Choosing The Best Ice Auger

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Video best hand ice auger

Check out my list of the best ice augers on the market. I cover every category – hand, electric, and gas. Don’t buy yours before you read my guide!

For an ice fisherman, an ice auger may be the most important piece of equipment. An ice auger is essentially a large, handheld drill, specially designed to cut holes into the ice.

And, since you need to get through the ice to catch fish, an auger is obviously a vital piece of ice fishing gear.

When it comes to selecting the best ice auger, you have some options. There are mainly three types – gas, electric, and hand-powered. I’ll give you my picks for the best ice auger of each kind.

Top 3 Best Ice Augers 2018-2019

Best Hand Ice Auger

There’s nothing quite like using some good old fashioned elbow grease. Hand ice augers have been around for a long time, and they’re used by lots of fisherman.

Since the auger is powered entirely by hand, you’ll never have to worry about refueling or recharging them.

They’re also quiet, lightweight, and very simple to use and maintain. As long as the blades are sharpened or replaced every year or two, you’re good to go.

You simply place one hand on the lower grip, one hand on the upper grip, and start cranking…

The best hand auger ever made – Nils Master, in action.

If you want the best hand auger, there’s the Nils Master, and then there’s everything else. THE BEST hand ice auger in existence. Period. End of story.

Its been the auger of choice for serious ice fisherman for decades. The Nils Master auger was designed in Finland, where the winters are long and the ice is thick. Its the auger that my father has always used, and its the auger that I have always used.

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They do their job better than any other hand ice auger, and they’re built to last a lifetime.

I have friends and family who own other hand augers, and I’ve always liked to try them out, and test them against the Nils Master. Over the years I’ve had a chance to use many different ice augers, and I’ve never found one that even comes close to being as good as the Nils. NONE.

The Nils Master Auger

The Nils Master is easily the most expensive hand ice auger on the market. But, its without a doubt the absolute very best hand ice auger on the market.

From it’s chromium steel cutting head, to it’s unique and comfortable, offset handle design, the Nils is set apart from all others.

There are certain pieces of ice fishing equipment that have very little difference between ‘premium’ and cheaper options. Often, you can easily get by with the lesser version without noticing drop in performance. However, this is not the case for augers.

Cheaper hand ice augers may cut a hole through the ice, but the Nils requires much less effort, and they’re made so much better, its just not worth it to go with a lower quality hand auger in my opinion.

On slow days, you’ll often need to cut lots of holes to find biting fish. Trust me, on these days you’ll want the best hand ice auger, not an okay one.

And again, the handle design makes a huge difference in comfort and ease of use when compared to other augers.

Lets take a closer look at the Nils Master handle.

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Notice the offset handle when compared to its competitors. The wide gap allows you to get more ‘torque’ on the auger with much less exertion, which makes it less physically taxing to cut numerous holes.

The offset handle design and upper grip make using the Nils a much more pleasant experience.

Now, lets see the Strike Master handle…

This handle design positions your hands too close together, and has a knob on top instead of a full handle. Repeatedly cutting holes becomes fatiguing with this build.

I suspect that many people are buying lesser quality hand augers simply because they’re priced cheap. However, if you have the money to spend, I very strongly encourage you to choose the Nils Master.

Below are some videos I’ve found on YouTube of ice fisherman demonstrating the superiority of the Nils Master auger.

In this first video, the Nils Master hand auger goes head to head with a gas-powered Eskimo…and nearly beats it outright!

In this video the hand-powered Nils nearly beats a gas-powered Eskimo auger.

The next video really illustrates my point. Other hand ice augers require much more pressure to be placed on them while cutting. The Nils Master is just so much easier to use, being less physically demanding than it’s competitors, such as the Strike Master.

The Nils is certainly the best hand ice auger.

The evidence is clear – the Nils master is the best hand ice auger on the market.

Every kind of ice auger, no matter how premium it is, will at some point need to have its blades either replaced or sharpened.

As far as hand ice augers go, the Nils Master is the best investment you can make.

Nils also now makes a hand auger that can easily be connected to a cordless drill, essentially turning it into a power auger. They used to always be made in a baby blue color, but they seem to have changed over the new, power adapter versions to a bright orange recently. I assume the orange is just more visible in snow and ice. You can order one here. For the original, non-power drill adapter version, you can order here.

Best Electric Ice Auger

The Ion electric auger is extremely convenient and easy to use.

