How to Use a Kayak Cart?

Many people who are keen on kayaking find that there is one big obstacle to getting out on the water as often as they would like, and that is the challenge of getting the kayak over land and into the water. While you should ideally be able to carry your kayak independently, it can be difficult or impossible for some people, which is why it can be beneficial to learn how to use a kayak cart.

You use a kayak cart, or kayak trolley, by positioning the kayak on top of the cart and engaging the securing system (which varies from cart to cart). Check that the kayak is secure before moving the cart, or it could injure someone. 

You can then transport the kayak to the water, free it from the cart, and enjoy getting onto the water!

How Do You Use A Kayak Cart?

There are many kinds of kayak carts, so how to use a kayak cart will vary depending on which you buy. The purpose of kayak trolleys is to make your boat easier to transport between your vehicle and the water.

You will still have to lift the kayak down from your vehicle and be able to maneuver it’s weight enough to get it secured on the cart. The carts don’t save you from having to lift the kayak at all, but they do keep you from carrying it all the way from your car to the water on what is oftentimes uneven terrain.

If you can’t park near the water, they are an ideal solution, so let’s dig into this ultimate guide to different kinds of kayaking carts and how they should be used.

Carts With Scupper Holes

This kind of kayak trolley can only be used if your kayak has scupper holes, and it will rarely work with sit inside kayaks. Scupper hole carts are designed to be used with sit on top kayaks in most cases, and if your kayak doesn’t have scupper holes, you won’t be able to secure it to the cart.

The cart has two long pole rod holders and these will slot into the scupper holes of the sit on top kayak. This method eliminates the need for straps to hold the kayak in place on the cart. 

The cart does not have any kind of platform for the kayak to sit on, and often only has two wheels, which makes it smaller and generally lighter than most strap-style carts. One of the many appealing aspects of this cart is the fact that it is easy to transport and doesn’t take up much room. 

If you have a sit on top kayak with scupper holes, this style cart is likely to be the better option for you, as it can be easier and faster to get the kayak on and off without having to mess around with fastening and unfastening straps all the time.

When purchasing a kayak trolley it’s important to look for puncture-free wheels, sometimes called flat-free tires. These pneumatic tires work much better than air-filled tires, and will make the kayak easier to push, as you don’t have to worry about getting a flat.

1) Put the kayak trolley beside the kayak on the ground.

2) Turn your kayak onto its edge so that you can access each scupper hole. You should remove the plugs of the holes at the stern of the kayak since they will be aligned with the cart’s poles when you slot the kayak into place.

3) Turn the cart onto its side too, and line the poles up with the scupper holes that you have just freed. Remember, you want the holes behind the kayak’s seat, not further forward, for the cart to balance properly.

4) Lift the cart and the kayak upright, with the kayak on top, making sure that the poles don’t slip out while it moves. These poles should keep your kayak secure on top of the cart.

5) Check that the kayak is in position and balancing correctly. Neither the prow nor the stern should touch the ground, and there should be an even weight distribution that allows you to pull it easily without it tipping up or down. 

6) Don’t forget to set your paddle in your kayak before taking it down to the water. You can also set any other equipment and extra gear you may have in the kayak to avoid having to make a second trip.

7) Pull the kayak down to the water’s edge. You should find that the cart moves easily as the kayak remains stable on the cart.

8) When you reach the edge of the water, tip the cart and the kayak back onto their sides. Slide the kayak free from the poles and replace the scupper plugs, after which you should be able to push the kayak into the water with no problem.

Carts With Straps

You’ll find a cart with a strap is most useful for a kayak without scupper holes, a sit-in kayak, or a canoe. They are a platform-style cart that offers cradle support for the boat and they use a strap to hold the kayak stable while you pull it along.

The most significant benefit of these is that they are very versatile, and you can use them for sit on top kayaks, sit in kayaks, or even a canoe! Using a kayak cart with poles for the kayak’s scupper holes generally only works for sit on top kayaks, but both kayak carts do serve the same purpose.

Let’s look at how to use a kayak cart with straps.

1) Position both the cart and the kayak on the ground beside each other, so that they are parallel.

2) Lift the stern and gently slide it into the cradle support of the kayak trolley, being careful not to scrape it. A padded platform will protect the kayak from damage.

