View Full Version : EMR waistbelt mod for ahkio towing

03-27-2010, 02:20 AM
One of the great things in winter is that one doesn’t necessarily have to carry a heavy load: One can tow it instead. Or, better still, one can tow a heavy load whilst carrying another heavy one in the pack... :)

Whether it’s better to use an ahkio or a pack depends on many factors, like terrain, snow, load and mission or whatever one is out there to do. (Ahkio, or pulka, is often miscalled ‘sled’ in English. US Army used to call it ahkio.) Often having both a (serious) pack and an ahkio is the solution offering the most versatility.

When using an ahkio with rigid or semirigid poles, attaching the ahkio to the pack of the puller requires some mods or makeshift, if the pack waistbelt isn’t designed to double a pull belt (some Swedish mil packs come standard with pole attachements on the belt). In the past, I’ve used my EMR for pulling an ahkio by simply detaching the padding from the issue ahkio belt, and putting it on the EMR waistbelt. I’ve used Malice clips, or such, to keep the ahkio belt on top of the EMR belt. It worked well enough, but with an extra (defective, but repairable) EMR belt around, I decided modified the belt to make it (semi)permanently compatible with two different ahkio attachements.

http://img175.imageshack.us/img175/3460/f1a.jpg (http://img175.imageshack.us/i/f1a.jpg/)
Pic1. Here’s my modded EMR belt. I replaced the original 2” webbing with 1 ¾” MIL-W-4088 webbing (resin treated to MIL-W-27265(R)).

http://img696.imageshack.us/img696/813/21468362.jpg (http://img696.imageshack.us/i/21468362.jpg/)
Pic 2. The white bulky things are the attachements for the ahkio poles and ropes in the semi-rigid ‘Finnish type’ pulling system. In this the ahkio pulled by ropes going through the hollow poles. The poles are for steering the ahkio, and keeping it at distance.

http://img185.imageshack.us/img185/7664/37857984.jpg (http://img185.imageshack.us/i/37857984.jpg/)
Pic 3. In the Fin style pull system the poles are crossed (‘X-type’), which gives much better maneuverability for forest usage. Paralell (‘U-type’) poles, Nor and Swe style, offer better stability for open mountains.

http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/8030/94776434.jpg (http://img338.imageshack.us/i/94776434.jpg/)
Pic 4. I put some common loops to the EMR belt for better compatibility with suspenders. The harness is optional, intended to keep the belt from being pulled down when hauling heavy loads. I’ll make another harness with quick release (acetal lift buckles) shoulder straps, so that transforming between modes is more convenient.

http://img175.imageshack.us/img175/5203/22808291.jpg (http://img175.imageshack.us/i/22808291.jpg/)
Pic 5. With heavy loads, or difficult terrain, it’s good to have attachement for someone to help. Hence D-ring and loop for carabiner. Works well for hitching a ride from malamutes or such, too.

http://img231.imageshack.us/img231/2247/27491657.jpg (http://img231.imageshack.us/i/27491657.jpg/)
Pic 6. Here’s the modified waistbelt on my EMR with ahkio attached.

http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/9552/20602343.jpg (http://img263.imageshack.us/i/20602343.jpg/)
Pic 7. The main buckle is now a 1 ¾” cobra buckle by Austrialpine. I kind of trust metal HW, with specified minimum breaking strengths, more than plastic. Not that ITW Nexus acetal HW breaks often, but the new 2” ‘power pull’ loop that I put on my shiny modded belt broke the first time I used it for real :(. This piece of plastic HW was obviously defective.

http://img171.imageshack.us/img171/2499/42442597.jpg (http://img171.imageshack.us/i/42442597.jpg/)
Pic 8. The design is such that the white pole ‘sockets’ are removeable, and the PALs grid on the belt can be used. I put 1” D-rings for backup, and to be compatible with the snaphook attachement typically used with Swe and Nor ahkios.

http://img532.imageshack.us/img532/8162/f6ap.jpg (http://img532.imageshack.us/i/f6ap.jpg/)
Pic 9. Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me, the load bearing attachement of the original waist belt and shoulder strap webbing are bartacked to a single layer of 1000den cordura. With the EMR waistbelt in disassembled, I took the opportunity to mod also the old shoulder strap attachement so that they are now bartacked to 2 layers of 1000den

http://img683.imageshack.us/img683/8922/f6b.jpg (http://img683.imageshack.us/i/f6b.jpg/)
Pic 10. I also used Cordura or webbing backing reinforcements for the new load bearing bartacks. I kind of hoped that I would have managed to mod the waist belt to something resembling ‘life support’ standards. The new webbing and HW are up to this, dunno about the bartacks (too light thread), but the case is moot anyway as the 1 ¾” webbing doesn’t go properly all the way around in my design.

