Backcountry Sleds?


Tramper Al

Sleds and 'expeditions'

I skied a few miles in Baxter this weekend, and had a chance to see 6 others handling their sleds.

I am a great admirer of all of the hobby engineering and home building that goes into these sleds. People seem to enjoy tinkering with their designs.

On the tote road, I think all of the sleds held up OK. On the mildest of trails, though, including the little path up to our cabin at Daicey, we began to see sleds break down. By the time we negotiated a few gullies on the AT, I think all 5 of the homebuilds had fractures or other failings, one eventually reduced to rickshaw status.

The couple of Ziffco Tow-boggans, in contrast, handled all the trails and gullies with ease. Why, I think they even made their owners look like better skiers. So, you've got to love that.


Well-known member
Sep 4, 2003
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No Reading, MA Avatar: Crater Rim, Mt Rainier, 8/4
Ok, it was my Beast that failed on Spencer's trip. Twice. We field repaired it both times, and I still like the sled a lot. (I'm not sure if I'll go with a new Beast or a Paris - still leaning toward the Beast). I believe the failure was as much due to design as brittleness of the plastic. I put too much stress on the way I attached the Eye Bolts to the sled, so one of them broke off. Other than that, I really like my sled. It handles well under load, skis well, and did survive 8 trips before the plastic gave way (the former PVC tracer arsm were another story). So, I'll likely replace the sled itself, make a minor adjustment to the attachment points, and it will last longer than I will :). All for another $30.

On my 2 Baxter Trips this year, only 3 sleds (of 18) had any failure, all successfully field repaired with repair kits that we had with us. We had 16 home made sleds on the 2 trips, and one of the commercial sleds belt failed (it has had a LOT of use, so it was due to age more than anything). The others were a failure of the connection points on home made sleds. Some of the terrain that we traversed was anything but mild (Chimney Pond and Russell to Roaring Brook). On my Katahdin trip, my sled did not overturn once, even skiing down from Chimney Pond. I love the Beast! Tinker On! No way I could justify $250 for a Ziffco. I think many of us are in that boat...

One last point. The sleds are put through a tremendous amount of stress on the trail. I tend to try to bull it through some of the tougher spots, and that is what causes the failures. I still would not go back to carrying a pack in winter - the sled rules, and once your body adjusts to pulling it (different muscles), it's the way to go IMHO.
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Tramper Al

SherpaKroto said:
I love the Beast! Tinker On! No way I could justify $250 for a Ziffco. I think many of us are in that boat...
Hey, I said I really admire the inventors and tinkerers, I just wanted to file my most recent experience from the field, I'm not arguing one way or another. Different purposes, conditions and terrain will favor different designs and materials. Obviously, economy and creativity are the parents of the exploding pulk sled invention and home building movement.

I have not in the past nor do I currently have any financial interest in Ziffco, its partners or subsidiaries.

SherpaKroto said:
The sleds are put through a tremendous amount of stress on the trail.
Ah, this is what I understand. The distilled spirit cargo on my last pulk trip amounted to about 6 fluid ounces of single pot Irish Whiskey. I understand that others may carry substantially more volume and weight.

The most dedicated of sled tinkerers on my most recent trip were taking a good look at the Ziffco like a captured enemy fighter; disassembling, making notes, taking photographs of key parts, I kid you not. There is every reason to believe that some of this alien technology will be incorporated in the performance of the next generation of Beasts.
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