Portage Cart for Canoes and Kayaks




Introduction: Portage Cart for Canoes and Kayaks

About: 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.

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

-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

- (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

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

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

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

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

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.

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58 Discussions

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!!

1 reply

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

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!

Silly q...but, I have a couple of small bike wheels, for rougher ground...I could use those instead, yes? NICE project...thanks!!!

1 more answer

as long as you can figure out a solid way to attach them to the cart, they should work just fine. For portaging it is not crucial that you use bearings or an axle since your rate of travel will be a slow walk pace. If you are going to pull the cart at anything faster than a moderate walking pace I would Highly recommend bearings to reduce friction and an axle for stability.

I built another version of this cart using the wheels from a jogging stroller.


that worked great (until it accidentally encountered a curb at a decent rate of speed ... I will be making an instructable about repairing/rebuilding cart 2.0 once I have the time and spare change for parts)

Hi, just out of curiosity has anyone, made this cart, with the kayak sitting in a craddle? Example, like the roof rack cradles. If so please share. Thanks

1 more answer

7 months ago

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.

1 reply

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

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.

1 reply

thanks for idea....


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

5 replies

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.)

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

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.

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.

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. :)


2 years ago

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.

1 reply

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