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25 Things You Might Not Know About Sledding

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Initially developed to haul loads over snowy terrain, sleds quickly evolved into recreational devices. I can fondly recall many a snow day spent hurtling down the hill in my backyard, inevitably ending up in the hedge, and emerging, scratched and exhilarated, ready for another go. I'm sure many of you have similar memories. So without further ado, here are a few things you might not have known about the history of sledding; many of these facts came from Brice J. Hoskin’s The Sled Book: Notes Concerning Winter’s Favorite Pastime.

Toboggans


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1. The word toboggan comes from either the Algonquin word odabaggan or the Anishinabe word nobugidaban.

2. The Inuit made their toboggans out of whalebone, while other tribes used birch or tamarack. The sleds had a curved front, to ease traveling over difficult terrain, but had no runners. The design has changed little since they were first developed; today, most toboggans are made with seven boards of ash or maple, each about 2 inches wide.

3. The Russians built the first toboggan slide—a high wooden structure with an ice-covered chute—in St. Petersburg in the late 1800s.

4. Tobogganing as a sport began in Canada in the late 1800s and quickly spread. Though it was considered a "sport," tobogganing was also high-fashion: Men wore top hats and ladies donned their best clothes for trips down the chute.

Kicksleds


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1. When an unknown inventor took a timber sled—which was used to haul wood out of the forest—and added a handlebar and put iron on the runners, the kicksled was born. They were first mentioned in a Swedish newspaper in 1870.

2. Another name for a kicksled is "spark." (The word for kicking in Scandinavian languages is sparke or sparka.)

3. "Kicksled" is a direct translation of the Finnish word potkukelkka.

4. The first kicksledding club was founded by Captain Victor Balck, one of the original members of the International Olympic Committee, in Stockholm in 1899.

5. Kicksleds can only be used on hard, slippery surfaces, which makes them particularly good for traversing frozen lakes.

6. Average kicksled speed in a race: 18mph.

Bobsleds


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1. An unknown inventor created the bobsled by adding a steering mechanism to a toboggan.

2. The sled gets its name because early competitors thought it helped to "bob" their heads on straightaways. (They were wrong—staying low makes the sled go faster.)

3. There are two variations on the bobsled. The skeleton, introduced in 1892, is a metal one-person sled that a rider drives lying head-first. The luge is a one or two person sled that puts riders feet first; they steer by pulling straps attached to the runners. The luge replaced the skeleton in the 1964 Olympics.

4. Top speed in bobsled on a modern course: 80mph.

5. A four-man bobsled race was an event in the first Winter Olympics, held in France in 1924. Only men competed until 2002, when two-woman teams were allowed to compete.

6. Bobsledding has been a part of every winter Olympics except for the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California; too few teams expressed an interest in competing.

7. There are two recreational bobsled tracks in the United States, both at the sites of past Olympic games: Park City, Utah, and Lake Placid, New York. They sleds go through the courses in under a minute, and riders will experience up to 5gs (astronauts experience 3gs on liftoff).

American Clippers and Cutters


Image courtesy Collector's Weekly.

1. Clippers and cutters were the first mass-produced sleds in the United States. They were made by the Paris Manufacturing Company in South Paris, Maine. The company was founded by Henry Morton in 1861; it was also the first company to commercially produce skis.

2. Morton based his sled designs on horse-drawn sleighs.

3. Yankee Clippers have runners that are upturned in the front; they're meant to be ridden face-first. Cutter sleds were longer, with runners that curved over the front of the sled. They were designed to be ridden sitting down. Both were difficult to steer.

4. The most famous sled in pop culture is Citizen Kane's Rosebud—a Yankee Clipper.

The Flexible Flyer


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1. The flexible flyer was patented by Samuel Leeds Allen in 1889. Allen was a prolific inventor who held almost 300 patents; he developed the sleds to keep the workers at his farm equipment factory busy in the off-season.

2. The sled had a slatted wood seat and steel runners which were weakened at one point halfway back with something that resembled a hinge. It was moderately steerable, and worked best on hard snow or ice.

3. In 1915, around 120,000 flexible fliers were sold, with an average of 2000 sold per day. The smallest went for $2.50; the largest, which was 8.5 feet long, weighed 41 pounds and could hold six adults, sold for $12.