The modded EMR waistbelt is very comfy as a stand-alone ahkio tow belt. This was a nice surprise, as I suspected that the lack of lumbar padding to be more noticeable (the standard lumbar pad remains with the pack when the waistbelt is removed). The good fit of the EMR waistbelt allows good control of the ahkio, and there’s little need for the additional shoulder harness with moderate loads.

I haven’t yet experience with pulling an ahkio with the modified waistbelt attached to the EMR. I have no doubt that this will work well, as the setup is very similar to the makeshift setup I’ve used for pulling an ahkio with my EMR. There will be some interference between the ahkio ‘X-poles’ and bottom of loaded pack, but it certainly works well enough.

I wonder why Kifaru doesn’t offer some attachement option for their “sleds” to the waistbelts of their packs…? Anyway, nice looking ahkios. I’d be interested in hearing about user experiences.

03-27-2010, 07:19 PM
Interesting :). Now you got me thinking about doing something similar for my deer sled harness.

03-27-2010, 07:39 PM
Thanks mb, good stuff!

I've had a concept in the back of my mind that would somehow allow the EMR belt and harness to work with snap-on repelling system. You've got my 'brain wheels' turning again.

03-27-2010, 09:23 PM
Very nice work, mb.

Actually, I do have an adaptor for using our sleds with any Kifaru waistbelt. I use it myself, along with a few locals who know me.

We've never had a request from anyone else, hence the mod is not a standard offering. It's retrofitable, needing no tools or changes to the belt in any way. The pieces are very small and very lightweight; I typically have a set in my sled stash pocket, and can rig up for pulling from the pack quickly--in the field.

Again, we've never had a call for such a device. I suppose if anyone is interested I can explain further; perhaps post some pix. It is designed for our sleds only, so your modifications on behalf of pulling an ahkio are perfectly spot-on.

04-11-2010, 09:57 AM
Thanks guys for the nice comments :)

Patrick, I sure would like to see (a pic) of your waistbelt/pole adaptor, even though I don't have a Kifaru sled. Another thing I'm curious about is the Kifaru sled break&fin. I think I'll order one some day and bolt it onto some ahkio of mine.

That said, I find it curious that there's not more interest in sleds, or ahkios or pulk(a)s, as I'd rather call them. Heck, we see hundreds of posts about all the fancy packs here, but practically nothing about ahkios. Yet, given suitable conditions, an ahkio beats any pack hands down. Besides, ahkios are standard military winter issue kit, and Kifaru offers two ahkio models...

Heck, I've managed to collect more ahkios than packs. I fully agree with my wife that I really don't need seven, but several would be useful for different capacity and terrain/snow conditions. However, I'm not entirely happy with any of my ahkios; some are dismissed and some are under construction or re-build.

Left-to-right: LeKo, Sinex (current Fin mil issue, short version), surplus Swe medevac, old issue Fin mil, Kolbe (hull only), Savotta, wooden old issue Swe mil.

04-11-2010, 12:25 PM
mb, I come from the era when we called sleds "pulkas". The era of wooden skis, pine tar and Swix wax. Ahkio was the military term; the troopers up in Alaska called 'em that. Ergo, we speak the same language.

Okay, re pix of the Kifaru Pack Belt Adapter, here's the deal: I'm pulling out for the hills in the morning...be out most of the week. When I return I'll get some shots. Funny, I was out most of last week with a sled (pulka). But this week will be afoot (lower altitude outing). I'll get the shots at the Shop.

Don't hesitate to prompt me! I'll print this out as a reminder but still...even paper reminders can get misplaced/covered up.

Good conversation. I love your pix!

04-11-2010, 01:27 PM
This reminds me of early army adventures... Pulka, I believe the Sami word might be akkja? I guess that is the same as ahkio?

