Do you dread the long haul it takes to portage your kayak? Wanna know an easier way?
You see, most kayakers assume they’ll be stuck lugging their kayak, anchor system and all, strapping it to their car or spending more time moving it than actually enjoying it.
And I’ll be honest, even I hesitated when it came to investing in my own kayak. (Choosing the right kayak for fishing, specifically, took up a lot of my time.) But what made me so unsure of this hefty purchase? It came down to how I planned to transport the kayak along with me.
Then, I discovered kayak carts. Now, all I have to do is attach my kayak to my bicycle (along with my cooler) and head to the water.
My kayak is an investment, which is why I invest in the very best, from the ideal paddles to a great kayak cart.
In this post, I want to dip into the world of kayak carts. Specifically the different types, important features and which you can buy today to start portaging your kayak with ease.
Benefits of the Best Kayak Carts
The absolute most important main feature to consider with buying a kayak cart is how easy it is to assemble and disassemble. Chances are you won’t want to leave your kayak cart ashore. Instead, you should purchase a kayak cart that you can easily carry along on your kayak.
As it happens, most of the best kayak carts are easy to put together and take apart, capable of storing in your kayak when you hit the water.
This is a great feature to keep in mind if you need to portage from one body of water to the next and staying on land for long periods of time. Instead, you can cart your kayak, on land, from destination to destination.
It becomes so much easier that way. Your arms will thank you for it.
Kayak Cart Types
Let’s zoom out a bit and define the three basic kayak cart types you’ll typically find. Plus, how they suit different kayak and transportation needs.
- Plug-in Cart — As the name implies, this is a cart that effectively “plugs into” your kayak through the bottom scupper holes. This is a good option and it’s easy enough to slide your kayak on to install. However, this kayak cart style does not suit every kayak and is more specific to sit-on-top kayaks. If you have a SOT kayak—then they’re excellent!
- Strap Cart — Think of this style like strapping a kayak to the roof of your car. Using straps, these kayak carts are better able to accommodate a variety of kayak models without worry. Just make sure that the straps are always tight.
- End Cart — These types attach to the end of your kayak, effectively turning it into a wagon that you can pull along with you. They are useful, but often are incompatible with wider kayak models.
Like anything else with paddling, finding the best kayak cart often comes down to your specific needs. That’s why a great place to start is by defining the type of cart you’d like.
Kayak Cart Features
Now that we know a bit more about cart types, here are some more detailed features to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the best kayak cart for your needs:
- Materials — Most carts can either be constructed of steel or aluminum. Depending on where you like to kayak, your needs will change. Steel is fine for freshwater, but aluminum is better for saltwater conditions (because it won’t corrode).
- Weight Limits — Every kayak cart model’s specifications will state a weight limit. Most are equipped to handle pretty heavy weights, but you want to ensure you don’t push this too hard. Try and aim for a cart that can maintain your entire kayak’s weight with 80% of its capacity. If you plan on hauling a kayak to the water with a lot of gear loading it down, you need to make sure to account for that too.
- Wheel Type — There are basically two distinct types of wheels on a kayak cart: air-filled and airless. Airless wheels may look more brittle, but they’re the best when it comes to rocky and difficult terrain. Air-filled ones might perform better on sand or gravel, but they require you to lug around a pump. At the end of the day, airless wheels are typically a safer bet, save for a couple of unique scenarios.
- Wheel Width — A crucial feature to consider when finding the best kayak cart for you. Ask yourself, where are you going to be transporting your kayak? Think about it like this: the wider the wheel, the better it can handle treacherous terrain. But, alternatively, the harder it might be to pull along. On the flip side, if you have thinner, taller wheels, you can turn more nimbly down streets to get to your nearby lake or pond.
- Bumper Pads — Your kayak cart may offer additional accessories like bumper pads to help secure your kayak and to save it from any damage.
Depending on the body of water, the terrain you’re passing through and exactly how far you have to transport it, the needs of your kayak cart’s features will change. Personally, I advocate for a strapped-in kayak cart because it accommodates a variety of both sit-on-tops and sit-in kayaks and works well (as long as you’re paying attention).
The 9 Best Kayak Carts for Long Hauls and an Easier Portage
All that in mind, I’ve put together a roundup of the nine best kayak carts available that I would trust.
They are broken down into two categories: one offers kayak carts intended for freshwater applications that offer materials like steel, while the other showcases kayak carts for saltwater conditions that stand against corrosion.
The Best Kayak Carts for Freshwater
ABN Universal Kayak Carrier
This is a great option for kayakers who venture out into lakes and other freshwater terrains.
