Best Canoe Cart for Portaging in 2019 (REVIEW GUIDE)

If you own a canoe, then you probably already know that one of their biggest advantages over kayaks is that they can carry lots of gear. That may be true out on the water, but trying to portage a fully loaded canoe is a nightmare. That’s where a canoe cart can become incredibly useful, and I’ve done the research to find the very best one for you.

So what is the best canoe cart for portaging? The best canoe cart has got to be the Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Cart, as it’s one of the best all-around portaging tools on the market. It comes with wide, puncture-proof wheels that work in any terrain, the aluminum frame is strong enough to carry all but the heaviest canoes, and it’s priced well enough to fit most paddlers’ budgets.

There’s a cart for every type of boat and terrain, though, and it’s important that you choose one that fits your specific needs. Below I’ve covered some of the leading canoe carts for sale right now and how you should go about choosing one.

Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reviews of the Best Canoe Carts for Portaging

1. Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Cart

Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Cart

Malone, once a distant third behind Thule and Yakima in the kayak/canoe car carrier market, has quickly become a leader in the canoe cart industry. The design of their universal cart has been copied by dozens of other companies for one simple reason: it works really, really well.

To start with, the Malone Clipper has a great set of tires: ten-inches in diameter, airless (so they never puncture or need a top-up), and the best part is they’re removable to maximize storage space.

The Malone’s frame is built to hold up to 200 lb, which is more than any canoe is going to weigh. The carrying arms are wrapped with soft foam pads to prevent damage to your canoe too. The wheels also come off, and the arms fold flat for easy transport.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, though; while the Malone isn’t the priciest canoe cart, it’s also not the least expensive. It’s a good choice for frequent paddlers that will appreciate the frame’s superior durability.

Additionally, there’s one piece on the cart that’s not quite so durable – the kickstand. It uses a twin-kickstand design, which should give it better traction (more surface area touching the ground) and great strength (less weight on each leg). The connecting rod, which runs between the axle and the kickstand legs, is a weak point, though. On such a durable cart, this is something of a disappointment. 

The Clipper from Malone is undoubtedly the best all-around canoe cart. With a good-sized carrying capacity, puncture-less wheels, and a strong but not too heavy frame, this is the cart that can do it all.

In terms of cost, it’s middle of the road, making it suitable for most paddlers.

Pros:

  • 10” airless wheels are easy to maneuver, even in mud and sand
  • 200 lb weight capacity
  • Durable aluminum frame
  • Folds flat and wheels can be removed

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest canoe cart
  • Kickstand supports could be stronger

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2. Yak-Gear Ctug Kayak or Canoe Trolley

Yak-Gear Ctug Kayak or Canoe Trolley

Most canoe carts are made from aluminum, or occasionally stainless steel, but the Ctug from Yak-Gear is actually built from reinforced composite plastic. You’d think that would shave off some weight, but it comes in at 9.8 lb, which is fairly average.

However, the plastic frame is quite a bit stronger than its metal counterparts, being able to carry 300 lb or nearly double the capacity of most carts.

That high weight capacity is primarily due to a more simplistic design, though, consisting of a couple of plastic pads atop the axle (most kayak carts have a set of raised arms to hold the canoe).

It’s an advantage for structural integrity, but a disadvantage for ease of carrying as the canoe sits lower to the ground and makes it more likely that you’ll drag the tip of the boat. The simple design makes assembly and disassembly a breeze, though, going together in about twenty seconds.

One of the major issues with the Ctug comes from its wheels, which are made from solid plastic instead of using a solid rubber or pneumatic tire. Again, this design is nearly indestructible, but the interior of the wheel has openings on its side that can fill with sand and mud. This makes it a bad choice if you might be using the Ctug on the beach or in areas with frequent bad weather.

The unorthodox design of the Ctug is great for paddlers that value durability above all else, as there’s little chance that you’ll break this cart. However, it costs more than the average canoe cart, it’s harder to pull anything with it, and it performs poorly in difficult terrain.

Pros:

  • Excellent carrying capacity for its size and weight
  • Dismantles easily
  • Composite plastic is incredibly durable

Cons:

  • The design puts canoe too low to the ground
  • Open-sided wheels can fill with sand and mud

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3. Wilderness Systems Heavy Duty Kayak Cart

Wilderness Systems Heavy Duty Kayak Cart

Leave it to a kayak manufacturer to design one of the very best canoe carts on the market. The Wilderness Systems cart can carry a full 450 lb, more than just about any other cart and far more than your canoe could ever weigh. So what good is all that capacity?

First of all, there’s the peace of mind; a cart built to carry 450 lb will have no trouble carrying 100 lb, year in and year out. Secondly, you don’t need to take the gear out before putting it on the cart. Few of us paddle a canoe that weighs more than a 120 lb empty, but anglers and backcountry campers will often have an extra 100 lb stored inside the boat.

The Wilderness is super easy to load too, as there’s no kickstand needed to balance; the support arms act as their own kickstand. This makes it a whole lot easier to load when weighted down with gear.

Additionally, since the kickstand is part of the frame instead of an afterthought, it’s considerably stronger than most models. Such a simple design makes it that much easier to take apart too, with fewer parts to keep track of.

As would be expected, though, the Wilderness doesn’t come cheap, costing about two times as much as most canoe carts. On the other hand, it’s probably the last canoe cart you’ll ever need.

There’s also a slight issue with the tires; it comes with narrow, solid plastic wheels that don’t work well in sand. Wide “balloon tires” can be fitted to the cart, but this is an aftermarket purchase.

The Wilderness Systems canoe cart is definitely a niche market item, appealing to the paddler that wants a rock-solid carrying system and is willing to pay top dollar for it. It will last you a lifetime though, so consider it an investment.

