How to Rig Sleds and Influence People

During my first year of grad school, I signed up for a course in winter wilderness skills with the intention of being fully transformed into a badass in the span of one month. It didn’t work, but I did learn one crucial badass skill: how to rig and haul a sled.

When it was announced that each student would be hauling a sled, I pictured a whimsical Victorian number, complete with red runners, a wooden deck, and a Santa Claus-style burlap sack fastened with novelty-grade hemp ropes. Basically, this model from LL Bean:

Dash Sled, Longsled.jpg

When I saw the sled I’d be hauling, I felt ridiculous for imagining something so impractical. The LL Bean model weighs in at 13.5 pounds—not exactly light-and-fast. Also, I’m not sure how well varnished maple holds up to the elements, but I’m willing to hazard a guess that 40 degrees below zero would’ve put a strain on the delicate wooden slats.

This was just a plastic kiddie sled, like the kind my dad and uncles used to haul us around on when it snowed. You can get them at the grocery store for less than ten bucks, usually, and rig them for glacier or snow travel pretty cheaply. All you need, really, is the sled, some cord in a few different thicknesses, and a drill (plus, in my case, permission from an adult to use said power tool).

The essential components are the rigging, which keeps your shit (both colloquial and literal) securely attached to the sled, something to attach the sled to your backpack, and, for downhill travel, a brake. Depending on the conditions, including whether you get pissed and destroy or throw your sled off a cliff, they can last for several expeditions. Here is how it looks when I prep a kiddie sled for a trip:


Rigging a sled (more art than science, and based largely on personal preference) is way more fun than the actual hauling of a sled, an experience practically guaranteed to leave you with bruises. In my experience, if you have not shocked and horrified yourself with the colorful string of expletives you’ve thought up to hurl at your sled, your trip probably isn’t over yet.

The moving of a sled from Point A to Point B is entirely beside the point once you’ve arrived at your destination, where the backcountry luxuries you’ve hauled in will make you extremely popular and loved. With that end in mind, I’ve taken a page out of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, and have here replaced capitalism, distilled to its essence, with the hauling of a well-rigged sled.

Without further ado, then, an abridged version of the things Carnegie said his book would do for its readers, except I say you can do them with a plastic kiddie sled full of sausages and beer. Dale Carnegie* and I promise that properly rigging your sled and skiing it out to a cabin/yurt/snow cave/Quonset hut will:

  • Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions. Ah, the fresh mountain air, the promise of a cozy wood-burning stove at day’s end, the feel of a 40-pound albatross tugging you gently to the downhill side of the trail.
  • Enable you to make friends quickly and easily. Who doesn’t want to be friends with the person hauling all the snacks and beer?
  • Increase your popularity. See above. Also, you will appear strong and capable.
  • Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done. In other words, you can fit more shit in a sled and a backpack than in just a backpack.
  • Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist. Take me, for example. Basically all my stories are about times I fell over (sled’s fault) and/or got frostbite (not directly sled’s fault but I’m still looking for a way to blame sled). Also, see above re: “string of colorful expletives.”
  • Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates. A little redundant, maybe, but Dale** and I can’t emphasize enough the enthusiasm-arousing power of a well-earned six-pack.

*obviously not really
**still not actually though

Go forth, my friends, to rig your sleds and win favor among your peers. You deserve it.


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