Saturday, January 20, 2007

New KISS Sled Bag

Tonight I'm working on a new sled bag for my toboggan sled. I've decided to keep it pretty basic, just an open bag with a cover. Anything I need to stuff into it can be packed in stuff sacks to keep things reasonably well organized.

I see a lot of sled bags with fancy bells and whistles, things like ventilated compartments in which to place an ill or injured dog, snap in dividers to keep that dog away from food and gear, and so forth. When I've thought about incorporating some of those features in my own sled bag the little voice in the back of my head shouts "KISS" - Keep It Simple, Stupid.

A recent visit to our local fabric store netted enough chrome-yellow cotton duck to make the bag. I was initially looking for cordura, but the duck will serve the purpose well enough. I chose the yellow because the winter woods in Alaska create an almost black and white environment, like old photographs. A splash of color here and there goes a long way toward cheering things up.

I'll use velcro(TM) hook and loop tape instead of zippers, and rig the cover so it can be rolled down from the rear forward. That way when I carry a passenger I can roll down the top of it, but leave the rest in place to provide a bit more wind protection. I initially planned to use velcro on tabs to fasten the bag to the sled, but I'm rethinking that. I think that just making sewn grommets the appropriate places on the bag will be better. I can use them as lash points to fasten the bag with less risk of things coming loose on the trail, especially during an upset. I can use spare necklines to clip them into place. That way if I need them the spare necklines will be handy, yet will serve a useful purpose in the meantime.

So, here is the "step by step" process to making this sled bag.

1. Make the pattern. To make the pattern for this bag I grabbed a large sheet of cardboard, laid the sled on it's side on top of the cardboard, the traced the profile of the 'basket' portion of the sled onto the cardboard. My toboggan sled was made by a bush-rat some years ago, and is designed a bit differently than most. It includes stanchions and a top rail, so I also traced these onto the pattern as they will serve as lash points for the bag.

The bottom and cover don't need a pattern, just measurements. Since the interior of my sled is 17 inches wide, I'll cut the bottom piece 18 inches (to accommodate seam allowance), and long enough to cover the floor of the sled plus extend up the back of the bag.

The cover will need to overlap the top of the bag by a couple of inches, so it will end up being a rectangle six feet long by 20 inches wide. That width gives me the overlap I need plus seam allowance.

2. Cut out the pieces. I'll just lay the pattern on the fabric, use tailor's chalk to mark the cut lines, and go after it with a pair of super-sharp fabric scissors.

3. Stitch the thing together. I'll use felled seams for strength.

4. Put the new bag into service, and see how it works out. If I don't like it I can always make a new one.

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