Keeping sled transport simple and easy
Some of us get off on trucking a semi-trailer length sled hauler all over snow country. Our Western and deep powder snowmobile test crew hauls around a virtual shop on wheels. It has room for at least four mountain sleds, all of their gear, extra parts, and even a gas heater to defrost themselves and the sleds. If they ever get caught in a quick-hitting blizzard, they’ve got folding chairs, a couple of cots and an outdoors BBQ grill. Understand that our test team learned about all of this “survival” gear over the course of three decades of mountain snowmobiling experiences. And they are actually quite typical of serious deep powder riders in their “let’s go snowmobiling” setup.
While this may be pretty much the norm for backcountry riders, those of us where cities and towns cluster closer together and where we don’t have to slog through snowy mountain passes may find this as serious overkill. The simplest way to get to the snow is to lift the garage door and ride off. Some of us can do that, but even we like to get out and experience trail networks in neighboring states or counties. That means that we have to trailer.
Unlike our western test crew, we keep things much, much simpler. Since we tend to head off alone to join up with friends at a trailhead or work out of a lakeside northern cabin, we have chosen a very basic trailer. We work with a two-place flatbed or a single-place utilitarian trailer. The flatbed two-place sled hauler features a V-nose and a ramp for loading and unloading. The single place trailer is a tilt design that pulls easily behind a Jeep Wrangler. It also pulls nicely behind a 550cc ATV when it’s used to cart gardening and utility bits and pieces around the estate. Simple and versatile plus an ability to park it quickly just outside the cabin door is of greater importance than survival in a mountain pass.
We have noted that trailer makers tend to build what might be construed as “crossover” trailers to accommodate the huge popularity of ATVs and UTVs but still serving the needs of their snowmobiling customers. Because many of us have dual powersports personalities and own both sleds and “wheelers,” we want a trailering unit that can satisfy both recreational needs. Either of my current trailers works okay. The single place works better, though, as it can be towed by the ATV upon arrival at the cabin and be used to haul firewood and such. Obviously, for traveling with a buddy, we’d hook up the two-place flatbed and head off with sleds, ATVs or a side-by-side UTV. Odds and ends get piled into the pickup bed.
That’s us. Since we tend to be “pull-through” trailer operators and rarely need to back into a position, we much prefer nimble haulers that are lightweight and not too long. We have learned that if we have to use a longer trailer we want twin axles. For our single axle haulers we demand the optional and bigger tires for hauling ease.
In this new world of trailer manufacturing, aluminum construction appears to be the “thing.” They don’t rust like steel, even painted steel, which looks pretty ratty when it chips and rust attacks it. ATV trailers with aluminum floors seem to be growing in popularity, but are not well suited to any double-duty hauling of carbide-ski equipped sleds, which will rip that floor. That’s why most owners of both ATVs and sleds look beyond that simple answer and end up with a wooden floor trailer.
One of the Midwest’s leading makers of aluminum trailers started out making all-aluminum trailers to haul his friend’s golf carts. That was more than 20 years ago and now that company, Iowa-based Aluma, manufactures an average of 50 trailers a day out of a 105,000-square-foot facility. The company offers more than 60 models, including an assortment of all-aluminum ATV trailers as well as wooden floored snowmobile units and a new new enclosed sled hauler. This new sled hauler has been designed with a nearly six-foot tall interior height and features 14-inch tires on a rubber torsion axle and easy lube hubs. There’s a 94.75-inch tall by 66.5-inch wide ramp door as well as 32-inch wide side door with step. If you want to go beyond the basics, you can order pieces such as aluminum wheels and two-tone color option.
Like many trailer manufacturers that cater to snowmobilers on a budget, you can find basic haulers, such as the Aluma tilt bed trailer with 10-inch tires under the deck and suitable for an optional salt shield.
Wisconsin’s Triton Trailers is one of the Midwest’s premier trailer makers, offering enclosed, capped and flatbed styles. These trailers remain popular simply because they are so well thought out in their design, offering both excellent quality and outstanding value for the long haul. What sold us on our two-place Triton Elite series were a combination of features, including its aluminum base construction and full length tie down channels that allow us to locate the tie down bars to suit different length sleds. The wire harness consists of a molded piece with protective braiding and the lights are protected by a wrap around construction. This trailer offers all those “little” things that we’ve learned are so, so important. We’ve discovered it’s well worth the extra bucks to get quality that won’t leave you abandoned alongside a snowy winter highway.
Another manufacturer that builds trailers with examples of personal experience literally built in is Floe International of Minnesota. Like other trailer makers, Floe offers a variety of sled and ATV haulers, crossing over with select models to satisfy the needs of both the ATVer and the snowmobiler with a single trailer.
We count a Floe All-Terrain Pro among our haulers. Since we go off on our own frequently, it has become the trailer of choice for either a single sled or ATV. Measuring 54 inches in width by 10 feet in bed length, the unit can carry a two-up touring sled, although it may sit over the back edge by a few inches. We have owned the trailer for more than five seasons and outfitted it with the optional wooden stake kit. That came in handy this past summer when we hitched our ATV to it and used it to pick up limbs and other debris that had fallen during a severe storm that knocked out power for four days.
Normally this trailer hauls our trail sport sleds to various test areas. It’s a lightweight, very maneuverable trailer that comes loaded with great features. Like the two-place Triton, the single place Floe comes with slide channels, which Floe calls Versa-Tracks. There’s a rear bumper with an overhang designed expressly to protect the wooden decking. It’s also designed to protect the trailer’s lighting. And, again like the Triton, the wiring is hidden. New Floe designs feature bright LED lights.
One of the things that we especially like is the Versa-Trailer’s tilt clamp design that pulls the tongue tight to the trailer connection, virtually eliminating vibration.
You may notice that many of the trailer makers such as Triton and Floe are now offering tilt gas shocks to assist you in both tilting and holding the deck upright. If you don’t have a tilt gas shock assist, you should seriously think about getting one. Since we trailer alone to locations to meet other riding buddies, we frequently load sleds and ATVs on our own. The tilt assist makes that a better experience. We strongly recommend this option.
If you don’t have a tilt assist for loading and unloading, you can get the trailer loading and unloading system made by Minnesota-based Caliber Products. The company sells its system via dealers and through select retailers. Check out the product online and look for a dealer or online retailer at the company’s web site.
If we had to haul multiple sleds long distances to deep powder or didn’t have an available snow country workshop complete with heated stove and air tools, we’d be driving a diesel empowered dualie and towing a fully enclosed all-season toy shop like our western test crew. But we don’t need it and find a single place hauler just fine most of the time. We suspect that many of you weekend warriors can opt for the “simple” trailering life with a two-place or single place flat bed as well. It works for us. But we do like to stay warm and cozy in the Western crew’s hauler when out West working with them!