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When does a hiking cart help?

People often ask whether a hiking cart can be taken through various types of terrain. A better question is: when does a hiking cart help? And when is it better to carry your load instead? You may be able to take a hiking cart to many places where it would be easier to carry your pack – like going over the bridge in the photo above. This is one of the potential problems with using a hiking cart, as discussed here.

In a nutshell:

  • When the way is very narrow, rough, steep, soft, slippery, overgrown or has many obstacles, it is easier to carry your pack.
  • When the way is smoother, with less obstacles, more level, harder and less slippery, it is easier to wheel your pack.

I use a Trekker’s Friend hiking cart and use the following simple rules to decide whether to carry my backpack or wheel it:

  • I carry my backpack when:
    • Rocks and other obstacles on the track are higher than my foot
    • I have encountered more than one fallen tree across the track
    • The track is so overgrown that there is no clear path for the hiking cart
    • Any other circumstance that looks like it will be easier to carry my pack
  • Otherwise I wheel it on the Trekker’s Friend.

It takes only around a minute to switch between carrying and wheeling it. Nonetheless, I plan my walk to avoid switching more than a couple of times a day if I can.

Your body will get to know the answer to the question of “when does a hiking cart help?”. The good thing about using a Trekker’s Friend is that you have the best of both worlds and can decide as you go along which one you’ll choose.

For most walking routes you will want to carry your pack for part of the time

Almost every walking route will have places that are not suitable for a hiking cart. You may be walking a route such as the Camino that you know in advance to be suitable for hiking carts. However, even then there you will want to go into shops and accommodation, and there will crowded streets and obstacles like fallen trees across the track, or side trips and shortcuts that have more difficult terrain. You will also need to get to and from your walk in a car or on public transport. If you have a hiking cart that is highly portable and easily be carried then you will not have problems at times like this.

Get a hiking cart that you can carry/wheel as you like, and easily swap between

For all of these reasons I recommend taking a hiking cart that can easily be carried, such as the Trekker’s Friend. Weighing only 1.5 kg, it is designed to be quickly swapped between wheeling and being carried. You can pack it into a small day pack so it is easy to take on public transport or in a car.