I believe that a great hand auger such as the Nils, is more than sufficient in most cases. I personally only owned a hand auger for many years. But, there are some good reasons to choose a power auger instead. There are three reasons why I believe someone should really consider a power auger:

  1. Your home waters routinely have more than 18 inches of ice. No matter how awesome your hand auger might be, if you constantly have to drill through a lot of ice, it can get tiring.

  2. You have physical limitations which make drilling by hand difficult or painful. If your age or an injury hinders your ability to crank an auger by hand, you should definitely consider a power auger of some kind.

  3. You simply don’t like drilling holes by hand. Hey, some people just don’t like the hassle of drilling by hand.

If any of the reasons above sound familiar to you, I would strongly recommend that you invest in the Ion Auger. The Ion is without a doubt the very best electric ice auger.

Allow me to tell you a brief story about my introduction to this amazing device…

A couple of years ago, just before the end of ice season, I had an accident, and suffered a separated shoulder. It was a very painful injury, and in order to heal it, the shoulder required rest.

However, my father and some family friends had planned a four day ice fishing bonanza to close out the season, and I really wanted to go. The plan was to do a circuit and fish 4 lakes in 4 days.

On the first morning of the trip I attempted to drill a hole with my trusty Nils, but I was forced to immediately stop due to the immense pain caused by my injury.

It seemed that I was going to be dependent on others to cut holes for me for the entire trip.

But then it happened…

A friend showed up to the lake with his brand new electric auger, the Ion. He had recently purchased it because an injury he had sustained had made hand drilling impossible. He allowed me to try it out, and what a pleasure it was. On my first hole I fell in love. It cut through 14 inches of ice like warm butter. Over then next four days I cut well over 100 holes with the Ion. I was able to rest my battered shoulder, but I could still cut holes and catch fish. The Ion had saved my trip, and I had become a real believer in electric augers.

The Ion is extremely easy to use. Simply make sure the switch is in the on position, then hold down the power lever. It comes in 6″, 8″ and 10″ diameter versions. The 6″ version allows you to cut through a total of 1800 inches of ice on a single battery charge. So, lets say you’re on a lake with 10″ of ice, that would mean the Ion could give you 180 holes cut on a single charge. The 8″ diameter version will cut through 1000 inches of ice per charge, while the 10″ diameter Ion X allows you to cut through 640″ of ice. Spare batteries are also available to easily double your cutting capacity. The Ion also features a reverse function, which will clear MOST of the slush from the hole without the need for an ice scoop.

I have fallen in love with the Ion. While I’ve had the chance to use some gas augers over the years, I really don’t care for them too much. They cut well enough, but they’re noisy, and gas is smelly and not very environmentally friendly. The Ion is clean and super quiet. Besides a slight whirring of its engine, the only thing you’ll hear is the glorious sound of ice being pulverized as it cuts smooth, perfectly formed holes.

And while the Ion, or any other power auger you may get will certainly be heavier than a hand auger, the Ion is really not too bad, with most of its models weighing in at about 21 or 22 pounds. The big boy, Ion X 10″ model tops out at 25 lbs.

The Ion electric auger is pretty lightweight

The Ion electric auger is a real game changer. I absolutely love it, and I’m sure you will too. Its certainly the best electric ice auger, and its well worth the investment. You can order one here.

Best Gas and Propane Ice Auger

Gas augers have been around for decades and some are very good. But the fact is that gas augers are louder, dirtier, and more expensive to operate and maintain than the hand powered or electric ice augers. With clean, quiet and powerful electric augers like the Ion in existence, there really aren’t many reasons to buy a gas powered auger these days. However, there is one good reason that comes to mind, and that’s location. I’ve done some fishing in remote places such as Northern Quebec, where fuel was more readily available and easier to transport than electricity. If you’re going to be fishing somewhere remote and off the grid, it may make more sense to invest in a gas or propane ice auger.

Eskimo has been making power augers for a very long time.

Gas augers are simple enough. They’re started much like a lawn mower. They just need to be primed, then ignited with a pull cord. But, since they use a combustion engine, they need to be maintained accordingly, which includes oil changes and tune ups.

Demonstration of an Eskimo ice auger being started and cutting a hole.

If you want the the best propane ice auger, I strongly encourage you to invest in an Eskimo. They’ve been making power augers for 50 years, so they really know what they’re doing. Eskimo produces ice augers that run on gasoline and propane, and come in 8″ and 10″ hole cut diameters. Eskimo is so sure of their quality, that they back up their augers with a 5 year warranty! There are a handful Eskimo auger models to choose from to meet your needs. They’re all available for order here.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>