This is something I’ve been going back and forth on for a couple months now. A gear sled is not entirely necessary on a spring ascent of Rainier, though it certainly can’t hurt. Without it, I’d likely have 50-60 pounds on my back during the trip from Paradise to Muir, which is over 4,000′ vertical. That’s a long way to carry a heavy load; since I bought the sled months ago, I decided this weekend that I would build it up.
After work today I stopped by Home Depot for some sticks of plastic pex tubing (3/4″ OD which I cut down to 6′ each), nylon rope (1/4″), and bungee cords. Construction actually went pretty quick. For the connection of the rope to the sled, I used a figure-eight follow-through, fed the rope through the tubing, then tied three overhand knots on the other end of the tubing to keep the rope from feeding back through. I finished it off with a doubled figure-eight with a couple biners for attaching to a harness. I was surprised at how quickly it went, maybe 30 minutes total build time. I intended to get PVC pipe, but I’m glad I went with the pex. It’s far less brittle, and will work as well or better than full-rigid rods at controlling the sled for the downhill.