Normally I would have been going ape like crazy not having my shack from Clam Outdoors already built and ready to hit the ice by this time of year. After completing the build on the new Jason Mitchell Thermal X last night, yes last night, on New Year’s Eve, I can say how much I truly appreciate how easy it is to build a thermal hub styled shack. Why? Because they come pre-assembled!
I get the call from Holland Freight that the delivery is less than an hour away. Grab that cup of coffee and then the wait begins until I see that truck across the road getting ready to unload my very own pallet of gear from Clam Outdoors. The Extreme Advantage bibs and parka, a couple of accessories that will be discussed later, and the big box containing the new Jason Mitchell Thermal X, two-man, flip over, ice shanty.
Always start your build from the foundation up! For myself, that means getting the runners installed before anything else gets added on. One nice feature about the X-runner Kit is that the holes are already pre-drilled. No more measuring spaces, adding up the number of bolts, washers and nuts, or dividing those up to get the same amount on each runner. I have always used the original runners on my smaller shacks, the whole walking versus driving 8+ miles to get to a spot, so these new runners with the thicker hyfax was a no-brainer type of issue for the application. This all said and done, you will definitely need a heat gun, not a hair dryer, to mold these around the curve of the tub during the process. Clam suggests using grease to keep the keep the threads from locking up, but I used an old carpenter’s trick by going with wax, less mess and all that.
One of the accessories I mentioned before is the Sled Receiver Hitch Kit. I absolutely love these kits. They make getting the Lake Erie Express (Arctic Cat Bearcat, two shacks and Large Nordic Sled) rigged for towing a breeze. You will need a drill and then match up the bit with the bolt. Don’t ask me the size, because I literally took the bolt over to my drill bits and eyeballed them to get the right size. Guess I have a knack for getting it right, you know, after checking two or three sizes first.
Luckily I read some of the directions, and put the cross beam in for the seats before lining up the plates for the receiver kit. Smack dab where the plates had to go was the lower bolt holding up the cross beam. Full disclosure, as many already know, I have been on Clam’s Ice Team staff since 2002, so this wasn’t my first Fish Trap build. Clam always includes a few extra nuts, washers and bolts and luckily for me, I kept them all over the years so I had a fix for this.
Side note: You can see I also installed the battery holder box , the new foam addition to the base was a great idea by Clam this year!
I had some smaller, but longer bolts than those that came with the kit, but the same diameter as those for the cross beam. Because of the extra length I was able to go through the plate and the bracket for the beam. I did have to squeeze the mounting bracket over the mounting plate, but barely, and you can see that I used some extra brass washers as spacers to make the bracket flush again to the tub’s wall. When securing with the nylock nuts, everything was nice and tight, no slop what so ever. Once that was addressed I used the rest of the bolts, washers and nuts that came with the bracket in the other three spots.
Next up, while keeping with the theme of building from the ground up, were the tow hitch plates in the front of the shack. I have three universal hitches already, so all I needed was the kit for this build. With the big shacks, they stay attached to the sled or quad throughout the day, and if I want to create space, I can just drop a hitch and drive on a bit further. When it is time to go, just drive back around and hook back up.
Easiest part of the install were the corner brackets. Everything is pre-drilled and just a matter of dropping the bolts down and attaching the washers and nuts. To accomplish this, all I needed was a phillips screwdriver and a nut driver.
I got just a bit lazy with the camera work, but here are the seats installed, complete with the deluxe cushions. All the hoops are installed except the one that will rest on the ice. Why, because you will need to thread it through the sleeves built into the tent section near the end of the build. You didn’t miss much during this part of the install, everything was by the book. Only tools needed were the screwdriver and nut driver again for the seats and attaching the first section of the hooks to the brackets.
I like to work on the shacks from an elevated position, but due to the weight of the insulated tent (now with 50% more insulation), it had to come down to ground level. I tried to do it from the table, hence the ladder, but it came crashing down (literally) off the table. Actually this was a mixed blessing because I was to make sure that the front hoop was laying perfectly on the ground before securing the back of the tent to the tub with the included channel and screws.
Next up was the channel and screwing it down. It was the last step in the build and again, got a bit lazy with the camera work. The main question you will need to address is how to make the channel pliable enough to mold around the tub while tucking in the fabric. In the instructions there are three methods suggested; use a hair dryer, a heat gun or soaking in hot water.
I gave up on the hair dryer fifteen years ago, did the heat gun for a period of time and on my built with the Kenai Pro Thermal Stealth three years ago I finally settled on the hot water bath. The first time I came into the house with a five gallon bucket and filled it from the tap, one gallon at a time. This time I got smart (It is a progression after all) and put the channel into the bucket, then let the shower in the bathroom run on its hottest setting for a few minutes, and filled it up in just a matter of seconds, maybe two minutes tops.
Don’t be in a rush, let the hot water do it’s job. After 10 minutes or so, I worked the channel around the tub, while tucking in the fabric. Once I knew I liked the placement of the molding, I took three screws into each corner, first fastening one dead center, then on either side of the corner for max effect. Then two off-center in the back, and then one on each end of the molding on the sides of the tub. Finally I took the last of the screws and continued to secure the backside down.
The travel cover which comes with the Jason Mitchell Thermal X is really a nice tight fit without the tie down straps. With them though, the cover is locked down tight and not going anywhere. Really a nice feature to have while trailering to the lake, and even going across the hardwater.
And for the first time this year, notice the copyright has changed.