04-12-2010, 02:45 AM
Actually pulk (Nor), pulka (Swe) and pulkka (Fin) originates from Sami language. Ahkio ('ah-ke-o') comes from Finnish, and ackja ('ak-ya') is the Swedish form of the word. Ahkio and pulka are pretty much (but not exactly) synonymous.

The word ahkio came to US Army usage after WWII, as some Finnish soldiers were recruited for teaching and developing winter warfare technique for the US Army.

The word sled also comes from Norse language. A pulka definitively isn't a sled, though. Sleds have high runners (ie. stand on legs on the runners). Sleds are typically used on hard-packed snow or ice, while ahkios are more usable in soft snow. The toboggan is the native North American counterpart of the pulka. The toboggan sure isn't a sled either.

The word ski (pronounced 'she') also comes from Norse. It was kind of formally introduced into the English language in 1890 by the English translation of 'The first crossing of Greenland' by Fridtjof Nansen. The English edition had an excellent introductory chapter on skiing. The original Norwegian edition didn't have this, as anyone reading Norwegian was assumed to be familiar with skiing anyway.

Prior to Nansen, skis and skiing were commonly called snowshoes and snowshoeing respectively in English. Nowadays the distinction between skis and snowshoes is clear also in the English language. However, in English, the term 'skiing' has degenerated to often imply downhill coasting on skis, aka slalom (Nor). In Nordic countries, coasting hasn't been considered skiing, at least not until relatively recently, with the growing popularity of the questionable sport of merely coasting down some big hill whilst letting a skilift do all the

A few very diverse pics of ahkios that I don't have (yet). 1. Kifaru mil expedition ahkio, 2. Norwegian civilian expedition ahkio by Fjellpulken, being kite-sailed. 3. Fin mil ahkio for recoilless gun. 4. WWII wooden Finnish ahkios.

https://www.kifaru.net/images/expedition-comb_main.jpg (https://www.kifaru.net/images/expedition-comb_main.jpg/)

http://fjellpulken.no/images/stories/igallery/explorer_/lightbox/FP_12_lengere_redGG.jpg (http://fjellpulken.no/images/stories/igallery/explorer_/lightbox/FP_12_lengere_redGG.jpg/)

http://tietokannat.mil.fi/savotta08/static_images/245_640.jpg (http://tietokannat.mil.fi/savotta08/static_images/245_640.jpg/)

05-01-2010, 06:58 AM
Don't hesitate to prompt me!


I guess I forgot to remind you... Anyways, I'm still curious about your ahkio and pack solution.



05-01-2010, 10:26 AM
MB, that's a great shot of the recoiless on that akhio. We carried the 90mm in the 172nd INF in Alaska in the 70's. The US Army's Dragon AT missle would not work in the cold.

05-05-2010, 12:19 PM
mb, I come from the era when we called sleds "pulkas". The era of wooden skis, pine tar and Swix wax. Ahkio was the military term; the troopers up in Alaska called 'em that. Ergo, we speak the same language.

Okay, re pix of the Kifaru Pack Belt Adapter, here's the deal: I'm pulling out for the hills in the morning...be out most of the week. When I return I'll get some shots. Funny, I was out most of last week with a sled (pulka). But this week will be afoot (lower altitude outing). I'll get the shots at the Shop.

Don't hesitate to prompt me! I'll print this out as a reminder but still...even paper reminders can get misplaced/covered up.

Good conversation. I love your pix!

Patrick- I am curious about the belt connections also. Were you going to post them in the thread?

MB- Cool pic's. I have started to get into ski-jorning with my dogs in last couple of years and am learning alot through trial and error. Looks like you have been at it awhile.

05-05-2010, 03:03 PM
Okay men, here is a sequence of shots of the attachment set-up; linking our sleds to our Hunting Series pack waistbelts. The host pack is my G2 LateSeason.

The first shot shows our sled harness--waistbelt with pulling pole affixed.

The second shot shows one of the adapter devices. There are two 3-bar sliders on it, but only one is needed. The second one is there as a spare.

The third shot shows my LateSeason belt, specifically the GunBearer stringer (1 1/2" webbing) Disconnect the rear of the strap from it's 3-bar slider and install the adapter device via it's 3-bar sliders and the rear 3-bar on the pack belt.

The fourth shot shows the completed installation.

The fifth shot shows the sled pole connected. Note the hairpin clip is tethered...I can drop the sled and not worry about that clip falling into the snow and getting lost.

That's it. Sorry it took so long.

05-05-2010, 07:07 PM
Thanks for the pic's Patrick. Looks like an effective, clean set up. I think I need to re-evaluate my set-up.:o

05-06-2010, 09:45 AM

I'm actually not that much into skijoring. Off-track, in forested terrain, using dogs for pulling an ahkio isn't that practical due to all too frequent entanglement. Moreover, in case of deepish soft snow, when help in pulling would be most needed, dogs may have it difficult enough to stay with a skier even without load.

Of course, there are conditions where dog aided movement works very well - open areas with hard-packed snow or ice. Or hard-packed trails, like snow mobile tracks. In the pic below, my friends huskies are wisely held back when I can't resist continuing onto thin ice. My own dogs are working lineage GSD's, that don't pull that well, but can actually be trained to do something else too... ;)

Pic courtesy of MP.

05-06-2010, 10:14 AM
MB, that's a great shot of the recoiless on that akhio. We carried the 90mm in the 172nd INF in Alaska in the 70's. The US Army's Dragon AT missle would not work in the cold.

The Fin heavy recoilless gun, 95 S 58, IIRC, is a license copy of the US one (but 95mm?), the copy dating back to 1958. It's still issued equipment here with 2nd line units (as are old packs, it seems, the design seen here dates back to the 60's, or so). They got new improved AT rounds in the 90's, but they're inadequate (at least) against frontal armour of modern MBT's.

The pic is a PR shot by FDF from last summer, that I 'borrowed' by hotlinking to it :). In the context of another thread... this is obviously not the nicest piece of HW to run around with in the forest.

05-06-2010, 07:17 PM

It look's like the belt could either be used alone or with the pack while being hooked to the pulk, is this correct?

Reason I ask is because I perfer to have all my gear in the pulk (including pack) but still use the belt as my ski-joring and pulk harness.

05-06-2010, 09:31 PM
Good evening Lab-Roamer,

I'm not reading you. Need more clarification.

05-07-2010, 05:01 AM
Lab-Roamer, Patrick,

I'm sure you could use Patrick's setup for ahkio towing both 1) with the waistbelt attached to the pack (ie, carrying pack and towing ahkio simultaneously), or 2) with belt removed from pack, and just towing the ahkio with the belt without any pack. Just as I did with my setup. But let's see what Patrick comments.

However, I'm not sure whether you could attach optional shoulder straps (Kifaru's harness, or some other) to the pack belt. I can't quite figure out how Kifaru does it (see pic below). In my setup I sew some additional 1" webbing with common loops to the pack belt for optional shoulder strap attachment.

What I find curious about Kifaru's standard ahkio belt is the leg (thigh) loops. I can't recall seeing an ahkio tow harness with those elsewhere. I suppose they help in keeping the belt in place when breaking in downhill? Are they worthwile? Patrick, anyone, comments on this?

Pic. from Kifaru webpages showing the Kifaru standard harness with their optional shoulder straps attached. Note the leg loops.

PS. Patrick, thanks for the pics.

05-07-2010, 06:02 AM
Patrick, MB

I was asking if you can use the belt seperatly from the pack, which from looking at the pictures, it looks like you can. I will take some pictures of my setup tonight and post them.


05-07-2010, 07:27 AM

Well, yes, you can use the pack waistbelt--sans pack bag--as your sled pulling belt, if you wish to do that.

Leg loops are for downhill, yes.

Both leg loops and shoulder harness fit any of our belts (the pack belts and the sled-pulling belts are essentially the same contours) by means of length of the clevis pin that holds everything in place. It is not untypical for some of our expedition customers to spec 1)leg loops, 2) shoulder harness, and 3) extra man or dog pulling leads. All three Accessories stack nicely onto that core clevis pin and the outcome is a very "solid" pull--no slopiness; as you sled pullers know, the more slack you have in your harness linkage the more acceleration the sled can pick up before it whacks you in the backside or yanks you from the rear as you encounter terrain differences.

Re using the Kifaru pack shoulder straps--along with the belt--for sled pulling, it can be done (just install grommets in the right places and hook up to the clevis pin) but that seems far too tedious...dismantling the entire pack suspension system just to save the insignificant weight of hauling along the dedicated sled waistbelt and official sled-pulling shoulder straps. The only reason I hook up my sled to my pack waistbelt is for QUICKLY dropping the sled and heading off on some other task (like ventilating an elk) that I don't want or need the sled to accomplish, but I still want core gear to be with me. Ergo, in the pack on my back.

Ah, sled esoterica. Endless possibilities. Snow, and good rigid harness sleds sure amplify what a man under his own powers can accomplish, in comparison to summer capabilities. Give me my skis, skins, sled and tipi and stove and I can live large out there! In the middle of winter!

05-07-2010, 07:59 PM
http:// 100_1671[2].jpg (35.8 KB

05-07-2010, 08:11 PM
Here's my setup

Well, as usual, I'm having a heck of a time posting pictures. The one that is posted you can see my ski-joring belt setup and the pins hold my sled/pulk poles to the belt. I will try to post some more pictures tomorrw.
http:// 100_1671[2].jpg (35.8 KB

http:// 100_1672[1].jpg (40.4 KB

http:// 100_1672[1].jpg (40.4 KB

05-07-2010, 08:17 PM
Well, some how I got two pictures up. The carbiner is hooked to the leg strap. The leg strap keeps the belt from riding up. The line that I hook to my dogs is the one that is coiled up hooked to the para 500 cord which is tied to the carbiners.

The pins that you can see hold the eyelet of the poles that hook to my sled/pulk tight against my belt. I think Patricks setup would work better for the pulk. I'm think my scout would be a great Ski-joring/pulk pulling harness.

05-08-2010, 01:59 AM
Being able to ditch the ahkio in a hurry, and continue with a pack, can definitively be a worthwile capability. Especially in military usage, where common squad kit typically goes into the group ahkio(s), whilst personal kit goes in the individual packs. In civilian usage, having both a pack and ahkio, can be useful too. This way one can vary the load distribution depending on terrain and snow. And there's a backup, should the ahkio break. I prefer to have the pack for 'day kit', and the ahkio for bivouac kit, supplies etc. When backpacking with kids, I can move stuff from the ahkio to the pack to make room for a tired kid too. Kids love riding in an ahkio, btw.

That said, I want to reiterate, based on my limited trials, that the Kifaru Dupplex waist belt does seem to work very well as a standalone tow belt. Ie, also without a pack. I think it's better than, eg, the Fin mil issue tow belt by Sinex, or the civilian tow belt by Savotta (not shown). Hence I plan to use my modified EMR belt for towing an ahkio both with and without a pack.

I certainly agree with Patrick that rigid attachment is the way to go with an ahkio. The old-school way of towing a military ahkio by just rope simply sucks. Typically there were two guys pulling, and one guy behind holding to the break rope to keep the ahkio in control downhil. There was also a break chain, to which the pull-rope was attached. When the pull rope goes slack, the ahkio runs over the break chain, and slows. But just imagine how well all this works with a heavy load in difficult downhill..... ;)

However, I do prefer to pull by rope on the sea. This way, should I fall through the ice, there are no rigid poles interfering with getting up. With a long enough pull rope, the ahkio probably won't be joining the dip. Another freely trailing rope attached to the stern gives possible rescuers a way to help from afar. It also helps to salvage an ejected ahkio from the behind. Furthermore, if swim-towing an ahkio (dry or wet suit, flippers, etc), a rope is of course the way to go. Done that, works well.

Pic 1. The brown webbing is a self-made 'riggers belt' attached to the plain white closed cell padding of the Fin mil issue tow belt by Sinex. The self-made brown belt has D-rings for attaching the snaphooks commonly used with Swe and Nor ahkio pull poles. The other ring has a free rusty snaphook attached. Below this is the issue belt (which is removed from its white padding, and modified with sewn-on PALs) showing the ropelock/pole sockets typically used in Fin ahkios. The issue belt (white webbing + padding) works pretty well considering how simple it is. With heavy loads, it benefits from separate shoulder straps to keep the belt from being pulled down when struggling with getting a heavy load moving. However, I haven't seen much of a need for leg loops to keep the belt from being pushed up when hitting an obstacle going downhill. I'll have to try this too next winter, though... :).

Pic2.I've used this self-made two-row plain PALs belt for rope-towing an ahkio on the sea. The attachment is with an elastic retention line and a snap-shackle.

Pic3. Test-riding, over the shoulder shot, with new modded Dupplex tow belt in usage.