Over the past two months, I have been working to build a pulk sled. I’m motivated by my dream of backpack-free winter camping (as I could haul my gear behind me on my snowshoe and backcountry ski tours), and by the weight of my son (as he just won't stop growing). My first pulk sled had a high degree of success, but it also had some flaws. I learned a lot constructing Pulk Sled v.1.0.
Hemingway cuts a trail on lake Helen Mackenzie
I went through at least four revisions on this first sled. My goal was to create a pulk that is easy to pull, easy to transport, easy to use in the field, protects the cargo, and maneuvers and tracks well. Addressing the revisions, I altered the harness (how the stays connect to the harness); changed how the load in the sled is distributed; added stabilizers so the sled tracks better; and more. I found a great amount of success. In ideal conditions, Pulk v.1.0 works great. However, I hope to use the sled in conditions that are less than ideal.
Total Distance: 8.0 km
Starting Elevation: 1042
Maximum Elevation: 1162
Total Elevation Gain: 250 m
Total Time: 4 hours
I gathered my results and analysed them, discovering a variety of trends. I correlated the findings to the research I found online, and remade the sled from the ground up. I can't even call this a revision - it's a new version, Pulk Sled v.2.0. The sled itself is narrower: it shaves 3-4 inches off the width of the body, yet maintains the same surface area because it's longer. The pull-arms are shorter, mounted closer to the centre of the back of my backpack, and tight against my backpack harness. On the sled, the pull-arms are mounted lower and closer together, to reduce the forces on the sled. To encourage better tracking, I installed vinyl rails along the length of the sled. Finally, to ensure the cargo remains snow-free (and maybe stays warm), I found a better way to enclose the volume of the sled; a kayak sprayskirt. A test was needed!
Hemingway in Pulk V 2.0
On Saturday February 20th, I loaded Hemingway into the car, picked up a fellow Island Mountain Rambler, and headed to the hills for another simple Helen Mackenzie Loop. Learning from my past mistakes, we arrived in Raven Lodge's parking area around 9:30am, as a later start increased the likelihood that our route would be well-broken. Before heading off, we took our time to carefully pack, dress, and load Hemingway into the new sled.
The moment I put the sled on the ground, I was amazed at how easily it slid on the vinyl runners, and how well it tracked. Even as we loaded Hemingway into the sled, it shifted forward and backward in a straight line. I excitedly strapped my harness/backpack on, and we hit the trail!
The morning was bright and sunny with only the hint of beautiful white fluffy clouds caressing the slopes of Mounts Albert Edward, Allan Brooks, Regan, and Elma. The air was clear, the skies blue, and temperatures hovering at zero degrees. Moving through the terrain was easy with the new setup; the width of the sled fit easily into the broken snowshoe track, which led us all the way through Paradise Meadows to Helen Mackenzie. The runners, ballast/weight distribution, and well-planned bursts of speed meant that I had much better control of the sled; it didn't roll over as easily, and my developing technique allowed me to avoid a complete rollover on the way to the lake. Mo really helped to make sure things went well, too.
walking the beated path
Walking through the landscape on a sunny day with blue skies was a real treat! I managed to capture a variety of great images on our trip. Hemingway even exclaimed cries of delight several times. He spotted mystical fairy dust falling in the sunlight, and the stunning view of the distant peaks across the lake. Even at 2.75 years old he understands the importance of those moments, or at least I like to imagine so.
Northeast aspect of Mount Allan Brooks
Northeast aspect of Mount Allen Brooks through Paradise Meadows
Once at the lake, we took a break to eat lunch. Hemingway ate his nuts, fruit, and muffin in the sled, trying in vain to entice the birds to his side. Once his food was devoured, I released him from the shackles of his sled to run in the wild white wastes. He wandered free, creating his own path through the snow. He soon found trouble, but don't worry...I rescued him.
Hemingway stopped and watched the mountains for 10 seconds or more
He didn't make the heart but he walks the path
We made our way east across the lake, looking to join up with the summer route which leads hikers to Battleship Lake. It's here that we found the only section of trail which we needed to break ourselves. The snow compressed deeply as we made our way across the 100 metres from the groomed Lake Run to the Battleship summer route. Movement was slow as I hauled 50 pounds of kid and ballast. The speed was for the best, however, as it allowed Mo to make small adjustments to the sled as we went. At Battleship Lake, we rejoined a snowshoe/skin track and followed that route through the trees back to Raven Lodge. Other than one equipment malfunction, involving a full rollover, our trip went smoothly. We arrived back at the lodge and sat inside enjoying some snacks and bathroom breaks before loading into the car.
the long and crispy road over Battleship Lake
I want to give a special thanks to my fellow Rambler Mo for her diligent attention in her role of "tailgunner". She righted the sled if it ever attempted to ride up outside the beaten path and tip over. Thanks to her great efforts, we were kept easily on track. Thank you Mo!
I was thinking of creating a how to post for the sled, anyone interested?