Introduction: Portage Cart for Canoes and Kayaks

Picture of Portage Cart for Canoes and Kayaks

I have a large canoe (approx 17 feet long and 4 feet wide at the middle) and more often than not I am the only one physically able to move it (at least until the wee ones get bigger MUH HAHAhahahaha).

It probably weighs close to 100 lbs empty.  I can pick it up and carry it but it is really awkward due to its size.  add in the paddles, trolling motor and battery, fishing gear, etc etc. and it gets tough to portage without risking damage to the bottom.

This instructable is geared towards making a cart to handle my canoe.  For a Kayak or smaller canoe you could scale it back to 3/4 inch PVC to make it lighter and smaller.

Step 1: Tools Needed

Picture of Tools Needed

-fine toothed saw, or PVC pipe cutter
I originally started with the Hacksaw but it was taking forever.  I switched to the miter saw and it made the cuts drastically faster and the cleanup of the cut ends was not to bad.
I Do not recommend using any type of powered saw to cut the pipe

-utility knife or file to remove any burrs from the PVC after cutting it

-Drill and assorted bits ranging up to a 1/2 inch bit

-PVC Primer

-PVC cement

-rubber Mallet (not pictured)

-Hot glue gun and glue sticks

-Fine grit Sand Paper or 00 Steel wool to rough up the PVC surface before painting

-Spray paint designed for plastic

Step 2: Gathering Parts

Picture of Gathering Parts

- (2) 10 inch solid tires

- (1) 10 foot section of 1.5 inch PVC pipe

- (4) 1.5 inch Tee connector

- (2) 1.5 inch clean-out plug

- (2) 1.5 inch female adapter

- (4) 1.5 inch end cap

- (2) 1/2-13 x 4 Hex cap screw

- (4) 1/2-13 hex nut

- (6) 1/2 hardened flat washer

Step 3: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Picture of Measure Twice, Cut Once

If you are using a ratcheting PVC pipe cutter realize that the cut is not going to be straight so you will need to square the cut for maximum hold when you cement it

decide what the dimensions of your cart are going to be before you start cutting.

remember to take into account not only the length of the adapters you are using but also the amount of the pipe that fits inside the adapter when you cut you pipes to length.

A good rule of thumb is that whatever the diameter of your pipe is, that is roughly how deep the pipe will seat into the adapter.  But that is not always the case.  The female adapter will only seat .75 inch of pipe, not 1.5 inches. 

Step 4: Wheel Assembly

Picture of Wheel Assembly

Originally the reason I chose to assemble the wheels this way instead of using a single axle through the body of the cart is that the home improvement store i went to did not have a threaded rod shorter than 5 feet. 

A nice side effect of building it this way is that if I need to use a different set of wheels (for instance: Fat pneumatic tire for crossing sand ), I can take off the entire assembly and screw on a new set of wheels to the cart. 

Use a straight edge and draw lines from corner to corner diagonally.  Where the lines intersect is the center of the square.

Start with a small bit and work your way up progressively until you Drill a 1/2 inch hole into the square of each of the clean-out  plugs.
The smaller the increments you increase the bits by the smoother the drilling process will be.  If you try to jump up too much at once you will gouge out too big of a piece and it will jam up possibly shattering your clean-out plug

Assemble the Wheel assembly

Wheel (apply grease to the bolt at this point if you opt to use it)
Clean-out plug
Hot glue filler ( to help waterproof the assembly)

I added teflon tape to the threads for smoother mounting.

Step 5: Body Assembly

Picture of Body Assembly

Dry fit all parts to make sure no adjustments need to be made.

once you are satisfied pull it all apart and start to prime and cement it together.

When working with smaller length parts it Helps to have a rubber mallet to get the part fully seated before the cement fuses the parts together.

(yes that is a tub buried in my back yard ... no I didn't put it there)

Step 6: Time to Make It Puuuuuurty

Picture of Time to Make It Puuuuuurty

rough up the PVC with the steel wool or sandpaper

apply paint.

another perk of the detachable wheels .. easy to hang up the assembled parts for painting.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

A pool noodle added to the construction serves two purposes. 

1) it makes a nice padding
2) it offers an added degree of floatation should your cart find a way out of the boat (thanks kids)

I was fortunate to find a pool noodle with and 1.5 inch inner bore so i didn't have to cut it to attach it to the cart.

