Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills and Waylandscape. Arctic Exploration, Travel and Photography.
Part of the Lore and Saga family of web sites
Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure
Ice Raven is a partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills

Building a Toboggan.

Much of the inspiration I had in the building of my toboggan I found in tutorials on the excellent Winter Trekking Forum. ( Which now very sadly seems to be defunct. )

Five other members of Bushcraft UK, four of which were also going on the 2013 expedition, were up for the same project so Pete ordered two large 5mm sheets of PE1000 ( Known as UHMWPE or UHDMPE on the other side of the pond.) which he cut into 6 x 16" wide strips, each 10’ long.

Toboggan Hardware - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

While waiting to get my hands on my strip of sheet I set about sourcing the rivets, tape, wood, nuts and bolts that would be needed to complete the construction.

I selected oak for the hauling bar and stiffeners and marine grade stainless steel for the bolts with nylon inserted locking nuts for fastening them.

I counter-bored the bars using a flat wood bit before drilling the holes through for the bolts. This allows the nuts to sit no higher than the top of the bars. There is also a slot worked into the underside of the hauling bar for 25mm climbing tape which forms the first link in the hauling system.

The 10mm tape, shown left, is secured along the edges for load securing with counter sunk pop rivets and washers, stainless steel again.

One of the main objectives on this build was to produce a sled that could be rolled up tight enough to fit inside an expedition barrel bag of a size that would be acceptable on most airlines as checked in baggage.

The complete toboggan, weighing in at just under 7 kg. easily fulfils that objective and once in the bag can be filled with much of the awkward shaped equipment such as snowshoes, boots and shovels that are often troublesome when packing.

Toboggan Rigging - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Here you can see all the important parts of the rigging.

The side tapes are fitted directly to the base which makes them the only part that is not field interchangeable. A bit of a risk but I think there are enough attachment points that if one fails the rest should suffice.

The curl is held in place with a simple cord and prusik knot system.  I had intended to make “whoopie” slings for this but in the end I went for the simplest approach.

Running through the front stiffener bar is the all important hauling loop for man handling the sled over awkward ground and obstacles.

The black tape forms the first link of the hauling system. I will attach a loop of shockcord to this and the harness will attach to that.

The sticker was salvaged from my old pulk, I don’t know how long it will stick on this new one but time will tell.

Toboggan Front - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

At the trailing end of the sled we have another stiffening bar and another grab loop. Currently this goes through the base of the sled. On reflection I think this may be a mistake so I may well change it to run through the bar, parallel to the sled surface, where it is less likely to snag.

Toboggan Back - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Loaded on the sled below are the two barrel bags that I am using to fly all the gear out.

Although not completely waterproof the one I used last year proved to be airport and reasonably snow proof which is good enough for my needs.

Toboggan Part Loaded - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

The toboggan rolls up tightly enough to drop into the top of the bag and slide up to the end for packing.

These two bags leave a considerable amount of the load area for another bag which will contain the provisions we obtain locally.

Hauling a Toboggan - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

I finally had the chance to try this out on our trip to Jokkmokk in 2014. Here you can see it with our entire travel baggage on it. Somwhere in the region of 100kg. Our working load was a lot smaller than that but it handled this load perfectly.

My only concerns in the end was trying to roll it up for the flight in low temperatures and the weight of it, 7kg took up a lot of our flight baggage allowance.

Another group from BcUK organised a trip to Finland a year or so later and they used 3mm HDPE to build their toboggans instead, which worked well enough but was cheaper and weighed in at much less.

They also had a spare sheet which I bought off them. It has taken me ta while to get around to finally fitting it out, prompted by the prospect of joining them next year on a trip to Kittila.

The way I rigged the heavy sled worked well enough, so I decided to copy that for the new one. The same three oak bars, One to act as an anchor for the hauling straps and the others mainly to discourage the sheet from curling up under the tension of the cargo straps.

The bars are attached to the sheet with 4mm countersunk machine screws running through the sheet, into recessed holes in the bars that accommodate washers and Nylock nuts to prevent them unscrewing in use. I used marine grade stainless steel again which was probably overkill but I prefer to make things  right and make them once.

The toboggan haul bar - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

The hauling bar is a little wider than the others to withstand the extra stresses involved and channelled so that the haulage link strap can pass between the bar and the sheet.

When looking for a strong bit of webbing in one of my scrap boxes, my hand fell onto an old piece of "rainbow" climbing tape which seems so appropriate as I make it during this Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Rainbows have become a widespread unofficial symbol of support for the NHS, other care workers and essential workers during this terrible time. This tape will always remind me why I have the time to work on projects like this.

Also running through the same channel is the cord that links with the lead bar to draw the front of the toboggan into it's characteristic and very functional curve.

Toboggan grab handle - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

The front and the back bars also carry the grab handles. used to guide the sled over obstacles and rough terrain.  Big enough for a hand in thick mittens and made so they can be drawn in  when not needed to avoid snagging.

Fixing the toboggan cargo loops - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Rather than punching holes through the tape that provides the cargo support loops, I prefer to open the weave with a fid so that it does not compromise the strength of the webbing. Probably overkill again but that’s just me.

Toboggan rolled up for pakking - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Here you can see it rolled up sufficiently to fit into a 12” sports bag. The ones I use are 15” in diameter so I can ease it off a bit when packed so that I can stuff gear inside it for transit. It should certainly be easier to roll than the old sled at low temperatures.

Weighing in at just 4.5kg with the haul straps, that is also a significant saving of 2.5kg which can be used for other things. I call that a good result.

Pimping My Haul Strap - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

In use, the load weigh hardly seems to matter as you are not really fighting gravity, just the surface friction most of the time.

In theory, the UHMWPE has a lower coeficient of friction than the HDPE. It also feels a bit tougher. I’ve seen tests that seem to show that the difference in use is minimal. One point to note though is that HDPE is a little more brittle at temperatures below -20C although again, probably not too much of a problem in normal use.

I’ll keep the old sled for lending out and for trips over heavier terrain but I’m not using toboggans at the level or frequency that some others might need to. I get a trip annually at best and for my needs I think this light weight version should serve me well enough.


Sub Zero Crew - Bushcraft UK

Unless noted otherwise, all photography, artwork and content on this site is copyrighted. © Gary Waidson 2022 All rights reserved

The Ice Raven Project promotes sustainable and low impact bushcraft and wilderness skills in Arctic and winter conditions. This includes the use of  tents, tarps  and snow shelters where possible. Fires are only used where safe and where use and collection of firewood will not damage the natural environment. We often travel to locations by public transport and then use snowshoes, sleds, toboggans and pulks to transport our equipment into the wilderness.