The 5 Best Sleds of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The only thing better than a day of sledding is how good the hot chocolate tastes when you’re done. But not all sleds are created equal. Not even close. We sent 12 kids and three adults sailing down multiple hillsides on 21 popular sleds and snow tubes—and by the end, every single tester said the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube was the best. It flew the fastest, slid the farthest, and offered the smoothest ride. Camping Furniture

The 5 Best Sleds of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

Our 12 testers unanimously chose the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube as the best sled. It travels farther and faster than any other sled, and the pull strap makes it easy to haul back to the top of the hill.

The Tube Pro snow tube is almost identical to the L.L.Bean snow tube. The base price is lower, but once shipping is added in, the costs are about the same.

The L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled is a high-quality, versatile plastic toboggan that’s almost as speedy as the snow tube. Unlike the tubes we recommend, it can be steered, and it’s a lot easier to load into a car.

The Jet Sled is big, boxy, and capable of holding a lot of bodies. It’s not the fastest sled, but it’s a load of fun for families or groups of friends.

The L.L.Bean Kids’ Pull Sled is a high-quality, easy-gliding sled that should have no problem lasting through multiple kids (or even generations).

A well-made sled will last for many years. A bad one may cut your snow-day fun short.

The best sleds offer an easy way to haul them back to the top of the hill.

We combined a ton of sleds with a ton of kids and repeated our testing over four winters.

Kids love giant unicorns, even if they make for terrible sleds. We took one for a ride to save you the disappointment.

Our 12 testers unanimously chose the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube as the best sled. It travels farther and faster than any other sled, and the pull strap makes it easy to haul back to the top of the hill.

The L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube has a hard-shell bottom that minimizes drag, protects knees and bottoms from the hard ridges of an icy slope, and makes it sail faster and farther than any other model we tried (other than the nearly identical Tube Pro Hard Bottom Snow Tube). Over four years of testing, the L.L.Bean snow tube has been successful on every kind of snow we’ve put it on, from wet and soft to frigid and crunchy. And thanks to the sturdy tow handle, even the littlest kids have had no problem hauling the Sonic Snow Tube back up the hill. One caveat: It’s almost impossible to steer, so it’s safest on a wide-open, straight sledding hill. The Sonic Snow Tube comes in two sizes. We recommend the extra-large size for two kids or an adult over about 6 feet tall. Typically priced over $150, it is an expensive sled. But it’s a durable one, as after four years of intense use, it has shown almost no signs of wear and tear.

The Tube Pro snow tube is almost identical to the L.L.Bean snow tube. The base price is lower, but once shipping is added in, the costs are about the same.

If the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube is unavailable, or if you’re just looking for a different selection of tube coverings, we also like the Tube Pro Hard Bottom Snow Tube. In just about every way, the Tube Pro tube is identical to the L.L.Bean tube (in fact, Tube Pro once made tubes for L.L.Bean). The Tube Pro model has the same hard bottom, sturdy covering, nice pull rope, and heavy-duty inner-tube as the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube. It also comes in the same two sizes. One difference is that Tube Pro offers an option to add a foam pad to the bottom of the shell (for an additional cost). It also sells a linking kit to attach two tubes together. At first glance, the Tube Pro model is considerably less expensive than the L.L.Bean tube, but the company is based out of Canada, and once shipping costs are factored in, the overall investment is just about the same. But if you’re looking to buy two, shopping on Tube Pro’s website may end up being less expensive.

The L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled is a high-quality, versatile plastic toboggan that’s almost as speedy as the snow tube. Unlike the tubes we recommend, it can be steered, and it’s a lot easier to load into a car.

