Towing kayak (portaging, sort of)

Does anyone have an idea for some kind of harness or other device to make towing a kayak easier?

I like to kayak camp in the off season when gates are closed on access roads. This can involve towing a loaded kayak up a steep hill 1/4 mile or more on the return trip.

I tried attaching two straps to a backpack hipbelt and clipping them to the kayak. Mixed results.

I have a C-Tug with inflatable tires mounted in the center of the kayak.

Rescue Vest w/ cowtail
Some PFDs have quick-release belts, to which you can attach a short tow line (usually about 6 feet). Works great for dragging a boat long distances. The strap is around your PFD, providing padding, so it doesn’t cut into you.

Great idea!
Why didn’t I think of that!

Any advice about how to attach the tow line so that the kayak is balanced? My kayak is 15.5’ and has a steel security loop about 1 foot from the bow.

Also, should the bow be at your side or centered?

I found with my hipbelt experiment that the bow was too low to the ground and interfering with walking.

If I could have my hands free I would be able to use hiking poles to assist on a steep climb. I don’t know if this is feasible.

Might want to attach your double blade paddle (or just half of it) to the kayak with it extending 2 or 3 feet forward of the bow, then just hold on to that in one hand next to you as you walk… Might not be the best for pulling the kayak up a hill, but a balanced boat would be easy to move along this way on a flat road. The idea of a harness just doesn’t sound like it would work very well, especially when going downhill.

Webbing Strap?

– Last Updated: May-18-14 9:37 AM EST –

I once towed a kayak on a portage cart across the Torea Saddle, between New Zealand's Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. The Torea Saddle is only about a kilometer wide and it is 104 meters high. The road had switchbacks, so the length was more than a K and the grade less than the 20% it would take to go straight over, but it was still steep. The kayak was loaded for camping, so I was pulling over a hundred pounds.

My towing rig was improvised--just a length of rope between me and the kayak. I took a couple wraps of rope around my waist and tied the other end to the bow toggle of the kayak. I tried using my pfd as a pad to reduce the pressure of the rope on my mid section. That was awkward but helped. Sort of dorky looking, but there was nobody to see it.

Going downhill, I just reversed the set up, walking the kayak in front of me instead of behind, and shortened the rope distance so I could reach out and hold the kayak up when needed.

If I had do it again I would try to find a wide piece of webbing strap to put around my waist, and then tie the rope onto the webbing strap. That's almost like a tow belt somebody suggested above, right? That should work for your needs.

Good luck with it. Post back if you come up with a better solution.


pulling kayak on portage
How about a deer pull harness…they’re under $30 on Amazon…some are $8