A Kayak Cart Build

Not really a mod of the Alto, but given the number of kayakers amongst our Alto friends, I figured sharing how to assemble your own kayak cart would be a nice little project to share. Even though kayaks are relatively easy to transport, sometimes you are faced with an extended haul to get them to the water. Take for instance our favourite site at Sandbanks. To get to the waters edge, we would either have to drive them to one of the beach parking lots and walk from there, or haul them up and over a sand dune, which is actually the shortest route, but there is the dune to deal with. Wanting a solution, retail or otherwise, I turned to the internet for a little research.

There are many retail options out there, but from what I saw, they tended to be a bit pricey. I then looked at homemade versions, knowing I would not be the only one looking for a cost effective alternative. Sure enough, lots of different styles were being offered up. Some more elegant than others. Most featured use of PVC piping to create a cart the kayak would ride on, with straps and wheels. Some of these it seemed the builder went a little crazy with the tubing, turning what should be a simple cart into a complex maze of pipes and joints. Not going down that road. The other disadvantage to a PVC solution was the storage. Just where do you put it in the car? A few had models that broke down into pieces...a few too many pieces in my mind.

Then I came upon it. A simple and elegant alternative. I first spotted the retail version, and soon discovered its rather lofty price point started at $150 bucks. That's some serious coin. I then discovered the home built knockoffs, and once you see what is involved to make one, you will understand the sticker shock.

The parts list consists of:
a length of rubber heater hose
2 PVC connectors, sized for the hose
1" electrical plastic conduit
1/2' aluminum rod
V shaped boat trailer keel roller
stainless steel washers and hitch pins (or cotter pins)
golf cart wheels

I went with the wide soft plastic golf cart wheels, as I figured these would be best to roll across sand. The first step is to determine how wide apart the wheels need to be to suit your kayak. this measurement is somewhat universal, as the design allows it to sit really anywhere towards the rear of the kayak. Assemble together the keel roller, axle and the wheels. sit the kayak on the keel roller in the position where you think you would like the kayak to ride. Move the wheels out along the axle, allowing enough room to clear the heater hose, which will eventually be sitting inboard of the wheels. This now becomes your axle length.

Find the spot on the axle which is straight down from the widest part of the kayak. This is where the heater hose will reside on the axle. Using the hose, hold one end against the axle on one side, then loop the hose up and over the kayak, to the matching axle position on the other side. You can see what I mean from the photos. It loops a little above the deck of the kayak. This becomes the length of the hose. It is not an exact science, and can be adjusted afterwards. The plastic conduit really only serves as spacers to keep all the parts in position on the axle. these can be fine tuned as well. A free tip for you! Buy a cheap PEX tubing cutter. These look like pliers, but have a knife edge on one side, and a pipe holder on the other. They cut through plastic pipe like butter, much faster and easier than a hacksaw.

Now drill a hole in the aluminum rod for the hitch pin. You will need to find the centre of the axle for the keel roller, and mark both sides where it ends up on the axle. The heater hose needs a bit of work now. You can just drill a hole in the hose, but I figured it would be better to insert a hose connector first, then drill the axle hole through both the hose and the plastic joint residing inside. I cut the connector in half first, before installing it into the hose. This makes a tougher joint with the axle. The plastic conduit is cut to make up the spacers needed to position all the pieces in the right spots. The order of assembly is:

hitch pin
keel roller

Follow back up the list for the other side of the roller. Once the wheel is in place, you now have the assembled cart. A little fine tuning is possible if you do not make the final cut of the axle length. You can then sit the kayak on the cart and adjust as neccessary. I did a bit of this, shortening or creating new spacers as needed. Once satisfied, mark and cut the axle, drill the hole for the hitch pin, and you are DONE!

The kayak rolled along nicely in the backyard, but the real test was the dunes at Sandbanks. This it passed with flying colours. The little sand path up and over the dune was narrow and lined with assorted shrubs. The wheels twist around a bit while underway, but they always seem to be able to right themselves. I dragged the kayak along at a fair clip up that dune, but nothing seemed to faze the cart. You do have to be careful going backwards, as if you move to fast or sudden, the kayak may have a tendency to ride over the cart, pushing the wheels forward. Just like backing up the Alto though, slow and easy makes the day. They also store quite nicely inside the kayaks, the hose just bends over as needed to get into the cockpit.

Total investment...around $45 bucks. I already had the wheels, but a suitable golf cart is easily found on Kijiji or Craigs list, no doubt at an equally suitable price point. Or do as we did, quit golf and repurpose the golf cart!

Overall, a simple and useful project.


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