The Sub Zero Sled

[Apparently wordpress is in the habit of publishing posts even though “draft” was selected so some of you got a sneak peak at an unfinished product here.  I’m now going to spend the next hour remedying that problem instead of going to sleep so that this post is more than just a draft.  Thank you for forcing my hand wordpress.]

I had the privilege to sit in on a seminar about maintaining an active outdoor lifestyle when you have young (infants and toddler) children today.  Initially, it might not seem like a big deal, but there was a lot of practicality involved and good ideas for not only keeping your young ones warm and toasty during negative temperatures, but ideas on how to haul around 20+ pounds of extra weight in an arctic environment.

First off, don’t underestimate the fact that you may one day find yourself in a situation where you have to travel across country with small children during winter.  Whether your thing is zombies, marshal law, red dawn, any other shit hitting the fan scenario, or are simply just like to be a prepper, kids playing into survival adds an entirely new aspect that you will need to plan for.  Throw winter in the mix and you have an entirely different situation that will take a lot of additional planning.  Even if your snow doesn’t get waste deep, if it is something you are not prepared for, it can still turn bad in a matter of minutes. One of the finer points that was reiterated throughout the lecture was the priority on making sure that despite how much you bundle your children, a lack of oxygen is more of a danger than the cold.  Ensuring your child can breath is the first priority and more children die from suffocation for this reason in Alaska than exposure.

Simple things such as changing a diaper in sub zero conditions will prove to be exponentially more challenging for both accomplishing the task and attempting to keep your child from catching frostbite on their nether regions.  Where as you are able to simply throw a child into a carrier (which I highly recommend Ergo) during the summer and pack them out to where ever you need to be, during the winter you will have to come up with more creative ideas.  thule_chariot_cougar2_avacado_ski_sized_450x300The Thule chariot is one of the marketed ideas.  You’re able to close up your child and keep them out of the wind, which will help tremendously.  This particular one is designed to be either pushed or pulled with some small skis for the snow.  It’s a great concept but when you have the extra weight in tow, carrying a pack as well isn’t always an optimal idea.  Even with out your child, sometimes carrying the pack while trudging through snow simply isn’t a reasonable idea.  That’s where we cross into the next idea that came about.

Now in the world of arctic combat, we use these outdated, heavy, awkward, and overloaded scow sleds called ahkios.
downloadAhkios usually have a huge assortment of materials to include a stove and 10 man tent as well as everything you would need to set up the tent along with 5 gallon water cans and 5 gallon fuel cans.  It’s quite heavy when loaded and is meant to support an entire squad for an extended period of time.  Once you have set up your patrol base, you could use the ahkio to haul important additional items out on missions, but, it’s rather lengthy and bulky size aren’t optimal for efficiently trekking through the woods securely, plus you typically use the ahkio at your patrol base to store all of the additional tools once the tent is set up.  All and all, it’s not a very practical idea.

The seminar brought forth a more modernized idea that was made lighter, smaller, and more maneuverable while using common items that you can pick up at any hardware store.  These sleds would be the appropriate size to haul specialized equipment on patrols while making it manageable.  A four man team could take one sled and rotate between who hauls it at varying lengths and it could be easier to discard if ambushed since instead of four people being hooked to it, there would be only one, giving the remainder of the team the freedom to return fire while the haul man works on detaching himself.

Even a smaller three man sniper team could make this manageable for their cold weather operations.  They could load all of the additional materials on the sled that they would need.  For example, some special considerations that a sniper team would need for winter conditions would be thermal blankets (see my previous post for an example), the M107 .50 cal rifle which weighs about 30 lbs and no one wants to carry it, a coal/snow shovel to be able to dig out a hide site in the snow without trying to rely on entrenchment tools to accomplish it.  As well, additional radio equipment and batteries will be a must in cold weather since they like to do this…
1425714_10153434098960697_1614038541_n The lady giving the lecture brought a few of her examples of sleds with her.  Initially, these were meant to be pulled behind the baby chariots so that you wouldn’t have to carry a pack as well.  A great idea, but since in this case, we aren’t working with the baby chariot in between a pack may or may not be manageable for you to carry while hauling it.  Shooter dependent.  Do your thing, boo boo.  I was able to snap a few pictures of the designs that the lady presented and I will elaborate upon them as I present them below.

