By Jörgen Johansson
For those of you not familiar with The Incredible Rulk you will find an article here about last years trip and an article here, at Backpackinglight.com on how it was made. In brief, a rulk is a combination of rucksack, or pack, and pulk. The construction enables you to switch very rapidly between pulling it behind you and carrying it on your back.
Last years version was a piece of aluminium sheeting, this years version was the real thing. That is a commercially manufactured pulk for a very decent price. A Paris pulk that was cut off to the same lenght as my full pack. The cut off Paris was 960 mm long and weigted 1400 grams including the webbing belt and lines to pull it. This system was exactly the same as last years. There was a weight penalty, the cut off Paris sled weighs about 500 grams more than last years version aluminum version. It was worth every gram...
The pack was a 57 litre ULA Ohm backpack that was slightly roomier than last years Golite Jam2 (52 l). Since last years trip was for only three days and this was twice as long I needed the extra space for more food and fuel.
The closed cell foam pad goes on top of the pack in pulk mode. It's easily strapped in place using waist belt and sternum strap of the pack.
As with the aluminium version I attached the rulk to the pack using plastic hooks (normally used for attaching flags to flagpoles as well as some boating carabiners I came across). These were hooked around the carbon fiber "frame" of the Ohm. Last year they were hooked into the attachments for the compression straps on the frameless Jam2.
The hooks were connected with and short pieces of cord with Prusik knots that allowed me to cinch the pulk very tight to the pack. And also to adapt easily to the fact that the pack shrunk as I filled my belly with all kinds of goodies.
I used the same simple pulling system as last year. A web belt with a buckle and the cord attached. I can honestly say that with the weight I was pulling I felt absolutely no need for any padded belt.
The whole glorious Rulk in action! Here I am on my way through the gateway of the famous Rapa Valley.
The construction worked very well. It tracked very much better than the aluminium flat bottom solution of yesteryear and slid like a dream in my ski tracks. It was in fact often faster than my skis, noticable going downhill. Still, I fell that the simple cord pull is OK even if the pulk sometimes passes you. I prefer not to burden the construction with pulling stakes that make it more difficult to switch into backpack mode. But I might change my mind, and others might make different choices.
Here on a particulary topsy turvy passage a carried the rulk on my back. The foam pad is simply tied on top, using the pulling cord. It takes about 2-3 minutes to switch from one mode to another. This includes blowing my nose and gazing briefly at the horizon.
I only carried the rulk on my back twice. The second time was at the end of the trip, while decending a steep hill with birch forest and soft snow that had me sinking to my knees even with skiis. Here the light pack on my back worked very well, although I didn't do any fancy telemark turns. I was in fact happy to slip slide down the hill with not more than one nose dive.
I love to cook a meal or coffee sitting on my pad, with my legs stretched out and a tree or a rock as backrest. But the rulk can of course be structured into the perfect armchair. Just stick it in the snow at the appropriate angle, lean back and close your eyes and listen to the snow melt on your stove.
Sticking the rulk in the snow and adding the Snow Claw at right angles makes a good wind screen for the stove, when necessary.
Here is an example of how you can use the rulk as a snow anchor, sticking it down or digging it down as much as you deem necessary. You can see that spindrift has collected on the lee side of it during the night.
To sum it up, it is almost too easy to pull such a light weight as I had behind you on a pulk when skiing in most conditions. It is almost as if you were skiing without any gear at all. And when circumstances are against the use of a pulk you simply put it on your back and you are not worse of than you would have been without a rulk for starters. For this reason I'm a bit suspicious against adding a pole system instead of cords for pulling the thing. But considering the fact that I pull it 95% of the time, maybe I have to change my mind on that account. Something collapsible maybee....
Please comment here on Utsidan in Swedish, or below in English.