Pulk sleds are a bit of a specialty item up here in the northern regions of the country. While they work great on our lakes, you won’t find them in many other places across the country. At least not in the ways they exist up North. In this Month’s post let’s talk pulk sleds!
Pulk sleds are by no means a new invention. They first popped up in the Nordic region of the world as a basic way to transport items. The early designs were made of wood and often long and narrow. The natives of the area came to realize early on that dragging stuff across the snow was easier than carrying it and that a sled allowed for easy transportation. Modern-day Pulk sleds are mostly made of strong plastic materials or a composite like fiberglass and are wider than their predecessor.
These modern pulk sleds do differ from your basic sledding sled in a couple of different ways. The first thing people notice is how large and durable pulk sleds are. Often pulk sleds are around 5ft or longer and made from sturdier materials than sledding sleds. They have to be stronger in order to handle constant pressure from your gear going across rough terrain sticking through the snow. Pulk sleds are also equipped with hardware for you to latch the gear into the sled as well as a pulling system that hooks into a harness. Often the pulling system will be poles that allow for control of the sled when you’re going downhill but that isn’t necessary if you spend most of the time on flat land. On flat lands or on lakes a rope will do the trick. At Northern Tier, we setup sleds with both so that participants get to choose which system they want to try.
All the extra hardware and durability comes at a price. Even the cheapest of pulk sleds will cost around 50$ and the prices only go up from there running into the thousands for an expedition sled like you might find at the South Pole. Pulk sleds are not always easily accessible because of the low demand for them and this has grown a strong DIY community for pulk sleds where people build them for a fraction of the price. Starting with
department store sleds and adding the fixtures needed people have found cheap and easy ways to try a pulk sled This is especially economical for folk who may only use them a couple of times a year. Check out this article from REI about making your own.
The magic of these pulk sleds really all comes down to the weight transfer. Rather than storing the weight in a backpack where you have to carry the gravitational weight and provide the power to move it forward, the pulk sled takes the weight so you only need to provide the forward momentum to move it. The slick nature of the snow and the sled surface makes it possible to pull the sled forward. With the transfer of weight into the sled, it is possible for the puller to carry more weight than they would ever consider placing in a backpack which is essential in the winter when the amount of gear your need goes up significantly. Everything from your clothing to the amount of fuel you need goes up in the winter and pulk sleds give an easy solution to carrying the extra gear. The need for extra gear and the flat terrain of Minnesota is what makes Northern Tier a pulk sled paradise