1507811_10154628855990697_466579760140240134_nHere is her best version of the sled.  As you can see, its not much more than what you would pull your kids around in the back yard with.  However, the devil is in the details as the saying goes, and with her sled, the modifications can turn it into a useful tool.  She used PVC pipe for the attach points to keep rigidity while moving.  She preferred these for being easily replaceable and light, while still being sturdy enough to do the job.  D rings were used as fast attach points on other models which will work for both ends of the poles.  This would be more convenient than directly tying it for staging, storage and transport purposes.  There is a line woven through holes that go around the edge.  This serves a purpose of being able to attach bungee cords or tie-downs to strap across and hold whatever is being hauled in place.  A shifting load on the trail can easily lead to tipping and can be a real pain in the ass.  Another idea that wasn’t presented but would probably be more beneficial is to tie individual loops between the holes instead of using one long length of cord.  In the event one of these sections snaps or is cut, then you wouldn’t lose the entire load when it unravels.  Instead a small 10 inch piece is a lot more easily replaced.
Also you can see rivets in the bottom of the sled.  She opted to attach runners to the bottom to help with steering.  In my experience, this can be helpful and hurtful; do it at your own accord.
1229942_10154628856070697_6127654045116329092_nHere you can see how she tied her poles to the sled.  Using the red cord, you can detach them if necessary, but untying cord in the cold is a lot more difficult than unhooking a D ring.

1620803_10154628856120697_8205821070242143970_n

When I mentioned the details being important, this is one of them.  Grommets.  This was a big detail the speaker wanted to impart upon us all.  Without these added metal grommets surrounding the holes of the sled the plastic will eventually start to bend under the stress.  Combined with the cold it will cause the plastic to snap off.  The grommets fix this problem by distributing the pressure better.  Without these little boogers all the hard work you put into a gear sled could be short lived come your first sub zero day.

10441078_10154628855940697_2400066831758624671_nNow, as i had mentioned before, having D rings serve as a quick detach for the poles is an optimal idea.  Here you can see where she had used them to attach to herself to pull her sled.  I highly recommend doing this on both ends, since it will be easier to store, conceal, or transport your sled without the poles tied on to it.  The drill through idea is a fair one and it will hold as much weight as you are going to put into your sled.  However, to strengthen and to have a secondary in case this does fail, I recommend running a length of cord down the pole and tying it to both D rings at the opposite ends.  In the event that the PVC pipe does break for whatever reason, you won’t be left pulling your sled awkwardly on one side.  Also if you need to shorten the distance at which your sled is trailing while using the poles, and easy fix is to cross the poles over each other and attach them to the opposite side of you.  This will shorten the length and make it easier to negotiate tight corners if need be.  Now that we have the pole idea cover, how exactly are we going to pull this sled?  What am I going to do?  Clip the D rings on to my belt loops and hope it doesn’t rip off?  Nope, we got a solution for that too.
10451706_10154628856270697_9206171937118419864_nYour standard pack waste harness will work great.  Even better if you are in the military or have a nearby surplus store, you can simply go grab a spare molle pack waste band or alice pack waste band and attach your D rings to that.  Then you will have a dedicated harness with a simple front buckle that can be easily removed in a pinch.  The one show in the picture is slightly more complicated due to it being from a civilian design, but it simply does not have to be that complicated with a little ingenuity.
$_35The molle waste band has points on it that are clearly visible here where D rings could easily be attached.  While its not the most comfortable thing in the world, it will certainly give you the functionality you will be looking for.

10468369_10154628856360697_8984839086130125685_nFinally, and important modification that has multiple uses.  Spray foam insulation.  Initially, the woman giving the seminar has sprayed some of this into her sled because the back end was cracked and a piece broken off and she was about to need this sled to pull her child around in.  What she found after she patched the hole was that it was just as easy to line the entire sled.  Due to the material being an insulation, she also found that her child wasn’t having us much heat being sucked from her from the cold snow under the sled.  A major plus here.  As well as strengthening the integrity of the sled, she also made it keep its contents a little warmer.  If you got back and look at the picture of the radio, you can see that keeping the radios and their batteries warm helps them actually function and if you are packing around enough commo to get by for a while, you’re gonna want to insulate as much as possible so you can use it when you need it.  Luckily this spray insulation is fairly light weight and won’t weigh your sled down much.

Another key thing while looking at this picture, is her tie-down loops.  She reiterated that you need to leave enough room to be able to actually hook your tie-down under them.  She made this particular one too tight and in the dead of winter in gloves has claimed to have gone on many a profane rant due to the difficulty of trying to hook something to them.

I highly recommend that if you are at all worried about any sort of situation where you might need this sled for either children or gear, that you have it packed and ready to go with spots to sit for children if need be.  In an emergency, trying to piece this together and load up everything you think you might want to haul in it is going to be a fools errand and you are bound to leave something vital out.  It’s too easy to load up and leave staged in a garage ready to throw in the back of the truck or hook up and go from there.  Simple ideas, simply repurposed.  That is an excellent recipe for functional military equipment.

Stay hidden; stay safe.

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