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Hiking Handcart


The idea of a handcart for hiking was born of the problem of transporting a lot of weight on an overnight hike without having it in a backpack. Being a sedentary person when not on the road, I don't have the strength to carry all the overnight gear required in the desert. The heaviest single item in desert travel is water. The need for a gallon of fluids per day causes the load to get heavy fast.

I hoped to make a three-day trek on the mud flats of Crater Island, hiking a total of 18 miles and doing a little exploration along the way. My main goal was to examine three isolated hills at Crater Island's north end. Those hills called to me to be explored ever since I first saw them with binoculars from the area near Lucin (north of Crater Island).

It was out of the question to carry all the stuff I'd need (including 24 pounds of fluids), so an alternate method of hauling all my gear had to be developed. I was aware that some Mormon pioneers had used handcarts to transport their possessions, and a Web search for hiking trailers led me to modern-day trailers for bicycling and hiking.

The handcart had to be made of materials that I had or could buy cheaply, be made without the need for a table saw (I used a circular saw and jig saw), and be designed so that it could be dis-assembled for transport in my mini-van and easily assembled on-site.

What I created was a shallow wood box with long handles, mounted on the axle and wheels of my hand truck. It was held together with screws, four U-bolts, and several angle brackets. Using my portable drill for driving the screws, it took me about 45 minutes to assemble or dis-assemble the thing. This was inconvenient but tolerable. Before leaving for Utah, I strength-tested the handcart with the help of a neighbor, who rode in the thing as I pulled it around on the street. Thanks, Rosemary!

I used the handcart three times on the mud flats. The first effort was disappointing because the mud was still quite soft, having not dried out from rain. The cart's wheels (and my feet) sunk into the soft mud enough to add drag to the hiking effort. Where the mud was wetest, it stuck to the tires with a vengeance, preventing forward motion. I had to stop about six times to scrape the gooey stuff from the wheels and sides of the cart. After hiking two miles I realized the futility of the effort and gave up.

Two weeks later, after spending time in Salt Lake City and Moab, I tried again and was pleased to find that all the wet spots were gone and the mud in general was firmer. I and the tires still sank in a little bit here and there, but the inconvenience was minor compared to what I had experienced the first time. I hiked five miles, camped on the mud flats, and returned the next day.

In 2012 I tried again, with the goal of hiking farther. That third hike was aborted because of wet mud.

The three hills still call...

First Handcart Hike
:: First Handcart Hike ::
Second Handcart Hike
:: Second Handcart Hike ::
Third Handcart Hike
:: Third Handcart Hike ::