Few things are as much fun as sledding down a snowy hill on a winter’s day. Sledding is a winter pastime that the whole family—from toddlers to adults—can enjoy.
Several factors come into play when choosing the best sled, including who will be using the sled, its portability, how fast it can go, and the amount of storage space it will consume. There are many different types of sleds to choose from, ranging from snow tubes to saucer sleds to toboggans.
Here’s a list of some of the best sled choices for the whole family.
- BEST OVERALL: ZIPFY Freestyle Mini Luge Snow Sled
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Flexible Flyer 611 Flying Carpet Lightweight Roll Up
- BEST FOR KIDS: Lucky Bums Kids Plastic Snow Sled Toboggan
- BEST FOR TODDLERS: Flexible Flyer Metal Runner Sled
- BEST FOR ADULTS: Flexible Flyer Snow Screamer 2-Person Snow Sled
- BEST INFLATABLE SNOW TUBE: A-DUDU Snow Tube
- BEST SAUCER SLED: Flexible Flyer Metal Snow Disc Saucer Sled
- BEST TOBOGGAN: Airhead Classic
What to Consider When Buying the Best Snow Sled
For many years, only two kinds of sleds were available: the classic wooden glider sled and a wooden toboggan. Today, however, a wider variety of styles and designs are available.
The four basic types of sleds include the toboggan, snow tube, saucer sled, and the hybrid sled.
- Toboggans: To most people, the word “toboggan” means the classic flat-bottomed wooden sled with a turned-up front lip like those depicted on old Christmas cards. These days, however, toboggans aren’t as fast, can be inflatable or plastic, and fit more than one person. Control them by shifting your weight while gliding downhill.
- Snow Tubes: These doughnut-shaped, inflatable sleds are lightweight and very fast. They provide a more comfortable ride than a sled, but aren’t easy to steer. They can be deflated when not in use, making them easy to store. They work best in deep, light snow on an open hill.
- Saucer Sleds: These speedy, single-person disks are faster than toboggans. Made for one person to ride, they cannot be steered. They’re the best choice for an open hill with no obstacles when you want to go really fast.
- Hybrids: Hybrids, as the name implies, are a cross between a saucer and a toboggan. They’re also sometimes called sleds. Hybrids combine the speed of a saucer and the control of toboggan. One or two people can ride, and they’re a good choice for those who need legroom.
Sleds are made of a variety of materials, including plastic, wood, vinyl, and foam.
- Plastic: Since it’s lightweight and creates less friction on the snow, plastic is the most common material for sleds. High-density plastic lasts longer and can be ridden over rough terrain. Plastic sleds are usually less expensive than sleds made of other materials.
- Wood: Wood is the traditional material for sleds and toboggans. It’s durable and lovely, but wooden sleds are typically heavier and more expensive.
- Vinyl: Inflatables such as snow tubes usually are made of vinyl. They’re extremely lightweight and easy to transport and store, but they’re susceptible to damage if ridden over challenging terrain.
- Foam: Foam sleds are lightweight and easier on the backside when traveling down a bumpy hill. They’re not as fast as plastic sleds, but they’re durable and can stand up to rugged terrain.
The best sled for your purposes depends on the number of riders it will carry at a time as well as their ages and weights. Children’s sleds are small, while a sled made for an adult or an adult and a child is larger.
In most areas, a sled must be stored for six months or longer. Many toboggans are 4 feet long or even longer, and they will take up a lot of storage space. If space is scarce, opt for a smaller sled or a snow tube that can be deflated, folded, and stashed on a shelf or even in a deep drawer.
A sled’s speed while going downhill depends on the sled’s construction and design as well as the snow conditions. Sleds with a flat bottom create less friction and go faster than sleds with runners. A plastic sled generally goes faster than a wooden sled. Snow tubes and saucers are the top performers in speed.
Sleds are simple vehicles, but they come with extras that make the best sled even more fun and easier to use.
- A tow rope allows an adult to pull a sled to the sledding site or up a hill while small children sit on it.
- Handles on the side of a sled help riders hang on and not fall off as they zip downhill. Traditional sleds with metal or plastic runners have limited steering capabilities. However, some modern sleds have a joystick-like handle, so the rider can adjust the center of gravity and steer the sled with greater ease.
- Padded seats make the journey to the bottom of the hill more comfortable.
Every year, around 25,000 U.S. children under the age of 15 end up in emergency rooms because of sledding accidents, reports the Mayo Clinic. Make sure children wear helmets while sledding to protect them from concussions. Be mindful of obstacles on the slope, such as rocks, debris, and trees, that may be hidden by the snow. Avoid hills with streets at the end of the run, so those sledding don’t come off the hill right into a busy roadway. Unless a streetlamp is brightly lighting up the hillside, don’t sled at night.
Cold temperatures can be just as dangerous as obstacles, potentially causing frostbite or hypothermia. Keep safe and warm by avoiding bare skin exposure, bundling in layers, or wearing heated gloves or jackets.
Enhance sledding safety by using pet-safe ice melt or a snow melt mat on sidewalks and steps leading to the hill where the sledders will be zipping through the snow. Find tips to prepare your home for winter, so you can focus on sledding instead of worrying about busted pipes or frozen branches falling on the roof while out sledding.
Our Top Picks
Here are some of the best sleds to consider for you and your family to have fun in the snow.
