Pulk / sled for winter backpacking?

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Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)
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    Kevin Burton
    BPL Member


    Locale: norcal

    Do any of you guys use a pulk for winter backpacking?

    This SEEMS like the way to go for > 3-4 inches of snow.

    I was thinking of getting a pulk and then packing ALL my stuff in my bag so that I can still backpack if necessary (if the snow gets too low).

    It has GOT to be way lighter this way.

    I was also thinking that this gives you the option of jumping on the pulk and sledding downhill.

    I'm torn on the ski vs snow shoe issue but it's nice to glasade (sp?) downhill after you spend the first 1/2 of the trip going uphill.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington
    Paul McLaughlin
    BPL Member


    I don't use a pulk but one thing I have read that you want to be aware of is that if you are on skis, you will want skins for the uphills unless they are very gentle uphills. You need extra traction to pull the pulk.

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    I have a pulk that I used once, but that was only because I had an unusually heavy load to haul. This was a hut trip, and I had to haul two boxes of oak firewood plus a gallon of white gas. That works on flat snow, or if the hills are easy. If the hills are steep, then you need to add a long rope and another person.

    If you are torn between skis versus snowshoes, then note that you can be an expert with snowshoes in a matter of a few minutes. Cross country skis might take a few seasons.


    BPL Member


    Locale: Arrowhead

    P. P.


    Locale: PNW

    Almost exclusively in winter. Snowshoes. I can haul so much more, comfortably.

    David Lutz


    Locale: Bay Area

    ….Are A) Fun and easy to build, B) Great for the right kind of trip because you can easily carry extras like firewood and beer.

    It's also a kick to coast down a long fire road with the pulk in tow.

    USA Duane Hall
    BPL Member


    Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada

    Stay away from fresh, deep snow and traverses where the pulk will slide sideways down the hill. That's where someone behind with a rope can try to keep it on course.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    Years ago Mountainsmith made top-of-the-line bombproof fiberglass sleds. The harness attached to you via aluminum poles so you had control going both up- and downhill. A flap in the back acted as a brake when you were hauling it uphill, i.e. it glided over the snow on the way up but dug in when it started to backslide. Finally, runners underneath and a rudder in the rear helped solve the sidehill slip problem.

    They also sold kiddie seats and a windshield for the sled (and a cover). I hauled little kids around in the sled for years.

    Kifaru bought the design and now markets some of the sleds.

    I still use the sled to haul supplies into backwoods cabin, firewood from the woodshed to the cabin, etc.

    Randy Nelson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rockies

    I haven't camped with one, yet, but I use one regularly for hut trips and they are amazing. You can haul more and if you haul less, it's still much easier. When I made the first one, using the plans mentioned above at, my buddies had a laugh. Especially when I loaded the pulk with some nice micro brews and excellent food. Until we had a mile and a half to go and my friend's older brother, who came from sea level, was spent. And the weather was getting worse. We loaded his brother pack on the pulk and kept on going. The next year there were 3 pulks and the last trip we had 6. But it was probably the brews rather than the extra hauling capacity that sold them on the idea.

    So far, snow depth has not been an issue. Although the most I've been in is about 18" of powder. The skier/shoer packs the trail down in front of the pulk and the pulk rides high. The weight on the pulk is significantly less than the human so you don't even notice the pulk behind you.

    I carry anything I may need during the day in my daypack which the pulk attaches to. It's just easier that way.

    I have never thought, "Hey, I should climb on the pulk and ride it down the hill." :)

    Snow shoes vs skis? Depends on where you are going. When we are at the huts we go skiing and most of us use AT gear. Skis give you much more float. But if you're not in powder, snow shoes are less effort and significantly lighter. Last time out, I used trail runners, 40 Below LE overboots, and Lightning Ascents. And I hauled my AT gear on my pulk. My AT gear on the pulk was probably an extra 18 pounds, which sounds like a lot, and it is. But my foot weight was close to 6 pounds lighter per foot. And you know what they say about a pound on the foot. 5 miles=26500', 26500/2=13,000 steps, 13,000 steps x 6 lbs per foot = 7800 pounds of lift of extra effort. Almost 4 tons of extra effort avoided. A ton here and a ton there and pretty soon you're talking about significant savings.

    As far as side hills, I generally don't worry about that on the way up. There aren't that many significant traverses on the trails I take. If it slides a bit, that's OK. I have removable fins that go on the inside on the way up and on the bottom on the way down. They allow you to ski pretty aggressively and the pulk stays right behind you.

    If anybody near Denver wants to borrow one or two to try it out, you're welcome to. Just let me know.

    Yes 1000


    Recently went on a snowshoeing camping trip, few hikers had home made sled and at place it would slide offtrail. Can be dangerous if the tug makes the hiker loose balance and if the sled is heavier enough it may drag the hiker down as well.

    Raymond Estrella


    Locale: Northern Minnesota

    I have been using one of these for years.

    It is nice to be able to easily bring big loads with it.

    joe newton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Bergen, Norway
    Gary Rath


    Locale: PNW

    I made my own and a few for friends ( and I can say I wouldn't travel in the snow any other way if I had a choice.
    2-3 inch I don't think would be enough though.. just my opinion. But they are incredible when the conditions are right for them!