In many ways, the L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX is the sled we’ve been waiting for. Its design marries the speed, maneuverability, and portability of a plastic toboggan with a high-quality plastic that likely won’t shatter in the first winter. We’ve been critical of plastic toboggans for years, and this is the first one that has truly impressed us. This sled’s top speed doesn’t match the snow tubes’. But because it can be steered, you can use the Polar Slider DLX on a wider variety of sledding hills. At around $100, it’s pricey, but in addition to the durability, it offers a couple rider-friendly flourishes, such as the grippy and ever-so-slightly padded sitting area and the pull strap, which is easier to use than the simple rope found on most plastic toboggans. If the Polar Slider DLX Sled has a downside (other than the price), it’s the small(ish) size. We managed to get an adult and a kid (or two kids) on the so-called extra-large size, but that doesn’t leave any extra room.

The Jet Sled is big, boxy, and capable of holding a lot of bodies. It’s not the fastest sled, but it’s a load of fun for families or groups of friends.

The Shappell Jet Sled is all about capacity. Designed to haul gear out to an ice-fishing location, it’s boxier and deeper than the standard sled, and in our tests it was capable of fitting more people comfortably than any other sled we’ve found. More than once, we had it loaded with one adult and four kids. Compared with the other sleds we tested, the Jet Sled also felt safer: It never attains the race-car speed of the L.L.Bean sleds, and the high sides and wide front offer added protection and make it very difficult to tip over. (Some of our parent testers even relaxed their no-face-first sledding rule with the Jet Sled.) Because it’s so wide, this sled is also great for breaking in a new trail on freshly fallen snow.

The L.L.Bean Kids’ Pull Sled is a high-quality, easy-gliding sled that should have no problem lasting through multiple kids (or even generations).

To give your baby or toddler a more luxurious wood-crafted ride, try the L.L.Bean Kids’ Pull Sled and Cushion Set. It’s expensive, but I’ve used mine through four kids (over about 10 years), and it’s still in great shape. Metal bars under the wood runners add durability, and the side rails protect a tot from tipping out—without you having to deal with a fussy belt buckle.

There is no better way to test sleds than to get a bunch of kids together on a hillside and let them go bananas. Over the course of 16 weeks, spread over four winters, we enlisted the aid of 12 kids in the prime sledding age of 5 to 15 years old; we also included three adventurous adults. We tested sleds on a variety of backyard hills in rural New Hampshire through all kinds of snow conditions, from soft and fluffy to hard and crunchy to wet and slushy to straight-up ice.

In my lifetime I have used all kinds of sleds: snow tubes, wooden toboggans, old-school runner sleds. I grew up at the end of a 2-mile-long dirt road in Vermont, and when I was little, we had at least three distinct sledding hills near our house, one of them being an extended, rundown 2 acres of field that ended abruptly at a tree line. I would often spend all day sledding, eat dinner, then sled again until bedtime using the floodlights from the barn or just the moonlight. I now have four kids of my own, and going out with them for an afternoon of sledding might be my favorite way to spend a winter day.

We researched and tested a vast array of sleds, including snow tubes, plastic toboggans, saucers, snow bikes, and ice-fishing sleds, among many others. We knew from the start that testing would play the most important role in our evaluation, so we didn’t spend too much time comparing and contrasting the specs of the various sleds. Instead, we relied on our own experiences, customer feedback, and manufacturer reputation to get our hands on as many promising sleds as we could in a wide variety of styles. We then handed them over to our kid testers and watched as they jumped, skidded, and careened down a variety of hills in various snow conditions.

The most-difficult sleds to understand, initially, were the snow tubes, because you can choose from two main varieties that are separated by a vast difference in cost. The more expensive ones, which usually cost over $100, use a real rubber inner tube that holds air similar to the way an old-fashioned car tire does. They usually have some kind of cloth covering with strap handles, and they often have hard shell bottoms. Another distinguishing feature of these high-end models—and one we really came to appreciate—is a tow strap. Hauling a snow tube up a hill is hard work if you have to carry or pull it by the handle, especially when it’s windy out.