Pros:

  • Easy to disassemble and store
  • Very high weight capacity
  • Doesn’t rely on a kickstand

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Stock wheels are too narrow for sand

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4. Suspenz Smart Airless DLX Cart

Suspenz Smart Airless DLX Cart

Like many canoe carts, the Suspenz Smart Airless DLX utilizes a carrying arm and kickstand design that’s very much like the Malone.

Instead of foam protection pads, the Suspenz has rubber bumpers, which are a little more durable. It also has a thick fabric strap running between the two support arms holding the boat, which gives it a little extra stability while retaining a lightweight design.

Like the Malone, the Suspenz is easy to take apart, with wide and airless wheels that pop off for storage. It’s also quite lightweight, using powder-coated aluminum that is quite durable for its weight.

However, this cart is probably not the best choice if you’re hauling a large aluminum canoe or want to keep gear in it while you’re portaging. It only has a 125 lb weight capacity, which sounds like it should be enough for most canoes, but it’s not a good idea to stretch this cart to its limit.

The Suspenz’s cradle is also a little too narrow for some wider boats. This problem is also born out in the straps too, which are also too short if you’ve got a wider canoe.

The Suspenz utilizes a similar design to the Malone, but it has a lower weight capacity and is less effective at carrying large boats. However, it does an excellent job at hauling smaller canoes and the fabric straps and rubber bumpers built into the frame will make it slightly more durable.

Pros:

  • Wide, airless tires
  • Easy disassembly
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Cradle is too narrow for some canoes
  • Straps need to be longer
  • Low weight capacity

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5. TMS Kayak Canoe Carrier

TMS Kayak Canoe Carrier

TMS’s cart looks suspiciously like the Malone, with wide, never-flat tires, a tubular frame that can be disassembled, and will fit most canoes, a small kickstand for loading solo, and some tie-downs to keep your boat firmly attached.

The kicker – it costs about half what the Malone does. But with all the same features and a lower price, there’s got to be a catch, right?

Essentially, the TMS is a less durable version of the Malone. The pneumatic tires don’t hold air very well and can be punctured, so it’s imperative that you check the pressure if it’s been sitting for a while.

The frame, while considered to have a universal fit, doesn’t fit all canoes. The parts also don’t hold up as well, wearing out faster than the Malone, particularly with the kickstand feature.

However, the TMS is probably the best option for consumers that don’t want to pay a lot for their canoe cart. It has issues with fitting some canoe models and so-so tires, but it also costs half as much as most of its competitors.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to disassemble
  • Wide tires work in a variety of conditions

Cons:

  • Pneumatic tires can go flat
  • Cradle isn’t shaped to fit all boats
  • Durability is an issue

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Why Use a Canoe Cart

When purchasing a canoe, you probably noticed that a fair number of them are too heavy to carry by yourself. A few come with a yoke, which can make solo transportation more comfortable, allowing you to carry the boat’s weight on both of your shoulders.

Even with a yoke, though, carrying a 90 lb canoe is just out of the question for many paddlers. A cart will be a lifesaver in such a situation, and they’re especially useful if you’re taking a trip that involves multiple portages, either to move campsites or get between bodies of water.

What to Look for in a Canoe Cart – Buyer’s Guide

Carts are fairly simple machines: a set of two wheels and a frame to cradle the end of your boat. Just because it’s a simple doesn’t mean the details don’t matter though; minor details make all the difference with such a straightforward design.

Wheels

If your adventures will involve sandy beaches, get a cart with wide tires so they don’t get caught in the muck. Most carts have airless tires, so you won’t need to worry about rolling over a nail or broken glass. Instead, look for wheels that have solid sides to prevent any mud or sand from clogging up the inside.

While most carts come standard with medium-sized wheels, if you’re headed to the beach with your canoe, look for a cart that can be outfitted with bulbous “balloon tires”.

Size

If you’re just going from the car to the put-in point, size doesn’t really matter – the cart will be stored in the vehicle while you’re out paddling.

However, if you’re doing multiple portages in the middle of your paddling trip, those wheels need to fit inside the canoe and there’s only so much space with all your other gear.

Most canoe carts can be disassembled, but some have longer pieces than others, so it pays to look into that if you’re already hurting for storage inside your boat.

Design

The basic design of a canoe cart involves just four pieces: a set of wheels, an axle, support arms to hold up the boat, and a kickstand to stabilize the cart while it’s being loaded. The more complex the design, the more that can go wrong with it, so choose a cart that checks all the boxes for you while minimizes points of failure.

Durability

Most canoe carts are built from high-quality aluminum tubes, which can hold 150-200 lb. A few are constructed from stainless steel or composite, which is stronger and more durable – an important consideration if you’ve got a heavier boat.

The devil is in the details though, with the weak points being thin support bars or the hardware connecting tubes together. You usually get what you pay for, with more expensive carts being considerably more durable.

Price

Nobody wants to spend money on a cart when they could be buying fun gear or a better boat. However, a good canoe cart will last many years, so if you’re a frequent paddler, it pays to make a bigger upfront investment.

My Choice for the Best Canoe Cart for Portaging

At first glance, most canoe carts look pretty much the same, but that doesn’t mean that choosing one is an unimportant decision.

The Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Cart is still my favorite canoe cart to portage with, checking all the boxes when it comes to usability, durability, and affordability. No matter which canoe you use with it, the Malone will get the job done.

That’s not to say there aren’t some great alternatives, particularly the Wilderness Systems Cart, which is my favorite cart if you’re willing to spend the money.

The unorthodox design of Yak-Gear’s Ctug is also worth looking at if you don’t mind a cart that carries lower to ground, but is easy to load and has excellent durability.

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Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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