Kayak Carts 101 E-mail
Monday, 24 January 2011 19:46

  Wheeling a kayak via kayak

Whether you transport your kayak only a few feet to a launch or portage your kayak through the woods to get to your favorite fishing hole, a kayak cart can not only make your life easier but save a potential injury from lifting and carrying your fishing kayak, which when rigged up and can be in excess of a 100 pounds.  Lets explore the different options for wheeling your kayak to and from the water.


My first set of wheels was a homemade job made from an old Big-Wheel, those old plastic wheels actually worked pretty well - even on sand, total cost was around $10 bucks but eventually it fell apart and I decided that buying a kayak cart was a better way to go for me. The Internet has many how-to’s on building a kayak cart using everything from PVC to pool noodles and you might like to tackle a project like this and save a few bucks.


Whether you are going to build or purchase (cost from $75 to $200 for a new kayak cart), the first thing you will have to decide on what kinds environments the cart will be used for and what wheels will benefit you the most. There are many different sizes and materials used and each has different applications. 



Plastic Tires

plastic wheel for kayak carts 


  • Lightweight
  • Easy to stow
  • Price
  • Works well on paved surfaces
  • Wont go flat



  • Narrow ones wont work on the sand.


Pneumatic Tires (air filled)

air wheel for kayak carts 


  • Can be used on any surface
  • Air pressure can regulated for different terrains


  • Tires can go flat
  • Pressure seal can fail (tire will not be able to aired up)


Foam Filled

 wheel for kayak carts 


  • Can be used on any surface
  • Never goes flat


  • Cannot regulate air pressure
  • More expensive


Balloon Tires

 Balloon tire for kayak carts


·         Nothing competes with them on sand



·         Expensive

·         Can go flat

·         Tires can puncture on rocky or jagged surfaces 


Once you’ve decided on what tires you want, you’ll have to make the choice on cart style.  Some considerations are – do you want to be able to stow your cart in the kayak hatch after use? If so, then you will have to look a style that breaks down easily and fits in your front hatch, this is especially important to somebody who plans on portaging their kayak long distances and doesn’t want to have to track back to the vehicle to store the cart. An option if the cart does not fit into the front hatch is to carry it on your kayak while on the water. 

KayakJohn has a big wheel cart strapped to the front of his kayak

It is also important when buying a cart to consider the frame width and the wheel clearance.  A narrow frame can flip if on uneven ground (it has happened to me and its not fun) and a low frame can make it hard to get through softer surfaces.

Balloon kayak wheels


Kayak carts basically come in 3 different styles and each has its advantages and disadvantages. 


End kayak carts

End Carts: As the name implies, these carts are placed over the end of the kayak and work with no strapping or attaching to kayak. These are usually very easy to go on and off and can be a good choice for some kayaks. Some wider kayaks will not work with this style so make sure you pay attention to the specs before you buy one. This design usually does not break down as easy as other style carts.

center kayak carts 

Strapped Carts: These are kayak carts that function by placing the kayak on the cart and strapping the kayak to it. You do so the same way you'd strap your kayak to the vehicle roof rack. I have used many different versions of this style and it works very well with many kayak design. Getting the kayak on top of cart can sometimes be challenging and getting one that has a “kick stand” can be very helpful because it'll hold the cart upright while putting the kayak on.  Remember you are going to have to lift the kayak onto the cart.  One disadvantage to this cart type is that the straps can come loose and some carts style even requires 2 straps to hold the kayak in place during transport. Some carts have the straps built into the frame of the cart while others just have separate straps that attach to the cart while fastening.  These carts do give you the advantage of positioning the kayak anywhere on the cart.  This allows you to move the cart toward the center for better balance.  You can position it in such a way that there isn't very much weight on the front and this will make it much easier to roll the kayak.

 scupper kayak carts

Plug In Carts: These carts plug into the scupper holes of your sit-on-top kayak – usually in the tankwell or seat area scupper holes.  There was a time when this style was frowned on because it was believed that putting stress on the scupper holes of kayak was a bad idea and could damage this fragile area, I never had an issue in my use with this cart style and never heard a kayak company warn against it.  A plug-in style can also be easily installed alone by just turning the kayak on its side and inserting the frame and rolling the kayak back over. Some kayaks have very small scupper holes so you have to make sure the cart will fit in.  Some kayak manufactures make plug in carts for their respective line but remember that these are usually not adjustable and cant be used on other kayaks.


A kayak cart is must have in your kayak fishing arsenal and can enable you to launch in places that a not accessible to you without wheels. Whether you decide to build your own or purchase one it's a very good investment.




-1 #1 Guest 2011-01-27 13:06
I was in the market for a cart and this made thing about a few things I never thought about
-1 #2 Guest 2011-01-27 13:06
I need to get some balloon wheels for the sand!
0 #3 Guest 2011-01-27 13:47
I like the idea of pulling my kayak behind my bike, but have yet to find one that can accommodate a Native Watercraft. Any suggestions?
0 #4 Guest 2011-01-27 13:56
You did a really great job of covering all the options for kayak carts!