The major downside of those high-end, inner-tube-filled models is the cost, but the less expensive tubes just aren’t worth it. These cheaper snow tubes, usually in the $30 to $80 range, are basically pool floaties, with plastic bodies and often no tow ropes. We frequently had trouble keeping them inflated—the valves would sometimes open on their own—and most of the cheap ones we tested popped within weeks, if not days, of our breaking them out of the box.

Higher-quality snow tubes generally come in two sizes. The smaller size, usually about 35 inches in diameter, fits a single rider or a medium-size adult with a smaller child on their lap. The larger size, about 45 to 48 inches in diameter, can hold a bigger adult or two crammed-in kids. Judging from our own testing, we recommend the larger size if you’re over 6 feet tall or if your kids like to double up.

To decide which sleds to test, we checked major retailers, including Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, L.L.Bean, REI, Target, and Walmart. Over the years, we’ve included a wide variety of sled styles in our testing, including high- and low-end snow tubes, plastic toboggans, an ice-fishing sled, inflatable sleds, snow bikes, snow scooters, and even some unclassifiable ones, like the Zipfy, an interesting single-rider sled with a joystick to aid in steering.

Our 12 testers unanimously chose the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube as the best sled. It travels farther and faster than any other sled, and the pull strap makes it easy to haul back to the top of the hill.

Over the past four years of sled testing, nearly every person who has tried the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube has hailed it as the best sled on the hill. Compared with the rest, it offers the fastest and smoothest ride, and it consistently slides way farther than almost all of the competition. Thanks to the tube’s easy-to-grasp tow strap, even our 5-year-old tester could haul it back to the top of the hill. The Sonic Snow Tube was easy to inflate and just as good on icy snow as on fluffy powder, and it hasn’t lost any air over time. The one real hitch is its high price. But given the enthusiastic praise from our testers and the overall quality of how it’s put together—not to mention the hours and hours of fun we’ve had with it—the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube is worth the investment for people who are going to be sledding regularly and want a sled that will last for many years.

The L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube consists of four primary parts: the inner tube, the hard-shell bottom, the cover, and the tow rope. The hard shell is what sets the Sonic Snow Tube apart from most competing models, as the rigid bottom allows the snow tube to glide over contours on the sledding hill, something we especially noticed in colder weather when the hill iced up and got bumpy. The hard bottom reduces drag, and the result is a faster ride that travels farther. It also offers a lot more knee and butt protection for smaller riders, who tend to sit in the center of the tube rather than on top of it. Other tubes, even the similarly priced Bradley Snow Tube, have soft, pliable bottoms that conform to the hillside, creating resistance. Seated in those, our little testers could feel every small ridge and bump they went over.

The inner tube of the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube is durable and looks as if it came off a big tractor. It has a traditional tire valve, so it inflates easily with a bike pump or an air compressor (just like a car tire) and stays filled between sledding sessions. (If anything were to happen to the inner tube, you can buy a replacement from L.L.Bean, or you could have it repaired at a tire store.) In contrast, the cheaper tubes we tested have beach-toy-like valves that inflate either by electric pump or by mouth, and they need to be topped off before each sledding session. We’ve had a number of these cheap valves pop open during one of our runs.

Aside from holding air in nicely, the L.L.Bean inner tube makes for a cushy ride. Every rider noticed this effect, but especially the 10-year-olds, who got into the habit of leaping onto the tube as it was speeding by with another rider inside.

The cover of the Sonic Snow Tube is simple and adds a little texture, and we like that it has strap handles, which are easy to grab and hold but sit flat against the cover if you’re not using them. Some sleds have hard plastic handles that stick up and can dig into your side if someone—say, a 10-year-old—decides to jump on top of you in the middle of a run.

In addition to the handles, the Sonic Snow Tube has a pull strap, which is an essential accessory on any bulky snow tube. The strap is a little over 3 feet long and ends in an easy-to-grab loop handle that even our littlest testers were comfortable using to pull the tube to the top of the hill. Most less-expensive tubes don’t have a strap, and some of our kid testers really struggled getting those models to the top of the hill, especially when it was windy and the tubes kept trying to fly away from them.

