There are those of us that can settle for “good” or even “really good,” while others have the urge to continue to tweak up to the point of insanity. For some reason, between my parents and God’s will, I have the latter of the two tendencies. I cannot settle for “stock” from the factory on anything and have to add things on here and there to get things just right. However, I often struggle to find “just right” and drive myself nuts trying to take my stuff to the next level. This is true with my boat, my guns, my truck, electronics, my house, etc. If I can afford it and think it will help me out a bit, I will find a way to make it happen. This same obsession took form in the way of modifying my ice shack. I wanted to have a more “user friendly” shack that would keep things from falling off, banging around, etc., while dragging it across the snow and ice, up and down hills, and while traveling in the back of my truck. This would be a fun project.
Recently I purchased a used HT Polar Escape Iceman one man flip-up ice shack (thanks Nate!). When I bought it I decided I was going to modify it the way I have seen others modified. To start off, I did some research and looked through some examples of modifications other iceheads have made to their flip-up shacks. I saw rod lockers, hidden compartments, lighting systems, fused switch panels, etc. After doing this research I can tell you one thing, we outdoorsers sure are a creative bunch. I took some of these ideas and brainstormed what I thought would work with my modest little shack, threw out some of the ideas that were a bit over the top for me and pondered the ones I liked. If you are going to do something like this, the planning process is really where most of the work and time goes as I spent many hours trying to see what I could do with the space I had and prioritizing my needs and wants. However, despite my anal retentive nature to get things just “perfect,” I settled on a list of my larger/more important wants and needs:
1. Elevated deck to keep things out of the basin of the shack.
2. Carpet on the deck to protect the things on it and to keep things from sliding all over on it.
3. Some set cut-outs for my seat and other things to keep them in one place during transit
4. Totes in the open spaces below the deck for storage of “loose” items, food, drink, etc.
5. A handy dandy auger bracket/securing system.
6. A few other desires were for an easy to use permanent ruler (since I do a lot of CPR and measure/release fishing), rod holders for securing the rods I am using during “hole hopping,” dipper holder, etc. These kinds of small tweaks are what I really enjoy doing and even though they seem a bit trifle and unnecessary, I like to fiddle quite a bit.
As I said, the planning is really the hard part and took the most time for me. After that was done, it was time to take some final measurements and buy my material. And even when I thought I was “done,” I kept finding little tweaks and changes here and there. For this project, the bulk of my materials list included:
1. 1- 4’x4’ piece of 3/8” CDX plywood. ($9.98)
2. 1- 3’ long 2”x2” ($.29) 3. 3’x4’ marine grade carpet ($8.49 for a 3’x6’ section)
4. small can of indoor/outdoor carpet glue ($1.98)
5. 2- 5 ½” long 2”x2” ($.29)
6. 4- Sterilite “shoe box” sized plastic totes with lids ($.97 each)
7. 1 metal yardstick ($2.98)
8. screws to hold stuff together
9. 1 plastic golf bag/club tube ($.69)
10. 1 “V” shaped mounting hook/brace ($.79)
My first step was to take the tarp off the shack (only about 50% of the way was all that was really needed) so that I could fit my deck in easily and didn’t have to worry about snagging the shack material when working around it. I used lightweight plywood as I didn’t want to add a bunch of extra weight to my rig yet I needed something that would be sturdy enough to work how I wanted it to work. After the deck was cut, corners were rounded, and hole was cut in for my Keeper Deluxe ice seat the thing was starting to take form already. My next step was to figure out just how my stuff was going to set on the deck during transit and just what kinds of other holes I was going to need for setting things in. At this point I decided to use a piece of 2”x2” to make a lip of sorts on the front edge of the deck so things couldn’t easily slip off while in transit. I always hate having things bounce on the ice or fall off and I have to walk back for them. This lip would also end up coming in handy for mounting a few things later in the project.
