Pack a Winning Sled

Is the power of a dog team connected to how the sled is packed?

Math, Physics, Arts

Preparing to spend two weeks on the trail with 16 frisky sled dogs on the trail to Nome is no easy task.  One of the most important parts of planning the trip is figuring out what to pack in the sled.  The dogs have to pull the sled, so if you pack too much, the sled will be too heavy for the dogs to pull.  If you don’t pack enough, you and your team could run out of supplies.  Explore how a musher must balance the power of the dogs (force) and the weight, size and shape (mass and volume) of things being packed in the sled.

Scroll down for activity! Or click to download Pack a Winning Sled Activity (PDF)

ACTIVITY

Procedure

The Iditarod has some mandatory gear that every team must pack in their sled (Rule 16), including:

* Proper cold weather sleeping bag weighing a minimum of 5 lbs (2.3 kg)
* Ax, head to weigh a minimum of 1-3/4 lbs. (0.79 kg), handle to be at least 22 inches (55.9 cm) long
* One operational pair of snowshoes with bindings, each snowshoe to be at least 252 square inches (1,625.8 cm2) in size
* Any promotional material provided by the ITC
* Eight booties for each dog in the sled or in use
* One operational cooker and pot capable of boiling at least three (3) gallons (11.4 L) of water at one time
* Veterinarian notebook, to be presented to the veterinarian at each checkpoint
* An adequate amount of fuel to bring three (3) gallons (11.4 L) of water to a boil
* Cable gang line or cable tie out capable of securing dog team
* Functional non chafing harness for each dog in team
* Adequate emergency dog food (1 lb (0.5kg) per dog) must be on the sled. (This will be carried in addition to what you carry for routine feeding and snacking.)

1) Review the list of mandatory gear that each team must have in their sled at all times. Discuss why each one is needed.

2) There are some items on this list that you don’t see, such as food for the dog musher, sled repair kit, clothes for the musher, etc. Ask the students what additional items they would pack in the sled for a 2-week trip. What would they need? What would they want, but maybe not need? Make a list of the items the students brainstorm under each category: Need and Want.

3) Next to each item, have the students indicate if they think the item is particularly Heavy (H), Bulky (B), or has to be kept Upright (U).

4) Using a tape measure, string or tape, and a corner of the classroom (or off the corner of a desk), have the students mark out the dimensions of a typical Iditarod sled bag: 60 inches (152 cm) long, 22 inches (56 cm) tall, 18 inches (46 cm) wide:

This is all the space that the musher has to pack everything that they will need to care for themselves and their team for two weeks traveling in Alaska during the race.

5) Have the students re-evaluate their list of Needs and Wants to pack. What items can be eliminated? Where can weight or bulk be reduced? Are there ways that the items that need to be kept upright (ie fuel, cooker) should be packed to help keep them upright? What are the risks associated with leaving behind items that the students cross off the list? Do you think that a team of sled dogs can pull the sled you have packed 1,100 miles through the snow?

2014 Iditarod Rules

List of Mandatory Gear

The Iditarod has some mandatory gear that every team must pack in their sled (Rule 16), including:

* Proper cold weather sleeping bag weighing a minimum of 5 lbs (2.3 kg)

* Ax, head to weigh a minimum of 1-3/4 lbs. (0.79 kg), handle to be at least 22 inches (55.9 cm) long

* One operational pair of snowshoes with bindings, each snowshoe to be at least 252 square inches (1,625.8 cm2) in size

* Any promotional material provided by the ITC

* Eight booties for each dog in the sled or in use

* One operational cooker and pot capable of boiling at least three (3) gallons (11.4 L) of water at one time

* Veterinarian notebook, to be presented to the veterinarian at each checkpoint

* An adequate amount of fuel to bring three (3) gallons (11.4 L) of water to a boil

* Cable gang line or cable tie out capable of securing dog team

* Functional non chafing harness for each dog in team

* Adequate emergency dog food (1 lb (0.5kg) per dog) must be on the sled. (This will be carried in addition to what you carry for routine feeding and snacking.)

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