Carrying a Two Person Kayak

How do you carry a two person kayak?

I am building one now and this problem has me baffled. Should the center have a hatch that would double as a handgrip? Otherwise it would take two people to carry one.

You tow it
on a center cart.

Do you really want an answer for this question? I figured that all the common sense issues were covered already…

Let me copy/paste your question with your statement & see what we come up with, shall we…

Q: How do you carry a two person kayak?

A: it would take two people to carry one.

No $h!t… Go figure.

How many people does it take to carry a one person kayak?

Yes, I am being a smart@$$ & completely sarcastic. But that question deserved it.

Paddle easy,


How heavy?
If your kayak is light enough it could be reasonable to handle yourself but generally even with my single, if there is someone else around I’ll take any help I can get. A cart is a good idea. No sense blowing out your back.

I’d put in a center hatch if possible because they are a great idea IMO. You get a nice wide storage area and a ton of floatation/less water to pump if you come out of the kayak. And, yea, it could help for a carry. Awkward in any case.

Since he’s building,
then (I assume) it’s stitch-n-glue, lighter than typical composite. Still could be 55+ lbs, and considering longer hull, it’s awkward for one person. Harder to balance and harder to carry than some 55 lbs bag. That’s why I suggested a cart in the earlier post. Properly made take-apart center cart will fit in the hatch if you need it later down the route. Check Paddleboy Nemo, and there are other choices too.

carrying that double
Smart to ask this now before you strain your back or worse! Some good advice about using a cart that’s for sure. Tandems, even if lightweight, are still long enough that the swing weight is indeed awkward. I’ve found over many years that once over 16 feet shouldering any kayak- even around only 50 lbs can induce loading and maneuvering problems. So using 2 people is really the key but adding some center grab area will help a lot too in lifting the double onto racks, stands and the occasional picnic table. Wishing you great times in your new boat!!

Some points to ponder
We have a 23 foot long tandem, and it has a center compartment as well as the forward and aft ones, and that center compartment really comes in handy just for extra storage, so I would suggest that if the tandem you are building is long enough then go ahead and add it.

I am not sure how much your tandem is going to weigh, but if it is over 80 pounds, I think you will be wanting a person at each end to carry it.

I can’t imagine myself picking up our 100 pound beast by myself using the center compartment.

jack L

I am building this from cedar strip and plan on about 50 pounds weight.

I want to be able to carry this by myself.

In that case----

– Last Updated: Jul-02-11 3:25 PM EST –

How about something like this.
Go ahead and put a center compartment in at the balance point, with a removable cover and use a portage yoke similar to above.
That was just a prototype. Since then I made curved blocks for the shoulders and glued the foam to the blocks.

click on the "full album" to the right to see the rest of the photos

Jack L

It’s Simple
Since your building it from scratch just make it a two piece kayak that comes apart in the middle with bulkheads on each end.

Thanks Jack.

How far do you carry your kayak with that yolk?

I don’t use it on that one much now.

– Last Updated: Jul-02-11 6:47 PM EST –

I have a much lighter QCC-700 in carbon kevlar, but I still race that one in WW several times a year.
I guess the farthest I have carried it is about a quarter mile, but with it on the balance point I would have no problem carrying it a mile, (as soon as the new knee replacement allows me to)
A Class III rapid in a down river race about five years ago. Not bad for a 17 foot sea kayak. Many "oh sh--s" but I did get a first place.

jack L

It’s not how far

– Last Updated: Jul-02-11 7:04 PM EST –

that matters, but on what terrain. You can sprain your ankle or injure your knee when stepping over boulders and logs with a 30 lbs kayak.

I will never understand why people want to carry any boat 50 lbs or heavier on a cart-able terrain, unless when trying to avoid some sudden danger. (OK, winning the race could be utterly important to some, so this is another exception). Lifting and lowering long 50 lbs object is already risky. Hernia is a very common injury in men, and most of them are not professional heavy-lifters dealing with hundreds of pounds. You want to know "how far" one can carry 50 lbs kayak? Until what - until you drop, or a kayak falls down, or you get a hernia or knee problem? Is the distance that important, considering the consequences? I don't think so.

Carry it to the dump and build 2 singles
The answers to the carry question are self-evident:

  1. Two people.
  2. A cart.
  3. Drag it.
  4. A yoke in in a center cockpit.
  5. A shoulder carry with a center cockpit.

    Whether you can do 4 or 5 depends on size relativity and Newtonian physics.

    Never is a strong word. But I’ll say I personally have never known any couple to prefer a tandem kayak to two singles, at least not after they have had the opportunity to use both options for comparable periods of time. Tandems are heavy, clumsy, klutzy and relatively non-maneuverable. They also can be a chore to rescue and empty because of their size and because both paddlers will be in the water. In singles, one paddler can rescue the other. Finally, I don’t think there’s much of an after-market for them.

    Of course, if you’re a multi-boat hobbyist or collector, that’s a different story. Put in a center cockpit, which can be used for ease of storage, a yoke or a third paddler.

Something like this

Moslty - yes
2 singles is better than 1 tandem, this gives couples more “elbow room”, figuratively speaking. One can always pretend that he/she doesn’t hear what partner is trying to tell, you know…

" Tandems are heavy, clumsy, klutzy and relatively non-maneuverable. They also can be a chore to rescue"

Yes, but 1 tandem is usually faster than 2 singles, per same muscle efforts. On short trips this doesn’t matter.

Yes, tandems are less popular on the aftermarket, but plywood or plank home-made kayaks are already quite a narrow market, and with same abuse they last shorter than other materials, so he’s not in a good resale return anyway.

Why a tandem? I know I can build one lighter than my 17’ aluminum canoe.

I just want to be able to carry it while my wife grabs the paddles, jackets and water bottles.

I am planning on 13’ in length and about 30" wide. I know this isn’t racing stuff but for tak’in it easy it should be fine.

13 foot tandem kayak?

– Last Updated: Jul-03-11 4:34 AM EST –

That, I'd like to see. Please take videos of the paddlers in action and post them when you're done.

I don’t expect problems.

We paddle a 13’ canoe now and it glides as easily as my old 17’ aluminum.

What I’m not sure about is the cockpit design, size, length, etc. and about that hatch in the center to carry it.

the difference might be the paddles
It’s easy for two people to sit very close together in a canoe, and not knock paddles because they’re on opposite sides. You may have difficulty using 2 double-bladed paddles in such a short kayak though. Try it out by sitting on a bench with kayak paddles, and see how far apart you want to be, before you spend 400 hours building a beautiful cedar strip that is unpleasant to paddle.