Kayaks and SUP’s are graceful craft, but let’s face it, there’s nothing graceful about transporting a full size kayak or SUP to the launch site in a breeze. Customers occasionally ask about using a boat cart to transport their kayak or SUP. Inflatable kayaks and iSUPs have the advantage of being fully portable – no roof racks required – and they are frequently lighter than their rotomolded siblings but whether or not a cart is necessary depends on a few factors unique to each paddler. Here are a few points to consider:
Distance between setup and launch locations – Aquaglide kayaks and SUPs can be transported in a robust backpack like the River Crossing Pack and inflated at the launch with an AG Kayak or SUP hand pump. However, many people who drive to the site prefer to setup their kayak or SUP near the vehicle so as to use a 12v electric pump for inflation. If the launch is nearby, perfect, but if there’s still a considerable hike to access the water, a cart might be a great investment. If you are close enough (and lucky enough!) to be able to setup at home and bike to the launch, a boat cart could be the best solution.
Type of terrain – Some types of terrain can be hazardous to navigate while carrying a kayak or SUP, and others, like steep hills or loose sand, might require all your energy to navigate while carrying a boat. A capable cart can be a lifesaver in conditions like this.
Space in the boat – A good cart will generally cost between $70 - $170, so it’s probably not something you want to leave on the beach while paddling. Keep in mind the space required to bring your cart with you. Some cart designs stow more compactly than others, and some boats offer less space than others, so it’s important to note this attribute when choosing a cart and to make sure there’s space in your boat to bring a cart along.
Cart Style – While there are a few boat-specific cart types like Plug-In Carts and End Carts, the most convenient and versatile type of cart for inflatable kayaks and SUPs are Strap Carts; basically a pair of wheels with a simple strap system for attaching the stern of your boat or board.
Materials – Carts with a steel frame are usually heavier and less costly. Aluminum frames are typically lighter and preferred around saltwater. Think about the places you intend to paddle and choose materials that best fit your needs. Asking other local paddlers for their preferences can yield good food for thought.
Wheels – Wide wheels are best for softer terrain but can be annoying with a long commute over hard ground. Tall, narrow wheels will roll with little effort and make bike commuting a joy but are likely to struggle in sand. Airless wheels are tough and durable but can be noisy on hard ground, while inflatable tires may require some extra care, including a patch kit and (sigh) yet another pump.
In the end, whether or not you need a boat cart depends on your style and paddling location. Although not strictly necessary with eminently portable inflatable kayaks and SUPs, some paddlers wouldn’t consider heading out without a good boat cart. Hopefully the points above will offer a few good points to consider when making the choice.