3) Now move to the other end of the boat and lift the bow safely onto the cart. Move the bow slowly so that you don’t dislodge the stern. 

Position it on the kayak trolley so that the kayak is sitting in a straight line; this will make it possible to properly tighten the strap.

4) Get your kayak balanced. This will be different for different styles of kayaks, but note that balancing the boat does not necessarily mean that (lengthwise) it is positioned evenly on the cart.

Usually, the seat of the kayak will be near the center, because the bow is longer than the stern. Keep working at this balance until the kayak does not tip readily in either direction. 

Once you have done this a few times, you will learn where the balance point on your kayak is and you should have no problem with positioning it correctly very quickly every time. To begin with, you will probably have to spend time sliding it back and forth.

Note that the kayak should be central in terms of its width, as this makes it easy to strap it down properly.

5) Take hold of the strap and secure it to a leg of the cart. Wrap it over the top of the kayak, ensuring it is not skewed, and then clip it to the leg on the opposite side. 

Slide the buckle to the top and then use it to tighten the strap until the kayak is secure.

6) Test that the kayak is firmly in place and is not going to slip off; it could be dangerous if it falls while you are moving it, and might also damage the kayak. You may want to use additional straps to ensure that the full weight of the kayak is securely fastened. 

A bungee cord is a handy strap that can be used for extra security. It may take a while to get used to putting your kayak on the cart, but with a bit of practice, you will be able to do so very quickly and easily.

7) Remember to set your paddle and any additional gear in the boat before leaving your car.

8) Transport the kayak to the water’s edge and then unfasten the strap. Gently slide the prow of the boat off the cart, followed by the stern, and you’re ready to launch!

Why Should I Use A Kayak Cart?

You might be wondering if you really should be using a kayak trolley. After all, it’s another thing to store and transport each time, and some people do find that they have little use for one. However, there are enough advantages that you may find this to be your newest essential piece of kayaking equipment. 

Advantage One: Safety

Using kayak carts can reduce your risk of injury. Kayaks are very heavy and if you’re also trying to transport gear to the water, it’s easy to hurt yourself. 

Most of us would agree that we’d like to avoid the back injuries or other injuries caused by falling while carrying an unstable load on rough terrain! By using a cart you’re able to have more stable footing and for many, injury prevention is the primary benefit they appreciate when using a kayak cart. 

Advantage Two: Speed

Depending on how far you have parked from the shore, a kayak trolley can make a big difference to how quickly you can get out on the water. It takes a little while to get quick at setting them up, but once you are used to it, you should be able to load and unload your kayak very swiftly.

You can then pull it across the land far more quickly than you can carry it, and you might not need to do as many trips back to your car to grab gear you couldn’t carry the first time around.

Advantage Three: Energy Conservation

You aren’t expending nearly as much energy in getting your kayak to the water. That leaves you with more energy for paddling, which can make your trip longer and more enjoyable.

You might find that you particularly appreciate your own kayak cart at the end of the day, when the muscles in your two arms are aching and you just want to get home!


Where should I store a kayak cart?

Because they are quite robust, kayak carts can be stored anywhere that suits you (although they should not be left out in the elements). A garage or garden shed may be a good option. 

Don’t put them somewhere difficult to access, though, or they won’t be useful to you!

What do I do with a cart while I am on the water?

Many carts can be folded down and stored in your boat. Alternatively, you may be able to use a bicycle lock to secure it on land while you’re gone.

Can I build my own DIY kayak cart?

Many people do DIY their own carts, but be aware that it needs to reliably hold the weight of your kayak in order to be safe. You will have to source some wheels that will handle rough terrain, and make sure the cart is sturdy and balanced enough not to be a liability.

Can I use a kayak cart with a bike?

If you don’t want to drive to the water, you might find it easier to buy a kayak trolley that is designed to be coupled with a bike. These are available to purchase and can make a big difference to the ease with which you travel to the water!


You use a kayak cart simply by lifting the kayak onto the cart and securing it using that particular cart’s mechanism. Make sure that the boat is balanced and not likely to fall off if the cart hits a bump or stone, and then pull it down to the water; unload the kayak, and you are ready to paddle!

Your kayak cart should make the challenge of getting the kayak from vehicle to lake much easier, leaving you with more free time and more energy to paddle.