LAST UPDATED: March 22, 2021
Best Sleds (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
The right sled can turn a snow day into an unforgettable experience.
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PUBLISHED ON March 22, 2021
A snowy winter day almost certainly calls for a trip down a hill with family and friends. Sledding through the snow is one of those cold-weather pastimes that never gets old no matter how old you are. While you can make do with a makeshift option, a good sled can go a long way towards making your next sledding experience enjoyable.
You might be surprised to learn that sleds come in a variety of configurations and materials. While some offer a classic wooden or metal sled effect, you can also opt for inner tubes or saucer options, which might be easier for younger children to manage on their own. Whichever you choose, familiarize yourself with key tips, top brands, and other features that may impact the right sled for your next winter adventure.
A 47-inch inflatable tube designed for both adults and kids. It features a thick 0.6mm exterior and built-in handles for enhanced control and durability.
- Tear-resistant PVC exterior
- Can support up to 500 pounds
- 3-in-1 air valve for quick inflation
- May be hard to pick up speed with this tube
A wallet-friendly pick that’s great for sledders of all ages. It includes built-in hand grips and a patch kit.
- 45-inch wide seat
- Rapid inflate valve for faster inflation
- Available in five designs
- Only ideal for light powder snow
A sled that pulls double duty with a wider capacity for multiple riders or to haul goods for outdoor activities. It’s designed to be easily pulled by hand.
- Made of rugged polyethylene
- Also ideal for ice fishing
- Molded runners for easy gliding
- Tow rope isn’t included
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Sled
- Easier travel over snow. Anyone who’s tried walking in deep snow knows that it’s far from an enjoyable experience. Sleds are specifically designed to float over snow rather than get stuck in it, making it the best way to get from point A to B in winter weather.
- Fun outdoor exercise. You might not think of sledding as a form of exercise but it is. While the exhilaration of flying down a snowbank gets more attention, you’ll still have to walk back up the hill with your sled in tow.
- Great way to make memories. Almost anyone who’s spent time in snowy weather has at least one fun memory of sledding down a hill with relatives or friends. This great, low-tech piece of outdoor gear continues to be one of the best ways to make the best of a snow day.
- Screen-free alternative. Parents who are concerned their children are spending too much time on their screens and not enough time in an analog world will love that even the most tech-obsessed child can’t resist the urge to go sledding once it snows.
Types of Sleds
While usually made of wood, it’s also possible to find plastic toboggans. The toboggan is the most classic sled style and features a long back end and a curved front designed for you to hold on to. One of the big benefits is that multiple people can ride at once. However, wood toboggans can sometimes be difficult to use in the snow.
As the name implies, a snow scooter doesn’t look like a traditional sled. Picture a scooter without wheels. While this style does allow you to “sled” down a hill while standing, along with steering support thanks to the handle, you might struggle to stay upright depending on the snow conditions. But snow scooters also come in collapsible models, which makes them a great space-saving solution when you need to store them.
Inflatable Snow Tubes
Inflatable snow tubes come in two forms and the quality can vary depending on price. While both must be inflated, cheaper models may be little more than pool floats that are rebranded as safe for use in the snow. The lower-cost options tend to lose air easier and may lack built-in cords which makes hauling them back up a hill or snowbank more difficult.
Saucer-style sleds come in a variety of materials and are often the sled of choice for younger children. They’re ideal for younger children but can also be a bit risky since it’s easy to pick up quite a bit of speed — but difficult to control your trajectory. Most people agree that these sleds are best for smaller hills with gentle slopes as opposed to anything with a steeper incline.
Parents concerned that other sleds might be inherently risky for young children should opt for foam sliders. These sleds are essentially boogie boards with two handles and an underbelly that’s smooth enough to float over most snow. While these sleds usually don’t move as fast as other models, they’re the best choice for first-timers and anyone concerned about getting injured while sledding.
Flexible Flyer is a product category from the outdoor gear brand, Paricon. This U.S.-based company is best known for its classic wooden sled set on metal skates. The brand has been creating a wide array of sleds from saucers to toboggans since 1861 and is synonymous with quality.
Shapell is an American outdoor sporting goods brand that primarily focuses on creating fishing gear and accessories. Along with common items like lures, swivels, and floats, the brand also creates sleds that are best suited for use on ice.
- Under $30: This range will include saucers, foam sliders, and lower-priced inflatable snow tubes. Saucers and foam sliders may endure a few seasons, inflatable snow tubes may need to be replaced often.
- $31 - 80: More durable inflatable snow tubes as well as toboggans, and metal sleds will be in this price range.
- $80 and up: Pricier models across all sled styles that offer more control, as well as durability for more than one winter season are in this price range.
Sleds are made in a variety of materials with the most popular options being foam, metal, plastic, and wood. Some materials work better in certain conditions than others. Often wood sleds can be hard to control, especially in heavy or wet snow. Likewise, some materials are more durable than others. For example, even when reviewing plastic sleds, cheaper inflatable tubes aren’t as durable and may need to be replaced every season.
If you’re only sledding occasionally, you might not be as concerned about picking a top-of-the-line sled. But if you don’t like the idea of having to replace your sled every season, you’re going to want to invest in a quality pick that can withstand getting bumped, or crashing into objects without being seriously damaged.
Sleds like toboggans are designed to seat multiple riders at once. Depending on who’s coming with you on your next snow day outing, you’ll want to think about whether you need a sled that can seat various passengers or one that can only safely support one or two riders at a time.
Not all sleds are created equal when it comes to controls. Very simple models are only designed to slide down a hill — nothing more. And in some cases, certain sled styles can gain speed quickly yet lack maneuverability. So, you’ll need to think about the terrain where you’ll use the sled and choose accordingly.
- Age compatibility. Sledding can be a fun activity for people of all ages, but you should match the sled to best suit a child’s age and skill level. More complex sleds with enhanced controls are best saved for older children or adults while younger kids should be given simple saucer or innertube style sleds.
- Terrain. Not all sleds are designed to be safely used on steep inclines. Trying to use a sled on a terrain that it’s not rated for can result in accidents and injuries. Always confirm whether a specific sled that you’re considering can be used on steep hills or if it should be left for gentle slopes instead.
- Straps. Not all sleds come with straps or ropes. This feature comes in handy when you need to climb back up a hill or slope with your rope in tow. Likewise, those straps give you something to hold onto as you sled down the hill and can serve as a safety feature.
Best Sleds Reviews & Recommendations 2021
Adults and children will both love this oversized snow tube, which is designed to let you safely slide down hills and slopes with a reinforced grip handle for maximum control and security. This snow tube measures 47 inches, which is plenty of seating space for people of all ages. You’ll like that this pick features thick K80 PVC with a laminated coating for added durability. It’s 0.6-millimeters thick and is designed to withstand temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees. With a weight capacity of 500 pounds, a leak-proof exterior, and anti-scratch construction, this pick is designed to last more than one season. You’ll also get a three-in-one valve, which makes inflating and deflating this snow tube easier. And it works well with air pumps to get you out on the snow faster.
However, while the brand promises that the bottom has been treated with a special coating to increase speed, a common complaint is that this snow tube struggles to pick up speed, regardless of snow conditions.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have fun in the snow. The GoFloats snow tube is a whimsical choice that can seat both adults and children. While we highlighted the unicorn model, you can also choose from an ice dragon, polar bear, flamingo, or penguin. This pick measures 45-inches across and also features reinforced handles for enhanced control as you zip down a slope or hill. You’ll like that this snow tube is made from 0.6-millimeter, raft-grade material for enhanced durability. There’s also a rapid valve that promises to inflate five times faster than traditional valves.
But while the brand promises that the exterior is coated for added durability, you might need the included patch kit sooner than expected. A common complaint is that this snow tube tends to lose air fairly quickly. Likewise, it seems best suited for light, powdery snow as opposed to wet, heavy, or hard-packed snow.
If you’re looking for a sled that can pull double duty, this sturdy option from Shappell should be on your shortlist. This simplified option not only works as a sled but can also be used to haul gear over snow. As the name implies, this is a great option for bringing essential supplies while ice fishing. You’ll like that this is essentially a toboggan-style sled with a capacity for multiple riders that measures 54-inches long and 25-inches wide. The sled is composed of polyethylene and features molded runners to give you a stable base that can easily slide over any kind of wintry surface.
But, while it features pre-drilled openings to attach a tow rope and promotes that it comes with the rope, this isn’t always the case. A common complaint is that the rope is not included in the package.
There’s no reason why the whole family can’t get in on the fun of playing in the snow. Assuming your baby is at least six months old or able to comfortably sit up and maintain a strong neck, this plastic pull sled is a fun way to safely make sure that even the littlest among you can have fun outside. For safety, there's an adjustable strap to keep your little one securely in place. Note that this pick is best paired with snow that’s no more than four inches deep, packed snow, or a well-managed snow path. The crack-resistant exterior is made from high-density polyethylene and can support children up to 40 pounds. There’s also a tow rope for parents.
However, keep in mind that while it’s rated for a wide size range, parents of taller toddlers may find that their feet or hands extend beyond the boundaries of the sled. As a result, this can impair the sled experience.
Elementary age and older children with a bit more control and awareness will love the independence that comes with using a saucer sled. This three-pack set from Flexible Flyer is perfect for a wider range of users and can support up to 150 pounds on each of the 26-inch wide saucers. The polyethylene construction is designed with a rolled contour edge to increase strength and safety. You also get molded poly hand grips for added control. While we designate this pick as ideal for children because of the higher weight capacity, adults can also get in on the fun. The lightweight sleds come in an assortment of colors and can be stacked for easier storage.
Note though, that if you’re buying these sleds and hoping to use them on multiple surfaces, they’re only designed for use in the snow. The surface lacks the traction necessary to effectively use them on other mediums like sand dunes.
There’s something adorable about the classic sled design. And if you’re drawn to nostalgic styles, this toddler-friendly toboggan from Flexible Flyer features a vintage wooden construction that’s perfect for towing your little one around in the snow. The handcrafted sled is made from northern hard rock maple wood. The elevated seat is designed to keep little ones dry while the wider base and high backrest add stability. Thankfully, this pick comes fully assembled so you can quickly unbox it and go out to enjoy the snow. This sled is rated for children from 18 months to 4 years old and has a maximum weight capacity of 40 pounds. While it doesn’t come with this sled, you have the option to purchase a sled pad separately for a more comfortable ride.
However, we did note two common issues with this sled. While images show the wood as being sanded and treated, in some cases it may arrive untreated. Additionally, this sled isn’t ideal for snow deeper than 2-3 inches, as it may get stuck or risk tipping over.
Snow is more fun when you’re playing with others. If you agree with that mantra, then the SportsStuff toboggan is a great pick that can simultaneously seat two riders. This sled measures 47 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 6 inches tall. The plastic material is designed for high impact durability. And you’ll like that it comes with a lanyard so you can easily tow your sled back up the hill after every ride. Likewise, there are also hand cutouts to give riders more control and steering power. We like that this pick can support both children and adults.
However, common concerns about this sled center on the plastic being too rigid, causing it to potentially shatter if you’re riding on terrain with hidden hazards like tree stumps.
A common complaint with sleds is that maintaining control and steering can be difficult to accomplish. So we like the Gizmo Riders bobsled because it allows children to sled but offers brakes and a steering wheel. That translates to a potentially safer experience since children can effectively avoid hazards that would otherwise cause them to fall off their sleds. This bobsled features spring-loaded brakes that can be operated through the brake handle located beneath the steering wheel. While assembly is required, you won’t need tools as the components snap together securely. And there’s also a retractable tow rope so your kids can bring their ride back up the hill or slope.
However, for all the improved maneuverability and steering, a common issue was parts missing upon arrival. Specifically, the steering wheel seems to be one of the most frequently missing parts.
- Check weight ratings before selecting a sled. You don’t want a sled that can’t support your weight.
- Consider height when purchasing a baby or toddler sled. Ideally, the sled should fit your little one perfectly.
- Always inspect your sled for damage before you begin riding. Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with holes and punctures while riding.
Q: What is the best sled for sledding?
This depends on the terrain where you plan to sled, the total number of people who will be using the same sled, and your experience level. Not all sleds are equal, so you need to consider those aspects before choosing the right sled.
Q: Are inflatable sleds good?
Inflatable sleds can be good, but quality can vary widely and depends on price. Cheaper inflatable sleds are little more than pool floats and the plastic used can easily be punctured.
Q: What are sleds used for?
Sleds can be utilitarian or for fun. They’re ideal for hauling items, especially if they have a larger capacity. But on a snowy day, nothing beats racing down a hill or slope on a sled with friends and family.
A good sled can make a snow day far more fun. When you want something the whole family can ride, our Best Overall is a smart choice. Meanwhile, budget shoppers will appreciate our Best Value selection.