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There's a sled for every rider and snowy situation, but safety is a top priority when choosing the right option. "The safest sleds have runners and a steering mechanism," says Julia Sanders, MD, and member of the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America.
We researched the top sleds on the market, considering weight limit, safety, and extra features. Based on these factors, the EMSCO Day-Glo 48-Inch Toboggan earns our top spot because it's durable in freezing conditions, suitable for up to three small kids, and has a frictionless base for speeding down hills safely.
Here are the best sleds to consider for your family.
Best Overall: Emsco Day-Glo 48-Inch Toboggan
Bright colors pop against the snow
Rope is included
Plastic is tested under freezing conditions
No extras like steering or brakes
What do buyers say? 86% of 30+ Amazon reviewers rated this 4 stars or above
This attractive, colorful sled is reminiscent of a funky tie-dyed shirt. Made from durable plastic that can withstand freezing conditions, this construction may help it resist cracks on those sub-zero days. At four feet long, it can easily hold two children, an adult with a child, or even three small kiddos, depending on their size.
If your riders love speed, this sled will not disappoint. The bottom is slick and frictionless, so anyone aboard is guaranteed to go whooshing down the hill. Though it lacks extras like steering or brakes, this sled includes recessed grip handles that are easy to grasp for safe riding.
While the material is rugged, this sled is light enough to pack in the car and carry up steep hills. The manageable build also makes storing in the garage easy during the off-season. This Emsco sled is built to last for multiple winters, making it an affordable and value-rich pick for seasonal fun.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best Budget: Flexible Flyer 48-Inch Lightning Sled
Comes with holes for a rope
Thinner plastic may crack after a season
As the name indicates, this sled is designed to move speedily down the slope, thanks to the polished bottom and gently tapered end. It has a weight limit of 200 pounds, making it safe for two children or one adult, depending on their size. The sled is made from a tough but lightweight plastic called high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
Although it has changed ownership a few times, Flexible Flyer is a company with a storied history: In 1889, they produced one of the first iconic wooden sleds with the same name. This sled is affordable enough that you could stock up on a few to keep on hand throughout the winter.
Price at time of publish: $30
Best for Kids: Slippery Racer Downhill Xtreme Toboggan Snow Sled
Wide, deep shape is comfortable for little ones
Four built-in handles
May be less durable than other sleds
Although the Slippery Racer looks similar to other similarly styled sleds, there are a few things that set it apart as an ideal option for kids. At three pounds, it's one of the lighter sleds on our list, and although it's the standard size of 48 inches, it has a slightly higher back than other models, as well as a bit more width to help contain little ones. It comes with a tow rope to help make dragging it up hills even easier.
The company pre-treats it with their own IceVex material, which is supposed to help it resist damage from the cold temperatures. They also claim that the material is so flexible, it could "virtually bend in half" without breaking—of course, we don't recommend testing this theory. The sled does pick up plenty of speed, thanks to the slick bottom and aerodynamic shape, and for kids who want to ride with their friends, there are two sets of built-in handles.
Price at time of publish: $43
Best for Adults: Guide Gear Snow Racer Sled
High weight capacity
May be difficult to store
Combining the aerodynamics of skis with the compact shape of a luge, the Snow Racer has both a steering wheel and a set of brakes, for maximum control as you fly down the slope.
Since it has a weight limit of 250 pounds, many adults can ride it safely, and it's fun enough that you just might be able to convince your teen to join your sledding outing. Note that some assembly is required, but the process is simple and straightforward. There's also a retractable tow rope, which is handy, considering that the whole thing weighs 22 pounds.
Price at time of publish: $155
Best Saucer: Paricon Flexible Flyer Round Flying Saucer
Extremely portable—even young kids can carry one
Easy to stack a few for storage
Great for adventurous kids who love to spin
Tall adults may have trouble fitting
Young kids may not be ready to go backwards
The image of a young, parka-clad kid toting a "flying saucer" by their side on a snowy day is certainly an iconic one, and for good reason. These popular round sleds are a favorite among kids, and this one from Paricon is lightweight, zippy, and tough.
A rolled border adds stability, and handle-shaped cut-outs are easy to grab (and unlike straps, can't break off from too much wear and tear). The latest version of the sled is made from what the company calls "no-break resin" (a high-density plastic) so it should stand up to plenty of spins down the slopes.
Price at time of publish: $22
Best Pull-Behind: L.L.Bean Kids' Pull Sled and Cushion Set
Perfect sizing for toddlers
Kiln-dried hardwood construction
Attached rope for easy pulling
L.L. Bean has been making sleds like these for more than 80 years, working closely with a local family-owned sawmill. The northern hardwood is first dried for six months, which gives it added durability, before being bent into its distinctive shape using a steam machine. The woodworkers use screws to attach the pieces rather than staples, which are less likely to fall apart over time.
Although these toboggans aren't cheap, they're designed to last across multiple generations. This version comes with a cushion set, although the sleds can also be purchased without them. To protect the wood, you'll want to keep it clean and dry when it's not in use—many families enjoy hanging the sled high in their garage or even on a rec or game room wall, where they can appreciate its good looks during the milder months.
Price at time of publish: $200
Best Toboggan: Flexible Flyer C6 Canadian Wood Toboggan
Can hold up to three riders
Solidly constructed with wood and metal screws
Integrated tow rope makes pulling easier
On the heavier side
May be too roomy for child riding solo
Conjure up an image of the word "toboggan," and it will probably look something like this Maplewood beauty from Flexible Flyer. At 10 pounds, it's not especially heavy for a wooden sled, though younger children may still need help dragging it up the hill—luckily it comes with an integrated tow rope that helps the sled lie flat as you're pulling it.
With its six-foot size and 250-pound weight capacity, this is a sled that two or three people can easily ride together. The sled is also attractive enough that you might want to display it on the wall during the off-season. As with the L.L. Bean sled, the company uses screws, rather than staples, to attach the wooden pieces. These can be easily replaced and help extend the life of the sled, which will also help justify the price.
Price at time of publish: $180
Best Tube: L.L.Bean Sonic Snow Tube
Available in two sizes
Attractive pattern options
Expensive for an inflatable
Hard to steer
This colorful, tough tube comes in several different pattern options, including buffalo plaid. Although the price might seem steep, it's designed to last for many winters, so you won't be constantly replacing it, and it can be used safely by both school-age kids and adults. Smaller children going solo will fit well in the regular size, while two kids or a single adult should opt for the extra-large.
The Sonic has a semi-rigid plastic base that helps protect it from rips and holes—to create it, designers from L.L. Bean modeled it after tubes at water parks that must stand up to constant use, and they also tested it in a lab under sub-zero conditions using lots of direct pressure. There's also a pull rope that makes it a little easier to drag back up the hill, though younger kids may still need some help, as even the smaller size weighs more than double what most plastic sleds do.
Price at time of publish: $160
Best Tandem: Franklin Sports Arctic Trails Snow Tube and Sled
Inflates in minutes
Space for two children to sit comfortably
May be tough to fit in the car when inflated
Franklin Sports' tandem tube strikes the right balance between affordable and durable. It's made from freeze-resistant PVC material and has two sets of plastic handles. There's plenty of space for each rider to sit comfortably in their own seat, although it might be a tight fit for two adults, depending on their height.
Since it's lightweight, kids will be able to easily pull it back up the hill. Note that a pump isn't included and you can blow it up quickly yourself, but an air pump will make things go more quickly. This is especially useful if you decide to inflate once you get to the snow hill—some parents prefer this option, as it's a bit bulky to fit in a trunk or backseat.
Price at time of publish: $28
Best for Ice Fishing: Shappell Jet Sled
Can be used in deep snow
Limited color options
Not especially aerodynamic
These types of sleds were originally designed to haul heavy objects like ice, fishing gear, and firewood through snow, so you know they're built to withstand lots of wear and tear. And with a 10-inch–high back, this workhorse will plow smoothly down the hill, even when the snow is deep.
The 54-inch size fits two children easily, and the sled comes with a tow rope, which is helpful because it weighs nearly 12 pounds. And at two feet wide, it's a comfortable ride for adults too, even if they're wearing lots of winter gear.
Price at time of publish: $54
What to Look for in a Sled
If you're shopping for older kids or adults, make sure the sled isn't too heavy, so they'll be able to get it back up the hill after each run. Plastic, foam, and inflatable vinyl are the lightest materials. As for younger toddlers, you might want to invest in something that's a little more heavy-duty and made of materials like hardwood.
"The sled should never be heavy enough to crush the child," says Dr. Sanders. "The sled should be sturdy enough to withstand any obstacles such as rocks or tree stumps that might be encountered."
Always check the weight limit of your sled—this is especially important when you have adults or multiple riders sharing. A sled that has a 220- or even 250-pound weight limit will give you some wiggle room.
Ensure that your sled is safe for your rider and for your terrain, says Dr. Sanders. "Cheaper plastics can be pierced or splinter when impacted and caused significant injury," she says. Sharp edges and parts that might break off easily should also be avoided.
Plastic tends to be a go-to material: It's lightweight, strong, affordable, and zips down the hill, thanks to the slick bottom. Some types of plastic, like high-density polyethylene, are more rigid and durable than others. Foam is also lightweight and tough, and gives you a more padded ride than plastic, though you may not go as fast. Wood and metal sleds are long-lasting, but may start to feel heavy after repeated trips up the hill, and can sink into very deep powder.
While inflatables are light and easy to store during the off-season, they may get easily punctured—save them for days when you've got lots of snow or know you're in an area that's free of debris like sticks and rocks.
A tow rope and handles (or at least carved-out notches) are nice to have. Some sleds may come with bells and whistles like brakes, a steering wheel, and even padded seat cushions.
What type of snow conditions are best for sledding?
According to the AAP, you ideally want to find a spot that has plenty of open space, without too many trees or fences, a slope that isn't too steep (less than 30 degrees is ideal), a large, flat runoff at the bottom, plenty of soft snow, and few crowds.
How do you properly store a sled?
Most plastic and rubber materials can be wiped down with warm water and a gentle detergent at the end of each season. Wooden sleds and toboggans may require special care, such as waxing—with any sled, always check the manufacturer's care instructions.
All sleds should be left to dry thoroughly before being put away. To prevent rust and mildew from forming, store them in an area that's free of excessive moisture. Many people choose to hang their sleds on sturdy wall hooks in either their basements or garages.
When should a sled be replaced?
According to the AAP, you should never use your sled if it has splinters or cracks, is warped in any way, or is otherwise not "structurally sound." Any mechanisms, such as brakes or steering, should be in good working order. If not, it's time for a new model.
What safety precautions should parents take when it comes to sledding?
"First and foremost, sledding should be supervised by a responsible adult, particularly children under 5," says Dr. Sanders. "Children should only sled sitting up and facing forward. Sledding headfirst is extremely dangerous," she shares.
She advises to avoid crowded sledding hills, areas with obstacles like trees, fences, walls or rocks, and separate older, heavier children from younger ones. This also includes avoiding sledding near busy roads or during the night when visibility is limited.
A great way to avoid injury is to use each sled properly and with appropriate gear. "Children under the age of 12 should wear a helmet, and all children should wear padded clothing, gloves or mittens, and appropriate footwear," she adds.
Why Trust The Spruce?
For this roundup, Lexi Dwyer considered dozens of sled styles, carefully evaluating size, shape, weight, material, and reports of durability. She considered extra features such as handles, tow ropes, steering mechanisms, and brakes. She chose sleds that work across several different age groups, from toddlers up to 250-pound adults. All of the sleds that cost more than $100 are designed to last for at least several winters, if not many years. Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.
Expert advice was provided by Julia Sanders, MD and member of the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America.