The L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube, like all snow tubes, is really best on an unobstructed hillside that empties out into a wide open area.

We’re now on our fourth winter with the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube, and it shows almost no signs of deterioration or wear. The bottom has become slightly scratched, but as far as we can tell, it hasn’t slowed the sled down. From what we’ve experienced, we expect that it will last many more years. For summer storage, we just deflate the inner tube and tuck it above the garage.

L.L.Bean has a one-year return policy if you’re not fully satisfied with the sled. After that, it looks like they’re open to returns, but only on a case-by-case basis and if the problem stems from defective materials or craftsmanship.

We’ve been testing the regular-size L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube, which comfortably holds a medium-size adult with a small kid in their lap. Anyone over 6 feet tall would probably be happier with the extra-large version, which is also better for two kids.

As great as the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube is, it does have some drawbacks. The first is that, like any snow tube, it’s nearly impossible to steer or stop. This makes it potentially more dangerous. A 2010 study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, concluded that traumatic brain injuries were more likely to occur with snow tubes than with other sled types. Snow tubes can also spin, so it’s easy for a rider to get turned around and not see where they’re going. The same study stated, “the use of sledding products that may reduce visibility (such as snow tubes) should be discouraged.”

In our experience, if your legs are long enough, you might be able to strategically dig a heel into the snow to force a direction change, but because tubes can spin so much, that isn’t a reliable method. It’s also way too much to ask from a child. The L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube, like all snow tubes, is really best on an unobstructed hillside that empties out into a wide open area. If your sledding slope ends in a tree line or requires steering around a curve, we recommend a plastic toboggan instead. We also have information on helmets.

The Sonic Snow Tube is bulky, too, so if you have to drive to a sledding hill, it’ll take up a lot of room in the car. One solution is to partially deflate it and then fill it back up with a bike pump, but that’s added effort and time.

You should also consider the cost: The Sonic Snow Tube is the most expensive sled we’ve tried. But going by its performance, its long-term durability, the enthusiastic reactions of our test crew, as well as the customer feedback on L.L.Bean’s site, this tube is worth the price.

The Tube Pro snow tube is almost identical to the L.L.Bean snow tube. The base price is lower, but once shipping is added in, the costs are about the same.

If the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube is sold out (as it sometimes has been), another high-quality option is the Tube Pro Hard Bottom Snow Tube. It’s almost identical to the L.L.Bean model, down to the nice handles, strong pull rope, and availability in two sizes. In testing, it performed the same as well—the Hard Bottom Snow Tube is a fast sled that goes a long way. Tube Pro is a Canadian company, so although its tube prices are less than that of L.L.Bean, the price evens out once shipping costs are factored in. We’ve seen Tube Pro offer two for one shipping, so if you’re getting multiple tubes, that will likely be the better deal.

Tube Pro does offer a couple additional features, each at an added cost. While placing your order, you can elect to have a foam pad put in the bottom of the shell. You can also purchase a piece that can link two sleds together. Neither of these are essential features.

The Tube Pro Hard Bottom Snow Tube offers a wider variety of fabrics compared with the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube. It’s available in six options: three solid colors (red, blue, or orange) and three patterns (rainbow, blue, or pink). The L.L.Bean Snow Sonic Tube is available in five patterns, but no solid colors.

The L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled is a high-quality, versatile plastic toboggan that’s almost as speedy as the snow tube. Unlike the tubes we recommend, it can be steered, and it’s a lot easier to load into a car.

If you’re not interested in a snow tube or if you’d rather not crest $130 for a sled, we also like the L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled. This is a fast sled, and unlike a tube, it can be steered, so it’s better for a wider variety of sledding hills. The Polar Slider DLX Sled is much pricier than the average plastic toboggan, but it distinguishes itself with high-quality plastic and a textured sitting area. Without the cushion of an inner tube, though, it offers a much bumpier ride than the snow tubes we recommend.

We’ve used enough sleds to know which ones are likely to shatter after a year or two, and the Polar Slider DLX Sled is made of tougher stuff. The plastic is thick, and it has a flexibility that the less expensive sleds don’t have. The plastic toboggans typically found in big-box stores for a fraction of the price offer a similar sledding experience but without any of the long-term durability. We’ve had ones shatter on the first day of testing, and it’s rare that one lasts into its third sledding season.

The L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled comes with a pull strap with a looped end, which is an improvement over the basic rope that most plastic toboggans have. This and the sled’s light weight make it easy for even the youngest riders to pull their sleds up a hill.

One slight downside to the Polar Slider DLX Sled is the sizing. The extra-large size is 48 inches long, which means a sitting length of roughly 40 inches. This is smaller than the garden variety plastic toboggan, but we found it’s possible to have two kids on the Polar Slider DLX Sled (or one kid and an adult). But once on, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room. We would have preferred the sled to be a few inches longer, but our kid testers didn’t seem to mind the slightly cramped ride. The sled is also available in a smaller 36-inch length, which is definitely a one-person ride.

Like the L.L.Bean snow tube, the Polar Slider DLX Sled is expensive. The extra-large size (which, as we said, isn’t all that big to begin with) is about $100. That’s a whole lot for one plastic toboggan, especially when others are sold in three packs for around $70. The speed, maneuverability, and overall sledding experience is close to the same between these two classes of sleds, but where the differences really show is with durability. We’ve been testing sleds for four years now, and we’ve come to the firm conclusion that inexpensive plastic toboggans are simply not durable. The lucky ones last maybe two or three years, but we’ve had others break on their first day of use, which is a rough way to end an otherwise fun afternoon.

The Polar Slider DLX Sled has the same one-year warranty as the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube. After one year, each return is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and only if the materials or craftsmanship has failed. The customer reviews on L.L.Bean’s website are very positive, with many commenting on the sled’s durability. The few negatives surround slow shipping, so you may not want to wait till the last minute to order this one. A couple people also said the sled doesn’t go straight, which wasn’t our experience at all.

The Jet Sled is big, boxy, and capable of holding a lot of bodies. It’s not the fastest sled, but it’s a load of fun for families or groups of friends.

Think of the Shappell Jet Sled as the school bus of the sledding hill: It can hold a ton of people, it’s not too fast, and it’s pretty safe. Designed for hauling ice-fishing gear, it’s larger and deeper than any other sled we tested. It’s a good option for a fun family sled or a group of friends—we constantly had four or five people piling into it and laughing the entire way down the hill. This sled has grown on us each year we’ve used it, and the kids now officially refer to it as “the minivan.”

The Jet Sled’s wide, square body makes it slower than a lot of the other sleds we tested and much more difficult to tip over. The high side walls help protect against little branches and bushes and even caused some parents to relax their “no face-first” sledding rule. This isn’t to say it’s a slow sled, but it doesn’t have the fifth gear of our other recommendations.

A side benefit of the Jet Sled is that its width makes it ideal for blazing a sled run in freshly fallen snow. It can also serve double duty as a wintertime cargo carrier, for things like firewood, as it was meant to be in the first place.

But the Jet Sled’s size causes some inconveniences, too. It can be a bit of a bear to haul back up to the top of the hill. It comes with a nice pull rope, but the long, wide bottom creates a lot of drag. And at 4.5 feet long by 2 feet wide, it’s too big to easily fit into a car.

The L.L.Bean Kids’ Pull Sled is a high-quality, easy-gliding sled that should have no problem lasting through multiple kids (or even generations).

For toddlers and infants who aren’t likely to be careening down a hill at racehorse speed, we’ve been impressed with the L.L.Bean Kids’ Pull Sled and Cushion Set. We haven’t methodically tested such smaller pull sleds, but this is a model that my family has had for about 10 years (through four kids), and it has shown very little wear. We use ours like a snow stroller: a great way to keep our youngest content while the older kids are acting crazy on the big hill. The sled’s wood construction is elegant and durable, and the cushion set offers some nice padding. The seat doesn’t have a fussy buckle, but because it’s partially enclosed with side rails, we’ve never had a little one unintentionally tip out. It’s a high-budget item, but it’s an investment that can last multiple kids, if not generations.

On the underside of each runner is a metal bar, which helps the sled move over ice and crusty snow with little to no strain on the wood. That easy gliding action also means our other kids have no problems pulling the sled around, too, which they enjoy. But as easy as this sled is on snow, we want to make clear that it’s a pull sled. It doesn’t have any kind of seat belt, and the wooden side rails’ top is not padded.

The L.L.Bean pull sled is available in two sizes. We have the larger one, which is 39 inches long; the smaller version measures 31 inches. The main difference is that the larger one gives you ample space for a second child (or a place to put a backpack).

The only deterioration we’ve seen in a decade of regular use is that the poly finish is starting to come off the wood. For such a nice item, and one that’s worth preserving and handing down to the next generation, spending a little time to sand it down and refinish it after all these years of use doesn’t bother me, but the wearing of the finish may be a frustration to others.

The overwhelmingly positive customer reviews on L.L.Bean’s site reflect our positive feelings about this sled, with many owners saying how impressed they are with the sled’s overall quality. Others mention how they expect the sled to stay in the family for generations.

The L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Saucer DLX is sort of like a less-expensive snow tube—one that’s so much easier to stick in a car than the bulky snow tubes we recommend. It was clearly the best of the snow saucers we used, and it’s made of a durable plastic (the same as the L.L.Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled). The downside is that, like a snow tube, it’s hard to steer and tends to spin while going down a hill. It also lacks any kind of tow rope, so it can be tricky to get up the hill, especially if it’s windy out and the sled wants to take off like a kite. Our kid testers liked this one, but, if given the choice, they always went with the snow tubes or the Polar Slider DLX Sled.

The Spyder Snow Sled is little more than a foam board with a few handles. It’s a fast sled and closest to a plastic toboggan as far as performance goes. Our kid testers liked its speed and the stripped-down, surfboard vibe of it, but because it doesn’t have any kind of rim, it’s easier to fall off of. We’ve used a Spyder Snow Sled through one winter and so far it has held up, but we’re still a little skeptical of the long-term durability of the foam.

Our testers also liked the GeoSpace LED Ski Scooter. The build quality is not great, but it represents a fun midpoint between a sled and a snowboard. A lot of our testers were used to riding scooters, so they quickly adapted to the balance necessary for what is essentially a scooter for snow. It was good for kids as young as 6, but the older kids, 8 and up, especially liked it because they could make tight turns, skids, and little jumps. It’s a nice addition to any sledding repertoire, but if you’re buying just one sled, this model is limiting.

We also tested three similar snow bikes: the Yamaha Apex Snow Bike, the Team Magnus Tundra Wolf Sled, and the Goplus Snow Racer Sled (all currently unavailable). All three were immensely popular with the kids ages 8 and up (the Yamaha Apex Snow Bike has a maximum weight of just under 90 pounds). These bikes ride on three skis, are fully steerable, and have an effective brake. On nicely packed snow, they’re fast and agile, they go far, and they can even do a nice skid at the end of a run. For going over little jumps, our testers liked the freedom to get in a semi-standing position, much as on a regular bicycle (the manufacturers recommend helmets). The customer feedback on these sleds is mostly positive, with the negative comments primarily directed toward the fiddly assembly and poor instructions.

Of the three we tested, the Yamaha Apex Snow Bike was the favorite of our panelists. If the Apex is out of stock, the Yamaha Viper Snow Bike is virtually identical. The standout feature of these bikes are their motorcycle-style handlebars. Our testers thought these were cooler and easier to turn than the steering wheels on the other two sleds.

However, other than the handlebars and a few other small details, such as the length of the tow rope, the base bodies of all three snow bikes were virtually identical—to the point that I wondered whether they had all come off the same assembly line. So, although we liked the Yamaha Apex Snow Bike, any similar model with motorcycle-style handlebars is likely to offer the same performance. We’ve seen pricing fluctuate dramatically on certain models, but $100 to $120 is a reasonable price to pay for one of these sleds.

Over our years of sled testing, we’ve gotten our hands on (and our butts in) a lot of plastic toboggans. Typically priced between $20 and $50, these designs are a go-to for the sled seeker, usually found in the aisles of most big-box stores and often sold in two- and three-packs. The toboggans we’ve tested have all worked great: They’re fast (though not as fast as the L.L.Bean sleds), and you can steer them in a rudimentary yet successful fashion by leaning or placing a hand down in the snow. For the most part, this category is a generic and interchangeable bunch of sleds. Our only issue with them is their durability.

The saddest way to end a day of outdoor winter fun is with a broken sled, and we’ve seen a lot of problems with plastic toboggans. Sometimes they crack slowly and can be repaired with duct tape, but we’ve also seen them break almost in half on a single sled run. The good ones tend to last maybe two or three years each with regular use.

Our favorite in this group has been the Best Choice Products 48in Kids Toboggan. We previously named it our budget pick. But availability has been inconsistent, and it’s better than other plastic toboggans by only a matter of degrees. In our third year of testing, a chunk of it broke off.

The other plastic toboggans we’ve tested include the Flexible Flyer Lightning Snow Sled (which was especially flimsy), the Slippery Racer Downhill Sprinter Sled, and the Slippery Racer Downhill Xtreme Sled.

In our experience, it’s uncommon to see kids who congregate at sledding hotspots wearing helmets—but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea or that the tides won’t turn. Since sleds can travel at an average of 19 miles per hour, some scientists have concluded that sending a kid sliding down a hill unprotected could result in injuries no different than falling off a bike without a helmet.

In the American Academy of Pediatrics’s winter safety guidelines, it noted that you can “consider having your child wear a helmet while sledding,” alongside other advice like sledding in the feet-first position (which may help prevent head injuries), choosing steerable sleds over snow disks or inner tubes, and ensuring that an adult is always present. The National Safety Council takes a firmer stance, recommending that all sledders wear a helmet and pointing to a study conducted by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that showed an average of over 20,000 children a year go to the ER for sledding-related injuries. (The most common injury: fractures caused by collision.) It probably goes without saying that wide-open sledding spaces pose far less of a danger than areas with obstructions such as trees or vehicles.

So what kind of helmet is best? We didn’t find any sledding-specific helmets available right now, but a 2012 Canadian study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery found that—surprisingly—children’s ice hockey and bike helmets outperformed ski helmets in front- and side-impact tests.

This winter, we’ll continue to evaluate the long-term performance of our picks and add six new sleds to our testing roster. We’re interested to learn whether the portable L.L.Bean Stowaway Snow Tube ($100) is as zippy and durable as our bulkier top pick sled, and to see how the relatively-affordable plastic Pelican Nomad Toboggan ($36) holds up over the course of a season. We also plan to test the Flexible Flier Heavy Duty Snow Tube ($161), a pricy snow tube with a unique rope handle and cushion design, and three sleds from GoSports—the Winter Snow Saucer ($70), a 4-foot plastic toboggan, and a hard-bottom snow tube.

The Amenon Giant Inflatable Snowmobile Snow Sled is fun, but it has some issues. Kids loved riding down the hill on a massive snowmobile lookalike, but the air valves on this inflatable sled kept popping open, leaving us with a deflated sled more than once. It is now unavailable, but the Lifechoic Inflatable Snowmobile is similar.