I have had such bad luck with pneumatic tires. They always seem to be flat when I need them. And it can be difficult to get hooked up to the valve on those smaller wheels, such as shown in your article.

I am a huge fan of the foam filled tires, and would consider putting them on all my kayak carts. I have two commercially available models and one home-made plug-in type - with foam filled tires that I use the most with my Malibu Two. I can load it up with over 200 pounds of camping and diving gear and, when balanced well, can easily drag it up and down paved and dirt roads.
-1 #5 saxtex 2011-01-27 20:53
Top notch post! Very informative and it surely will help the one or other to find the best option for his/her yak.
Thank You.
+3 #6 Bill m 2011-01-27 22:19
Bill M If presure seal fails on a small air tire, you can fix it by puting a strap around the middle of the tire and tightening it so it pushes out the sides and alows you to get a seal when putting air in.
0 #7 Guest 2011-01-28 13:34
Just another good informative article from KFM. Great site!
+5 #8 Super-Cecchi 2011-01-28 14:17
Who's that crazy guy pulling a yak with a bike? Oh, yes, It's gotta be me! lol.
I had the whole rig illustrated in the old forum, if you'r interested pm me.
+3 #9 Guest 2011-01-28 14:46
How to modify wheeleez ballon style cart for bike?
+1 #10 Guest 2011-01-29 05:40
I have a design for a cart to be towed behind a bike ... using pieces from ttwo dumped BMX bikes ... front forks form each side and use parts of fram to form cross members ... and between each side, use old seat belts to cradle the yak ... Just need to sort out the tow hitch but one of those gate springs acts like a good universal joint.
CAUTION though - as the yak and the bike can be a very long vehicle ... (Ocean KAyak Prowler 45 + bike for example).
Suggest a bit of negative camber on the wheels/frkes too to help with stability in those turns.

George (Wynnum, Australia)
-1 #11 Super-Cecchi 2011-02-04 14:12
George W
now you've really got my attention.
My rig was improvised but it works.
I've pulled my bike for like almost two hours one day to get to a good spot. Only going uphill, I had to stop and push. The one on the picture has been improved using alluminum rods instead of woden poles.
Please, put something about your invention on the forum for us to witness.
-1 #12 Super-Cecchi 2011-02-04 14:16
Quoting Tom Hodgson:
I like the idea of pulling my kayak behind my bike, but have yet to find one that can accommodate a Native Watercraft. Any suggestions?

You need to find some handy-man friend who can rig something for you
-4 #13 OKpondhopper 2011-02-10 12:32
Last year I bought one of those carts with balloon tires that straps on to my kayak. However I have not used it because I haven't figured out how to properly strap it to the kayak. No matter how I strap it, it gets slack in the straps and my yak slides off the cart. The instructions for the cart are useless. Anybody have any comments as to what I am doing wrong?
+1 #14 Super-Cecchi 2011-02-10 14:55
Kip, the only way a kayak can stay on a cart is by using one of those Ratchet Tie Down Belts. All other kinds come loose, no metter how hard you pull and try to knot.
At least, that's how I fix my own.
0 #15 ken l2 2011-02-13 08:55
I'm surprised there was no mention of the C-Tug. Aside from sand it's easily the best cart I ever used. There's only one strap and the buckle works. The strap doesn't slip. The straps are attached at the outer edges of the pads the kayak sits on so there's no searching for them underneath nor positioning them once you have found them. The only carts that don't have these problems are the scupper hole ones but it can be a PIA to lift the kayak and align the holes. They can be tough on the scuppers too.
I would also say that while there really is no substitute as yet for the big inflatable wheels on sand they're not the easiest to pull over hard ground. Those low inflation pressures translate to higher rolling resistance.
Everything about a boat is a compromise.
0 #16 Guest 2011-02-13 09:36
Ken, I have not used the C-Tug cart yet but from what you are Jon have said it seems to a great design.
-1 #17 Guest 2011-04-11 08:34
0 #18 OKpondhopper 2011-05-04 13:57
Could you put together a demo of how to strap the strap on cart to a kayak. I bought a strap on cart with balloon tires last summer and I have yet to figure out how to securely strap it on.Call me stupid but I'm very frustrated with it and currently think it is a piece or junk. If you create a demo please use photos or video. I am a visual learner, words don't always get the point across.
+1 #19 Guest 2011-05-04 14:00
Kip, you should be able to do it with only one strap. There might be a video clip on the roleez site which makes the balloon cart.
+1 #20 dink 2011-07-21 21:02
i have the strap cart i bolted pvc pipe to the cart and 2 pieces of pvc going up through the drain plug holes,it works great no more straps.i have a wilderness tarpon 100.
0 #21 dink 2011-07-21 21:13
take the plug cart and make it out of pvc,but use your imagination and make it a little wider so it will wrap around the out side .then put a piece across the top side to side to hold it in place.probably make this really cheap. and good for the native watercraft

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