The best tips on how to use a kayak cart: Ultimate guide

Kayak being transported with a kayak cart
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest


Kayaking is a beloved outdoor hobby that people all across the world enjoy. Recreationalists and anglers alike find something special in being able to glide across the water by paddle.

Yet, when you are trying to reach that off-the-beaten-path fishing hole or secluded mountain pond, it can be taxing carrying or portaging your kayak there.

When the road ends and your launch site still lies further than expected, what’s the best way to transport your kayak?

That’s right, by using a kayak cart! Kayak carts are perfect for helping you get to that hard-to-access launch site. They are designed to make it easier for you to transport your kayak to and from where you’ll be paddling. There are different styles of kayak trolley for you to pick from depending on the kind of kayak you use.

So, let’s discuss these different kayak carts and how you’ll use them to make your trips to the water much more manageable.

The Different Types of kayak carts

Kayak cart
kayak cart with balloon wheels
kayak cart for sit on top kayaks

Depending on the size and kind of kayak that you have, you can determine what kind of kayak cart would be best for you. There are a few different styles of kayak carts for you to choose from.

Below, we will detail the features of the most popular ones to give you a better idea of which would suit your kayak best.

End-cart carry

Just as it sounds, this type of cart is designed to fit at the back of your kayak. Some may include straps for you to securely strap that end of your kayak to the cart, but if not a ratchet strap or similar should do the trick.

This style of kayak cart makes mobility easier and faster, though you still have to manage some of the weight of your kayak. Once you have it strapped into the trolley, you pick up the front end of the kayak and wheel it behind you to your launch site.

Center-cart carry

A center-cart carry kayak trolley is a popular choice. This kind of trolley is great because it supports most if not all of the weight of your kayak. This is because it is designed to carry the kayak in the center, thus balancing and supporting all the weight for you.

Your kayak is supported either by a harness strap that is attached to either side of the trolley forming a hammock-like spot for your kayak to rest on. Others have foam on the sidebars of the cart or a plastic platform so that your kayak sits atop them and prevents damage to the hull.

They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles including some that are foldable to fit right in your kayak while you’re paddling or fishing. On this cart, you will have your kayak strapped to it over the front and the back to make sure it is secure. Then you can grab the handle of your kayak and pull it along without having to support the weight of it yourself.

Plug-in or scupper hole carts

This plug-in-style kayak cart is specifically catered to sit on top kayaks. The frame of a plug-in kayak cart consists of upright rods that slide specifically into the scupper holes of a sit-on-top kayak. The scupper holes are the holes in the hull of the boat that drain off water.

Similar to the center cart, this type of cart is very simple and convenient to use. It also may not be necessary to have straps because once plugged in it should be firmly secured by just the rods. Some people may still prefer to have a strap to be extra cautious.

The following video highlights the key features to focus on when choosing the best kayak cart:

How to choose the right kayak trolley for the terrain

Different types of terrain

Depending on the terrain you will primarily be going over to reach the site you intend to launch at, certain tires will be better than others. Whether it’s sand, gravel, or through the woods the type of tire you choose will help you tremendously.

The kayak cart is meant to make transporting your kayak easier, so having the right tire setup is vital for that. We will cover the different kinds you can acquire for your cart and what terrain they are best used for.

Balloon tires

Balloon tires have low air pressure to keep them a little softer and bouncier. They are excellent for sandy beaches and shorelines. On the flip side though, they move rather poorly on rock and other terrains. They are also more susceptible to going flat. Kayak carts with these particular wheels tend towards being on the more expensive side.

Foam Tires

This kind of tire handles well over various terrains making it an all-around ideal tire for your kayak cart. They will never go flat on you with their reinforced rubber and/ or foam filled inside. However, the kayak carts that do sport these universally well-used tires, are on the expensive side. In the long run, they can be one of the best options for you.

Plastic Tires

Lightweight and convenient, these are another popular option. Kayak trolleys with plastic tires are great over several different terrains. They also do not become flat over time. They are a much cheaper option, and kayak fishermen find them to be a favorite. Do be mindful that they do not perform well on sandy ground or beaches.

