The best sleds you can buy for winter fun

The best sleds you can buy for winter fun
  • There's a lot to consider when you're buying a sled. Like, how fast do you really want to zip down that hill? Is maximum speed your only speed, or are you looking for a gentler ride? Who's going to be using the sled? A taller-than-average adult? A small child? And, how much storage space are you working with? (That could determine whether you go old-school metal runner or inflatable.)
  • With all of the above in mind, the Slippery Racer Downhill Xtreme Toboggan Snow Sled is still our top pick because it's swift, stable, and large enough for an adult and child to share a ride.

When I was a young man, I was hard to beat in a downhill sled race. My technique, perfected between the ages of about eight to eleven, was a blend of refined skill and innate passion. First, I would run down the hill for a few steps. Next, I would jump onto my sled - a bright orange plastic toboggan - landing chest-down and often knocking the wind from my lungs. Then I would hang onto the sled and hope not to hit any trees as I flew downhill, my only option for countering a collision being the bailout.

As an adult, the sledding hill near my parents' house looks a bit smaller, and I doubt I would fit onto that beloved orange toboggan anymore. I also seem to spend more time pulling my son around the neighborhood on his sled than I do flying down the hill myself. (Also I spend more time working and taking out the garbage and going to the gas station and stuff. Adulthood ... yuck.) But just because I have less free time and have outgrown my childhood sled doesn't mean I've outgrown that same passion for downhill speed that informed so many winters of my youth.

If you, too, crave the thrill of downhill snow sledding despite the curse of adulthood, you're in luck: We have put together a list of the five best sleds for adults. With one of these grown-up sized sleds, the fearless kid lurking within you will be unleashed again, albeit this time likely with a more refined sense of self-preservation. They're also suitable for use with your kids.

Whether you love the classic sleigh-style runner sled, the Griswold go-to saucer, or a big and comfy inflatable tube, you're sure to find a perfect downhill vehicle on our list.

Here are the best sleds you can buy:

Updated on 10/1/2019 by Caitlin Petreycik: Updated copy, prices, links, and formatting.


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The best sled overall

The best sled overall
The Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan Snow Sled was designed for top speeds, but it's also stable enough for a parent and child to safely enjoy together.

The Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan Snow Sled is the closest adult-sized approximation to my cherished childhood downhill sled that I have yet to find. It has the classic plastic toboggan shape with a few upgrades I would have been glad to see as a kid but that we can all enjoy today.

These include cutout handles for a secure grip and easy carrying, a proprietary IceVex cold-resistant coating that helps prevent cracking and scratching, and construction using such a durable yet flexible plastic that the sled can bend to 90 degrees without breaking.

The bottom of the 48-inch long Slippery Racer toboggan is smooth and slick, helping it to glide over all sorts of snow, from soft, fresh powder to heavier, wetter packed snow. The sled features a slight taper toward the front that increases its dynamic performance and also serves to accommodate a smaller rider during an adult-child tandem ride.

While you should always avoid rocks, trees, and other solid objects during a sled ride, should you endure an impact with some such obstacle, know that the sled can take the abuse without breaking. That's backed up by a yearlong warranty Slippery Racer throws in with each purchase.

One impressed sled buyer left a review on Amazon that praised the sled's ability to zip "down soft powdery snow, icy snow, and even over some bumps," saying it "held up beautifully" even while many other sleds cracked and broke during use. Another owner said it was "perfect to ride tandem with my three year old" and was "tons of fun."

And while the Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan is an adult-sized sled, it's also more than suitable for kids. The site recommends it for kids over the age of four, calling it a "beginner to intermediate" sled.

Pros: Fast on most types of snow, fits adult and child, durable plastic body

Cons: Bottom scratches and loses slickness over time

The best inflatable snow tube

The best inflatable snow tube
The A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube gives a swift, comfortable ride down the hill and its air-filled design cushions riders against the jolts and bumps along the way.

One of the best things about an inflatable snow tube is the fact that when it's not being used, it can be deflated, folded up, and stored in a cabinet or even in a drawer. That makes the A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube a great choice for the apartment renter or the college dorm dweller for whom free space is at a premium.

This tube can zip riders up to 250 pounds down a snowy hill at great speed. The A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube measures 47-inches in diameter, easily supporting larger, taller adults and suitable for use by two kids at the same time, provided they're ready to share those handles.

The rugged PVC exterior of the tube resists tears and punctures and resists cracking even in temperatures as cold as negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The tube inflates quickly by mouth or with an air pump and stays sealed shut thanks to a double locking valve.

