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Building a Pulk Sled

Photo by Malcolm Brett

Whenever you see images of arctic explorers and adventurers trudging across the snow they are rarely carrying a backpack. Instead, they are pulling their gear behind them on a toboggan or sled. These sleds are called pulks.

Not surprisingly, the word pulk originates in winter-loving Scandinavia. The physics behind it is beyond me but it is certainly easier to pull your gear than to have it on your back. And you don’t have to be on a polar expedition to feel the benefit. A weekend camping trip will be a lot more enjoyable using a pulk instead of a backpack. It’s also a great way for families with young kids to get everybody out to enjoy a winter day. Simply bundle the kids up and put them on the sled. And the best part is that a pulk can be easily and economically built by virtually anybody in a single afternoon. All it takes are a few simple tools and some material readily found in your local hardware store.

The pulk described here is a small toboggan tethered to a heavy belt by poles. Don’t be tempted to simply tie the toboggan to your waist. The poles ensure the sled doesn’t slide downhill faster than you, which is never a good thing. They also give more rigidity to the system so the sled doesn’t flip over going around corners or riding over high spots.

Tools and material required:

  • Electric drill
  • CPVC primer
  • CPVC solvent cement
  • Hacksaw
  • 100 grit sandpaper

Equipment required:

  • Weight lifter’s belt (or other heavy belt)
  • Plastic toboggan
  • Two lengths of three-quarter-inch CPVC pipe, 5 feet long
  • One length of three-quarter-inch CPVC pipe, 16 inches long
  • Two three-quarter-inch 90o CPVC elbows
  • Two 3/8” eye bolts – 4 inches long
  • Two 3/8” washers
  • Two 3/8” lock washers
  • Four 3/8” nuts
  • Two quarter-inch bolts – 2 inches long
  • Four quarter-inch washers
  • Two quarter-inch nuts

Procedure:

  1. Drill two half-inch diameter holes at the front of the toboggan. These holes should be the same distance from the side edge of the toboggan and about 14 inches apart (or about 2 inches less than the length of the shorter CPVC pipe). Put the two eye bolts into the holes with a nut and washer on the top and a nut and a lock washer on bottom. The washers are important to make sure the plastic toboggan doesn’t rip when it is being pulled. Tighten the nuts.
  2. Slide the short piece of CPVC pipe through the two eye bolts. Now glue the 90o elbows to either end of this piece of pipe using CPVC solvent cement. Make sure that open ends of the elbows are aligned the same way. See the section below on working with CPVC.
  3. Now glue the longer lengths of pipe to the elbows. It is critical that these pipes are parallel.
  4. Now attach the belt to the poles by drilling a 5/16” hole about 1”from the end of the each pole. Also drill a 5/16” hole in both sides of the belt where the poles will attach. You should mark where these holes will go with the belt around your waist. Attach the belt to the poles with the quarter-inch nuts, bolts and washers.

Now the next time you are heading out consider turning yourself into a dog sled instead of a pack mule. You will be pleasantly surprised at how little effort it takes to pull your gear.

Working with CPVC

CPVC is a good choice for the poles of the pulk because it is strong, light, easy to work with and readily available in the plumbing section of your neighborhood hardware store. CPVC generally comes in 10 foot lengths so you will need to buy two lengths for this project. CPVC is easy to cut to length with a hacksaw. Care should be taken to make sure the cut is square. After the cut, clean off any burrs with 100 grit sandpaper.

Before gluing any joint, dry fit it first. When joining the short piece of pipe to the elbows it is a good idea to draw alignment marks on both the pipe and the elbows before applying the glue. It is important that both elbows are pointing the same way so that when the poles are installed they are parallel.

When you are ready to glue the joint, first spread a primer on the outside of the pipe and the inside of the elbow using the brush supplied with the primer. Then apply the solvent cement to the pipe and inside of the elbow, again with the brush supplied with the cement. Slide the pipe into the elbow. Turn the pipe about a quarter turn to make sure the cement is evenly spread. Make sure the elbows are aligned properly then allow the cement to set according to the instructions on the can.

3 thoughts on “Building a Pulk Sled

  1. awesome how-to article Doug! We also have pretty good instructions for how to build a ski pulk at ORS Snowshoes Direct that was originally drawn up for use with the Mad River Rocket sleds, but can be universally applied as well.

  2. One thing to strongly suggest is that you build it with the poles crossed, or at least capable of being crossed when needed. This (crossed) is the generally preferred method as it greatly facilitates making turns, causing the sled to move in a arc consistent with your turn.

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