Building A Sled On A Budget

It’s official, the results are in, and they are exactly what we anticipated… Turns out we love winter camping! So who’s ready to sleep in the snow? In light of us doing our very first successful winter camping trip, we thought we would share our process for building the sleds that got us there.

While we have explored numerous other designs for building sleds, many of them cost around $100-$300 per sled. Since this was going to be our first experience, we were not ready to drop that kind of money. I mean, if we want to build a really nice sled, should we not have some experience dragging one through a forest to understand the demands of the woods? We will go through our lessons learned at the end but the sleds we made cost a total of $45 and took only an hour to make.

Step One: What do your local stores have to offer?

We started by looking at Canadian Tire and we didn’t have to look much further. As soon as we walked in we saw the sled below for $24, and we were sold. It looked long enough to carry all of our equipment, and seemed durable enough to withstand the sticks and rocks that it would have to endure along the way.

 $24 Sled from Canadian Tire

$24 Sled from Canadian Tire

Next was time for rope. We knew that the weight that we would be pulling would require a strong rope on the front. We went with a thicker braided nylon rope that cost all of $0.58/foot. This rope claims to be able to bear a working load of 245lbs which would be significantly more than what we would require. We also purchased some cheaper rope that was a little thinner, this was going to be used to keep our gear secure to the sled. The last thing you want is to lose your sleeping bag because it wasn't tied down correctly.

 Braided nylon rope

Braided nylon rope

Step Two: Make your pie

Now that we had the ingredients, it was time to make our pie, our masterpiece, our sled. We wanted to make an easy way for us to tie down our gear. As there was nothing to attach a rope to, we drilled multiple sets of 2 holes all around the sled so that we could make loops, that would be easy to weave a rope through. See below

 Loops of rope to weave our gear ties through

Loops of rope to weave our gear ties through

We did this all around the sled to ensure we had lots of different places to secure our gear. We figured the more of these we had, the more secure our gear would be while going up and down hills, up and over logs, and around all the tight turns in the woods. This was our final product with the additional rope weaved throughout to give you an idea of what our goal was.

 The final Product! ($45 - and only 1 hour of labour)

The final Product! ($45 - and only 1 hour of labour)

And here are a few pictures of our sleds in action on our last trip!

 Gear is wrapped up tight! It looks like we are dragging people...

Gear is wrapped up tight! It looks like we are dragging people...

Lessons Learned

We had a few lessons learned after completing our first trip and I thought I would share them in point form

Tie it right the first time: Some of us tied our gear down better than others and we found the “Mummy Technique” to work best. This is where we completely wrapped our gear in a tarp, and used a strong rope to secure it all down. If you took the time to do it right the first time, you wont have to fix your gear every 50 feet on the trails.

The sled is only $24 strong: At the end of our trip, one of the 3 sleds broke on the front nose. It will likely live to see another trip, but it is worth noting that these cheaper plastics used on these sleds cannot withstand high impact. This might mean going a little slower in places to ensure you don’t break anything.