Offroad kayak cart?

Hi all,

I am looking for ideas on the feasibility of constructing a cart for my Manitou 14 to transport it down and then back up a steep rocky road that would be low range 4WD in a full sized vehicle. The road(which is now closed to vehicles) is about a mile in length with rocky ledges to negotiate. I am not certain that the PVC carts or those with lawnmower type wheels would be up to this job. The cart does not have to be stowable. I would just cable it to a tree until it was needed again. Any input appreciated–especially on size of wheels and types of tires to consider.

Bicycle Wheels!

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 12:07 PM EST –

I've yet to see a commercially made boat cart that is remotely suitable for the use you describe, because even 20-inch wheels probably won't be quite big enough to work well. I have quite a bit of experience with a couple of home-made carts equipped with really old bicycle wheels and old-fashioned balloon tires. Of course, modern mountain bike wheels would be much lighter and still strong enough for the load you are talking about. The one cart I've used has seen miles of use deep in the woods hauling out deer, and it has gone through boulder fields and over big logs quite handily with a heavy load, so I'm a believer in bicycle wheels for serious off-roading with a cart. The fact that a 4x4 vehicle can go on the trail you are talking about means that it will be a piece of cake to negotiate it with a boat cart having the right wheels.

Since I tend to build stuff, here's what comes to mind (though I'd probably make some changes as soon as I started laying out parts). I'd probably make a framework about four feet long and three feet wide, with a U-shaped frame mounted to each side to function as the "forks" for mounting the bike wheels. These forks would need some bit of three-dimensional rigidity built into them and their mounting system. I'd probably mount those forks horizontally for making the cart compact when the wheels are removed. Bear in mind that you need a good fit between the cart frame and the boat, because the boat itself is the "handle" for pulling the whole contraption, and the junction between boat and cart needs to be solid for hard yanks over the rough stuff. The simplest way to achieve this would be to have two crossbars on which you can mount a pair of kayak saddles, but making your own snug-fitting hull connection is always an option.

…biggest problem with carts over rough terrain is the axles hanging up on objects, especially the axles of home made units. You can look @ the Swedish-style canoe carts, they are generally considered the best all-terrain carts. I’m thinking no matter what you use in your situation, there will be times you will have to remove the cart and slide the boat along the ground to get over obstacles. 2nd prob I see is getting the straps to stay tight, so the cart doesn’t un-attach itself as it bumps along. I have the common traditional sytle of carts and have used them to haul a boat to remote ponds and the carts have a mind of their own over rough terrain. Maybe the C-Tug would be a good option.

Here you go
LL Bean has the Heavy-Duty Boat Cart:

I saw one in person (a prize at a raffle) and it was big, sturdy and rolled nicely and should work perfectly for your intended use. I see Oak Orchard has the same cart for $40 more.

Don’t knock “home-made units”

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 1:55 PM EST –

Actually, I don't think that Swedish cart is all that outstanding. It's so-so, but a long way from being "good" for the purpose described by the original poster. It actually illustrates what I said above about commercially made carts not being suitable for off-road use. Those little 16-inch wheels aren't big enough to roll smoothly over rough ground or sharp ledges (or logs or boulders for those who really mean "all terrain"), and the ground clearance is tolerable but not great. For a cart that does NOT need to be carried with you in the boat, something home-made WILL be better in this case.

By the way, the biggest problem I see with that Swedish cart for off-road use is that the top surface of the boat is very close to the ground, less than two feet in the case of a kayak, which would make it a real chore to handle (who's arms are long enough to reach that low while walking?) AND incapable of negotiating the base of any steep incline or ledge. That's probably why they say it is for use on "trails" but they'd have been more honest to say "smooth trails". If I were to use that cart at the place the O.P. describes, I'd immediately modify it so the boat would attach near one end, rather than near the middle as originally intended (that would require some serious changes to the design, so the end of the kayak wouldn't tend to slip around when pulling hard). Then I'd tow the boat by the other end, solving both the original handling-height problem and making it able to negotiate the "whoops" encountered along the way.

Step into my office

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 12:43 PM EST –

check out my home made portage buggy, made from an old baby jogger that I stripped all the crap off and then cut the front wheel off.
I added two cam lock buckle straps which I cut in half and have each end screwed to the tubes on the sides for securing the boat.
It also folds in half.
This will be the fifth year in a row that we will use it at the Adirondack 90 miler for the portages, and the one at Raquette Falls is about a mile long goat path that no four wheel drive could negotiate.
I built another one and gave it away.
One I got free, and the other paid $12 at a thrift shop.
For some reason, I can not get web shots to cooperate, so I'll try and post pictures later.

