March 10, 2022
Northcentral Minnesota is a reliable testing ground for all things ice fishing—most years the region experiences extended and brutal winter conditions, including ice into the 40-inch range, and beyond. Why endure such weather year after year? Well, it’s beautiful, magical and quite enjoyable to be honest—as long as you’re prepared. It should be of no surprise to learn that In-Fisherman headquarters has been in the area since it’s inception.
The secret is finding ways to deal with the cold. Folks from the South often ask, “How do you make it through winter without going insane?” The answer is simple and totally understandable once you’ve experienced it.
The “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and the entire Upper Midwest—the Ice Belt, as it’s often referred to—offers countless and always dependable ice-fishing experiences. Dedicated anglers rig out snowmobiles to carry and haul all the necessities to stay mobile while drilling holes to search for and catch constantly moving fish. There are also those who love to haul what’s known as wheelhouses—a specialized and fully outfitted “camper” on ice—to their favorite destination and setting up camp for a few days or the entire season.
No matter the method of pulling fish through an 8-inch hole, adequate cold-weather gear is a requirement. If you’re not dressed for it the trip just won’t last.
And cold feet will end a trip faster than anything.
As of late, ample ice-fishing innovations have been brought to the market to make the experience more productive and more enjoyable, most especially footwear. I can remember a time when there were only a couple of boot options, which you purchased two to three sizes too big to accommodate a number of thick socks.
The situation was not comfortable or easy to deal with. And the following companies recognized that problem and went on to provide solutions. (It’s also worth noting that each of the following items will certainly pull double duty for hunting season when Fall and Winter weather push cold-weather comfort to the limits.)
After a hard winter of testing and comparing several winter boot options and footwear accessories, here are our top picks to keep your feet warm and toasty in ice country.
Based in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada, since 1979, Baffin has focused on bringing expertise, high-quality and technically advanced footwear to support the outdoor lifestyle. The Impact boot was tested extensively at both the North and South Poles in the most demanding of conditions. They are a fine selection when activity levels are at moderate to low levels during extended periods of time in extreme cold. These boots feature a removable Comfort-Fit multi-layer inner boot system (liner), B-Tek Dry Waterproof base and they are snowshoe and ice-cleat compatible. They measure 15 inches in height and weight approximately 7 1/2 pounds as a pair—available in men’s 7 to 15 and two colors: Black and snow camo.
MSRP: $280 | Baffin.com
LaCrosse Ice King
Since 1897, LaCrosse has built a reputation for supporting working Americans and outdoor enthusiasts with an extensive collection of quality footwear. The Ice King is the warmest boot in the company’s lineup featuring 400g of Thinsulate Ultra that provides adequate insulation and warmth in the snow and rain without weighing you down, a 3/4-inch removable poly foam liner that both cushions and insulates. The outer material is waterproof and very durable full-grain leather that will provide years of use, which is supported by hand-laid premium natural rubber for 100% waterproof protection—plus it’s highly durable with sufficient traction when dealing with slippery conditions. Comfort rated for arctic conditions from 30 to -70 degrees, the Ice King’s height measures 10 inches and the pair weighs 6.6 pounds. Available in men’s size 7 to 15.
MSRP: $190 | LaCrosseFootwear.com
Sorel Glacier XT
Sorel has a long, storied history of defeating cold feet in arctic conditions. Harsh weather calls for extreme insulation and the Glacier XT fits the bill. The boots feature a drawstring at the top to seal in warmth and made even warmer with the innovative Omni-Heat technology made famous by Sorel’s sister company Colombia Gear. Whether riding the trails on snowmobiles, sitting in a treestand or seeking and catching a myriad of freshwater fish beneath a sheet of ice, Sorel’s Glacier XT’s are an extreme boot for extreme conditions. The boots come standard with a removable 13mm ThermoPlus felt liner, the upper portion of the boot is durable, wind and water resistant to keep body heat stored inside and the outsole is comprised of handcrafted waterproof vulcanized rubber shell that provide adequate traction when bare ice is present. The boots measure 14 1/2 inches high and come in men’s size 7 to 17.
MSRP: $180 | Sorel.com
Inside the Boot
The right boots are critical, but how you layer socks inside the boots is just as important. If you just throw on a pair of cotton socks, your feet will surely freeze regardless of how much money you spend on boots. There is a simple method that will effectively insulate your feet when the winter conditions are challenging.
For starters, consider a thin layer of wool socks against your skin. I suggest making sure they are long enough to reach the middle of your shin—if not the base of your knee. Add a layer of thicker wool socks overtop of the base layer, and you’ll likely stay warm in most conditions. If you’re facing extreme arctic conditions, a third layer of dense wool socks over the two initial layers will add insulation but could restrict internal space. The important thing to remember here is to make sure there is room inside your boots to accommodate up to three pairs of socks. If they are too tight, your feet will get cold quickly.
Scheels Outfitters Extreme Cold Weather System 2-Pack
The right sock layering system will make highly innovative boots even more reliable in difficult winter conditions. For extreme days, Scheels has two pairs of socks that when used in conjunction will keep your lower digits toasty. The lightweight inner merino wool sock traps insulating air and wicks away moisture while the outer sock delivers incredible warmth. Additional Lycra section keeps the sock in place and wrinkle free, so they won’t fall inside your boot. Available in sizes M to XL.
MSRP: $24.99 | Scheels.com
Filson 1970s Logger Thermal Socks
This heavyweight boot sock will add thermal insulation to keep your feet warm in frigid temperatures as a single or additional layer to your footwear system. The socks feature high wool content for moisture wicking capabilities and added warmth, smooth flat toe seam to minimize rubbing and high cushioning for shock absorption. The elastic ribbing in the cuff and leg will provide a reliable and relaxed stretch fit. The socks are made of 50% merino wool, 30% wool, 10% stretch nylon 9% acrylic and 1% spandex to provide all day comfort. The socks come in two classic color combinations and sizes M to XL.
MSRP: $32 | Filson.com
Battery Powered Heat
Let’s face it, some people run warmer or cooler on average and may need additional warmth to remain comfortable. If you need more heat inside the boot, consider heated socks or insoles. Both can be used in conjunction to increase the internal temperature of your ice-fishing footwear, below are options of each.
ActionHeat 3.7V Wool Rechargeable Battery Heated Socks 1.0
The ActionHeat 3.7V heated socks feature the perfect blend of quality and comfort. They feature innovative technology that was designed to warm and create comfort when conditions are less than ideal. There are built-in heating panels on top of the toes and extending the entire length of the bottom of the foot for full coverage. The socks can reach a maximum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit and will last up to 8 hours to keep you comfortable all day long. Machine wash the socks on “gentle” cycle, and they come standard with two batteries and a charging system. The socks are available in sizes S/M, L/XL and XXL. These things are awesome!
MSRP: $99.99 | ActionHeat.com
ActionHeat Rechargeable Heated Insoles with Remote
Heated insoles will work for you when plying frozen ground during hunting season or drilling holes in your local lake looking for hungry fish—both scenarios will invariably make your feet cold if not adequately prepared. This system is simple yet very effective at removing a cold nip from your feet. The easy-to-use controller has three settings that can last up to 8 hours while producing foot warmth up to 140 degrees. They fit in to all sorts of footwear, especially like the boots we discussed above, plus they are ultra-thin to maintain the built-in comfort of your boot of choice. They feature integrated 3.7V rechargeable batteries and come standard with a charger. They are available in sizes S/M and L/XL.
MSRP: $129.99 | ActionHeat.com