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Which kayak cart is best?

A solo paddle over pristine water. A group outing among churning waves. A lazy float down a winding river. These are some of the places a kayak can take you. But you have to get that kayak to a put-in first. The best kayak carts make it easy to portage over the roughest terrain. Adding one to your gear list means you’ll no longer be tasked with dragging (and potentially damaging) your boat to the water.

The is designed for kayakers who routinely hike to out-of-the-way places before paddling.

What to know before you buy a kayak cart

Inflatable vs. airless tires

have either inflatable or airless tires. Inflatable tires let you customize the pressure based on the terrain (e.g., less pressure on sand), but they are susceptible to punctures and not as durable. Balloon tires and pneumatic tires are two inflatable options.

On the other hand, airless tires are not adjustable but are generally more rugged. They can handle rocky and uneven terrain without worrying about damage. Foam and plastic tires never need air and never go flat but may not work well on sand.

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Type of cart

The type of cart you select is based on the type of kayak you have.

  • Trolley: Trolleys roll on two wheels attached to a plastic or metal frame. They are great for uneven terrain and provide sturdy, balanced support.
  • Dolly: Dollies are longer and resemble a boat trailer. They may extend the full length of your kayak and can handle heavier loads.
  • Scupper: If your kayak has scuppers — openings in the hull designed to shed water — then a scupper cart is a good choice. It features arms that thread through the scuppers to keep the boat stable.

Weight capacity

Each kayak cart is rated for the amount of weight it can carry safely. If you kayak in a group or if your boat is heavy, look for a higher weight capacity.

What to look for in a quality kayak cart

Protective bumpers

Protective bumpers prevent scratching where the hull of your boat contacts the cart. These are usually made of stiff foam covered in tough plastic or synthetic material. The best bumpers are quick-drying, which prevents mold from developing.

Included ratchet straps

Ratchet straps keep your boat on the carrier when hauling over rough terrain. Just one or two tie-downs can make the difference between an easy trip and repeatedly hoisting your kayak back on the cart.

Large tires

Bigger tires do add weight, but they also lift the kayak up and allow you to move over larger rocks and downed tree limbs. Large tires can also increase the weight capacity of the cart.

Foldable frame

Even hard-core kayakers take at least a month or two off every year. The best kayak carts feature a foldable frame that fits into a carrying bag or is easily tied with straps. This allows you to store it in a small space until your season begins again.

How much you can expect to spend on a kayak cart

Prices vary depending on the weight capacity and extras included with the cart. Expect to spend $50-$500 on a cart.

Kayak cart FAQ

Do you need a kayak cart?

A. While it is true that some kayakers get along just fine without a cart, having one makes accessing difficult put-ins easier. It’s one thing to drag your 50-pound kayak 5 feet across a short strip of sand and another to hoist it over your head to hike half a mile through the woods.

Kayak carts make moving your kayak easier too. Consider how far you need to travel from where your kayak is stored to the car for loading. With the average recreational kayak weighing in at 35 pounds (and some tandem kayaks reaching 100 pounds or more), even just using the cart for loading makes the entire experience easier.

How do you care for a kayak cart?

A. It is important to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. However, caring for a kayak cart is simple.

  • After each trip, check for dirt and debris.
  • Hose off any muck or grime.
  • If your tires are inflatable, check for punctures and repair as needed.
  • For long-term storage, fold flat and stow in a carrying case if you have one.

What’s the best kayak cart to buy?

Top kayak cart

What you need to know: It’s rugged, durable and best for those who frequently hike to hit the water.

What you’ll love: The frame is rust-resistant powder-coated aluminum, and the hardware is stainless steel and sturdy. The carrier holds up to 125 pounds on 10-inch airless tires. A mesh bag for carrying is included, and the cart folds down when not in use.

What you should consider: It does not hold much weight.

Top kayak cart for the money

What you need to know: Choose this cart for kayaks up to 200 pounds.

What you’ll love: It is sturdy and affordable for such a high weight capacity. The frame is anodized steel, and the 9.5-inch tires are knobbed to travel over rocky surfaces. It has bumper pads and folds down to store.

What you should consider: Some users found it wobbly.

Worth checking out

What you need to know: This is best for ocean kayakers who travel over sand.

What you’ll love: This carrier holds 165 pounds on 12-inch inflatable balloon tires, designed to distribute weight more evenly for easy travel over shifting sand. The frame is fully aluminum and easily assembled, and the included ratchet straps keep your kayak secure.

What you should consider: Inflatable tires are more subject to punctures and may not be as durable as airless versions.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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