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How to Choose a Kayak Dolly or Cart

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I own two fishing kayaks and have tried a number of kayak cart systems over the years. Here's what I've learned.

This is where you want to be, but sometimes getting your kayak down to the water can be a challenge.

This is where you want to be, but sometimes getting your kayak down to the water can be a challenge.

Why You Need a Kayak Dolly

My own kayak is a Jackson Kraken fishing model. It weights just over 120 pounds with accessories such as rod holders, small anchor and fish finder installed. I also own a pedaling kayak, a Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 12.5. It's also heavy and because of its wide beam, a bit difficult to handle by myself. Before getting a kayak dolly, I used to try and park as close to the water as I could, preferably at the boat ramp, and lower the boat down onto the sloping ramp from the back of my pickup truck.

If you've ever tried loading and unloading a heavy kayak on a sloping boat ramp, you know what a challenge this can be. To make things a bit easier, I set up pulley system, attached to a tie down point at the front-end of my truck's bed, with about 20' of line which runs from the rear of the truck, up through the pulley and back to a large "D" ring that I can attach to the front of my kayaks. With the rope in one hand, I can lift the bow up onto the tailgate, then begin to pull on the rope as I also walk to the back of the kayak to lift it. The action of pulling on the rope (hard), and lifting the back end of the kayak at the same time, is, for me, a much easier way of loading it than before. I still use this method to get my kayak up in my truck, yet I no longer try and load and unload my kayaks at the boat ramp.

Instead I take along a small kayak dolly, called a "C-Tug", made by Railblaza, I prop the cart up with its little kick stand, next to the back of my kayak, and then raise the back of the the kayak up and swing it over and onto the cart, and then I cinch up the quick connect strap. It's easy and takes only a few seconds to do. Then I can easily roll my kayak the short distance from the parking lot, over across the grass, and launch it into the lake. I've used the C-Tug on asphalt surfaces, grass and even wet sand and it still rolls pretty well on all of these. The tires are made of heavy, solid plastic, so I don't have to worry about ever having a flat. The dolly is rated for 300 lbs, which is more than sturdy enough from my 120 lb kayak.

A C-Tug kayak dolly, kept in place even when storing the kayak so that it can be easily moved.

A C-Tug kayak dolly, kept in place even when storing the kayak so that it can be easily moved.

Problems With Other Kayak Carts

I've tried several other kinds of kayak carts, including the kind that features two upright posts that fit inside your boat's scuppers, or drain holes. I personally didn't find this kind of cart very easy to use on my own kayaks, simply because it requires two people, one person to lift the kayak, and another to try and place the dolly under the kayak and the posts up through the two scupper holes. This can be a challenge in the best of times, especially if the frame of the cart has gotten out of adjustment.

In addition to the difficulty of using this type of kayak dolly, there's also the possibility that over time, you may damage your boat's hull. As the two metal posts move back and forth a bit as you tow it they cause friction up against your kayak hull. There are tiny plastic welds where the boat's seams come together at these drain holes, and once you've worn a hole there, it's almost impossible to repair this part of a kayak.

Some kayak dollies or carts use rubber tires with inner tubes. These are notoriously prone to flats, even from small grass burrs, since the tires are very thin. You would think these small tires would still roll a bit when flat, but no such luck. A flat tire on your kayak dolly can seriously put a damper on your fishing trip. Other kayak dolly systems may feature more rugged solid rubber tires. While these do solve the problem of getting flats, they also come with extra added weight. Large rubber tires do roll a bit better on sand than the tires on the C-Tug system that I use, so the trade off in weight may be worth it to you if you plan on doing a lot of launching from a sandy beach. Despite this, I've used the C-Tug at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas many times, and unless the sand is extremely loose, it works very well on the beaches that I fish from.

Some kayak dollies feature a fold-out cradle system that looks a bit like a folding chair. I've tried these, and none of them seemed to fit my kayak's bottom as well as the two little foot pads that my current dolly has. My Native Watercraft has a flatter bottom at the rear than my Jackson Kraken, therefore, to make the C-Tug work, I have to place it much closer to the middle of the yak. This is not a problem for towing it by hand, since the closer to the middle part of your boat, the more balanced it is, yet it can make it a bit more of a challenge to put on at first.

Make Your Own Kayak Dolly

Another solution for a kayak dolly or cart is to make your own. If you have some DIY skills, you can buy two tubeless, solid foam core wheelbarrow tires at your local hardware store, make an axle for them with a long piece of "all-thread" bolt, and secure the wheels onto the axle using four locking nuts (the kind that feature a plastic inner core to keep the nut snug and tight), along with four large washers. You can then fabricate a frame for your kayak to sit in and connect it to the axle you made. In my case I bent some light rebar into a cradle shape that fit the underside of my kayak, welded it onto the all-thread bolt, then covered the rebar with foam pipe insulation, which you can find in the hardware store's plumbing section. Another option is to use the tires and axle from a large toy wagon or garden utility cart, then build a cradle and strap system that attaches to it.

I've tried both methods before, and was able to make carts for my kayak that fit the underside much better than any store bought kayak cart. The downside to my contraptions though was the weight factor. My C-Tug weighs only about six pounds and I can also disassemble it and stow it onboard if I choose.

A Note on Assembling the C-Tug

If you do decide to get one, you may find the C-Tug a bit confusing to assemble. I'm not alone here, a friend of mine ran into the same issue. When connecting the frame and kickstand together, you may not think that the parts will fit through the hole, and that something is wrong with the design. Keep trying, read the instructions again, and eventually you'll figure it out.

Other Tips for Using a Kayak Dolly

When I come back from the lake and my kayak is still in the back of my truck, I take the C-Tug cart and connect the two ends of the strap by slipping one end through the spring loaded clip, then I adjust the two foot pads and slip the loop over the back of my kayak and cinch it up. When it's all snug, I can simply pull the kayak out of the truck until the wheels touch the ground, walk up to the bow while holding the side of the kayak, and lower the whole rig to the ground and roll it easily into my garage. I leave the kayak cart on all the time, so that I can easily more the boat around in my garage if I need to. When using it out in the field, I don't tend to disassemble it, simply because I find it takes too much time, and because when fully assembled it doesn't take up that much room on deck when stored on the transom.

© 2020 Nolen Hart

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