Best Sleds (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
The right sled can turn a snow day into an unforgettable experience.
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BY Dorian Smith-Garcia / LAST UPDATED ON April 2, 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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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
- 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.