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Thursday, January 23, 2014

STRAP YOUR PULK ON - MAKING A HOMEMADE PULK SLED

Happy new year to all and I hope that it is treating you well! 

With a new year, comes new adventures and ideas.  I have several new ideas in mind for this year and can't wait to try them and share about them. 

One of my latest discoveries, that is new to me, is the 'pulk sled'.  With a first ever snow camping trip on the horizon, I began  cruising through youtube.com, google.com, and many forums in search of ideas and tips for winter camping.  This is where I happened to stumble across the pulk sled.  A unique alternative mode of transporting your heavy winter gear instead of lugging it around on your back. 

Since the beginning of time man has devised many ways to help make life a little easier when it comes to moving anything.  A "pulk" (from Finnish 'pulkka'), is a shorter toboggan type sled used to carry gear, supplies, or children and is pulled by a person or a dog.

Depending on your usage, there is a wide variety of different styles, sizes, and material types.  With that, there is also a wide variety for the pocketbook.  Some of the very high end, expedition type pulks will run in the several hundred dollar range and more.  These are usually made from high tech materials such as kevlar or fiberglass.  Not being the expedition type, or feeling the need to drop a large amount of cash, I opted for a 'do it yourself' version with a heavier plastic type sled that was not going to drain the pocketbook, but would last for years to come.  This is what I came up with.




Although I was picturing a black sled, the camo kind of grew on me, so I rolled with the Shappell Jet Sled 1-ATC (All Terrain Camo) for $59 at Dick's Sporting Goods.  These are very popular with ice fisherman for hauling their gear onto the frozen lake. Made from a very sturdy polyethylene material it weighs in around the 15 pound mark, and it measures 54" long, 25" wide, and 10" high.


For the poles that attach the person to the sled, we just happened to have two five foot electrical conduit poles in the backyard.

The poles are 3/4" in diameter.

To attach the sled to the poles, I strung a rope through the conduit.

I added carabiners to one end of each pole.

These carabiners will attach to the backpack or waist pack of whomever is pulling the sled.

I used a bowline knot to attach the carabiners.  This allows easy removal of the knot if necessary.

On the other end of the poles, I added these carabiners that will attach to the sled.

Because these carabiners would be attached to a metal eye bolt on the sled, I had an idea that they would be quite noisy while pulling the sled.  To avoid this, I covered the majority of the carabiner with a piece of vinyl tubing.

The inside of the vinyl tubing was a bit sticky so I applied a small amount of oil to the inside of the tubing with a cotton swab and then clamped the carabiner in the vise so I could push the remainder of the tubing on to the carabiner.

Again using the bowline, I attached the carabiners.

Melting the tag end of the rope with a lighter, I placed the tag end back into the pole to keep it out of the way.


In order to strap down gear, we needed some sort of attachment system along the railing of the sled.  We decided to add several length of rope along the railing.  To do this, we had to drill several holes where the rope would be inserted.  Where the holes were to be drilled, tape was placed to help better see the layout mark.   

To make a nice smooth hole, a deburring drill bit was used.

Not only does the smooth hole look cleaner, but it also removes the rough plastic edges that may have been left from drilling the hole; potentially having its way with the rope.

To easily thread the rope through the hole, I wrapped the loose rope ends in masking tape.



To secure the end of the rope under the rail of the sled, I tied a simple square knot that snugged up nicely to the underside.

There are two equal rope sections on each side of the sled.  This allows versatility when strapping down the gear.

The sled came with two pre-drilled holes in the front of the sled.

To better reinforce the front holes while under stress of pulling a load, a 2" piece of aluminum flat bar was installed on the front and the inside of the sled.

To attach the carabiners to the sled, we used eye bolts.

The eye bolts were reinforced with lock nuts to prevent the bolt from unscrewing.


The nuts were tightened just enough to snug the flat bar to the sled. 

After the nut was threaded all the way to the aluminum flat bar securely, we cut off the excess bolt to keep it clean...and safer!


The finished product!  Pretty compact but capable of hauling a substantial amount of gear.

To keep the poles from banging together when they are crossed while pulling the sled, I've added a loop of velcro to keep them quiet.

Although there is a wide variety of options for lashing down your gear, these bungee cords were something we already had and are really versatile in different configurations.


The first test drive of the sled worked great!  Although there was some play in the poles and the sled, it was still very comfortable to pull.  There are still a few tweaks to work on but over all I am very happy with how it turned out.

I am very excited to get it out this winter and try it out!