A few bungee cords ( not pictured) to keep the cart firmly attached to the bottom of you canoe or kayak and you are good to go.


missplumeau (author)2011-07-10

We have been going to a really cool lake in Vermont for the past couple of summer. The owner of the house has this big ol' canoe that's getting damaged because even if we lift it, it sags in the middle and dragging it is not much better. Your contraption is just what we need! Thanks for posting your very clear 'Ible!!

Lorddrake (author)missplumeau2011-07-12

glad to be of help. I hope that the canoe your friend has does not sag too badly, that sounds dangerous.

eranox (author)2011-07-11

This is great! A cheap, simple way to cart around my kayak. I'll build one of these this weekend, and maybe bolt some nylon straps to the endcaps of the supports that can adjust and then buckle together. Well done!

dogsaw (author)2017-12-26

very inspiring, will be on tools tomorrow to make this fine kayak cart, love the "less is more style of it"& your superb instructions .. measure twice cut once, right on ,Lord Drake beam mine in on completion ,many thanks from Dog-saw uk.

Lorddrake (author)dogsaw2017-12-29

I'm glad you found this IBLE helpful. Don't forget to share of a picture of your cart once you complete it. :)

dchristle made it! (author)2017-07-20

Very easy to make...took about 30 minutes. One change - included an eyebolt in the middle to hook a bungle cord around the kayak and secondly to put a bike lock on while Im away from the public dock. Worked great!

Lorddrake (author)dchristle2017-08-15

Nicely done. I like the eyebolt idea. I shall have to incorporate that into my cart.

mrcanoehead224 (author)2017-01-05

This looks great. I have a bunch of old PVC that I used to make a ladder golf game and was looking to repurpose it.I'm going to give this a try.

Lorddrake (author)mrcanoehead2242017-01-07

Awesome. Make sure to post pics of your finished product.

rafcaetano (author)2016-08-14

thanks for idea....

MimiDuck (author)2016-06-08

How do you get your canoe on the cart without the cart rolling away?

DeeRilee (author)MimiDuck2016-08-06

You could also make a "U" shaped PVC just large enough to cradle the wheels while you set the canoe on top....then pull it out to the side after the canoe/kayak is strapped down. (This might be helpful if you are strapping down while on a slope.)

Lorddrake (author)DeeRilee2016-08-09

i had not thought of making a wheel chock out of PVC .. nice idea.

Lorddrake (author)MimiDuck2016-06-08

I pick up the back end of the canoe and slide the cart underneath and secure the cart in place with tie downs. The front end on the ground keeps the canoe from rolling away while I secure the tie downs in place to keep the cart in position under the canoe. When I am ready to move I just pick up the front end of the canoe and roll along my merry way.

MimiDuck (author)Lorddrake2016-06-08

Just changed my user name, same person!!
Thank you, I can do that!
I read your newer post about fixing your cart & I like the subsequent comments with input about different wheels.

Lorddrake (author)MimiDuck2016-06-09

Looking at the weather report today is supposed to be sunny (a nice change of pace after almost a week of rain). So if all goes well I can finally get the paintjob onto canoe cart 2.0 and get the Instructable for it published. :)

dmadam (author)2016-07-29

Gotta do this. My go to favorite kayak hole is down a hill several hundred feet. Its for carry in craft only and sliding the craft up the hill after hours on the water can be a chore. This will make it a lot easier.

Lorddrake (author)dmadam2016-07-29

sounds good .. don't forget to to post your "I made it" picture when you finish making it :)

JonathanW128 (author)2016-07-22

How much did this cost ?

Lorddrake (author)JonathanW1282016-07-22

I got the wheels on sale at harbor freight for 4 dollars each. the pool noodle was 3 dollars. I already had the spray paint from another project (add 5 bucks if you need to buy spray paint). There is about 12 dollars in pvc pipe and parts. I already had the pvc cement and primer (typically about 6 bucks)
So my cost was 19 dollars .. $30 if you have to buy paint and cement/primer

th3fox made it! (author)2015-07-21

Thanks for the instructions! I got it all done in a day :) also the suggestion for that thingy in the back from the comments is great.

nathanlsmock (author)2014-09-24

Works like a champ! I added a kind of kick stand that is a huge help. I also would spend a bit more if you can and get good tires. Don't have a finished picture.