Because of its flat-bottom design and light weight, the ZIPFY Mini Luge Sled provides a fast downhill ride. Unlike most other sleds, however, it has a handle that actually helps in steering. Its low center of gravity and molded rails on the underside let a rider carve and slalom by leaning into the turn. The ZIPFY Mini Luge is ridden feet first, which also makes it safer than some other sleds. It’s plastic and lightweight, so it’s easy to tote back up a hill after a ride. Its padded seat means a more comfy ride, and it comes in an array of bright, bold colors. It can hold a rider of up to 250 pounds, and it’s rated for kids 5 and up.
The Flying Carpet is basically a heavy-duty sheet of plastic (linear polyethylene) used as a sled. At just under 13 ounces, it’s very light, so users can roll it up like a yoga mat to carry or store. Two holes cut into the front of the Flying Carpet work as handles. Simplicity at its finest, the Flying Carpet is for ages 4 and up. Larger adults may find its small size (36 inches by 18 inches) challenging. With no seat, your bottom isn’t protected as you glide down a hill. But for price and convenience, the Flexible Flyer is worth a look.
Lucky Bums Plastic Sled is built for speed and durability. It’s made of heavy-duty plastic that has been treated to withstand cold temperatures, so it will stand up to a lot of snow days. It has a sleek, aerodynamic design with a grooved bottom, wide handles on the sides, and it’s rated for children ages 3 to 15. A pull rope makes it easy to drag uphill. The 35-inch model is large enough for one child, but a larger, 48-inch model safely accommodates two children.
Toddlers are too small to sled alone. They and their sledding partner need a sturdy vehicle with some steering and breaking capacity, and the classic Flexible Flyer Metal Runner fits the bill. Its design dates to the 1880s, and its birchwood and steel construction will have adult riders feeling nostalgic for their childhood snow days. At 5 feet long and with a weight capacity of 250 pounds, it’s large enough for most adults and a toddler. It steers with the feet, so riders can hang on to a toddler with both hands. It doesn’t work well on powdery snow, but in the right conditions, it can whiz down a hill as fast as the more modern options. This sled is the most expensive of all the models featured here, but it could become a family heirloom.
The Snow Screamer will make riders feel like kids again, because it speeds over snow without digging in, a plus for those on the heavier side. It’s made of a polyethylene foam layer sandwiched between top and bottom layers of plastic, which means it’s not only lightweight, but it also provides a more cushioned ride than a sled made of solid plastic. The two-person model can hold up to 250 pounds, so it’s big enough for most adults to take on a solo ride. The Snow Screamer is almost 4 feet long with handles on the sides for stability and control. Its graphic pattern design has echoes of Eddie Van Halen’s duct-taped guitar, so riders look retro cool going down the hill.
The A-DUDU Snow Tube measures nearly 4 feet in diameter and can hold up to 500 pounds, so a couple of riders can zip down a hill together. Made from strong PVC-coated fabric, the A-DUDU has a double-layered bottom for extra durability that also makes it both leakproof and tearproof. The PVC coating enables the tube to slide swiftly down snow-covered hills. It has handles on each side, so riders can hang on. It inflates and deflates in less than 60 seconds with a standard electric air pump, and its double-lock valve helps prevent air loss while sledding.
Saucer sleds are sturdy, fast, and fun for both adults and kids. This one is a good pick because it’s made of powder-coated, heavy-gauge steel, so it won’t burst like a snow tube or crack like a plastic sled might. It weighs just 6 pounds, though, so it’s still portable. Sitting cross-legged, a child or adult can fit on this saucer, thanks to its 26-inch diameter and 250-pound weight capacity. It has rope handles on the sides, but since you can’t steer a saucer, hang on to those handles as you zip downhill. This saucer works well in almost any snow condition, from slush to powder.
This toboggan-style sled delivers a fast ride downhill. It’s made of heavy-duty, high-impact plastic and has a tow rope so you can pull it uphill. It’s about 4 feet long and has a weight capacity of 200 pounds, so it can fit two kids or one adult at a time. If riding solo, the Airhead Classic is long enough that riders can lie flat, luge-style, and increase their speed. It has cut-out handles, so riders can hang on during the ride. Its slick bottom works well in a variety of snow conditions. It steers a bit with the tow rope.
FAQs About Sleds
Still have questions about the best sled for you? Here’s more information to help you make your decision.
Q. What’s the best snow sled for adults?
Any model of sled with a weight capacity of 200 or more pounds is suitable for an adult. You’ll also want a sled that can accommodate an adult height. Toboggan-style sleds are best for tall people because they are usually the longest sleds.
Q. What’s the best snow sled for toddlers?
Toddlers shouldn’t sled solo, so it’s a good idea to put them on your lap and ride together on a two-person sled.
Q. How do you ride a toboggan?
Always face forward and remain seated at all times. Steer by lifting or twisting the front of the toboggan or by dragging your foot in the snow. To stop, gently apply pressure using your feet/heels on the ground.
Q. What is the difference between a toboggan and sled?
A sled is a short, light vehicle with runners. A toboggan is a longer, flat sled without runners that has a raised front end.
Q. What makes a sled go faster?
A flat-bottomed sled or toboggan has the least amount of friction and goes the fastest. A sled with molded runners or grooves will dig into the snow and go a little slower. Snow conditions also affect sled speed.
Q. How cold is “too cold” for sledding?
When wind chills hit 13 degrees or colder, frostbite becomes a risk.