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Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure
Ice Raven is a partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills

Load Carrying.

The kit requirements for cold weather camping tend to stretch our load carrying capabilities, not due to weight but because of the sheer bulk required.

Warm layers of extra clothing, two sleeping bags a bivi bag and a good sleeping mat fill the main part of my pack so side pockets, sadly lacking on my trusty old Roc, are needed for the rest.

Due to pure good fortune and a tip off from a friend I managed to obtain a rare old Crusader made of canvas instead of Cordura. A quick modification of the zips allowed me to attach a set of detachable pouches and this has been my main pack for a while now.

This is spacious enough for a short winter trip but still a bit small for extended trips so it’s time to look at another advantage of snow.

Waylands Bergan - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Most serious travellers in winter conditions drop the back pack and turn instead to sledges for transporting the gear.

The two most popular options for this are Pulks and Toboggans.

Pulk with load wrapped in a tarp - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

On the 2012 expedition I considered trying to get a cheap plastic sled out in Norway and doing a quick conversion when I got there instead of taking a decent pulk with me. It would have been significantly cheaper to do that and leave it over there than to fly one out from the UK.

In the end I decided to build one for use over here as well and my starting point was a Snowsled Ice Blue pulk shell. The pulka is a boat shaped sledge used by the Saami and they are the ancestors of most of the sledges hauled across the ice by explorers at the top of the world.

To secure the load I added a series of loops around the edge with cargo duty parachute cord sheathed in PVC tubing from an irrigation system. The loops are big enough to grab with mittened hands  and the baggage is then secured with waterproof rubber shockcords.

The hauling ropes are connected to aluminium brackets via loops of bungee cord that act as shock absorbers and this will attach to a tump / shoulder strap rather than a harness for convenience.

At the first opportunity after a bit of snow I had the chance to try out a few bits.

It wasn’t all that cold really so for most of the time that I was hauling the pulk I was stripped down to my base layer top but I decided to try the Pac boots to see what sort of moisture problems might occur.

Having replaced the synthetic liners with some good quality felt liners from a company over the pond I was very pleased with the results. Even in these relatively warm conditions my feet remained dry from inside and out.

Training and testing the pulk. - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

As mentioned on the clothing pages, one of the greatest challenges working in the cold is not just keeping warm but keeping dry.

Too much clothing can result in perspiration problems that are just as dangerous as getting your clothing wet from external sources.

Taking a break - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Regulating body temperature while working or resting by adjusting clothing layers is of vital importance in extreme cold and some of these test runs really helped me to refine my layer system before committing myself to the kit that I took out to Norway with me in 2012.

When I was out there it proved invaluable. Allowing me to cover far greater distances than I think would have been possible with a heavy pack.

It served other uses too from hauling firewood around to being a makeshift door for my quinzhee.

As I have described in more detail on the 2012 trip report, the weather we experienced turned unseasonably warm which led to a number of problems.

Hauling Wood in the Pulk - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Leaving Camp Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Greatest of these problems for me was that the snow on the tracks and roads that I travelled out on thawed enough to expose a mixture of grit and ice that heavily abraded the bottom of the pulk.

This on it’s own might not have been a problem but unfortunately the design of the shell meant that there were extruded ridges on the bottom which wore faster than the rest of the surface.

I was able to make a rough and ready repair while I was out there using multiple layers of duct tape which got me out of trouble but it is absolutely certain that this sled will not be making another expedition with me.

The other kind of sledge that I had considered making was a toboggan and Pete, another of the expedition members, had already decided that was the way he wanted to do it.

I have to admit I was impressed with the performance of his toboggan and it’s load carrying capabilities that is definitely what I’ll be making before my next trip.

The toboggan is a style of sledge that was developed by the First Nations of North America.

Originally made from thin wooden planking they have largely been replaced with plastic sheeting these days which is stronger, requires less maintenance and can even be rolled up for transport on aircraft.

See how I made mine here.


Tarp Shelter in Snow - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
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.