The wheels would be best used on sandy beaches, without rocks or anything too bumpy, and it can fit many models of kayaks with the available straps.
This is a model that I personally have used up at my lake cottage and I’m really happy with how it moves (and at a good price).
- Weight Limit: 200 lbs
- Tires: 9.5-inch knobby tires
- Type: Strap
Suspenz Smart Airless DLX Cart
While the frame of this cart might be aluminum, the stainless steel hardware still makes it better for freshwater use when it comes to bringing your kayak around.
This cart is perfect for smaller kayaks, and the airless tires make it easy to traverse over rocks or slippery conditions.
It also has rubber bumpers to keep from dinging up your kayak and protecting your investment.
- Weight Limit: 125 lbs
- Tires: 10-inch airless tires
- Type: Strap
Seattle Sports Paddleboy Kayak Cart
This kayak cart has a really interesting look to it, and the wheels here would be best suited with grassy terrain (think of a spring or a river).
While it’s versatile enough to work with other boats, the fact that it can carry around a kayak easily is obviously the major selling point.
It also comes with cinch straps to keep things in place. To be honest, this would be the ideal cart to partner with a bicycle.
- Weight Limit: 300 lbs
- Tires: Treaded wheels
- Type: End
Malone Xpress Kayak Cart with Beach Wheels
A great steel option for those who like to spend time up at the lake, this cart is the ideal option if you want to hit the beach without worry.
Best for soft-sand terrain, this cart is designed to go over sand with little to no resistance.
While not recommended for portaging over long distances, it is a great option if you want to get to the beach and get out on the water.
- Weight Limit: 200 lb
- Tires: 12 x 7 balloon wheels
- Type: Plug-in
The Best Kayak Carts for Saltwater
Bonnlo Kayak Cart
I’m a big fan of this model for folks who enjoy kayaking in saltwater.
The main benefit is the tires, which are completely airless and can make their way easily through a variety of trains (from sand to gravel and even rocky terrain).
At the same time, this model is sturdy, convenient to carry and is constructed with good materials to help various kayaking needs.
- Weight Limit: 165 lbs
- Tires: 10-inch PU tires
- Type: Strap
C-Tug Kayak Cart
While it might seem a bit on the clunky side, this is a great model for larger kayaks that need to be snug.
The weight capacity here of 300 pounds is fantastic and it allows a variety of models available.
At the same time, the cart itself is incredibly lightweight and requires no real assembly at all. It’s as easy as grabbing it, strapping your kayak in and taking it for the ride of its life.
- Weight Limit: 300 lbs
- Tires: Puncture-free tires
- Type: Strap
Wilderness Systems Heavy Duty Kayak Cart
Looking for something really heavy duty and designed for the beach?
If you intend on taking your kayak down to the shore, this kayak cart’s wheels are specifically designed to tackle the sand and the surf.
At the same time, I’m a big fan of the bunker-bar frame here, which can be adjusted to fit just about any size – keeping your kayak secure at all times.
- Weight Limit: 330 lbs
- Tires: 13-inch beach wheels
- Type: Strap
Suspenz Airless END Kayak Cart
I wanted to include a handy end-cart option for those who might be interested.
This model is perfect, with airless tires that can handle just about everything, this cart also comes with a Neoprene foam pad to keep your kayak safe, and a no-straps-required usability for easy loading.
- Weight Limit: 150 lb
- Tires: 10-inch airless wheels
- Type: End
Seattle Sports Sit-On-Top Kayak Cart
I definitely wanted to have an option for a kayak cart for all those sit-on-top kayak users out there.
I’m a big fan of this model based on how easy it is to attach, as well as the airless tires which make it easy to cart around.
At the same time, the cart breaks down easily so you can take it with you (especially with space being at a premium with a sit-on-top kayak).
- Weight Limit: 150 lbs
- Tires: Airless
- Type: Plug-in
Start Carting Around Your Kayak Today
Here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t put the cart before the kayak. Let me tell you why: because finding the best kayak cart changes everything about how you enjoy time outdoors. Like I mentioned before, your kayak is an investment and should be treated that way. When you invest in a kayak cart, you’re helping preserve the long-term use and health of your kayak overall.
Personally, when it comes to kayak carts, I am a big fan of strap carts that are built for saltwater conditions. I like having the feeling of my kayak feeling super secure while being able to brave any conditions/waters.
Now that you know a bit more about the best kayak carts on the market, you can start making your life a bit easier when it comes to transporting your kayak no matter where you want to take it.