The Wow Sports Legend Hard Bottom Snow Tube is just like the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube and the Tube Pro Hard Bottom Snow Tube. It also has a high-quality cover and a nice tow rope. The downside is that the inner tube is plastic and not rubber. We like that the valve has a cover that seems to hold it in place, but at around $150, the Wow Sports tube is in the price range of the L.L.Bean and Tube Pro without offering any advantages. Given the cost, we prefer the durability of a rubber tube, especially since we see a lot of kids doing the classic running jump in order to get snow tubes down the hill.

The Woowave Foam Sled may be the most disappointing sled we’ve ever tested. It’s a foam-bodied sled, like the Spyder Snow Sled that we liked, but the similarities end there. Where the Spyder sled has proven to be durable, the Woowave sled is about as fragile as they come. After only a week of use, the bottom was completely cut up, and the plastic coating on the foam was coming apart everywhere.

Though the GoFloats Unicorn Inflatable Winter Snow Tube Sled has a lot of drawbacks, there is no question that it has tremendous appeal for some kids (and perhaps adults). Keeping it inflated required some effort, hauling it up a hill was hard, and it wasn’t anywhere as good as the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube on any objective metric—but certain kids kept going back to it over and over and over. The lesson here is that if you’re going to accept the hassles of owning a cheap snow tube, it might as well be a giant inflatable unicorn wearing ski goggles. GoFloats has other designs, too, including a penguin, a dragon, a polar bear, and a flamingo. Sadly, the unicorn didn’t make it through the second year of testing, although it is still talked about fondly.

We also tested the A-Dudu Winter Snow Tube (currently unavailable), which seems representative of generic sub-$40 snow tubes. It was hard to inflate, lost air over time, had no tow strap, and wasn’t even that great once we got it to the sledding hill. The A-Dudu tube we tested is no longer available, but the A-Dudu Super Big Inflatable Sled is just about the same thing.

The Pipeline Sno Lazer Sled was another inexpensive inflatable we tested. This one popped during the first day of use.

The Bradley Snow Tube usually costs around $100 and shares many characteristics with the L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube, but it doesn’t have the hard-shell bottom, so it never went as fast or as far.

We did not test the WindRider Snow Tube, but it has a hard-shell bottom. It’s typically priced higher than the L.L.Bean tube.

The Zipfy mini luge is designed with a center joystick, and it’s for a single rider only. The kids liked it, but they were much happier standing in line to use the faster, more comfortable L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube.

We’ve also never had any luck with single-rider models like the now-unavailable Tarandus Sled Boards (the kids call them “butt sleds”).

Given our experiences with cheap snow tubes, we weren’t interested in testing the beach-toy-like Pipeline Sno Snow Tube (currently unavailable).

We didn’t fully dive into toddler sleds, but we did test the popular Flexible Flyer Toddler Boggan and found it hard to move around, although we know parents who have used and liked this inexpensive model. The wooden Flexible Flyer Pull Sleigh is similar to the L.L.Bean Kids’ Pull Sled and Cushion Set but is available in only a small size; also, the cushion is sold separately.

We didn’t test any sleds with metal runners because such designs are best for a hard-packed, almost icy snow and don’t do well in other conditions. The model from Flexible Flyer looks nice and has a lot of positive reviews.

We also did not test any wooden toboggans. These are great sleds, especially for larger groups, but they get pricey. The least expensive ones are over $100, and they work their way up to well over $500. If we were shopping for one, we would consider one from the Flexible Flyer. It’s a basic model costing about $180. The L.L.Bean Toboggan and Cushion Set looks similar but comes with a cushion for around $200 in the classic size (it also comes in extra-long).

This guide was edited by Kalee Thompson.

Doug Mahoney is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering home improvement. He spent 10 years in high-end construction as a carpenter, foreman, and supervisor. He lives in a very demanding 250-year-old farmhouse and spent four years gutting and rebuilding his previous home. He also raises sheep and has a dairy cow that he milks every morning.

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The 5 Best Sleds of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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