Perhaps ice-fishing’s greatest challenge is gear that serves a purpose, without standing in the way. Last season, the Otter X-Over (Crossover) led the way with an intelligently designed side door option that’s long been called for by serious anglers across the ice belt.
While other options have existed on the marketplace, most put anglers at odds with support bars or other obstructions when trying to enter their shelters, thus defeating the purpose of getting into your house without things being in the way.
In the Pro models, the X-Over gives anglers full 4-sided access throughout the house, a real improvement to anglers on the move and looking to have the most flexibility from their setup. A rear access door is great for grabbing gear from the sled without disturbing any anglers inside fishing. It’s not meant as a door to walk into the shelter unless you’re talking about a furry friend. Dog-owners love the ability to open the rear door and allow their pets to slip in and out.
When it comes to walking into the house, of course, there’s the standard front door, but the star of the show is definitely the side-access doors. On both sides of the shelter, anglers can enter or exit with only a small tweak to the shelter support bars that maintain the rigidity of the shell. Simply unclip the support bar blocking the door and move it forward to its new position on the bottom shelter support bar.
New for this year, Otter is providing to customers a quick pivot that allows the shelter bar to move independently on its right and left sides. That allows anglers to open either side door, both doors, or none, depending on whatever configuration they choose. This allows maximum flexibility for wind positioning, peeking at tip-ups, or general access all around the shelter.
Why are full side doors of interest throughout the marketplace? Primarily because of all the junk ice anglers carry with them. Whether it be minnow buckets, rod holders, flashers, or tackle, it’s nice to have your gear laid out in front of you near the ice holes such that you can make use of it for fishing situations. Rather than stepping over it continually, both on your way in and out of the house, each angler can exit the most convenient side door. Of course, if you’d prefer to exit the front door because of a rod holder, light, or other accessories to your side, you can always make use of that option.
Perhaps most importantly though, the side doors allow your heater to be centrally placed to warm all anglers in the shelter, while also keeping it away from bibs, line, and the shelter sides. Anyone who’s ice-fished has some melted gear somewhere, and many have lost gear altogether due to extreme damage that a heater can do. I’ve even lost a fish, and a few lures by partially melted line that glances the edge of the heater. It’s easy to do when trying to carefully negotiate entry from a front door while keeping your gear from going into the hole.
All of which points to this year’s X-Over being the best introduction yet. Depending on your seat and heat preferences, you can go with the Pro model that sports more insulation and bucket seats, or stick with the XT models that feature a full-length bench seat and backrest. Both are extremely warm and stand up to the rigors of even the coldest ice environments.
If you haven’t given them a look, it’s best in person. Focus on the quality all around the build, especially pertaining to the 4 S’s – Shelter, Structure, Seat, and Shell. These four components provide a great basis for comparison with other items on the market. Look specifically at each to determine material and craftsmanship. Is the sled rotomolded to ensure even thickness and durability throughout all portions? Does it have molded or a bolted hitch system? If you tow your ice shelter with ATV or snowmobile, those first two questions may mean the most to you. Is the tubing square, lightweight, aluminum to reduce weight while providing strength and rigidity? Is the seat and associated hardware minimalist, lightweight, and strong while providing comfort? Does the shell loft insulating air, reduce seams and air penetration, while maintaining a tough outer exterior? These are the questions you should be asking yourself as you compare the various shelters on the market.
Consider the X-Over as Otter’s best rendition to date, but rest assured that more innovation in this market is on the way.