Pneumatic Tires

This kind of tire is similar, in a sense, to your car tires. They have an air-filled inner core and are just as versatile as the foam version. Plenty of fishermen may also find they prefer kayak carts with these tires as much as they do the plastic tire carts. Though, like your car, they can become flat and are susceptible to being punctured by sharp things. However, they are a great option due to their superior capability on all kinds of terrain.

How to use and load your kayak cart

It is also important to point out that these kayak trolleys aren’t just for your kayak specifically. They also work very well with transporting a canoe.

Now that you’ve got your gear ready and kayak off of your vehicle, let’s detail how you would be loading your vessel onto the trolley:

  • Depending on your style cart, it can be a small challenge to load your kayak on it by yourself since they usually only feature two wheels. It is always a good idea to go kayaking with a friend!
  • Also, you can typically adjust the width of the posts or frame to fit your size kayak onto the trolley. Whether it is a wide fishing kayak designed for stability or a sea kayak, you should be able to adjust them to your needs.
  • End-cart styles are easy to do alone. You place the stern of your boat on top of the cart and then strap it down. Once secure, you lift the bow and begin on your way to the water’s edge.
  • Center-style carts are the ones where it can be trickier doing it on your own. Because of the two wheels, it makes loading it harder if you don’t have someone else there to hold the trolley while you lift the boat on it. You can do it yourself but trying to balance the kayak on there could prove difficult. When strapped on, you grab the handle of your kayak and roll on your way.
  • The scupper hole plug-in style cart is the simplest and easiest of the bunch. All you have to do is lift the kayak and place it on the posts so that they fit into the scupper holes and hold the kayak secure. Again these are only for sit-on-top kayaks.
  • Some it may be easier to hook up your kayak on its side especially if you are going to fit two kayaks on one trolley (if it’s big enough).

It is very easy to learn how to use a kayak trolley and it will make your life so much easier when transporting to and back from your access site. Especially in those areas where you have to walk down a trail or across a beach to get to. Always be certain to have spare straps with you just in case!

Conclusion: the convenience of a kayak cart

colorful river kayak on a folding cart in a driveway

There are so many different kinds of kayak carts for you to choose from once you decide to look for one. They range in the different materials they are made from whether it is plastic or aluminum. They are small and easy to store until you are ready to use them.

As always you should choose what you think would suit your needs and your kayak or canoe best.

It can be taxing on your body and your arms by having to carry your kayak to the water’s edge that you plan to launch from. Sometimes that launch site is across a large parking lot, down the beach, road, or a trail. So by having a kayak cart it eliminates all that strain. You just load your kayak on top of the cart, secure it and then tug it along with you with little effort.

Maybe purchasing a kayak cart is something you aren’t inclined to do, then you can build your own! Plenty of people have and they can work just as well.

In the end, it’s all about how quickly and easily you can get to the water to start paddling!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to put your kayak cart?


After you launch your kayak you may wonder what to do with or where to put your trolley. Most styles of kayak carts are collapsable or foldable. This makes them suitable for fitting inside the kayak with you or easily secured onto the kayak by strap or bungee cord.

Some people may even leave their kayak carts at the launch. Either put it aside somewhere or use something like a bike lock to secure it to a tree or post so it isn’t stolen while you are out paddling.

How to use a kayak cart/ how to put it on a dolly?


They are used for mobility and transport to your launch site and back. The kind of kayak cart you choose will determine how it works. Some you can put on the end of the kayak so you can pick up just the front with less effort and wheel it behind you.

Others carry essentially the whole kayak so you do not have to support any weight and you can wheel it along to your access point. Some carts use straps and others use scupper holes to secure your kayak to the cart.

How to strap your kayak to the trolley?


Ratchet straps are often your best option. They are secure, cheap, and versatile, and very easy to use. All you have to do is put the strap across the back and/or the front of your kayak (depending it is end-carry or center-carry) and hook the ends of the strap to the frame of the trolley.

Then, you use the lever on the ratchet to tighten it down until it feels secure. To loosen the strap, it is usually a button or tab on the metal ratchet itself that you press to release the tightening function. That way, you are able to easily pull the strap and loosen it.

Julie
Julie
I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.

Share this post with your friends

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit