carrying a solo canoe without yoke

is there a smart way? Do most people use a detachable yoke? I’m just talking about short distances from the car to the water.

That’s what I do anyway.

shoulder how?
do you mean over one shoulder like a bag? I think I’ve seen pack canoes carried that way.

Pretty much.
Helps to put the bottom towards the breeze.

Depends on distance, weight, material
For my composite canoes, I carry them straight-armed overhead or on my shoulder for very short carries, with a detachable yoke for longer carries, and with a Chinese bicycle wheel cart for very long portages on amenable surfaces.

I will sometimes drag my heavy Royalex canoes on the ground for short distances.

canoe is Royalex
about 50 pounds

With My Courier
I have the middle marked so I know where it is. I get it up and on the top of my head and then stuff my sponge ontop of my head as a pad. I only do this for very short distances!

I use…
the front edge of the seat as a yoke. Works well for the kind of short carries you describe/I do.

Gunwale on the shoulder
just just in front of the seat. An arm goes beneath the seat and a hand holds onto the lower fore and aft seat frame member so you can carry some of the weight in that hand thereby reducing the pressure on the shoulder. Even with all that, it hurts before you’ve gone very far.

I strap a 2 quart water jug to the aft deck for balance when I want to carry the boat farther using the front edge of the seat for a yoke. I can carry farther this way than with a shoulder carry.


I use 3 methods when pond hopping. 1. On either shoulder sometimes with pipe insulation padding carrying backwards and holding the seat with the shoulder arm… 2. Resting the front of the seat on my shoulders and the bottom of the canoe on my head with one or two discs of ensolite inside my hat for padding. 3. If wearing a backpack,just plunk it on top of the pack. I only carry this way on carrys under 1/2 mile and not when carrying my camping gear.


Front edge of seat
on shoulder is the way I go. Its nice if the stern is a little heavy. It doesn’t take much - even a sponge, painter, or tee shirt stuffed under a deck helps - so the boat balances a bit bow high. That way you don’t have to expend energy lifting the bow so you can see. Better to be able to hang a hand over a forward thwart to bring the bow down if wind gets under it. I have a PFD with floatation that comes right up behind my neck. The padding helps and I don’t think its going too far to consider that as a desirable feature when buying the next PFD.

For longer carries a yoke is the way to go,IMHO. I have gotten by on 150 rod (or so) carries just wrapping my kneeling pad and a jacket around the seat. Not ideal, its a bit uncomfortable, but it gets it there without having to have a yoke along.

A pedestal seat changes things a bit, though…

yoke seat?
I’ve seen the seats with integrated yoke at Ed’s canoe and Essex. Has anyone used those? It seems like it may be difficult to kneel.

Depends on your height
I cannot one shoulder ANY solo boat…even a 23 lb boat. Invariably the stern bangs the ground.

I just overhead carry them. A yoke of course for longer carries as on a trip, but with the back of the seat (standard seating) on my two shoulders for water to car and back or something on the road up to 300 yards.

No but it looks painful
for short distances it would work but so do straight edge seats.

Longer distance portages are the most comfortable if you can get the yoke off your neck and shoulder with pads.

Webbing strap you probably already have
I had a 70 lb royalex boat from which I had removed the center thwart to make it easier to walk about in the boat. When I removed the center thwart, in place of the thwart I installed 2" webbing strap with a quick release buckle. Worked great until the buckle broke.

After that, I just took one of the 1" straps most people use for tie-downs when car topping, the straps that have the cam-locks on one end, looped it around the center of the boat, and used that for carrying, in lieu of carry thwart. That worked fine and never failed. Once on my shoulders, the strap pulled in the side walls of the canoe and the strap sagged a bit. So, I’d have to tilt my head forward to keep the floor of the canoe from banging my noggin, but it is simple, quick, and works okay.

If you have long carries over portage trails, I’d want a removeable carry thwart, but for carries from the car top to a nearby launch, just use a tie-down strap.


3 ways
For very short carries I will often use a “suitcase carry” with the hull bottom against the outside of my thigh holding the canoe by the gunwale at the midpoint with one hand or two, depending on the weight. Yes, it is awkward to walk that way but it works fine for short carries and does not require lifting the canoe to shoulder level or above.

For slightly longer carries I often use the on-the-shoulder technique described by Glenn, Peter, Rich, and Pat, balancing the boat on my right shoulder at the weight center and using one hand on the inwale to steady it.

For longer carries I balance the front seat or kneeling thwart edge on the back of my neck and shoulders as others have described. I do the same thing for my pedestal equipped whitewater boats balancing the boat with the flat of the pedestal on my right shoulder. This requires having your head between the hull and the pedestal. To get it there without tearing it off, it is often easier to lift the canoe straight overhead first and perhaps temporarily balance it on the top of your head assuming you don’t have a bad neck like I do.

My ww canoes and my MR Guide Solo
have minicell pedestal seats. By luck or design, the balance point is right where my butt rests on the pedestal. So to carry the boats between car and water, I “throw” the canoe over my head and carry it with the minicell seat resting on my head.

This isn’t comfortable, but you get used to it. One of my ww boats weighs perhaps 65 pounds. But I can go maybe a quarter mile, the length of a typical Chattooga exit portage.

On shoulder
first canoe was a 15’ Alumnicraft and I used to carry it with gunnel on my shoulder, balanced bow to stern so not dragging or nose-diving it. Would sometimes put PFD on shoulder but it would slip so sometimes more trouble than it was worth. I was much younger and stronger then and often no one help. I managed getting up and down off my truck topper myself by leaning and lifting and sliding too, stepping on step bumper in back and open door frames in front to secure over top of the canoe. Not real easy or pleasant but I was younger, stronger and more determined then.

depends on the boat
It isn’t any more difficult to kneel with that seat than with any other. I have one set up as a slider in my Swift Osprey. It works pretty well, since all I have to do to get the balance right is to slide the seat forward a little bit from where I have it when I am paddling. However, I have only used it on short carries.

If you are going to try one, you would want to make sure the seat was high enough that your head would clear the bottom of the canoe.

not too bad
I tried the seat-as-yoke approach today for the first time and found it to work well enough, although I definitely need to weigh the stern somehow. Getting it up on my shoulders wasn’t pretty, though, and involved head canoe contact.

I think I’ll stick with it and practice more, but want to try at least the one shoulder and thigh approaches.