Lorddrake (author) nathanlsmock2014-09-24

looking forward to seeing your finished results

kognack (author)2014-08-13

I made mine. Look at that...super! Tks for your help. I used wheels from handcart, 1 1/2 tubing and insulator for pipes.

Lorddrake (author)kognack2014-08-14

Awesome job. Thanks for sharing.

spowell (author)2014-02-10

I have the exact same canoe. Would you mind sharing your dimensions? Thank you very much for the project.

jules15 (author)2013-06-29

this is an awesome project. but a simpler way and most likely cheaper is...

get a child stroller, the cheap, simple kind that fold up and rip out the fabric if you want. and put it on the canoe/boat and strap it with a ratchet strap tie down. thats how i move my canoe longer distances. but of course its not as stable because the wheels are smaller and its not as wide as yours

lynnceline (author)2012-09-18

So glad I found this. I didn't use my kayak at all this summer because I didn't want to drag it across the street to the lake & I'm too puny to carry it by myself. This will be a great project for me to tackle.

I actually saw a guy who built one of these from copying one from a retail store but his wheels were wonky. If I see him again I'll let him know about your Instructable.

Congratulations on winning the contest, and thanks so much for posting!

Lorddrake (author)lynnceline2012-09-19

I'm so glad this helped you out.

One of the really nice things about this project is that it can be assembled in a single afternoon (even less time if you don't have to run all over town for parts and take pics to post up online hehe)

samjaynes (author)2011-08-17

Made this over the weekend with some inflatable wheels from Harbor Frieght, and worked out great.

If anyone knows where to get the pool noodles from, I would really appreciate it. I have googled for 'Super Wacky Noodle' and can not find retailers.

Thanks - enjoyed your instructable!

Mike6B (author)samjaynes2012-07-11

Got my pool noodles at my local Ace hardware. They had both 3/4 and 1"
Hope this was helpful :-)

shootr (author)samjaynes2012-04-02

As soon as the Harbor Freight inflatable wheels go on sale again, I'm switching to those too.

Lorddrake (author)samjaynes2011-08-18

I would love to see a picture of your finished product.

I found the noodle at dollar general, but I have seen them at other discount retail stores as well.

sprocketscientist (author)2012-07-03

Very nicely done. Is there anything that can't be made better with a pool noodle?

CaptainToast314 (author)2012-06-23

Great design - I used 1" PVC pipe to make two yak carts for my newly purchased 10' long LL Bean kayaks. I made a couple of design changes - added a kickstand so cart would be easier to load, and drilled holes in endcaps for the 24" threaded rod. Tires are 7" diameter from Harbor Freight, PVC parts from Home Depot, pool noodle from Target. I even was inspired to paint them after seeing your nice green cart. THANKS for sharing your design!

Thanks for including pics to show the changes you made.

I love the kickstand idea.

Awesome job!!

armored bore (author)2012-05-21

I was just counting the supplies I have on hand to alter this for a bike trailer, but then I read the part about using a smaller diameter pipe for a kayak. Now I'm not sure what to do.

The kayak I was designing around is about 13 feet long and 35 pounds, based on this tutorial [] But I also have a bamboo one that I might want to try and stack on the same cart. It's about the same length, but a few pounds lighter.

So, I should go with 3/4" pipe for the single cart, and larger for the harebrained stacking idea?

Lorddrake (author)armored bore2012-05-23

The 3'4" should handle the single kayak no problem.

I don't know how well it will do for the two stacked ... you might need to step up to 1 inch pipe for that.

The 1.5" that I used is able to handle the canoe that I have (approx 100 lbs) and all the gear (including a trolling motor and a deep cycle battery to run the motor) that I take on a trip no problem.

shootr (author)2012-04-02

This has been a lifesaver! We have a tandem kayak and two kids sized kayaks, so getting from the truck to the water was always a challenge.

I'm guessing with all 3 boats and gear, we're about 125lbs load. The only change I made was the axle.

I ran a piece of all-thread all the way through the axle pipe and caps, then used nyloc nuts to secure it. Washers, wheels, more washers, and more nyloc nuts secure the wheels with just enough tension to not wobble but still roll freely.

I haven't noticed any deflection in the axle from the load.

