Gear Reviews, Norge på Langs

Acapulka Expedition Tour 170 and Dragging Bar “Wire” system

SulitjelmaOlymp40Acapulka has a reputation for producing the ‘Rolls Royce’ on the pulka market. We were more than excited to have them support our crossing of Norway and very keen on testing out their sleds. In consultation with the company we opted for the Expedition Tour 170, a sled with a capacity to hold up to an impressive 600l, counting on having long stretches between resupplies while crossing the mountains during dead of winter. We used the Acapulka dragging bar system in combination with the sled.

Our plan didn’t work out as we hoped it would and we only made it 1000km down the route, but we did experience a month in the mountains above the Arctic Circle with the Expedition Tour. The sleds are impressive: they are practical, robust and reliable, but they were unfortunately not the right piece of equipment for our intended purpose.

1. Specs

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name Expedition Tour 170
weight 8,5 kg
length 170 cm
max. width 63 cm
volume > 600 l
construction Glassfibre reinforced Polyester Handlayup
body Glassfibres
Polyester Resins
color: standard white
cover 500 DEN Cordura fabric
tightening straps
lift handles
color: standard red
dragging bar/rope pickup SS fitting
runners STSR runners, replaceable
name Dragging Bar “Wire System”
weight 1700 g
length 185 cm /packed dimensions 106x13x3cm
sections 5
construction Manufactured tube parts assembled over a wire with swage terminals eye bolts
tubes Multiaxial glassfibretubes
Color: black
pulk attachment Fork terminals and special hinges
(all in stainless steel)
harness attachment Eye bolt and Carbine Hook
all in stainless steel
optional aluminium carbine hook
H-part Welded aluminium tube

2. Expedition Tour 170 review

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There is a myriad of sled models out there to choose from and when we settled for the 170 we did so for a number of reasons.
– One was the volume: we expected to haul over three weeks worth of food in addition to the equipment that needed to cover us for high-latitude mountains in midwinter. Taking a longer sled would enable us to keep it packed low rather than have our things stacked high underneath the fabric, which makes the sled more keen to tip over in difficult terrain.
– A second reason was that we preferred to have the type of sled with high sides and an integrated cover over the plastic models such as the Paris Pulk where you need to strap a bag onto it. It seemed, and in my opinion still is, more reliable and easier to work with. A zipper in the cover allows for quick access and it’s easy to get gear organized in the sled. This is more cumbersome in the plastic sleds with seperate bags, where you have to unstrap the bag before being able to get to your gear.
– Third: we liked the setup of the straps, both the compression and elastic ones. The straps are fastened directly to the hull of the sled rather than simply sewn to the cover, making it very unlikely that they will break during the trip. This is a reliable system and it works really well to attach Arctic bedding and a tentbag to the top of the sled, which we found convenient when out in the mountains for a long time.
– The fourth and final reason we were happy to work with Acapulka rather than other brands is that they build their sleds wide, making them more stable overall. It’s tiring to have a sled that tips over all the time. Especially for such a long model I believe that it was easier to maneuver through technical terrain thanks to its extra wide design. A narrower model would have had a much harder time keeping balanced.

Acapulka sleds have a custom designed runner system, with profiled runners that can be changed if they are worn out. Because the runners are slightly below the hull of the sled they are the only point of contact with the snow. In this way, there is less friction than with a flat runner system as there is less contact between the sled and the snow, something that is noticeable especially when the snow is hard and icy. In general we were impressed with how practical Acapulka designs these sleds and how much thought has gone into small details. Another example of this are the two lift handles in the front and back which make it easy when the sled is under transport or has to be moved around.

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That said, there were a few limitations to them that made us conclude that they were not the best sleds for us to use. I am convinced that the Expedition Tour 170 is a great sled to have under conditions with hard snow and they must be amazing on large icecaps and in the polar regions, but they were not ideal in the mountains or during this winter when the snow never really settled.
– One issue was the weight of the sled. It’s easy to drag 25kg of gear and food into the mountains in winter, and adding 8,5kg for just the sled itself makes any load heavy easily. This made it cumbersome to move up and down in the mountains, something the Norwegian terrain dictates quite often. A 200m climb quickly became a titan’s battle.
– Mostly we struggled with the sleds in deep snow. When one of us was breaking trail it was virtually impossible for the second person to keep the sled in the same track. It would keep pushing itself up to the side of the trail and then continue sliding sideways, with the runners not touching ground. This of course generated a lot of friction and made the going even heavier than it already was. Eventually, the sled would tip over. To prevent this the second person had to zigzag behind the first one to keep the sled in the trail and prevent it from tipping, so both would be breaking trail instead of one. This became really frustrating and progress became painstakingly slow. We suspect that this issue is due to the flexibility of the dragging bar and how it is positioned on the sled, something I will discuss further below.

3. Dragging bar review

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Acapulka has the lightest dragging bar system currently on the market. At 1,7 kg it is almost a kilo lighter than Fjellpulken’s reinforced system. The dragging bar is constructed out of a stainless steel wire that is woven through fiberglass rods, screwed tight with eyebolt loops in the end. A carabiner clips through the eyebolts into a harness. The whole system is connected to the sled by securing it with screws onto the fittings. The dragging bar system can be completely dismounted and comes with a convenient bag, making it easy to store and also transport it.

The force of the sleds is put directly on the steel wire rather than on the rods, making it much less likely for them to break. The rods are merely there to stiffen everything up and help with steering. The setup is really strong. We experienced the sleds tipping 360 degrees with heavy loads in them while traveling though terrain with high sastruga without the wire or the rods giving in and this is really impressive. We’ve read that they can break when they tip and end up in front of you or start sliding sideways down the mountain. This obviously puts everything under a lot of stress though this didn’t happen to either of us. What is nice about this system too is that it would be easy to fix in the field if something was to go wrong. If one of the bars breaks a stick or a branch and some tape can serve as a replacement until a new section can be put in.

The flexibility of the bars is what makes the system so strong on one side, but it is also what we suspect was pushing our sled out of the track. There was not enough strength in the wire to counter the pull when the full weight of the sled was pushed up against the snow walls on the side of the track. Being so flexible it wasn’t able to force the sled back down. Maybe changing the placement of the fitting to a lower and more backwards position could help. As said before, this was only a problem when a lot of fresh snow was present. Under conditions with packed snow we did not experience these problems at all.

4. Conclusion

The Acapulka Expedition Tour 170 is a strong and well-built sled that functions great on hard snow and gentle terrain. Due to the limitations we’ve mentioned above, weight and unstability in deep powder snow, I did not find it entirely suitable for a mountain trip. I would however recommend this sled to anyone who has plans to cross ice caps or head out into the polar regions.With its load capacity you can easily take everything you need for a trip that lasts a month.

The dragging bar system is very strong and easy to travel with. An adapter exists allowing for it to be used on other sled models, such as the Paris Pulk, too. I will definitely keep using this system in the future.

 

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