Strength of kayak carry handles and deck fittings?

I would never carry a loaded boat by the toggles or handles.

If portaging by cart is not viable, maybe you could devise a set of webbing slings to support the weight better.


That’s my other idea if the handles are not an option.

The carry handles have a habit of breaking, which is probably the main reason we switch to holding the hull itself instead of using the handles. A broken handle would cause the boat to drop and possibly get damaged. Keep in mind, we do this with unloaded boats, so risks increase with a boat that is loaded. If the Tsunami is dropped, it likely would be fine (so long as it doesn’t land on something pointy). The Delta’s material is a bit more stiff, which could be an issue (potential for cracking) if dropped.

For new boats, the risk is that the manufacturer didn’t use large enough backing plates and the bolts will pull out. Likely not an issue with your boats from name brand brands (though will depend on how much you load them down).

Older boats, the straps themselves add to the risk. They seem to age due to sun some and weaken. Or, of course, that the straps are overloaded, which checking with manufacturer on specs (f they have) would be good.

All this said, I wouldn’t carry a loaded boat by the carry handles.

If you are going to do, would make sense to pull the heaviest stuff (like water bags) out and put into a backpack.


I have a 21 year old Kevlar boat and it’s developed some small stress cracks in the gel coat around the handles. Nothing I am worried about. That being said I think it preferable to carry a boat by the hull, even though the handles are obviously designed for carrying the boat. Less strain on the hull since the handles are at the very ends of the boat. I tend to do both simply because the handles are a bit easier and I get lazy. Some people never use the handles. It’s less of an issue with plastic boats if through bolted.

However I have been told never to carry a fully loaded boat. It’s too much stress on the hull. After all, you probably would not sit in your boat if it were supported only by the ends. I spend a couple weeks in the Adirondacks every year and from what I’ve seen most people with loaded boats carry frameless packs or mesh bags in their boats. When they get to a carry they unload all of the heavier items in the boats and carry the gear separately, either with the boats or go back for them. Carrying the boat by the handles on rough stretches of trail is generally safer than trying to carry it by the hull. Lower center of gravity and less chance of stumbling and falling or dropping the boat.

Wheels are usable on many of the carries in the Adirondacks, but not all. If there are just a few rough patches you can generally leave the wheels strapped to the boat and with two people just carry it over these places. However, wheels are often heavy and bulky taking up a lot of space.

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Thanks. That’s kind of what I’m thinking. We’ve almost always double-portaged: once with bags/backpacks full of gear, second trip to get the boats – unless we can use carts, in which case we do it in one trip. Really depends on the terrain, and as you mentioned, where we get stuck we can lift and carry over the rough patches. Our carts are lightweight and can easily stay strapped to the boat while its lifted.

FWIW I contacted Wilderness Systems today, and was told that as long as I am not exceeding the max weight capacity of the boat, the handles should be strong enough to carry the load. My kayak’s max capacity is 350 lbs, which that means 175 lbs per handle, which seems like a lot and way more than I’d ever carry!

Portaging with a loaded kayak has nothing to do with the strength of the toggle and how it is attached and everything to do with the integrity of the hull. You should never carry a loaded kayak by toggles on the tips the hull was not designed for that. You can do a 4 person carry by passing a loop of webbing under the hull of the kayak on front and back centered under the load so on a 16 foot kayak you would be about 4 or 5 feet back from the tips of the boat. Each person just holds on to the loop on their side and carries, if you put your hand through the loop and let the loop part rest on your wrist when you grip the throat of the loop with your hand it helps.


Hi. I added 5 handles and a bunch of pad eyes to my kayak (see photo). It makes it extremely more useable for carrying, lifting, rescue, entering from water, and attaching everything for 10-14-day solo kayak camping trips. They were put to the test (two of the handles, boat fully loaded with gear and full of water…long story) held by ski tow ropes and pulled by a jet boat…
I would not trust the factory handles. Be sure to use appropriate screws, and mine are also covered with ‘right stuff’ (a construction adhesive). Happy trails.


It’s a matter of choice. Using backpacks or mesh bags with shoulder straps it only takes two people to carry one loaded kayak and all of it’s gear in one trip. However there is the hassle of unloading and reloading the boat of all of the heavy gear.

If you had four people and four boats it would take two trips. Using a four person carry it would take four trips.

Odd numbers of boats can make the two person carry somewhat problematic as do numbers other than multiples of four for the four person carry.

I use these on my boats. This handle has been on this boat for five years.
Uploading: IMG_20200708_161203034.jpg…

On the newer boats I use a square washer. But the round one works.

If you are going from shore to the car OK, but otherwise I would NEVER carry a loaded kayak by the handles on portages. There are so many things that could go wrong including losing balance and hurting yourself.
If you still want to do it I would suggest that you take a couple of empty backpacks with you and load those up, put them on your backs and then carry the empty kayak. I have done this many times and it works out relatively well.
Good luck

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Pikabike has the right answer. I agree completely. I sold various brands for 10 years and this answer fits with all of them.

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Loaded boats are best moved by lining in the water, or on wheels made for the purpose.

I don’t care what any manufacturer says, I will never trust a toggle, or a handle for that matter to lift, or carry any of my boats. It’s hard enough to avoid scratches, dings and all sorts of gel coat damage, or worse. Trusting a very undersized piece of cord no matter how, or where it is attached to the boat is folly. Carrying a loaded boat that way is unthinkable in my book. Actually, carrying a loaded boat (kayak) is not in my book to begin with.

I do use the toggles for front and stern tie downs and even that after a few years will wear things out and should not be ignored.

There is one thing I don’t understand about this thread:

Assuming that the boat can handle the load, would anyone do this to themselves?

I can’t imagine that carrying a loaded boat for several miles will feel any easier than unpacking, going twice with boat+packs and repacking.

In my experience, the perceived trouble from carrying a boat is completely disproportionate to the weight. To me, it feels at least 5 times harder to carry a boat with double weight.