I like Eskimo Pop-ups.  Well, I like ice fishing in any pop-up, period, but I really do liked Eskimo’s tents.  We’ve been selling Eskimo pop up ice shelters since they first began producing them at around 2002 or so.  I remember the first ones we got in stock.  The door was in the corner and you had to wedge yourself into the tent sideways.  Once in, you were fine, but getting through that corner was an issue if you had a parka on or were a big feller, or were a big feller with a big parka.  The first year we had them they sat in a pile and were harder to sell.  The next year, demand improved and we began shipping tents.  Then competition for Eskimo started making tents with “D” doors and we picked up several suppliers.  Clam came into the game somewhat late.  Eskimo dominated in sales and Shappell joined the ruckus along with HT, and in more recent years, Frabill finally threw their pop-up into the ice fishing hat.  At this point, a pop-up was a pop-up, was a pop-up.  To some degree, that holds true today.  Clam had a bunch of issues when they were selling like crazy and that hurt them in numbers.  No huge deal, but the coating they applied on the inside of the Clam tents to make them be “black-out” tents would peel off on the inside (only some tents, not all) causing major consternation and despair (it’s an ice fishing tent for under $200 bucks – it’s not a Porsche) for some fishermen who felt that this huge investment had to be built like the proverbial brick outhouse for less cost than their monthly beer allowance.   At times like these, we saw improvements in design and some re-thinking of how these tents worked across the scale of competitive manufacturers.

That is how Eskimo made the first wide-footprint tents.  Their idea was to make a tent that gave you more space at ice level than at the head.    Afterall, you spend your day sitting in an ice fishing shelter.  I’ve yet to meet any ice fisherman who does jumping jacks in between reeling them in.  The extra floor space is suited to parking your electronics and other gear out of  the way but easily displayed in front of you.  This was a brilliant move because the tent can be bigger and not  bigger all at the same time.    Eskimo’s  949 and 949i (thermal) were HOT sellers the first year.  And, of course, the 949i had issues with about 30% of the tents having poles pop-out of the hubs on the ice in the wind.  Consternation and despair set in with the same relative number of ice fishermen because the world has now stopped spinning.    But, one of the reasons I like Eskimo is because when you have a problem with your stuff that is still under warranty or is an issue they know about, 99.99998% of the time, they solve it for my customers immediately – and they are quick about it, too.   Solving means they’ll send you a new pole or on occasion, tell us to call you to have you bring your tent back in and swap it out for a new one.  Fortunately, we have very few of these occurrences over the last 12 years or so.  I can think of  two instances out of several hundred tents sold.

They worked the few bugs out of the new wide floorspace models and we’ve had really reliable tents ever since.  The Eskimo 9416i is a HUGE, insulated, tent with enough space to sit 7-9  people with ample fishing room.  You can set it up over the top of a reef and both sides can be fished at the same time.  Heck, if you wanted you could place your tip-ups on the far end of the tent and not need to put your parka on when you go  “flags up”.  It’s a big ice shelter.  But, it doesn’t have to be just for ice fishing although it seems like the world has that stuck in their heads.  “You can’t use a pop up ice fishing shelter for anything other than ice fishing.  It’s the law.”   It’s not the law.  You could set up these highly adaptable tents for tons of stuff outside for everything from fall garage sales, to open air hockey tournaments, winter bake sales, etc.  On a fall day, you could pop one up for the family to go outside and do something different.  Conservation officers in our area set them up on snowmobile trails for processing perps or maybe a place to have lunch, I dunno.

What you need with these tents regardless of insulation is a heater.  You can’t just hang out inside with no heat.  You’ll freeze your butt off making sitting difficult.  Put a Mr. Heater Big Buddy in the middle or one regular Buddy Heater  on each end.  Insulated pop-up ice shelters – regardless of brand – weigh just about twice as much as a non-insulated tent.  The advantage to a thermal ice shelter is that when heating with propane and breathing inside, the condensation that can form on the ceiling, doesn’t melt and run down the wall until it hits a seam, dripping on your neck.  You have to wipe down the non-insulated tents firly frequently and they all drip.  For the dripless material, that alone is worth the extra weight and expense to me.  Plus, a thermal that has the outside snowflap shoveled over with snow to seal out wind, will burn about 20% less propane to heat.   They tend to heat up a bit warmer because, well, they are insulated.   Now, will it be so warm that you’ll be running around naked inside?  No.  You’ll still need to keep the majority of your outerwear on, so don’t be thinking that you’ll be fishing in  a makeshift Bermuda just by getting one of these Eskimo tents.

The summary:  An ice fishing pop-up costs about $10,000-15,000 LESS than an Ice Castle wheel house.  You can use it all over the place with quick set up and take down.  Put one in a cargo sled behind your snowmobile or on the backseat of your car and you can have a shelter anywhere you want in seconds for a fraction of the cost.  No fighting with slush requiring you to make sure you get to the ice to move the wheelhouse.  Nobody breaking in at night to swipe your stuff.  To park a pop-up, just put it in its back and stick it in a corner in the garage.   Now, do you need the Barco lounger,  42″ flatscreen on the wall, and carpeting so you can fish in your socks?  Well, maybe, but I know I don’t.  You have to store that big, comfortable, somewhat inconvenient beast in the summer.  The weather constantly picks at it and the tires will go to crap from sitting 6 months out of the year.  I find them to be an expensive novelty.  I consider a popup shelter an ice fishing necessity that has more convenient uses than just ice fishing.

The Eskimo FatFish 9416i Ice Shelter provides up to 60% more fishable area than similar-sized shelters on the market. Five more inches at elbow height give you plenty of room to pull up your catch without jabbing someone in the ribs. Fully insulated with IQ™ insulation to keep you warm out on the ice. With its tight weave and ultrahigh thread count the strong, yet lightweight 300-denier IceTight™ polyester construction offers wind and waterproof protection. Corners are reinforced with full-length folded-tube webbing that eliminates weak stitches and seams. High-impact rubber patches and abrasion-resistant polyethylene-oxford fabric. Durable all-metal ball-and-socket hub design allows you to set up and take down the shelter quickly. 11mm extra-large fiberglass poles and strong ice anchors withstand high winds. Distinctive X-style reflective highlighting for nighttime visibility. Features 10 large removable Velcro® windows, two doors, four gear pockets, four mesh storage pockets and YKK® zippers. Includes nine ice anchors and a handy carry bag. One-year warranty. Imported.

Capacity: Seven to nine anglers.
Set-up size: 167″L x 94″W x 80″H.
Elbow room: 172″L x 99″W.
Fishable area: 109 sq. ft.
Collapsed size: 62″L x 14″W x 14″H.
Wt: 55 lbs.