PULK: A sled designed to carry gear or other cargo more comfortably than you could on your person while crossing various terrains on non friction surfaces such as snow and Ice. They are pulled behind you or dogs while snowshoeing or skiing. They are simply used to carry much more gear than you could carry otherwise, with much less effort.
The Building of my Pulk:
While hanging out on various forums I have been seeing several people using pulk’s, and decided I would like to give one a try to see there real advantages. I researched commercially made ones as well as various different DIY designs across the web.
After much research I decided that my best option to get the best combination of features/cost that I really needed to design and build my own Pulk. Hence started a project that would consume my brain for a couple weeks.
First was the choice of what sled to start with. After reading reviews and an article someone did on the most popular 3 sleds used for pulks, and there pros/cons.
I decided that the Jet Sled Jr was the right pulk for my needs.
Then I needed to figure out how I wanted to add my fin/skeg since I am in short supply of flat ground here in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). (Traversing a slope is going to happen) The most common solution I found was simply using some aluminum angle and attaching it by either drilling holes or cutting a slot in the bottom, I decided I wanted to go a different route. I wanted to come up with a way to leave the bottom of the sled completely intact, figuring this would reduce friction and add to the life of the sled. So I came up with a design for an adjustable skeg that I can have down only when needed. And attached it on the back more like a rudder. It is attached to the back of the sled with four stainless bolts and lock-nuts. I used plastic thumb knobs for the adjustment, this allows me to raise and lower the skeg easily with gloves on.
Then I came to the pole attachment points. I had seen them mounted on the top, under the front lip as well as on the sides. After some trial and error I decided I really prefered them mounted on the top of the sled. This helps keep the poles away from downed trees and rocks that I would be pulling the sled over. This option also allows for the poles to be folded
back onto the sled for a more compact storage while in camp without the need to take it apart. I fashion my mounts out of 1.25″ aluminum square tubing, then attached them with 2 screw/lock nuts. The poles simple attach to these points with an RV pin ran through the bracket and the rod ends at the ends of the poles.
Living in the PNW its not an issue of “if” your going to get wet, its going to happen.
So I decided I really wanted a cover to keep my gear out of the weather, and to not let it fill with water/snow. This brought up an issue with the top mounts…
After a few random ideas I decided to just make the cover a perminate thing on my sled.
I made a plate that covered the font end of the sled, then ran the cover underneath the plate and mounts. Starting with the cover made for the Jet Sled Jr. I went over to a friends for some help with altering it to my needs, we tossed some ideas around and came up with design that we really liked. (THANKS KAYT!http://www.creativekaytblog.com/)
I added the needed holes and some sylicon rubber caulking and it was watertight.
Currently I have an adjustable camera mount on the front plate.
Now I needed strapping to secure the load in case of a tip over.
Originaly I was going to run all that under the cover but after some thought decided to have them go over it. This allows me to be able to strap things on the outside of the cover like a snowshovel, fishing pole ect.. It also lets me tighten the cover up and reduces the amount of rubbing and scraping on things as I pass, and I like how it looks. I attached them simply by making footmans loops out of small plastic strips and securing them under the lip of the sled with some small stainless scews and locknuts.
Next I needed to make my poles.. I went and picked up some 3/8th fiberglass electric fence poles. Found some stainless tubing that fit over the FG poles and made some threaded inserts and epoxied them into the tubing. I then epoxied/pinned them onto the fiberglass poles. I made another set of couplers the same way that allow me to unscrew the poles into two pieces. This lets me break the poles in half so they fit into the bottom of the sled. I then threaded a pair of ball joint rod ends on the Pulk end, and some stainless eye bolts on the belt end.
Last, I needed to make the belt that the poles attached to. The most common way I have found is just to sew loops onto the belt with nylon webbing. You take the webbing and pull it through the eye at the end of the pole and use a carabiner to secure it on. This is what I did for my first trip out.. I personaly found this to be a pain and was not happy with it.
