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Hiking carts...

Hey everyone!

Looking to get folks opinions about hiking carts. This would be a single wheel or multi-wheel cart, non-motorized that a person would pull with 1 or 2 hands, or somehow attach to a hip belt. If you google search you can find a variety of various designs out there. Most appear to be no wider than the average shoulder width of an adult male.

-Are there laws/rules preventing these carts on the trail(s) today?
-What's your thoughts if you see someone with one of these carts?
-Anyone with personal experience using a cart?

I ask this as i get older and my knees continue to get worse as well as the disc in my neck and back.

Looking forward to a good healthy discussion!

Carry less stuff Willie.  Not practical on rough trails. 

Not legal in wilderness areas.

ppine... it's necessarily all about the weight for me, it's also about carrying the pack in general. 

Illegal in wilderness areas...can you be more specific? Also, how is it defined?

I'd rather have a drone drop off my stuff at my camping area.

WILL1E said:

"..Illegal in wilderness areas...can you be more specific? Also, how is it defined?"

Wilderness area is a designation suggested by the President, and enacted by the US Congress.  Read for yourself to appreciate the implications of this status.  Many agencies that administer lands designated as wilderness construe this legislation to preclude use of wheeled apparatuses, such as motor vehicles, bicycles and carts.


So i live in Wisconsin and I called and spoke to various folks at the Department of Natural Resources yesterday. I asked if hiking carts were allowed on trails in county, state or national forest including designed state park trails.

First, i was surprised they all knew what i was talking about. Didn't think they would be because i didn't think they were that common. Second, not single one hesitated with confirming that they are allowed in all of those areas. They said because it's non-motorized and it's not something a person sits on or rides on, it doesn't fall into any controlled categories such as biking, atv's, etc.

I'm still reading through the Wilderness Act document to see what the specific verbage is in there that prohibits their use. However, i'm not sure how/why the DNR would say they're ok if the Wilderness Act covers any of those forest or areas i mentioned.

Wilderness Act covers designated Federal wilderness areas. County, State and National Forest lands are not included under the Act. 

Hmm, i thought the article whomeworry specially called out "national forest" as being part of it.  Regardless then, it looks like i'm clear to pursue this as far as WI is concerned.

However, after reading the Wilderness Act, i still don't know if a non-motorized trailer/cart falls into anything they reference.  They call out mechanized transport, but that's in reference to the person and not anything else.

I'm not trying to start a debate or whatnot, just trying to truly understand and educate myself on this topic.  I have no intent of trying to drag a trailer through some national park, just looking for clarity on where it's acceptable.

Call the SPECIFIC government department that administrates the area you intend to use your cart.  The Department of Natural Resources no doubt is a large bureaucracy with myriad responsibilities.  It is probable the person(s) you contacted are not aware of all the applicable regulations.  For instance Gaylord Nelson Wilderness has tracts that have been declared Wilderness by federal decree.  Those areas definitely do not permit use of wheeled vehicles.  A cart is considered a wheeled vehicle.  Despite what the folks over at DNR have to say, there is a good chance certain state or county lands also have similar restrictions.  You need to contact the specific park or forest administration delegated to mange that land tract.  

Being a national park or forest does not automatically place land under the Wilderness Act.  In fact usually only sections of a federal land tract, if any, may qualify.  Regardless, if the area you plan to visit is declared a wilderness area, you will not be authorized to use a wheeled vehicle of any sort.  An example of one such place that has tracts designated as wilderness is the Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI).  Note the link states stipulates wheeled vehicle restrictions specifically applies to areas designated per the Wilderness Act.


I have some experience in dealing with wheeled carts on trails (SAR operations extricating victoms).  It is far more difficult to wheel a load along a typical trail than to carry the weight on your back.

Wheeled vehicles of any sort are a no-no within federally designated wilderness area.  State parks vary considerable.

If wheels are OK in the areas you will be using, consider some sort of dirt bicycle.  It will be much easier

I wish I could use a cart in the wilderness area of Joshua Tree NP.  The trails are near flat grade, have a nice smooth bed and are wide.  It'd be nice since all backpacking there is dry camping, and carrying several days of water is a bitch!  Perhaps if I call it a summer pulk, they'll let me skate?


That's it, Ed. The UHMWPE skis you find on the bottom of some pulks should drag over dirt just as well as snow...

Here's one example:

Willie if its a designated footpath like the Appalachian trial they are considered illegal...You would have to look at specific national trails and their designation...

Willie, I'll not add to the info above except to heartily concur with hikermor that pulling a cart will likely be worse along most trails than carrying a pack. I have back issues and knee issues and the strain of pulling something...leaning forward on your back and strain on knees sounds horrible. My solution was investing in a superior sleeping pad for great relief at night (my back make hammocks a no go), trekking poles working wonders for my knees, and reducing my base pack weight to the teens so it rests easily on my hips and the back doesn't get bothered at all. Worked wonders. 

For a change of pace, I have used a wheel barrow on good trail, and also a little red wagon to haul a cooler on backpacking trips.  The normal rocks and roots on the trail require that the appliance be lifted over obstacles.  Okay for short trips if you are young and have a strong back and someone to help you. 

September 30, 2020
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