There Really Is Such A Thing As An Ice Fishing RV And It’s Genius
I suppose if I had adhered to my northern roots, started RVing sooner, or been able to hook anything more than some unfortunate worms and my own hand, I might have known about this sooner. As it turns out, there are RVs created specifically for those inclined to skip the RV park and head straight for the open water, albeit frozen, and go ice fishing. They do this in an Ice Fishing RV.
What is an Ice Fishing RV?
As its name implies, an Ice Fishing RV is a travel trailer with some very unique features designed specifically for getting out onto a frozen lake for ice fishing. If the phrase ice fishing conjures up images of tiny wooden shacks à la Grumpy Old Men, then think again. Today’s ice fishing RVs are nearly palaces in comparison. Models from Glacier, Ice Castle, Forest River, and Yetti Outdoors run the gamut between functionality and luxury.
In the United States, ice fishing RVs are most often used in Minnesota, upper Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Alaska, and other northern areas where lakes are plentiful and the ice freezes thick enough to allow vehicles and campers on it. An ice fishing RV weighs roughly between 2500 and 5500 lbs, needing an ice thickness of between 8 and 15 inches to support the weight.
Unique features of an Ice Fishing RV
An ice fishing RV has several unique features that you won’t find in most standard travel trailers. The build quality is noticeably higher as efforts to keep the cold out are taken seriously, and build materials are of a higher quality.
The most notable feature of course are the holes. Whereas the rest of the RV world is trying to prevent holes in your RV, the number of holes in an ice fishing RV are considered a feature. Rather than shopping travel trailers by how many bathrooms they might have, an ice fishing RV is often measured by how many holes it has.
The holes in the floor are covered when not in use and can be opened to allow access to the ice for fishing. Models come with anywhere from 4 to 8 fishing holes in the floor. You still have to make your own hole in the ice of course.
If you see one of these unique travel trailers in tow on the road, you might not be able to tell that it’s an ice fishing RV. However, it’s when it’s parked and set up that you really see a visible change to the exterior.
The wheels and axle system are designed to rotate up to cause the bottom of the RV to be flush with the ice. The effect is a bit disconcerting at first, as you can tell something looks wrong but it doesn’t hit you right away. These axle/frame combinations use simple winch systems at the low end, to more elaborate remote-controlled hydraulic systems to raise and lower the RV.
The lowering of the RV frame directly to the ice brings those interior ice holes closer to the surface, as well as preventing wind and snow from blowing around underneath the RV. This prevents cold air from swirling up through the fish holes into the RV, as well as blocking any line-tangling wind from having its way with your expensive fishing gear.
As you would expect, an ice fishing RV has better insulation than the standard RV or travel trailer you might see. While most common travel trailers may have an insulation R-value in the single digits, an ice fishing RV will typically have double-digit R values in the 13-18 range. Additionally, floor and ceiling insulation is beefed up and sealed against moisture far better than in standard RV construction.
Windows are dual pane with a tighter seal than standard RV windows, and often tinted to repel the glare from the sun reflecting off the ice. Additional details, such as sealing knot holes in wood and using radiant barrier wraps are all techniques used on various models to keep out the cold.
Rugged, stylish interiors
The interior of an ice fishing RV is very stylish, albeit more masculine and rugged in appearance. Much of that is due to the materials. Cedarwood is often used for cabinetry and walls. This provides strength, additional insulation value, and that nice cedar aroma to help offset the fishy smells you hope to achieve if the day goes well.
Floors are far more utilitarian than a standard RV, using a heavy rubber flooring that is a necessity when you are slinging ice and fish guts around. Usually laid on top of marine grade plywood, this flooring solution makes sense. The thick rubber helps repel the cold as well. Available wood planking is a stylish and durable upgrade on many models.
Don’t let these rugged features fool you, though. Well-equipped ice fishing RVs can have flat-screen TVs, dinettes, ovens, refrigerators, solar panels, and of course, a bathroom.
One unique feature offered by some of the ice fishing RV manufacturers is the availability of a shell model. A shell model is an ice fishing RV that is completely built and insulated but is unfinished on the inside, allowing you to customize as you see fit.
Many RV forum threads and Facebook pages are filled with folks looking to modify the interiors of their RV. Buying a shell model means you can have it your way from the beginning by customizing it yourself.
Cost of an Ice Fishing RV
Prices of these unusual, well-built RVs start at about $14,000 for a 12-foot model with 4 ice holes. For that price, you still get a nicely finished interior with a kitchen, a sleeper sofa, and a raised bunk.
The other end of the scale puts you at around 24 feet and $40,000. Models with 7 or 8 fishing holes will have a full finished kitchen, a full bath, a dinette, power awning, flat-screen TV, ceiling fans, fireplaces, and more. An RV of this size will have dual axles and touches like LED lights around the fish holes, and a port for an underwater camera.
You can buy an ice fishing RV on shopping sites like RVT.com, or through the manufacturer’s dealer network.