Canoe Cart

Well my body was getting tired of carrying my Roylex Canoe into the back lacks. My back just isn’t holding up all that well. I know someone who needed a project for his students so I suggested a canoe cart.

I sent some ideas over and he and his students got working on it. It basically took all winter to complete.

I got the cart and it wasn’t like I thought it would be. The tires (bicycle) just threaded into the bottom of the rack. I figured these weren’t strong enough to hold the weight of the canoe and some gear.

The first time out it colapsed.

I got some old bike forks and had them welded on to the frame. It’s now a 4x4 canoe cart.

So this new cart is now indestructable and has great clearance for rocks and stumps. One of the places we wanted to use this was to cross the dam into miles of Crown Land.

The cart is too heavy and two high but it works. We really use it to get into those distance lakes where the first part is an old road or trail. Sure makes the carry easier. The cart will tip if on uneven ground because fo the high triangle of stability.



– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 7:19 PM EST –

I built one for my Pygmy Coho. Based on the principle that you "can't push on a rope" (and the corollary..."you shouldn't pull on a post"), I designed it to be as light and easy to use as possible but to hold together using the strength of cordage. It also had to be easy/quick to assemble/disassemble, fit in a hatch, AND be substantial enough to handle the family canoe (a 17'6", 90#, massively re-glassed Tripper design).

It has proven substantial enough that I can sit in the boat and be towed around on a relatively flat surface (a total weight load approaching 265#).

It's made of 1-1/4" tubing, a 1/2" dia rod for axle (mounted low in the axle tube), a bunch of webbing and some pretty pink cordage ( had to match the pool noodle that I found in the basement), and a couple of 7" dia, plastic lawnmower wheels (I only wish I could find some 12" dia ones). If/when I need the extra "compaction" I can also pull the wheels off the axle.

Just make the straps (which lock around the cockpit coaming on the kayak) long enough that they'll also handle the larger "belly" of a canoe.

It has proven strong enough that I can sit in the boat while it's on the cart and "balance" without bending or flexing the cart (a total weight load of ~ 265#).

yak cart
I really like your cart. I was looking at kayak carts but they want over $100 for them here in Canada. I was looking at 12" lawn mover wheels last night. They could be 8".

Your threaded rod just goes through the elbow of the PVC piping right. Is it the washers you use as spacing and the wheels that hold it in place? Do you use any nuts on the threaded rod? I’d really like to make one for my kayak. Of course I’d have to change the colour but my wife sure liked the pink. Any mor3e tips on the making?

My cart comes apart by a few pins but it’s still real heavy.


Cart Design

– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 8:44 PM EST –

That isn't a threaded rod... it's a smooth, 1/2" dia rod that I cut to length and drilled some holes in the ends to handle the retaining clips. The washers are so that I could "adjust" for any possible "errors of precision" in the cutting and drilling of the rod and to ensure that the wheels wouldn't be rubbing against the uprights.

There are notches cut into the bottom of the uprights on the "T"s which help index the "T" supports around the eye-bolts (where the diagonal cross-ties clip).

I had planned on being able to shoot some foam insulation into the axle tube to help hold the axle rod in place (the axle sits at the bottom of the axle tube so that any bending moment caused by the weight of the load forces the axle to be supported by the bottom of the cross tube) but that hasn't proved necessary (but might be handy if you wanted to ensure that it would float if needed!)

The upright "T" pieces aren't locked or glued in place: they are held down into the socket elbows at the ends of the cross-tube by the tension in the cross-ties once those are clipped in place.

And it was pure serendipity that the "T"s are able to fit just "inside" the wheels for packing! (but very handy non-the-less).

I also built a custom paddle-park...but that's a whole different story!

You guys are ingenuous
Bike wheels have always appealed to me for carts, but the problem is the axle. Reading your description, I thought maybe you welded the forks onto the frame horizontal, that is, parellel to the ground. The picture cleared that up. I like the obvious difference in the forks. Adds to the DIY-appeal!

Then too, a bike wheel is a large thing if you want to take it with you in the boat.

I love the compactness of the PVC cart when it is broken down. Bigger wheels would help on rough terrain, but then it is harder to get the rig into your boat. I guess if you are packing the rack, that’s when you pack the smaller wheels.

I have an aluminum-framed cart that was store-bought by it’s previous owner. It is sweet, but I can’t get it inside my kayak. Canoes, yes. For the kayak, I can take the wheels off and put them into a hatch. The frame has to fold flat and be strap onto the bakc deck. Not ideal, but it works.

Keep them inventions coming!


I have to wonder, was this person who’s students needed a project teaching a class having to do with building stuff, or was building a cart completely outside his area of expertise? If that was a high-school industrial arts class or something, that’s a pretty sad reflection on the teacher.

