How To Use A Kayak Cart (Tips Before You Head Out)

Lugging your kayak to and from the water can be a real pain in the butt. Kayaks are heavy and awkward to move. Fortunately, a kayak cart can help. In this article, we will explain how to use a kayak cart. 

Most people know what a kayak is, but not everyone knows what a kayak cart is or how to use one.  Kayakers don’t always have another person available to help, so many folks will use a kayak cart to do the heavy lifting.

This essential piece of equipment can help you save time and energy to make paddling a lot more enjoyable.

What is a Kayak Cart?

A kayak cart, sometimes called a kayak trolley, is a tool to help move a kayak over different types of terrain as smooth as possible. Design-wise, they are pretty simple, with a frame, two wheels secured to an axle, and a mechanism (like straps) to secure the kayak during transport.

The primary purpose of a kayak cart is to easily get the kayak to and from the water. Secondarily, you can load your kayak with extra gear that would otherwise require a second trip.

It’s important to note that kayaks are designed for one or two paddlers.  They are boats intended for natural waterways and for lake or ocean excursions. Some of the best kayaking spots are not always located right next to roads (or society, for that matter).

It is not always as simple as parking your car and just sliding the kayak into the water.

Sometimes the best excursions mean carrying the kayak a considerable distance before dropping it in the water. Therefore there’s a demand for the kayak cart, with critical features like wheels designed to roll over rough terrain, sand, or grass.

Benefits of Using a Kayak Cart

The benefits of using a kayak cart are plentiful, from conserving energy and protecting your back, allowing kayakers to go totally alone on treks, bringing along bigger and heavier kayaks, and avoiding damaging the vessel during transport.

Take a Load Off

Two things jump out when you think about moving a kayak by hand without assistance: potential strain and injuries. Kayaks are awkward in their length and girth, with smooth surfaces making them difficult to grip at times. While they are boats and are designed to be as light as possible, they still carry quite a load.

Most kayaks weigh between 20 lbs. to over 100 lbs. On average, they weigh 35 lbs. for a single kayak and 65 lbs for a tandem. Fishing kayaks (explained below) can exceed 120 lbs. Along with the tricky shape, their weight makes moving kayaks by hand a potential for strains and injuries.

Paddling Alone

Kayaking is a popular hobby, and enthusiasts love to do it in pairs (two people in their own kayak) or tandem (two people on one kayak). However, sometimes you want to go it alone or go for a quick paddle after work.

It can be hard to move a kayak alone, and a kayak cart is super handy.  A single person can unstrap the kayak from a car or truck, slide it onto the kayak cart, and away you go.

Heavy Kayaks

Like all boats, kayaks come in a range of sizes, including fishing kayaks (mentioned above), which are considerably larger than regular recreation kayaks. Fishing kayaks are longer bow to stern, are typically wider, and anglers require a lot of equipment.

Some models even have live wells built-in, and others might include molded areas to hold a cooler or milk crates. Fishing kayaks can be a real challenge to load on top of a car, let alone carry to the water.

Sometimes larger people will buy a fishing kayak simply because there is more room.  No matter how you look at it, fishing kayaks are pretty darn heavy. 

Extend a Kayak’s Life

Dragging your kayak across gravel, pavement, or rough terrain is a terrible idea. Kayaks are too expensive to risk damage that could either reduce their value or make them non-seaworthy.

Using a kayak cart is not only easier on the body. It’s easier on the boat and could extend how long it can be used.

Different Types of Kayak Carts

Not all kayak carts are the same.  The differences usually come down to how the kayak is attached.

There are two types:

Carts with Straps (Strap Style Cart)

  • The most typical type of kayak cart, featuring a frame (usually padded) to rest the kayak’s bottom on.
  • As its name suggests, these feature straps to wrap around the hull of the boat to secure it safely to the wheeled cart.
  • They are versatile and will fit a wide range of kayak sizes.

Scupper Holes (Plug Style Cart)

  • These kayak carts use the kayaks scupper holes. Scupper holes are commonly found on sit-on-top kayaks to allow water to drain from the boat. During water use, scupper holes can be filled with scupper plugs to prevent water from entering the kayak.
  • These carts come with posts that extend from the frame to hold the kayak in place.
  • They usually cannot be used for sit-inside kayaks.

