Skills: Pull a Sled

Take the sting out of monster winter loads—including cold-weather gear and luxe food and drink for a hut trip—by hauling a pulk sled. Do it right with tips from polar adventurer Eric Larsen.

Packing the sleds. (Photo by Brent/Flickr)

1) Assess your route to determine whether a pulk is even feasible. Steep slopes, rocky terrain, and narrow trails are much easier with a pack instead of sled. Look for wilderness areas with fire roads that access prime backcountry territory.

2) Tie your sled to your backpack’s hipbelt. If you don’t want to use your pack (or it doesn’t have attachment points), opt for a chest harness, which won’t slide down like a climbing harness. (Note: Attach the sled directly to your pack hipbelt, never the pack bag, to improve stability and leverage.)

3) Determine the best way to attach the sled: ropes or rigid poles. Ropes enhance your mobility, absorb shock well, and are affordable. But they won’t keep the sled from overtaking you downhill, and the sled will cut corners. Rigid poles force the sled to trail you downhill, and they stabilize the sled on slopes. Downside: They cost more, and you have to unhook anytime you want to go back to your sled. As a general rule, choose ropes for mellow terrain and rigid poles for harder stuff.

4) Pack everything in one or two duffels, and then put these inside your sled. This makes moving gear easier when you arrive at your destination.

5) Stow the heaviest items low and near the center of the sled. Making it top heavy will cause it to tip. Put the lightest items near the front, making the sled much easier to lift and drag over an obstacle.

6) If you get stuck traversing a slope with the sled running downhill, tie a 6-foot length of cordelette to the back and have a friend control the sled from the rear. (A ski pole looped through the back lashing strap also works in a pinch.) Buy that friend a beer back in town.

7) Learn to say no. Once your companions see you have a sled, they’ll want to add “just one more thing.”