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Winter travel poses its own challenges, but also comes with its own rewards. Chief among them is the ability to carry more cargo more comfortably than you normally would. The sled (or pulk) is one of those cargo force multipliers just like a bicycle trailer or a canoe. There are some really nice pulks for sale out there, as well as good resources for how to put together a very nice do it yourself pulk. This resource covers how to put together a "Plenty Good" pulk for around $65 and about a half an hour of time. What will the more expensive ones do that this one won't? We don't know, as the setup described here has always been plenty good for us.

Equipment list:

  • Sled - This is the biggie of course. The sled you're looking for is the Pelican Snow Trek 60. We bought ours locally at the army surplus store for $50. Ace hardware also carries them for $40. I see a number of online outlets carrying them this winter (2010/11) for $150. Yikes! I don't know if Pelican raised their prices, or Ace has a really good deal or what. Update (Feb 2011 - thanks Brian): Two different people have been able to order one into their local Ace for $40 including shipping. Ace reportedly has 500 in their warehouse. Perhaps Ace bought these last year or got such a great wholesale deal that they're able to sell for less than everybody else. In the Ace system, these are listed as "Utility Snow Sled 60" and the SKU number is 8205643. Take this information with you if you go into Ace to order one.
  • PVC pipe - I buy a single length of 1/2" 600psi pipe
  • Stainless bolts - (2) 1/4" x 2" bolts, (2) stainless lock nuts
  • Utility Rope - 20' should be plenty
  • Carabiners or snap hooks - (4) carabiners or stainless snap hooks

Instructions:

  1. bolt the bolts into the provided cutouts in the pelican sled. see pictures above for detail
  2. cut the PVC pipe in half
  3. thread a length of utility rope through the PVC pipe with a carabiner on each end. make it as snug as you can to eliminate play.
  4. use the leftover rope to make an in camp tow cord through the holes provided in the sled

That's it. Nothing more to it than that. We like crossed traces because of how they track. Clip the front of the traces in somewhere on your pack or hipbelt. We like to clip them into grimlocs on the PALS on our day pack hipbelts. Aim the grimloc opening down so they'll release in a crash (like if you are skiing downhill, threading a little closely through trees, and end up on the opposite side of the tree as your pulk). For cargo carrying, we just use ratchet straps to secure dry bags and whatever else. Occasionally dress up the bottom with glide wax.

There are lots of ways to upgrade this basic setup. Use spray adhesive to affix a close cell pad to the bottom for kid comfort and cargo quietness. Make fancier traces. Make a cover. Put in perimeter lacing for lashing ease. Put runners on the bottom. put a brake on the back. All of these modifications are covered elsewhere in good detail so we won't repeat them here. However, the basic setup works very well for general freight duty. So well that we haven't felt the need to upgrade in any significant way over the course of 3 winters worth of use.

Have fun out there!

Edward Curtis Canyon De Chelly
When humans first set foot in a new continent, they came in small groups under their own power, bringing only the gear they needed. Most simply called themselves The People. Over time, those who chose the rougher freer life of the up country came to think of themselves as the Hill People.
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