There had to be a better way. So liking how the poles pinned to the front brackets, I didnt see why they couldnt pin to belt in a similar way. So I took some nice thick leather I had and made some attachment points, wax hardened them to stop them
from stretching and protect them from moisture, stiched them onto my old belt I removed from an old outdated Mountainsmith pack. I much prefer this attachment method, I can attach and remove the poles from the belt while its on me with ease. I also feel it took away much of the slack feeling the loops method had left which added to my comfort.
Just to add a bit of performance review..
I have looked and looked and never really found anyone talking about how different it is carrying gear by pulk vs your back.. Other than people saying you can carry more.
So after taking mine out, I have a better idea and this is my take on it.
After getting home and going through my gear weights, I was pushing 60 pounds in my pulk on my last trip. On flat ground there was very little resistance while snowshoeing along. I can safely say I used barley more energy than I would have just snowshoeing along without gear.
Uphills you can feel the weight, but I do feel that it was still much easier than if I had the weight on my back. (ever try to stand back up with 60 lbs on your back?) I would have also sunk in the snow MUCH more making it take much more energy to cover the same ground. I will say that I plan to add a shoulder harness to help with steep terrain comfort, but you can get by without.
Downhills… Well easy to say you get some added horsepower.
As long as you can stay up and just pick up your pace some its kinda fun.
If you fall down its slightly annoying. So if following a slow person, let them get down the hill before you follow.
Using the pulk in the backwoods:
Other than needing to have a buddy lift the front just a little for one larger log I had no issues at all. It just tracked along behind me with ease. You do need a little more room to turn it around while wearing it but I think that’s to be expected. When in tighter spots simple un-clip the belt and turn it by hand.
Only takes a few extra seconds. I find you quickly learn to adjust you path to avoid the sled getting caught.
So other than wanting a shoulder harness I am VERY happy with how the pulk performs.
Any time I plan to camp in the snow and would like some extra gear just to spoil myself.
And the terrain allows for it I will be taking my pulk along with me. It is a valuable piece of equipment. And you will enjoy the beverages that came to camp in it:)
Another added affect from using a pulk vs carrying the gear on your back is.. Your back can breath.. So its much easier to regulate your body temps. And your shoulders and back are not sore after your journey.
Extended use: I have since had even more weight in it and have had no issues with the pulk to date. All the mounts and joints are holding up well and i’m not sure there is much else I could do to improve my design. I have considered making a brake for my sled, but so far I dont feel I have needed it. If I had to complain about something, it would be having to clean the Sap from firewood out of my pulk:)
After more use I think I am going to add some sort of strapping to the front plate so I can have a small bag to hold small things like a snack, compass ect ect.
Even more extended use.
I personally have never had an issue using the 3/8 poles, but a few people
I helped out wanted something stiffer and after seeing a couple of the smaller
balljoints get bent I decided to upgrade them to the much stiffer 1/2 inch
size. This took a bit more work since I had trouble finding 1/2 ID tubing.
So I decided to use 1/2 OD and lathe the FG down for a more seamless a tight fit.
The first set I built the same way I made the 3/8 poles in design with the breakdown
option. I made 4 sets and myself and 3 buddies took them up to Mt. Rainier for some
snow camping. We took them through there paces and I really like how they handled
going down really steep grades over the thinner poles. And I am now a fan. and since
they are stiffer they tend to make less noise and make it easier to back up the sled.
During the trip one of the sets managed to bend at the coupler. It didn’t “Fail” but
it did bend. When we got back I took the set into my shop and cut them apart to figure
out what had happened.. I had left a small gap between the FG pole and the threads and
the grade of stainless I used wasn’t up the forces that the extra stiffness and leverage
the new stiffer 1/2 poles could produce. Now for most people this is simply solved by
going to non break down poles This lets the fiberglass have more flex and takes away
that extra stress and fail point. And for the most part this is what I would recommend
doing. But not wanting to be defeated! I did some research and ordered a higher grade
of stainless tubing that is less prone to bending, and even more corrosion resistant:)
I will post my results after my next trip to Rainier coming up in a couple weeks.
But my hopes are high..
Skeg and Belt mounts are still performing great and all my gear has stayed dry and out
of the weather.
Coming soon step by step tutorial on how to make the poles and other parts.