Also, as an alternative to the foam noodles, I used bicycle handlebar grip tape. It seems to "grab" the bottom of the boat nicely and still give a bit of protection.

Lorddrake (author)shootr2012-04-02

Glad it is working out well for you. I went with the noodles for padding and buoyancy (although they are not really that necessary since it is a closed pipe system that floats quite well on its own). I didn't even think of grip tape, that is a great alternative.

barbcitybrewer (author)2011-08-30

Cool tut! I used stop nuts w/ nylon inserts in place of doubling up, but ovverall great project. I'm using it for my Stand Up PaddleBoard.

Lorddrake (author)barbcitybrewer2011-08-30


look forward to seeing pics when you finish your cart.

bbrookins (author)2011-08-23

This was helpful for an idea on how to put one of these together. I utilized large rear wheels from a lawn mower (~15" diameter for more rolling terrain & they were free from the dump). One thing I noticed as that with a nearly fully loaded canoe, the center cross member sagged considerably causing the wheels to bend inward. By nearly fully loaded, I mean 4 hp motor, 2.5gal fuel, pfd's & fishing gear on a 17' freighter canoe. I put the cart rearward of normal center, which was a nice balancing point for pulling it up the hill.

I will be adding a larger piece of pipe to stiffen up the bottom cross member. Have to find one that fits reasonably well over the 1-1/2" sch 40 connectors.

Other tricks for cutting would be flexible hacksaw blades or a 14" chopsaw; which cuts up to 6" pipe with ease.

Good instructable overall!

Lorddrake (author)bbrookins2011-08-23

I found my cart works best at one end of the canoe or the other rather than in the middle.
I just set the cart under one end, secure it with a tie down, and pick up the other end and roll along on my way.

For now I an still using my 40lb thrust trolling motor with my canoe. I am still on the lookout for a small (somewhere between 3-7hp) reasonably priced outboard.
I still can't figure out how the justify charging more for a 5hp motor than they do for a 25hp motor.

thanks, i am very proud of this ible (it was my first one)

bbrookins (author)Lorddrake2011-08-23

I had it behind the middle to get the proper balance point with my canoe. In the middle and it was not responding properly at all. I think having it properly balanced is key to having it work the best to your benefit; but it does add some extra loading to the cart.

Will add an image or details later on what I find for the proper pipe size to stiffen things up.

For your motor needs, watch craigslist for your local area; or to search multiple locations. I've seen canoe motors go for about the same price as electric motors in my area. Good luck!

Lorddrake (author)bbrookins2011-08-23

i look forward to seeing your pics.

I tried checking craiglook and it appears that criagslist took it down :(

no worries .. I will eventually find what I need. good things come to those who wait :)

bbrookins (author)Lorddrake2011-08-30

Craiglook has been replaced with when I bring it up. Still lets me check several different locations at once; but based mainly on distance instead of being able to click on the individual locations like it used to be able to do.

Attached are two pictures of the finished cart. I found that the 1-1/2" fittings don't fit well inside of 2" pipe without major sanding of the fittings, so I had to utilize 2-1/2" service entrance pipe. I did not want to reduce the strength of the fitting. There is a gap that still needs to be filled, I think I will go with expansion foam to add to the buoyancy. I also have not put on any foam insulation or floater sticks, yet.

Another thing that I did, although I didn't get any pictures of the process or end result was to take a piece of 1-1/4" pipe and my belt sander to get another singular piece of pipe that fits inside of the 1-1/2" pipe snugly along the entire length (hub to hub). It took about 15 minutes with some 50 grit paper to get the outer diameter of the 1-1/4" pipe to fit within the 1-1/2" pipe properly.

I have put the canoe back on the cart with the same load that I mentioned above and there is little to no deflection noticeable compared to how it was before. Increasing the cross sectional area has really helped.

Lorddrake (author)bbrookins2011-08-30

nice work

Lorddrake (author)2011-08-12

Thanks to everyone who voted for me. I am honored that my first instrucable project not only got featured, but also managed to win a contest. Guess that means I have to get started on documenting my next project to post it up :)

agis68 (author)2011-08-05

Real nice. I've made mine for my plastic boat...(little more havier construction for 70 kg) but the idea is the same.....thanks and good luck

About This Instructable




Bio: Jack-of-all trades, master of some. I would probably be much more modest if it wasn't for these delusions of granduer that I suffer from.
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