After surviving my very first winter car camping trip at Algonquin Provincial Park’s Mew Lake in February 2015, with temperatures hovering around the -17 degree Celsius mark feeling like -29 with the windchill, I decided that I wanted to try winter backcountry camping. Thankfully, my friend Cheryl was game.
First things first: we need sleds to pull our gear behind us. After doing a bit of research online, we both settled on copying Kevin Callan (the Happy Camper)’s method, rather than on buying an expensive pulk sled (US$225+) or using other methods.
In the end, my sled cost me $86.39 plus labour (breakdown below)!
I bought a Pelican Snow Trek 45 sled from Sail, with a maximum capacity of 130 pounds. Big warning letters state “THIS IS NOT A TOY” but it sure seems like one to me!
Next I purchased a hip belt from MEC, the Aurora 70, which is actually a replacement part for a backpack they sell. I just needed a hip belt that fit me – what pack it matched was irrelevant. Bonus – it has one pocket on each side for storing snacks (or whatever!).
Finally, I went to RONA and bought all the bits and bobs I’d need to attach everything together. I had fun asking for help finding what I needed, not really knowing the names of things!
The PVC pipe (which a RONA employee cut in half for me) is to avoid having the sled crash into my legs when I’m hiking downhill.
Steps to Build a Sled for Backcountry Camping
The full slide showing demonstrating the steps can be found here: https://goo.gl/photos/ck1YZ7wi5MBhWknt8 (click on an individual picture, then on the little i near the top right, and you’ll be able to read the picture descriptions).
- Remove black rope that came with sled.
- Into the holes that the black rope went through, insert eyebolt from top of the sled – use washer and bolt underneath sled.
- Drill 4 holes into the top of the sled – 2 at the ends opposite the existing holes, and 2 in the middle (all 6 could be used as attachment points for bungee cords if the load needs to be tied down).
- Insert eyebolts, washers and bolts in these 4 holes.
- Drill 1/2″ holes into the ends of the PVC pipes (drill all the way through so that there are 2 holes at each end of the pipe).
- Cut rope to 4 approximately 1 foot segments (may need less – I didn’t actually measure it). Use match to melt ends to prevent fraying.
- Wrap sewing thread tightly around the tip of one end of one rope segment – this is to make the diameter of the rope smaller so that it could be inserted into the holes in the pipe.
- Tie bowline.
- Repeat steps 7 and 8 for other 3 pipe ends.
- Attach carabiner to rope at one end of PVC pipe. Repeat for second pipe.
- Clip carabiner to the eyebolt at the front of the sled.
- Clip locking carabiner to the rope at the other (free) end of the PVC pipe. Repeat for second pipe.
- Clip carabiner to locking carabiner. Repeat for second pipe.
- Clip carabiner to strap on waist belt.
- 1 x Pelican Snow Trek 45 sled: $29.99
- 1 x Aurora 70 Hip Belt: $29
- 1 x PVC pipe (10 feet of 1/2″ diameter, cut into two 5′ pieces): $4.26
- 6 x 1/2″ eyebolt with nuts: $4.74
- 6 x washer: $1.38
- 4 x carabiner: $5.12
- 2 x locking carabiner: $1.96
- 4 x 1 foot rope: found dangling from a tree on Rain Lake at Algonquin = free!
I will be trying the sled out in February, so I’ll write a follow-up post afterwards on how it performed! (UPDATE: Sled review here)