Our wooden freight sleds have been around for quite a while. My mentor used to make quite a few each winter to support commercial fishing in Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. There are a lot of individuals and families who hold commercial fishing licenses and fish for fresh water species summer and winter.
Each license is limited to the type and length of nets that they can use. So these for the most part are smaller operations. Basic equipment is nets, ice chisels and saws, a float board to run the nets under the ice from one hole in the ice to another, wooden fish boxes to transport their catch to market, snowmobile, and a reliable sled!
The wooden freight sled is ideal for hauling with snowmobile on frozen lakes and rivers. They have been around for quite a while so the testing has been quite thorough. Since we started making Freight Sleds here at Northern Toboggan Co we’ve been making adaptations for specific needs.
One early modification was the plywood cargo box with oak gunwales at the top rim. We have been selling these to sport fishermen who haul their gear and tackle inside the cargo box and then fasten their fold up fishing shelter on top of the cargo box. It has also been a great addition to many of our customers’ winter cabin experiences. Adding the oak gunwales adds long life to the cargo box.
Another innovation was the UHMW poly slush board that attaches to the sled hitch and goes underneath the front of the sled. This works most effectively to deflect snow and slush coming off the snowmobile track underneath the sled and keeps it from accumulating in front of the sled. If you have ever been out in slush or overflow and gotten your machine stuck in it, very likely it’s an experience you won’t forget.
The features of the wooden freight sled design are the “ridged” skis. These are made up of an oak sled runner, with steel bridges bolted on top, and then an oak rail that connects all the bridge tops to the runner tip. This combination of runner, steel bridging, and sled rail create a truss. Like floor trusses in home construction, the runner is no longer flexible.
The last step in sled assembly is fastening the plywood deck to the tops of all the crosspieces including the hitch crosspiece. This is a long lasting design as it ties the sled together distributing equal force to the runners, rails, and deck at all times.
The sled flexes as it travels lengthwise through the sled deck as the plywood and crosspieces twist and the runners negotiate the terrain. It would not be good to haul 500 or 1000 lbs of freight if all of the weight was bearing in the center of the plywood deck.
In our first years we built a 14' sled with a 12' long plywood deck for my brother who is a builder. Mark has built a lot of homes lodges out on the lake. The best time of year to haul the materials out to the islands is in the winter on the ice with snowmobile and sled.
This sled was the prototype of many custom cargo sleds that have followed in the years since. We have added long 12' 2” x 4” oak rails flat on the sled deck along both edges. On top of these, crosswise, three bunks made of doubled 2” x 4”s, 4’ long were attached on top of the two flat lengthwise 2” x 4”s.
The beauty of this arrangement is not only can all types of building materials be readily loaded on top of the cross bunks, but all of the weight of the load is bearing down directly on top of the sled runners. Many loads of 1500 lbs have been moved across the ice with a small 340cc snowmobile.
This concept of adding flat 2” x 4”s along the length of the sled deck above the runners and attaching cross bunks on top of these has provided many applications for various freighting needs. Like cross bunks made to cradle propane tanks, or 50 gal fuel barrels, etc….even cross bunks to load 18’ aluminum fishing boats, and haul them to remote fishing lodges in the NWT.