EQUIPMENT


Mushers must remain warm while driving their sleds. To do so, they wear thermal underwear and socks, snow pants, jackets and parkas, face masks, gloves, hats, and insulated boots. Many mushers use ski goggles to protect their eyes from flying snow. Because there are so few daylight hours during winter in the northern regions, mushers need headlamps and reflector tape to see and be seen during the long, dark nights.

Sled dimensions have remained constant for many years. Most sleds are 2.5 m (8.2 ft) long and 0.6 m (2 ft) wide. The weight of sleds, however, has decreased significantly since the late 1800s. The wooden freight sleds used in the past weighed 150 kg (330 lb) and could carry much more than 500 kg (1100 lb). Today, most sleds weigh between 15 and 30 kg (30 and 70 lb), and their loads are rarely as heavy.

To glide across snow and ice smoothly, the sled rides on two runners that extend several feet behind the main portion of the sled. The musher stands on these extensions while the sled is moving and holds on to a vertical piece of wood called a handlebow, which extends waist-high at the back of the basket. The basket is the slatted base of the sled where equipment is stowed. Tired or injured dogs can be carried in the basket inside special pouches called sled dog bags. The front of the sled is reinforced by the brushbow, a strong, wooden, rounded lip that acts as a bumper. The driver can stop the sled by standing on the brake, which is a set of steel claws that drag in the snow. Once the sled is stopped, the musher can tie it to a post with a snowhook or a snub line.

The sled and dogs are connected by a durable set of ropes, the main portion of which is called a gangline. The gangline runs straight from the sledís bow and attaches to smaller sets of rope that connect to each pair of dogs. These sets are called necklines and tug lines. Necklines, which meet the gangline at right angles, act as guides that keep the dogs running straight, and tug lines snap onto each dogís harness and link the dogís pulling power to the sled. Harnesses fit snugly around the dogs to maximize the transfer of strength.

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