    As for the sliding down on traverses.. If you have the right setup it will track even on pretty nasty traverses without sliding down the hill. Mine never slides down on me.

    Mackenzie M



    Hey Randy,

    I am looking to borrow a pulk sled for a 2 night trip to Jackal hut March 19-21. If you still have one in the Denver area, would you be willing to rent?


    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    I’ve used my pulk in winter so  I can haul extra items that make a winter camp more comfortable like a bit more white gas for my Whisperlie Universal stove and fresh food like sausage and steak, an aluminum skillet, etc.

    At first I used a rectangular tow frame of wooden dowel filled PVC pipe.

    Then I discovered the better turning ability of X’d poles and went that way. My pulk had 8″ aluminum angle fins bolted to the rear bottom. I never did put an aluminum hinge on the rear end for a “brake” but I should have as often as I needed to rest on an uphill in my travels. Mainly I used it with backcountry touring skis and climbing skins as they sere so much easier to use than snowshoes.

    After not liking the original orange sled B/C of its big front “lip” that caught in deep snow  I found that a Jet Sled was THE best at that time and maybe even now.

    BTW, pulks make excellent kitchen wind screens.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    I used this recipe to make my own.

    It took me about 20 minutes to assemble and cut all the pieces. The first one I made I used an old kid sled, which worked fine, but wasn’t very large. Big enough for a backpack though. Then I bought a Paris sled and used the same method and it’s a nice big sled. I can fit my pack, a heavy parka, a bundle of firewood, a saw, and I attach my snowshoes to the top, and cover it all with a heavy trash bag. I like having snowshoes even if I’m mostly skiing,  for gathering wood it’s much easier to walk around trees in snowshoes, also better for finding water. (Yes even in minus 20, we have open water, which is easier and tastes better than melted snow.)

    I’ve used this sled multiple trips and it’s just great. It does not slide into me on downhills because of the pvc poles.


    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Edward John M
    BPL Member


    @elliot Kifaru is owned by Patrick Smith who used to own Mountainsmith and yes they make very good sleds.

    I use the much cheaper Paris Expedition, with crossed poles and skegs, using two sleds I have dragged as much as 135 kilos into a back country base camp for extended stays. I average about 1 kph doing so or less some years

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    As I noted earlier, the Mountainsmith/Kifaru fiberglass sled can handle a tremendous load.  During our regular winter vacation up north we use it to hall hundreds of pounds of split firewood at a time, albeit a short distance from a woodshed to a cabin.

    MYOG plastic sleds should be fine if all you are hauling is camping/mountaineering gear, and a whole lot cheaper (but way less durable).

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Pro-tip: put glide wax on the bottom of the sled.  Do it before you leave home and before it gets any ice frozen to it.  The effort to pull it can be reduced several fold if you’re on packed snow or a frozen lake.

    Don’t assume that, like a river raft, weight doesn’t matter in a sled.  It obviously does when you’re going uphill, but it also matters anytime you’re on unpacked snow.  It takes work (force x distance) to compress the snow and you’ll be doing that work.  The more the sled weighs, the more you’ll be compressing that snow.

    Around here, certain trails are a lot easier on Monday than on Friday, but the snowmobiles have been tearing around all weekend packed the trails down.

    I affix a collar to the perimeter of my sled.  Just a 2-3-foot-wide strip cut from a better-than-a-blue tarp, the grommets along one edge are handy for secured it to the lip of the sled.  Then, like a backpack with a roll-down collar or a dry bag, I can pack it to a variable height and then fold/roll the collar down so it’s rain and snow proof.  Secure it with a few bungies if load is light, low and the trail easy.  Secure it with non-stretch cordage if the load is taller or the trail rough such that it might tip over.

    Having a daypack or duffle ON TOP of the totally secured load is really nice for lunch, water, a jacket, etc – the stuff you may want on the trail.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    +1 on weight and waxing, or even silicone lube if you are in a pinch.

    And don’t forget about downhill!

    I used to tie a loop of heavy, knotted rope to the two front corners of the sled and hooked the loop end into my waistband.  Then if the sled started moving too quickly going downhill I’d pull the loop out of my waistband so it would get pulled under the sled, slowing it down or stopping it.

    Mine has aluminum poles attached to my waistbelt, so the sled would start pushing me downhill if I didn’t control the speed well.  Not sure what you do without a rigid attachment going downhill, I guess you put the sled in front of you so it won’t run into your ankles.

    Uphill on touring fish-scale X-C skis can be a problem as well, I used to haul two kids around, no way I could do that any more.

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    mine is a homemade (Paris Expedition sled) as well- I think I might have $35 in it- sled, rope, pvc poles

    I see guys building them out of very heavy sleds designed for hauling firewood, etc- they are bombproof, but no way would they pull very well

    I use waterproof duffles in mine (and then bungee those in) to haul my gear

    I have an old Dana Designs lumbar pack w/ a pretty beefy waist belt that I use to pull with, it did pretty well; I later added some Mountainsmith “strapettes” to it and now it really pulls nicely!

    it is nice that when my wife goes with, she only has to wear a small day pack- makes the snowshoe or ski in much easier


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