Snow tubes might be nearly impossible to control, but they do absorb many of the bumps and jumps along the way, thanks to that huge cushion of air. And besides, less control means more excitement.

Pros: Smooth and comfortable ride, supports up to 250 pounds, easy to store when not in use

Cons: Requires inflation prior to use, cannot be steered or controlled


The best utility sled

The best utility sled
When there's work to be done but snow on the ground, the Terrain Deer Drag Utility Sled will help you move heavy loads overland with minimal effort.

Yes, the Terrain Deer Drag Utility Sled gets its name because it was initially designed to help hunters lug the carcasses of slain deer through snowy fields and forests. But guess what? You're actually allowed to use it for other stuff.

When there's snow on the ground and weight to be moved from one place to another, this sled is an ideal tool to help you do it. From hauling logs from the woodpile to the door, dragging fishing gear out onto the frozen lake, or pulling your kids around the block, a utility sled like this one is a great way to make use of snow's natural slickness.

The Terrain Deer Drag Utility Sled is made from a thick, impact-resistant polyethylene, so it won't crack even when laden with heavy loads, or when it bumps into roots, rocks, lumber, or other such debris.

The sled (and actually, for the record, it should properly be called a "sledge," that being the term for a sled used for hauling) comes with cross-linked tie-down ropes that help keep the payload secure even over bumpy ground and a heavy duty tow rope suitable for pulling by hand, hitching to your belt or harness if you're on snowshoes or cross-country skis, or even for towing behind a snowmobile or ATV.

In a pinch, you and/or the kids can go ahead and hop in the sled to enjoy a downhill ride, too. It might not be quite as fast as a slick-bottomed toboggan or a smooth steel saucer, but it will still be fun. Also, hard to beat the price, folks.

A writer with Field & Stream says that using a utility sled to haul heavy loads over snow is an important way to avoid "sore muscles, a strained back, or even serious heart trouble."

Pros: Ideal for moving heavy loads over snowy ground, comes with tow and tie-down ropes, durable construction

Cons: Slower downhill performance than most sleds

The best classic runner sled

The best classic runner sled
The Flexible Flyer Steel Runner Sled is a timeless classic made with a birch wood deck and red steel runners.

You could easily be forgiven for buying the Flexible Flyer Steel Runner Sled as a piece of faux-vintage decoration. It would look great beside the fireplace, above the mantle, or among the collection of wacky tchotchkes on the wall of a casual dining restaurant. But where this sleigh-style sled truly belongs is flying down a snowy hill at breakneck speed. Actually...let's not use the term "breakneck" here — just pretend I said "really fast" instead.

Though a wood and steel runner sled may look antiquated, there's a reason they have been produced since the late 1880s: they work. While not suitable for use on fresh powdery snow, in the right conditions, this sled will not only zip you downhill as fast as any more modern option, it also allows you to control your ride. Using the flexible steering bar at the front of the sled, you can steer right or left and enjoy the ideal route down, avoiding obstacles and people and hitting jumps and drifts, if that's your thing.

The sled is recommended for ages five and older and can accommodate most adults. I'd probably recommend you wait until the kids are a bit older than five, personally, as the chance for injury is a bit higher with this sled than with a plastic toboggan or inflated snow tube. Wood and steel just hurt more than plastic.

Pros: Steering bar controls direction, beautiful classic style, last for years

Cons: Rather expensive, greater risk of injury than with other sled types


The best saucer sled

The best saucer sled
The Lucky Bums Powder Coated Metal Saucer might be impossible to steer, but it's also basically impossible to ride without a smile on your face.

If you've seen the classic comedy "Christmas Vacation," starring Chevy Chase, then you know a flying saucer style sled can potentially lead to a tragicomic tableau. Skip the extra grease on the bottom, and you should be able to enjoy this saucer without quite as much risk of personal injury as Chase's Clark Griswold while still having lots of fun this winter.

The lightweight but virtually indestructible Lucky Bums Powder Coated Metal Saucer is fun for kids and adults alike thanks to the simplicity and durability of its design. Even a smaller child or a larger adult should be able to fit on this sled thanks to its 25-inch diameter. You'll just have to sit cross-legged, of course. And despite being made of metal, the saucer only weighs six pounds, so even a younger child can carry it back up the hill.

You can't steer a saucer — that much is important to know going in — but they also tend to work well on all sorts of snow, from slush to ice to powder to those perfect large, downy flakes. While a runner sled bogs down on lighter, fluffier snow and a toboggan can sink into slushier snow under a larger rider's weight, this smooth disc will slip along over all sorts of wintry precipitation with ease.

Pros: Works on most types of snow, built to last for years, suitable for wide age range

Cons: Impossible to steer