I finally decided that what I wanted/needed for the permanent holes vs. just setting things on was just too hard of a decision, so I improvised and made a semi-permanent hole via lift off doors. A lift off lidded/semi-permanent hole was the route I took with the hole for my bucket since I sometimes take it and sometimes don’t take it. To start, I cut out a hole for the bucket and made tabs on the sides (3 of the 4 sides) of the cutout (which would be the lid of the hole in the deck). On the deck, under these tab cutouts, I screwed in small pieces of plywood scrap from earlier in the project to support the lid when laid over the hole. I also did this with the one side I didn’t tab, just exposing a small lip of plywood to catch the lid so it didn’t tip into the hole. This allows me to use the deck complete or remove the tabbed lid so my bucket, minnow bucket, or propane tank/heater, etc. can sit in that spot….a very versatile addition to the deck. With some of this cutting I realized the lightweight plywood deck was weakened, especially in the area between the seat cutout and the bucket cutout, so I added a couple of short 2”x2” chunks of wood at legs to support the deck. These were added in the center of the deck near the cutout for the bucket. I secured these with screws from both the top of the deck. I considered mounting these to the bottom of the shack, but once in place it was very solid and I felt this unnecessary.
I then finally had to tackle to extra space dilemma. I initially wanted to make sliding drawers off to each side of the cutout for my seat, putting that good space to extra use. However, I felt this was maybe unnecessary and thought just loose totes under there would work just as well without the extra work and hassle of doing drawers. This will be great storage for beverages, snacks, extra gloves, hand warmers, other loose items, etc. And finally, in the rear of the basin of the shack, I just decided to leave it all alone and may later decide to add a hinged door if I don’t like having loose totes under the deck.
The final add-ons took place after the carpet was laid that the door areas were cut out of the carpet. I carpeted the deck with marine/indoor-outdoor carpet, just like I have in my boat and on the front porch of my house. This stuff is durable, sheds water pretty well, dries quickly, doesn’t hold stains, and is just a great marine use carpet. I cost more than using a carpet runner, which I could have gotten by with, but wanted to do this right the first time. With a little carpet glue and a few staples from the staple gun it was set and secured. After it was dry, I cut out/around the holes as needed. I secured the deck to the shack very modestly, with not a lot of hardware. I cut a tab of carpet and fastened it to the lid over the bucket hole to use as a handle as well. I already had the deck supports holding it to the base, and I added a few screws along the edge of the deck where it came flush to the tub of the shack. Putting the tarp back on was a bit of a bear, and it took some elbow grease to get the deck in the confined space, but I made it all work without breaking anything and without having to swear….well, not too much anyway.
Some of the other final things included my auger bracket, a couple of removable rod holders, and screwing down the yard stick. For the rod holders, I simply cut some short sections of golf club tubing and screwed them to the front of the shack. These are cheap and easy to replace if something happens to them and have multiple uses. All I needed them for was for holding them while moving from hole to hole, not for fishing from. For the auger securing system, I used a small/medium sized “V” shaped screw in bracket to keep my auger from sliding off the back of the shack if I am going over really rough stuff. I left the plastic wrapper on the ruler to make it more durable and used the 2”x2” lip at the front of the shack as the end point of the ruler so I can easily nose fish up to it for easy measurements. As you can see, the deck now also allows me to keep my rod up off the ice and lay it on the deck for use as a deadstick or when fishing with a bobber.
This project really didn’t take long once I decided what I was going to do with it. In reality, it probably took longer to write this up than it did to modify the shack. My real problem came with options and some of my own indecisiveness. Once I got into the building process, some of my design plans changed (due to finding a better way or due to not being able to do it the way I planned). And in all reality, just like with my boat, my truck, etc., I will probably continue to add little things here and there, I may eventually cut a couple of hinged doors in with a more permanent storage system, a battery operated LED rope lighting system, etc. My tweaking may never be done, but I am very happy with where it is at right now. This was a fun project to do and hopefully it serves its purpose – a more user friendly shack that makes my ice fishing more enjoyable!