portage cart for Adks?

In the preliminary stage of planning a trip to the Adirondacks next summer – never been there! Lots of research to do yet, but one thing I’d like to get some advice on is what kind of collapsible portage cart (either commercially made or DIY) would be suitable, as it seems like that would be useful up there. We’ll be in kayaks so I’d like it to be compact, but still be able to handle the terrain. Thanks for any reco’s.

Where are you going?
I recommend a copy of Dave Cilleys book. Adirondack Paddlers Guide.

It describes the portages that correspond to Adirondack Paddlers Map.

Most people do NOT use carts on portages and do use canoes. Sometimes many of the portages are cartable (but often have really steep and rocky and rooty ascents and descents to and from the lake, and usually at least once on a trip there is a muckhole that your cart will just bog down in.

You may want to stick with larger lakes such as Long Lake to Lower Saranac. The portages on there are more cartable though some of the 1.25 mile long Racquette Falls Carry is not cartable.

A center mount cart is less fatiguing though the ends of your boat will not be supported and will be loaded, which will stress the hull. I have one from Cabelas and it has nice root clearance but its not friendly to load on a kayak deck.

Can we tempt you to pack canoe? Just like a kayak, with no decks makes it a breeze to portage with a pack.

rte is critical to best answer
You can take Kayamedic’s advice above to the bank !

Your exact rte will determine the suitability of carts. Of course, w/ kayaks you may be encouraged to cart even the roughtest trails rather than dbl (or even triple) trip 'em

There are many Adk destinations/rtes you could chose that would keep portages (“carries” in Adks) to a minimum. As an example you could explore all of Low’s & Bog Lakes w/ only one 30yd carry around upper dam. Enjoy !

Off Lila for example

– Last Updated: Oct-05-10 7:03 PM EST –

There is a route up to Lows that is wild to the max.

Part of it is entirely cartable. Part of it will kill you with a yak and a cart unless you have lots of help.

Up Harrington Brook its tall grass hiding rocks underfoot that may leave you swearing..

The cart certainly could be used on the next 1.25 miles carry on the old railroad bed and the portage after that.

That's the problem. Mostly the cart would work but there usually is one part where it won't.

Tell us more about where you want to explore.

You can also post on http://www.adkforum.com and get feedback from dozens of ADK paddlers who may or may not be here. There is a paddling section on that site.

Cilley’s book
actually arrived yesterday, along with the paddler’s map. Route undetermined as of yet, but we’ll avoid any arduous carries (interesting that Cilley’s guide uses the term portages?). Would probably like to visit a couple different areas and break it up with a day hike.

I have a small cart and might experiment with putting bigger wheels on it; just wondering what types of carts/wheels have proven useful up there.

Bike wheels
We have portaged a 23’ Minnesota IV over 30 miles now using a bike wheeled cart. Its a Canadian version of the Swedish boat cart. The key is to use a centermounted cart that has large diameter wheels and NO axle. You need as much clearance under the cart as possible to be able to straddle rocks, stumps, high trail centers.

Center mounted carts support the weight and allow you to pivot around corners. With an end mounted cart, you are supporting half the boat weight. And you need to go really wide on corners so your wheels don’t run off the trail on the inside.

The cart i use came from Oak Orchard Canoe in Waterport NY. I have used it on tandems from 17’ to 18’6",and a 20’ GrummanWar Canoe in addition to the MN-IV. All were wheeled across carries loaded. No problems outside of loose straps causing the cart to run doggy. A revised 4 strap system solved the tracking.

We have seen the small wheeled, end mount carts, connected only with a bungee cord come off boats and drop them onto rough rocks. We have seen kayakers have to stop and reattach their carts multiple times on short rocky carries.

The lightweight aluminum framed carts where the wheel is attached to a single aluminum frame tube with the axle bolt only supported on one side, do not hold up under the heavy stresses of running over rocks and big tree roots. The aluminum tubes tend to twist putting the wheels out of alignment, or break at the bolt hole.

A cart makes the carries a one trip event; and that saves a lot of walking on the long carries, over 3 miles on the Brown’s Tract carry compared to a two trip event.

Whatever cart you buy, practice at home with a load in the canoe over the worst terrain you can find. Going down the hill on the Bartlett Carry is not the time to find out your straps slip and the person in the front can’t hold back the loaded canoe.


they are in kayaks
Center mounted units have the potential to crack the hull with a significant load in each end. A friend of mine did that with an glass Anas Acuta going over rocks at low tide in Maine.

