Kneeling on hard water and drilling through inches of ice in arctic-like conditions—ice fishing is just plain cold.
Don’t dress right, and it can be miserable. But a quality pair of ice fishing bibs can keep you on the ice longer, up your odds, and even help save your life.
Jump to: The Ice Fishing Bibs We Use
In our collective decades on ice in the harshest of winters, we’ve put plenty of pairs to the test. Some kept us warm, dry, and focused on the mission, while others ruined otherwise awesome days of fishing with leaks, tears, and chills. But the bibs we always go back to have a few things in common.
We’re looking for a warm, weatherproof pair that provides long-lasting performance without sacrificing a comfortable fit.
Jump to: What Makes a Good Ice Fishing Bib
The MeatEater crew has donned these bibs on the ice—and water—and they’ve outperformed all the others.
Eskimo Superior Barrier Bibs
Jay & Chester's Pick
Simms Challenger Insulated Fishing Bib
Synthetic Gen III Insulation
|4.5L waterproof polyester
Ice fishing demands a unique combination of protection and performance in top-tier gear. These are the key qualities we look for in a pair of ice fishing bibs.
Sitting on ice in sub-freezing weather for hours on end calls for clothing that can seal in heat and keep your core temperature from dropping. Great ice fishing bibs will offer sufficient insulation or act as a barrier over insulation pieces as part of an overall kit that allows for shedding and adding layers as conditions change. They should also be windproof to block blustery gusts. Lined hand warmer pockets or built-in muffs are great features to look for, too.
Cold water splashing up, ice melting beneath your body heat—your ice fishing getup needs to completely shield you from moisture, not just resist it. So a 100% waterproof bib is non-negotiable. Additional features such as fully taped seams and waterproof zipper technology can also help prevent leaks in vulnerable spots.
While a pair of bibs that protects you from the elements is important, you still need to be able to move around comfortably when ice fishing. A great bib will offer room for layering without being too bulky, adjustability to achieve a tailored fit, a design built for mobility, and overall comfort.
Like our other outdoor gear, ice fishing bibs are bound to take some abuse through years of hard use. We need a pair that can stand up to the rigors of hard water while offering the functionality needed to make them a utilitarian part of our ice fishing toolkit. Reinforced fabric in high-wear areas, removable knee pads, side zips, and smart storage pockets can take ice fishing bibs from good to great.
No matter the safety precautions you take, some level of risk is always involved when walking on hard water. Trap door ice, thin ice, and ice that’s continually disturbed by icebreaker ships can easily give way and leave ice anglers fighting for their lives.
Most people who don’t survive a breakthrough die from drowning, not hypothermia. So ensuring you can stay at the surface rather than sink into frigid water and get trapped underneath the ice is critical.
That’s why many ice fishing bibs—and jackets—are outfitted with flotation aids that add buoyancy in case of such an emergency, such as the Uplyft Breathable Flotation assistance in Eskimo’s Superior Barrier Bibs.
If you’re ice fishing early in the season, treading onto questionable ice, or just want the added peace of mind, look for a pair of bibs with some type of flotation assistance. But keep in mind even the best flotation assistance is engineered to increase your odds in a worst-case scenario and not intended for testing the limits.
Part of Eskimo’s modular Superior System, these bibs are designed to provide a durable, weatherproof barrier over optional mid-layers for added insulation in temps down to -49 degrees.
"With the customizable system, I'm never too warm when trekking across the ice in the Insulator puffy pants. And when I get to my fishing spot, I can slip into my Barrier Bib shell for maximum warmth and comfort," Chester said.
Built-in adjustability in the shoulder straps, waist, and fold-up hem, as well as a gusseted crotch provide a tailored fit and optimal mobility.
"These are form-fitting and not as bulky or heavy as some other systems I've used in the past—still allowing me to beat my friends as we run to the tip-ups," Jay said.
Fully taped seams, reinforced wear points, and a DuraDry exterior guarantee long-lasting performance in the fiercest conditions.
"As a run-and-gun ice fisherman, I often don't take the time to set up a seat on the ice. I'm kneeling, and the heavy-duty knee pads definitely make a huge difference at the end of the day," Jay said. "Aside from lots of storage on these bibs, I really like the waterproofing, as we always get splashed by the water off the auger when cutting holes."
With a full feature set—including Uplyft Breathable Flotation assistance—and plenty of versatility, Eskimo Superior Barrier Bibs check all the boxes for a solid ice fishing setup.
"Removable knee pads, wicked-smart floatation assistance, and most importantly, their waterproof membrane—it's an ice angler's dream," Chester said.
First Lite's Refuge Bib was built with waterfowlers in mind, but it's just as functional in an ice shanty as a duck blind.
"The First Lite Refuge Bib has been my go-to for ice fishing," Cal said. "I have a couple of other options, but I prefer a bib that will keep me warm, is water-resistant, has easy access to inside layers, and will pull double duty."
Featuring 300g 37.5 Synthetic Gen III Insulation in the seat, 200g in the legs, 160g in the back and body, and 60g in the hand warmer muff, the waterproof Refuge Bib layers well over the rest of your kit for customized warmth and sports full-length size sips for easy on and off. Shield foam in the seat and knees adds a layer of cushion and insulation on cold, icy surfaces.
"From mud-covered waterfowl field hunts to wind-blown, hard-water perch missions, the Refuge Bib makes a ton of sense," Cal said. "Stretch your budget, not your closet."
Reinforced with high abrasion-resistant oxford nylon in the seat, knees, and cuffs, the Simms Challenger Insulated Fishing Bib is engineered to take a beating on the ice.
"I've been running them all season and absolutely love the abrasion panels on areas that get the most wear," Seth said.
The legs are backed by 100g PrimaLoft, while the upper body features 80g insulation. A waterproof storm flap over the front zipper locks out moisture, and the high-back design with adjustable suspenders allows for a comfortable, tailored fit.
With a lightweight construction that doesn’t limit mobility, the Simms Challenger Insulated Fishing Bib isn’t limited to just ice fishing.
"They're also great for open-water fishing out of a boat in colder weather conditions," Seth said.