Make sure you get at least 16" wheels and center mount ones. The people who have the smaller wheels go through all kinds of anguish trying to get over rocks and logs

Jack L

Here you go

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 1:58 PM EST –


If you mark the balance point on the bottom of your boat, it can go on the flat by just one finger balancing/pushing, and down hill you just have to hold it back

Jack L

Foam pad, shoulder the kayak

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 2:59 PM EST –

Make a closed cell foam pad and carry on shoulder.
The boat is only about 50 lbs.
In other hand, use large mesh bag with gear.

Hey all,

I really appreciate your thoughts and experience!! You have given me some great ideas. Guideboatguy and Jackl, the mountain bike wheels idea and the jogger conversion were terrific! Fatelmo, I forgot all thoughts of kayaking as I viewed your “staff”.(LOL) And willi_H2O, just for grins, I hefted the boat onto my shoulder. There would have to be more than shoulder padding involved. The lower edge of the coaming dug into my side and I really could not develop a stride loaded to one side like that. For much more even terrain and shorter distance I might be able to pull it off. There is 700’ of elevation change in the mile of road. I’m not sure that I could have even done it 30 years ago, when two of us used to hump our canoe down and up the road. I will post again if I can create something and it works!

The Swedish cart,

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 6:37 PM EST –

the LL Bean cart, JackL's cart - all the same. Except Jack's has less actual ground clearance between the wheels and carries the boat higher. I have the "Swedish" cart. Don't know why anyone would call it that, except to justify an outrageously high price. LL Bean's price is a little high too, but more common. Check ebay for the same product.

I have to somewhat disagree with Guideboatguy's assessment of this cart. It carries my Prospector at just the right height to guide it by the gun'l near one end. A kayak or a canoe with less rocker and/or lower profile might be less handy, but it would be a simple thing to rig some sort of grip extension device on the boat. Taller wheels would be better if you're going to leave it at the trail. If I were making one with that use in mind, I would go with at least 20" wheels. But I have found mine to work pretty well over rough ground and roots - so long as it doesn't get too much like stair-steps. The one shown is just the right size to fold up and set in the bottom of a 16' NC Prospector without getting in the way.

My only complaints are that I would like to see it with an aluminum frame and it only came with one strap - it works much better with two. And if I were going to use it on a very steep trail, I would rig it with four separate straps going to anchor points (thwart ends, maybe?) on the canoe, a bit ahead and behind the cart.

Carry Height, Disagreement?

– Last Updated: Jun-26-10 10:06 PM EST –

Your description of "grab-handle" height seems in perfect agreement with what I said since a Prospector has about three times the overall height as an average kayak. Regarding the other thing about grab height, I might find it easier to put together an entire cart that's actually made to perform the job at hand than to fabricate an adapter handle that would somehow fasten securely to one end of a kayak (pulling the boat from near center wouldn't work on rough ground, as it would keep nose-diving on every little bump, and that's in addition to the problem already stated with centering the boat on the cart). I've used a utility cart from Northern Tool that has 20-inch wheels, and it's okay but it's nowhere nearly as good as the carts I spoke of that have bike wheels except in cases where the ground is pretty smooth (like yard work). That's why I just don't like the idea of using little 16-inch wheels like on on the Swedish cart. On such a steep and rough trail as described by the O.P., I'd want a cart that makes the job easy, not just do-able.

Hey, if you lived close enough, …
… I might be willing to spend an afternoon to build you one with bike tires for about $50 (which should cover the cost of parts). First, I’d just need to visit one of those old men who live in the country who have a yard full of salvaged bicycles for sale!

My “Swedish” Cart carried 2 kayaks…
My cart carried 2 kayaks over some pretty rough terrain, and did fairly well. The only times we had major problems were over some deep muddy areas, and a couple of boulders that no cart could have gone over.

I would not recommend shlepping two kayaks on one of these very often, it was putting alot of stress on the cart!

It’s bulky for trips, and I only carry it when I have long portages. I got lucky and bought it at an estate sale for cheap.

Link to pictures:

Well, there’s the answer…
…to the handle height problem then. Always bring a second kayak. :wink:

off road cart
Did you ever get something you liked and it worked?