When I was a little kid my dad built two similar carts, one for hauling small boats, and another for hauling deer and sometimes “crow-hunting supplies” (in those days, there was no affordable, commercially made electronic “varmint calling” stuff, so he made all that too (have you ever seen an old-fashioned 45-RPM record player nestled within its own, custom-made, weatherproof steel case?), and the whole works, including a big “loudspeaker” and the car battery and inverter to supply the power, must have weighed 80 pounds, hence the need for a cart). Both carts used bicycle wheels, and instead of bicycle forks, they had a wrap-around steel frame supporting each wheel built from one-inch angle stock. The boat cart supported the bottom of the boat just a fraction of an inch above the tops of the bike tires, so ground clearance between the wheels was more than two feet. On the equipment cart, the bottom of the box was roughly the same height as the axles, but the clearance in that case was still more than enough to clear boulders and low stumps when carting a couple of deer or other heavy load through the woods. The bike tires were old-fashioned “balloon tires” on 24-inch rims, which are great on rough ground. Neither cart weighed more than about half as much as a standard wheelbarrow, but was still much stronger than necessary. I’ve thought about offering to build such carts for people, but the demand really isn’t there. Still, if anyone wants such a cart “badly enough”, I’ll put one together some winter day for the cost of materials.


– Last Updated: Sep-11-09 1:26 PM EST –

guideboatguy. This was a high school shop teacher looking for a project for his students to make. Don't think he had any experence with the carts. I sent him some pics of different styles of carts.
Here's the original cart.

The axle from the bike wheels threaded into the bottom of the cart. Not strong enough from what I was thinking. The concept was ok but the weight was too much.

I just took it to a welding shop and got them to weld two forks on to the cart so it was useable. The whole cart comes a part by pins for transport. Again a great concept but it is made of steel and indestructable. Way to heavy for what I need. It was still great of him to offer building this. It is nothing I take in the canoe with me. It's just to get to the water.


kayak cart
tootsall I went and checked out some supplies. Our local Lowes has the lawn mower tires, ABS and threaded rod. The cart is starting to get around the $40 - $50 mark to make. I really wouldn’t be using it for portaging since I don’t plan any portages on the waters I paddle. it is mostly to get the boat from the parking lot to water and possible on trip where a Ferry ride back for the second leg. We know what a loaded kayak weights. Thanks for the hints and if you have any more or more pic please post or email them to me.


Cart Costs

– Last Updated: Sep-11-09 2:00 PM EST –


I'm also in Canada. The bits and pieces were picked up from Princess Auto Supplies, Home Depot, and Peavey Mart. The total cost was in the range you suggest. Note again, I did not use threaded rod for the axle: that's a smooth, 1/2" dia. steel rod that I cut to length, drilled holes in the ends for the clips, and bevelled the holes and ends of the rod to remove the burrs. I don't recommend threaded rod since it will quickly wear the bore of the plastic wheel hubs. I had contemplated using threaded rod and bicycle wheels (sidewalk or BMX) but was put off by the extra weight and cost (at the expense of ground clearance...sure wish I could find cheap, plastic 12" lawnmower wheels... 1/2" bore X 1-1/2" hubs). I suppose if a guy had access to an old, wrecked BMX bike you could make it work but I find that even the small wheels are excellent for use on everything from pavement down to packed dirt/lawns.

Eye bolts for attachment points and then small clevises allow for adjusting the cord lengths while knotting them to "just barely long enough". Don't use nylon cord or you'll be tightening forever. On a canoe you might want to add a 3rd "strap" that doesn't wrap all the way around the boat but that hooks onto the gunnels (to prevent the canoe from twisting about it's long axis on the cart). Or just make the two end straps so they hook into the gunnels instead.

The 7" wheels do drag down in pebbles and/or sand however; I'd recommend "wide tread" or "balloon" tires for that. Otherwise it's pretty much "as you see it".

The basic design (and how to install the pool noodles) came from here: but I elected to modify it somewhat to make it stronger and more stable, more compact, and easier to assemble/disassemble. I also dispensed with the spring clips that hold the uprights together with the cross tube: gravity and line tension does that.

threaded rod
Never thought of the threaded rod reamming out the hole. I’ll look into this some more and actually price out the cost. It would be for my kayak only since I have my 4x4 canoe cart…lol. Our Lowes in Barrie has 12’ lawn mower wheels. They are around $18/ea and they probally wouldn’t fit into the hatches. I think if this had to come with me I’d fasten it to the stern deck.


12" Wheels
You may find that they fit provided you attach the wheels to the axle with a spring clip as I did. Then all you need do is pull the pins, remove the wheels, and replace the pins (to hold the washers in place). The wheels pack separately and should fit through any hatch (unless you have a SOF, hatchless Greenland boat!)

What’s the store with the 12" wheels? Are they online?

It is the Lowes on Bryne dr in Barrie. They are a solid rubber on the rim and are rather heavy I found. They have a 8" wheel which looks like it will work fine.