Types of Wheels

Another variable between different types of kayak carts are the wheels underneath — to roll the vessels along.

These include:

  • Flat-Free – No chance of puncture or a flat with these types of wheels, which are not filled with air but substances like a form of plastic or a solid molded material. Flat-free tires tend to be heavier than typical inner-tube-filled tires.
  • Inner Tube – The classic type of tire most of us are familiar with as kids dealing with bicycle tires. These can be prone to flats if punctured (think thorns along paths to waterways) but can be useful on sand depending on their width and tread.
  • Hard Plastic – These wheels with a rubber tread work well on gravel, grass, pavement, and uneven terrain; but offer little cushion over bumps and rocks. For carts with these wheels, make sure the kayak is secured well, and keep your hands on it for stability.

How to Use a Kayak Cart

Once you know their details and characteristics, learning how to use a kayak cart is relatively simple:

Carts with Straps

  1. Set the cart aside the kayak on the ground. This eases lifting and loading the boat.
  2. Begin at the stern (rear), lift it to slide the kayak on top of the cart, so it rests comfortably on the (usually padded) platform.
  3. Then, move to the bow, lift, and set it up in a straight line across the cart. Check to make sure it is centered and that one side is not too close to the cart’s edge.
  4. Check the balance.  Aim for even weight distribution, so the cart acts as a fulcrum on a see-saw. Usually, it does not mean the dead center lengthwise for kayaks, but more toward the rear of the seat or cockpit (because the front end of a kayak is longer than the length behind the seat). If done correctly, neither end should tip to touch the ground.
  5. Strap it down. Secure the strap to one leg of the cart.  Then wrap it up and over the top of the kayak, securing it to the leg on the opposite side. Look for the buckle and make sure it’s on top so you can tighten and secure as desired.​

Carts with Scupper Holes

  1. Set the plug-style cart aside the kayak on the ground. 
  2. Tip the kayak onto its side, away from the cart. This allows access to the hull’s bottom, where you should remove the scupper plugs from the scupper holes. This makes it ready for loading onto the cart.
  3. Lift the cart to align its plug poles with the scupper holes at the bottom of the kayak. They should be near the kayak’s rear, behind the seat.
  4. Return the kayak to the upright position, being careful to hold the cart while doing so the cart poles don’t slip out.
  5. Check the kayak balance while it’s atop the cart (just as with the strap-style cart). If balanced correctly, neither end should tip to touch the ground, and it should be easy to pull by the bow. There is no need for straps or other devices to securely hold the boat; the plum poles should do the job.


How to use a kayak cart - Examples of two different kayak trolleysPin

It’s relatively easy to learn how to use a kayak cart, with a few tips and practice runs at home before heading out. For most serious kayakers, a kayak cart is essential, along with the paddle, life jacket, and gloves.

Kayak carts come in various styles to choose from to help transport your kayak and help prevent injuries to you and damage your water-worthy property.

If you are looking for a kayak cart, click here or here for recommendations.

If you have any questions, be sure to drop us a line.

Now get out there and paddle!

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Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.

2 thoughts on “How To Use A Kayak Cart (Tips Before You Head Out)”

  1. Thank you for this article, it is super helpful to someone like me who is new to the sport. My question is…what do you do with the cart once you get to the water? Are you supposed to put it in the kayak with you? Leave it shoreside? Walk it all the way back to the car?

    • Hi Ashley, thanks for your comment. That is a great question, and it’s something I have struggled with and so do many other people. If you can fit the cart in (or on) your kayak, you can take it with you. I own the C-Tug kayak cart and the Rad Sportz cart. Both of these break down so they can be stored on a kayak if you have room.

      On a smaller, recreational kayak (especially a sit-inside), you may not have space. In that case, you might need to walk the cart back to your vehicle. If you are paddling with a partner, one person can stay with the kayaks while the other person walks the carts back. That is of course if your car isn’t super far away. But, this also means you have to retrieve the cart from your car when you are finished paddling.

      Some people keep the kayak in one piece and strap it to the back of the kayak. On my Sea Eagle 380X, there is a ton of extra space, so I take apart my C-Tug cart and put it behind the seat. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to your question since it depends on the equipment you own.

      If you have room for the kayak cart, you can take it with you, otherwise, the best option is probably to hoof it back to your car.

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