4. In 1928, six flexible flyers went to the South Pole with Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

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Slow Wi-Fi? It Could Be Your Neighbor's Fault
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If your Wi-Fi connection remains interminably slow no matter how many times you restart it, you can probably blame your neighbor. It could be that there are too many people using Wi-Fi connections on the same channel, even if you're all on different networks. But, as Tech Insider teaches us in the video below, there is a way to circumvent this, returning you to the prime TV-streaming Wi-Fi speeds of your dreams. (These instructions apply to Mac users, but if you've got Windows, How-To Geek recommends a tool called the Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector to do the same job.) It seems like a lot of steps at first, but it'll be worth it—we promise.

If you’ve got a Mac, hold the Option key while clicking the Wi-Fi symbol in your top menu bar. Go to “Open Wireless Diagnostics,” then when that opens, go up to the top left menu bar and click the drop-down menu “Window > Scan.” That will open up a window with all the nearby Wi-Fi networks. Click the “Scan Now” button on the bottom right, and your computer should recommend the best channels for you to use—say, you’re on Channel No. 1, but the best 2.4GHz channel is No. 3. Tech Insider recommends writing those down (there are options for both 2.4GHz channels and 5GHz channels).

Now, you’ll need to break out your iPhone. Download the AirPort Utility app, and go to your phone’s settings. Scroll down to the AirPort Utility app in your app list, and enable “WiFi Scanner.” Use the app to scan your house for Wi-Fi networks and note which channels are commonly used by your neighbors’ networks. (If you don’t have an iPhone, you can also use Acrylic Wi-Fi for Android or Windows phones.) This will help you avoid the most congested networks.

Then, log onto your router on your computer by typing your router’s IP address into your browser, just like you would any web address. From there, go into Wireless Settings, and change the channel your network operates on to one of the recommended options that you wrote down from your computer's diagnostics window earlier. And don’t forget to save!

This should help you get a faster internet connection by minimizing the amount of interference from other networks around you. Because the best neighbors are the ones who don't slow down Game of Thrones for you.

See the process step-by-step in the video below.

[h/t Tech Insider]

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This 'Smokeless' Fire Pit Promises a More Efficient Burn
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For thousands of years, people have gathered around open flames to cook food, find warmth, and share stories deep into the night. Campfires have been around since the dawn of humanity, but what if there was a way to use modern technology to make them even better? The people at BioLite believe they've found one.

The FirePit is the outdoor gadget startup's answer to the recreational, backyard fire. It offers the same benefits as a more conventional product: a space for building wood or charcoal fires, a removable grate for grilling, and metal screens on each side to protect onlookers from embers. But the yellow battery pack is what sets it apart from anything else on the market. With the press of a button, a fan inside the FirePit stokes a hotter, more efficient blaze without producing all of the smoke and soot people are used to.

Couple sitting by a firepit on the beach.
BioLite

"Air injection makes the fire burn more completely," Ryan Gist, one of the lead engineers on the project, told Mental Floss. "So you basically get all the energy out of your fuel." The result is a fire you can enjoy without worrying about your eyes and throat burning, moving your chair every five minutes to avoid a gust of smoke, or having your clothes stink for weeks.

It also makes for a fire capable of burning longer and brighter with less wood. Smoke is made of tiny fuel particles that haven't fully burned up. Using a fan, the FirePit can draw that runaway fuel back into the fire before it has a chance to escape. "It's like when you're stuck on the highway behind a truck and it's got black stuff coming out of the tailpipe," BioLite marketing director Erica Rosen told Mental Floss. "When you see black stuff coming out of a fire, it's the same thing. So what we've done is, we've given fire a tuneup."

FirePit's built-in fan makes the fire easy to control. If campfire gazers want to see big, roaring flames through the box's X-ray mesh, they can turn the air down low. The higher fan setting produces a smaller, more intense burn, which is perfect for chilly autumn nights. Adjusting the blaze can be done remotely with the BioLite Energy app or manually from the control panel on top of the battery pack.

People sitting by a fire.
BioLite

BioLite designed the FirePit for backyards, but its foldable legs make it convenient to carry to the beach, a campsite, or anywhere else where you might bring a cooler of the same size. Once it's cooled down after an evening of grilling hot dogs and toasting marshmallows, the pit fits neatly into its solar panel case, where it can recharge in time for the following night (the battery also features a USB plug for charging indoors).

The FirePit recently debuted on Kickstarter, where it's available along with its solar carrying case for a special deal of $169 (once the first 300 FirePits go, it will be sold for the regular price of $199). To help the campaign reach its $100,000 funding goal, you can reserve yours today with shipping estimated for May of next year.

Skewers cooking on a grill.
BioLite

All images courtesy of BioLite.

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