Chandlery August 2017 Issue

Folding Cart Does Yeoman’s Duty

Folding Carts
Clockwise from top left: The cart can roll across the grass; after several years, two carts from Staples are still in service; a nail fixes the hinge, a common failure point; and the closing latch also fails early—but you can get by without.

In our previous review of dock carts, folding file carts were a standout. Marina carts are a hike to retrieve and return, where as the folding carts can be packed into a space no larger than a brief case in 5-10 seconds, fitting handily in the truck or in a locker. The downside is limited capacity (15 x 13.5 x 14 inches deep and light construction, bordering on flimsy. Prices start at about from $22. Are the trade-offs worth it?

They withstand use better than abuse. However, with reasonable care, we’ve ferried batteries and 5-gallon cans across grass, gravel, old docks, and miles of streets. What fails are the plastic hinges. Sometimes a pin simply falls out—easily fixed with a nail.

The hinges fail if you cram too much stuff in the box; they were built for hanging files, not jumbled stuff. A few drilled holes and cable ties will fix this.

The storage latches get knocked off if you bang the side in your travels or forget to snap them before tossing it in the trunk. Fortunately, they aren’t really needed. The collapsible handle jams, but a squirt of McLube Sailkote works wonders. We’ve had the wind blow empty carts into the water; we hose them off and corrosion has not been a problem.

The dock carts are available from multiple sources including Walmart, Staples, West Marine, and various suppliers on Amazon (search Olympia Tools Pack-n-Roll). West Marine lists payload capacity at 100 pounds, most others specify 70 to 80 pounds.

Is there any actual difference in load capacity? We’re not sure. The fatal failures are always in the hinges, not the floor, wheels, or axles. Our West Marine cart lasted six years, our Staples cart matched that, we now have a second Staples cart going on its fifth year.

The volume is limited, but for a couple cruising the Chesapeake Bay or coastal waters, how much do you need for a mid-cruise grocery run? They easily carry a bag of ice on the bottom and a pair of reusable bags on top, which seem quite enough. Going to the boat for a day trip, a jerry can and boat bag go in the cart, and a small cooler in the hand.

Bottom line: We’ve really enjoyed the compactness and ease. Don’t wedge in heavy stuff that forces the sides apart. Don’t expect them to last more than 2-4 years in regular use, and be prepared to replace a few pins and maybe even patch a hinge with cable ties. Not durable, but for $25, what did you really expect? We’re happy with the compromise.

Comments (4)

Had a Westmarine cart that lasted about a month before the frame broke. Westmarine is great about exchanges. They gave me another. It made it for two months. Well we got through the summer! It works great ,but is so flimsy that it's not practical.

Posted by: Joegunz | July 30, 2017 5:47 PM    Report this comment

About 15 or so years ago we purchased a new dock cart from a pilot's supply company. It was shown loaded with cement blocks, it seemed too good to be true, and it was pricey about $150 at the time. It was an all aluminum folding frame with 6 inch rubber treaded plastic wheels. The material was some version of a very tough but light fabric that has never unstitched, shredded or torn. We have use it every summer since for loading, unloading, groceries, laundry etc. It is still in service, requiring a drop of oil on the axels every 4 years. It fold up almost flat and can be stowed anywhere. Unfortunately, the manufacturer stopped making them. I have one and can take pictures for anyone interested in finding a manufacturer.

Posted by: Soggy Bottom | July 30, 2017 1:59 PM    Report this comment

As a former teacher who went through many of these using these just for papers, I advise you to expect them to break sooner rather than later. I prefer hauling boat stuff in a wheeled softsided backpack (Stahl) designed for diving gear. More expensive initially, but also more , flexible, durable and spill-proof. I've used my Stahlsack for almost 30 years, and every one of those wheeled carts bit the dust in about 3 months.

Posted by: GeoGoddess | July 30, 2017 10:48 AM    Report this comment

I agree 100%. Ours is still going (not so) strong after six or seven years. What I appreciate most is leaving the boat kit in it after we get home. Collapse the cart handle, stash it in the basement and nothing gets lost or misplaced before our next outing.

Posted by: Rod on Luna | July 30, 2017 10:35 AM    Report this comment

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