-style heaters. They should not be used in trailers, RVs, tents, or other types of cabins. We refused to review them. And we cannot stress enough how they kill anglers every year through their improper use.

Do not be seduced by the online support for ventilated tents.

Your life is at risk!

There are propane heaters that can be used in RVs. We wouldn’t recommend that you take one of these heaters out on the ice.

The Mr. Heater range is the last option. They have proven to be reliable, year after season. The Buddy is our favorite because it can provide heat for portable shelters and keep campers, small trailers, and RVs warm in the coldest of weather.

The fuel-sipping design makes it easy to use and offers multiple settings. It is compact and stable. You can also use it with a snow machine or sled to transport your gear to the ice. We recommend the Little Buddy if you require more heat or are unable to handle the bulk and weight of the Buddy.

What you should look for in a quality tent ice fishing heater

Safety First

Although there is a lot of misinformation online, this is one thing you must understand. It is your life that matters. Not because you will freeze to death but because heaters not designed for indoor use can cause serious injury.

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Outdoor heaters can be used in open spaces such as construction sites or sporting events. They can be useful for keeping warm in tents or on open ice. However, they pose a danger to your health. They can produce deadly levels of carbon monoxide which is a silent killer. They should not be used in enclosed spaces like tents, vented or unventilated.

Notice: You must ensure that the heater you choose is suitable for indoor use. We only review heaters that can be used indoors.

  • Low oxygen sensor –Propane fuel will burn to heat your tent and consume oxygen. Poor ventilation can cause the propane fuel to burn more oxygen, increasing the amount of carbon monoxide produced during combustion. This silent killer can make you feel sleepy and eventually cause you to become unconscious. It can also lead to your death. You should use a heater that automatically turns off when oxygen levels drop to ensure safety.
  • Indoor rated– Never use an outdoor heater indoors. The heat from outdoor heaters can cause deadly carbon monoxide levels and can quickly kill anglers if they are not used in an enclosed space. Many websites do not do enough research and recommend heaters that can be used in enclosed spaces or tents.
  • “Sunflower” and Tank-Top heatersSunflower heaters are very popular and heat up quickly. They are not safe for indoor use, and they produce too much carbon monoxide. Every year, people are killed by their use in trailers and tents.
  • Ventilate and aerateVentilation is essential for any tent or icehouse, even if you have the best heater. Propane heaters can produce carbon monoxide. You must be careful. Clean, fresh air is what you want. To ensure optimal combustion, you must have plenty of oxygen. Even indoor heaters, this is important.
  • Auto tip shutoff –We prefer heaters with wide bases that are stable and hard to tip. Models that have an auto-tip shutoff feature are also preferred.

BTU output vs. shelter size

Match the BTU output of the heater to the shelter. You should aim for a match that is as close as possible. Keep in mind, however, that there are many heaters with multiple settings.

Propane full size or portable

You can attach some heaters to either a portable propane tank of one pound or a large standard tank. Others can only be used with one of the two.

Although we don’t like the idea that you have to drag a large tank onto the ice, if that’s your preference, all of the heaters reviewed can be attached either to disposable cylinders of one pound or refillable cylinders of 20 pounds with optional hoses.

Fuel consumption

BTU output and fuel use are obviously related. However, not all heaters are created equal. You want one that can sips propane instead of gulping it.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.