I had an end loader and for the reasons you listed…hated it. Center mount is the way to go but even better would be one that had cradles for some length to support the hull.

choices, choices
If you provide an idea of idea of how many days you’ll be out & amount of water you’d like to cover each day, some rtes w/ minimal carries could be recommended. Daytripping from a base camp w/o the extra wt of overnight gear is also possible in areas like the St Regis canoe area

From a base camp on Low’s you can easily visit Lila, climb Mt Frederica, & return in same day, leaving gear behind

A tour of Saranac lakes using locks to eliminate even the short carries between & including a climb of Ampersand Mt for it’s “best bang for the buck view in Adks” is another of many possibilities

Check out the interactive map here


Enjoy !

Probably around a week; any suggestions are greatly appreciated as we want to research all the options carefully, being our first visit we don’t want to decide too hastily! We’ll be in RM boats so cracking them isn’t really a concern; we’ve portaged them before via brute force with 50-60 lbs of gear/food/water inside.

I’d actually prefer not to take a cart at all, but I’ve read trip reports where people wished they had had one up there; I just wouldn’t want the lack of one to become an obstacle. I do like the idea of doing day trips with a much-lightened load.

Has anyone seen the new Seattle ATE cart? Looks like a cart similar to that could be placed pretty far up the kayak’s stern, supporting much of the weight.

Shuttle OK?

– Last Updated: Oct-07-10 10:26 PM EST –

A week in a kayak to me speaks distance but s ahuttle will be necessary.

How does the mainline route from Old Forge to Saranac Lake sound? Its done in three days on the 90 miler race but will requre a shuttle or at least an idle thumb and lots of time.

It IS possible to hitchhike in the Adirondacks. Just carry a paddle to the roadside.

shuttle’s possible
either on our own or thru an outfitter, but I’m thinking I’d like to visit more than one area instead of a continuous week-long paddle. Maybe two 3-day trips and a mountain hike in between.

Circle Route
Glen L above does a one day circle route that most mortals can complete in a week. Its an example of a route that can be broken into day trips coming back to a base camp each night. But his route requires some long carries that are exactly what you need to avoid with rotomolded kayaks.

A few days in the Low’s Lake area, followed by several days in the St. Regis Canoe Area would be idea for your first trip. Lows requires only one 100yd carry, and the St.Regis can be done as day trips from a base camp.

Glen L is most accurate on where and how long it will take to do any trip in the Adirondacks. He’s helped me to find places that are on the maps, but have carries that are hard to find or follow.


more thoughts/choices
I can’t help you w/ cart info as I don’t use 'em. There are numerous trails in Adks that are cart friendly & many others that aren’t. Also have no experience carrying a kayak as I’m strickly a canoe paddler

As I’ve stated, I think you can avoid the entire cart (& shuttle) issue(s) by chosing a destination or 2 that are loops or day trips from a base camp.

Have mentioned St Regis canoe area which is easily combined w/ the ponds to S of RR & thus not within SRCA, the Saranac lakes, St Regis lakes & even Osgood & Jones ponds & beyond. Together these could occupy numerous days & include that hike (Ampersand, St Regis, Long Pond, Floodwood mtns) From Upper SL w/ one carry you could even include Stoney Creek ponds & some of the Raquette River.

I’d put Low’s/ Bog lakes near top of list

Stillwater Res is another choice to consider. W/ one carry to Salmon L you can also inc some wilderness ponds to its N

Another destination to consider is Oswegatchie River. Easily paddled flatwater 13m upstream from Inlet to High Falls where 50 yd carry yields 5 or more miles of flatwater wilderness, doubled by return trip.

If you do chose that “mainline rte” which has many carries & requires a long shuttle, for numerous reasons I’d skip the Fulton chain & instead launch in Blue Mt L & paddle into Raquette L

Oh yeah, the Adks has some bugs in Summer

Thanks very much
for all the suggestions… I have some homework to do!

We’ll be going around the 1st week of August, hopefully the bugs won’t be too bad :slight_smile: we went up to Maine 2 yrs ago the same week and it worked out pretty well.

Combine Kayak Paddling and Hiking

– Last Updated: Oct-15-10 7:23 AM EST –

Cranberry Lake offers many opportunities to combine paddling and day hiking:


There is also a 50 mile hiking route around Cranberry Lake:


P.S. No portages required.