I can’t remember if someone told me or if I read that coffin-shaped toboggans, widest a few feet from the bow and tapered at both ends, pull better than rectangular toboggans. Regardless of how I came to know that as true, I’ve believed it since I started pulling toboggans and camping with them in the 1990’s. As a result, I’ve always made and used toboggans that were coffin-shaped, using a block plane or band saw to taper the ends.
When they’re wood, the tapering process gives you a bunch of shavings for starting a wood stove. When the toboggans are plastic, you end up with a mess of small plastic shavings that aren’t good for anything, as far as I can tell. In making a few toboggans this year, I decided to leave them rectangular to see how they pulled.
After two weeks on the trail during the Boreal Snowshoe Expedition, neither I nor any of the other people on the trip noticed the tapered sleds pulling any easier. I understand the theory as to why they should pull easier, and maybe they do with certain snow conditions, but I couldn’t notice any tangible difference with the wide variety of conditions we had.
If they don’t pull any easier, they’re more work to make, they’re more of a mess to make, and they have a smaller surface area for carrying gear, I think I’m done with tapering toboggans, at least the plastic ones. I still think the lines of a tapered wooden toboggan are worth adding for their beauty alone.
If you’ve noticed a tangible benefit from having a coffin-shaped toboggan, please let me know as I’d love to hear about it.