Insight into the Beargrease #3

Okay, this one is just a quicky, relating to yesterday’s post about G-Cel harnesses & the Marathon where I started a discussion about equipment & training strategies that I have successfully used to avoid injury while traveling along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Today, I want to share with you two types of mainline & tugline configuration that I use. The line set-up is crucial to getting the most out of your harnesses and promoting clean & effortless movement in general; this is certainly not to say that there are only these two ways to configure your lines, but there are definitely some things that you want to avoid when using ‘short harnesses’.

This is my mainline from the 2010 Iditarod--notice the one piece rope mainline, lack of necklines, and use of the G-Cel harness

A little hard to tell from this pic, but this mainline section is made entirely from one piece of 5/8″ climbing rope; aside from the very end of the line which attaches to my sled’s bridle, there is not a single loop or section in an entire 16 dog hook-up. The dogs are all (except for the double leaders) hooked in single file on 14″ tuglines without necklines—I firmly believe that if you’re going to use a short harness, then you must eliminate necklines altogether and absolutely keep the tuglines short!

Here's a better angle--same type of setup, earlier in the year at the Seeley Lake 200 in Montana

In the above pics, the dogs are all hooked in single file, with one attachment point (tugline) every 36″. The tugs utilize 3/8″ snaps and are constructed from 3/8″ poly rope—I think 12-strand. I like beefy tugs, because that’s the only thing holding the dog(s) in the team. The idea behind this configuration came from M. Santos, the same fellow who designed the harnesses. Far and away the best hook-up I’ve ever used.

I don’t have a photo handy, but I’ll briefly describe an alternative (and much more common) way of achieving a similar effect.

Use the same type of rope, sturdy 5/8″ climbing rope or something similar, and simply make the attachment points ‘tandem’ and spaced every 6′—making sure to keep the tuglines the same 14″ length. With this setup, your overall mainline will remain nearly the identical in length.

I’ve used both set-ups extensively and highly recommend either–-I truly believe this mainline and harness configuration has played a serious role at keeping my teams healthy over the years,  both in the Beargrease and many other distance races around the country.

I am more than happy to go into further detail concerning my philosophies in this area—if you would like me to write with greater specificity, please do not hesitate to post a question in the form of a comment 🙂

Thanks for joining me—more to follow…



  1. Insight into the Beargrease #4 « Jason Barron's Blog - January 12, 2011

    […] In the previous posts contained within this thread, I talked about some of the equipment that I have used during the Beargrease which I felt lessened the chances of canine injury (harnesses & lines: please see Insight into the Beargrease #3). […]

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