Sled review: Performance of my homemade sled on a winter backcountry 4-day snowshoe adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park

In early January 2016 I posted instructions on how to make a sled for backcountry winter camping. This past weekend I tested the sled out on a 4-day winter backcountry adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park.
Gear in canoe pack with tarp and bungees.
The weight of the sled and gear was approximately 70 pounds:
  • sled – 7 pounds
  • gear in canoe pack – 40 pounds
  • food – 17.4 pounds
  • 1 bag kindling – estimated 5 pounds
Problems encountered:
  • The poles I used were the wrong kind – despite wanting rigid poles, I somehow bought flexible ones, so going down steep hills the sled would hit me in the back of the legs (exactly what I was trying to avoid!) – I will be replacing the poles!
  • Sometimes while walking along my waist would get a jolt – this was uncomfortable! It happened when I started pulling the load after a downhill section, or from a sudden start. It was better to start slowly.
  • The sled tipped over – the load seemed balanced, but sometimes given the terrain, it tipped over:
    • if the trail curved sharply, it was harder to get around the corner without it flipping
    • if there was a path cut in the snow already, the sled wanted to follow the path even if I didn’t
    • if there was a tree or stump in the way, and I walked past it but the sled got caught, it might flip over.
    • on a very steep hill along the Highland Trail, the sled tipped over and I was stuck – I couldn’t right it on my own without having to take my hip belt off and descend the hill a ways – my friend came back down the hill without her sled to right mine.
This is my friend’s sled, which has straps rather than bungees. Note also the orange ropes, which replaced the failed hooks and bolts.
Positive notes about the sled:
  • 6 attachment hooks were sufficient
  • bungees worked well
  • no bolts were lost on the underside of the sled (for the 6 attachment hooks) – by contrast, my friend’s sled lost 5 of 8 bolts, meaning that the hooks were useless – she had to use rope to create new hooks
  • hip belt was great
  • on a very steep decline, I was able to hold the sled by the hip belt (while not wearing it), letting it go down the hill ahead of me (I was also able to attach the poles to the sled with the bungees, allowing me to use 2 hands to let the sled slide down the hill)
  • poles were attached securely to the sled and the belt
  • sled was big enough to hold all my gear – any more gear would have been too heavy to pull
  • sled made for a great seat come snack time!
Sitting on my sled for a snack!
Modifications that I will make:
  • change to rigid poles
  • change bungees to straps, because I think the load could be kept tighter/more secure
Going down a hill sled first.
All in all, I was happy with the performance of my sled, and I look forward to using it again! [Update: Modifications to the sled here.] Related posts for this trip: Trip report Packing list Menu and cooking tips Gear review: snowshoes and poles Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

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