Let’s face it, kayaks are awkward, heavy objects to move around on dry land, and none of us is getting any younger. These facts would seem to explain the increasing popularity of small-wheeled carts or dollies for toting boats to and from the water. In spite of jokes from passersby about “taking your kayak for a walk,” a wheeled portage device might be just the ticket to make your paddle tours user-friendly.
With kayak carts, there is a trade-off between size and function. Smaller units will be lighter and easier to pack in your kayak, whereas the larger ones will hold more of the kayak’s weight and will roll over rougher terrain. So your first decision will be whether you want to carry the wheels with you while you paddle, return them to your vehicle or leave them at the launch site. A number of the commercially available wheel carts will disassemble to some extent to make packing easier, although wheel size may be the limiting factor.
The smaller units usually fit on the kayak relatively close to the bow or stern, requiring you to still lift a good portion of the weight of the kayak and its contents while you wheel it along. I frequently use a small bow wheel set that can be rolled right into the water at a surfaced landing, then retrieved easily from the bow when the kayak is afloat; the hull never touches the landing surface.
If portability is not your concern, then there are more options for versatility. Larger and wider wheels will roll more easily over soft surfaces such as grass and sand, and over obstructions such as curbs. Larger frameworks allow you to position the kayak at its balance point, eliminating any significant lifting while the kayak is rolling. Additional features like foam padding and straps enable you to attach the kayak more securely. For heavy-duty use–say you want to wheel an expedition-loaded kayak on and off car ferries–look closely at durability, weight capacity, and wheels with bearings and inflatable tires.
There are probably at least a dozen companies offering products in this niche. Prominent among them are Paddleboy Designs, Roleez, and Spring Creek. None are very big manufacturers, enjoying large economies of scale, so if prices seem a bit high, at least remember that a reliable portage system is far cheaper than treatments for lower-back injuries later on.
The avowed do-it-yourselfer can cook up a serviceable rig with wheels and other parts found in many home-improvement centers. Even the commercial units may require some tinkering with straps or shock cords to get a secure fit on the many types of kayaks out there. So, either way, get out there and roll on down to the sea!