My favourite kayak and canoe trolley
My favourite kayak and canoe trolley is my RAILBLAZA C-Tug which in January 2023 is an incredible 17 years old and shows every sign of easily going on for at least another 17 years. It has coped admirably with every one of the multiple kayaks and canoes I have owned or tested over the years (and every kayak and canoe featured in my reviews on this web site) from large heavy Open Canoes weighing well over 45kg with paddling, picnic, and family gear on board to small single person Sit-On-Tops and is used on almost a weekly basis to carry my 17' composite sea kayak down to the water. It is very well travelled having over the years been all along the Norfolk Coast and around the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, down in the far south of Cornwall, numerous places along the West Coast of Scotland, on the East Coast of Scotland/Firth of Forth and along the Northumberland coast. It's longest single portage (so far - and done several times) was over 1.2km up and down a very steep and bumpy Cornish farm track and through a hillside field, to the bemusement of the resident herd of cows, down to a quay leading to the Helford River on the Lizard Peninsula. Locating the trolley at the centre point of the kayak effectively makes the kayak/canoe weightless so all you have to do is pull it along not support the weight of it - unlike some trolleys which can only fit at the end of a kayak/canoe.
My 17 year old (as of January 2023) C-Tug trolley - still looking good and working perfectly
(Note: New C-Tugs now come with "Kiwi" Solid or "SandTrakz" wheels).
Maintenance has been limited to making sure I hose the C-Tug off with fresh water, especially the axles, after every trip and giving it the occasional wipe over with 303 Aerospace Protectant. I spray all of my gear made out of polymers/plastics or rubber including the hulls of my plastic kayaks and canoes, rubber seals on my dry suit, even my car door seals, etc, with 303 Aerospace Protectant to keep them supple and in good condition and protect from degradation by UV light which is a plastic killer.. I have seen some people say they have issues with the plastic on the C-Tug axles (stainless steel core) melting during heavy use. I have never experienced this with mine and the axles show minimal wear after 17 years. I often give the axles a coat of 303 Aerospace Protectant (makes them slick and shiny but it is a dry finish) and I may have occasionally sprayed them with a dry graphite spray type lubricant. I would never advocate putting grease or any "wet" type lubrication on the axles as in my experience that just causes sand and grit to stick to them then you have effectively made yourself a grinding paste to wear away the components. The wheels themselves have replaceable bushes in them so they can be changed if worn but I still haven't needed to do that with mine.
Made from non-corroding engineering polymers and with stainless steel reinforced axles the design is very strong, rated for a load of up to 120kg/260lb which is well above most other trolleys on the market, and as I can testify made for a long working life. The innovative design enables you to completely dismantle or re-assemble the trolley in less than 30 seconds once you have acquired the knack and once dismantled it will fit into the hatches of most kayaks or can be placed in a bag and strapped to the deck or a tank well!. Disassembled into it's component parts it can be spread around the storage compartments in your craft to best make use of space and awkward shapes. With my large Open (Canadian) Canoe I often leave it fully assembled and just place it behind the rear seat using the strap to hold it in place. The pads that the boat sits on are free to swivel to change angle so will automatically find the correct angle to support most hull shapes. The pads also support more of the hull than many other types of trolley helping to prevent pressure points and spread the load over a bigger area which I feel is kinder to your boat hull, especially expensive fibreglass/composite hulls like my sea kayaks. It also won't fold up and collapse like some of the pivoting aluminium frame trolleys occasionally can. The wheels are held on the axle by captive toggle locks which click positively into position when locked so they can't be lost - Unlike some trolleys which use easily lost lynch pin type retainers - My C-Tug proved it could carry TWO 17' sea kayaks one on top of the other plus paddling gear (I'd estimate at least 58kg total) and saved the day when we watched a lynch pin from another make of trolley make a bid for freedom and head for the bottom of the river after a paddling trip so the wheel couldn't be fitted!
Check out this RAILBLAZA Video to see the C-Tug in action (SandTrakz wheels shown in this video)
Over the years RAILBLAZA have made a couple of tweaks to the design which have resolved a couple of niggles I had with the original so bear that in mind if looking at older reviews. The newer parts can be bought separately so older models can be updated with the new items quite cheaply. My first minor niggle was with the plastic clip originally used to tension and lock the strap holding your kayak onto the trolley. Although it worked it wasn't the easiest thing to apply tension to. This has now been replaced with a good solid sprung loaded steel cam strap clip. Although my plastic clip was still working, after 16 years I treated my trolley to a new strap with the new cam mechanism and it is definitely easier to get a good tension on the strap with it now. The other niggle I had was with the original swivelling kick stand that holds the kayak up while you manoeuvre the kayak/canoe onto it. The original design plugged into the aperture in the chassis crossbeams and was retained by two plastic bayonet clips. The problem was that these could easily be dislodged if knocked and a few times I have had the kick stand drop out and only by luck spotted it before leaving it behind on the shore or river bank. On the later models the kick stand has been redesigned so it is actually sandwiched between the cross beams so it cannot fall off. After checking with the extremely helpful Design and Customer support teams at RAILBLAZA, who confirmed that the new design kick stand does fit on the older C-Tugs, my C-Tug also now sports a new design kick stand so both of my niggles with the original design have been resolved.
Another update to the design that has been made since I bought my C-Tug is to the wheels. The original C-Tug like mine came with pneumatic tyres which occasionally need topping up with air (not easy if you happen to be on a two week kayak expedition without access to a pump). The pneumatic wheels do though have the advantage that they seem to offer some cushioning like suspension springs over very rough ground. Incredibly 17 years on my tyres and inner tubes are still in perfectly sound condition and have never even had a puncture! However the innovative team at RAILBLAZA came up with a couple of new solutions to ensure punctures are never a problem. The standard "Kiwi" wheels now are solid so can never puncture. They also have a wide, flat, bottom profile which may run over soft sand or boggy ground better than my pneumatic wheels. Even more innovative are the new SandTrakz wheels which look akin to caterpillar or tank tracks spreading the load over a wider area and they say it reduces the effort to pull your trolley over soft sand by half. I have tried a pair of these on a friend's C-Tug and they do seem to work so I am tempted to get a set of these as well for use on our local soft sand beaches. The axles though take standard 1" bore wheels so if you have a particular application or favourite wheel type you can always fit alternative wheels to the trolley if you wish. Again this is something I may be taking advantage of as having lately become obsessed with the NDK/SKUK Romany (Classic) and Explorer sea kayaks I have for the first time found a kayak that my C-Tug won't fit into! The NDK kayaks (which have a design dating back to the early 1990's but are still an absolute delight to paddle) have a small 10" round hatch, with only about a 9.5" internal diameter instead of the larger oval hatches which most other kayaks have at the stern. The chassis once dismantled will fit into the Romany and the Explorer but my original pneumatic tyres and the newer solid Kiwi wheels are too large a diameter to fit in. I don't know whether the new SandTrakz wheels would compress enough to fit through the hatch so will have to check that (I will report back here when I find out). The alternatives therefore are to strap the wheels separately onto the back of the kayak (not keen on this idea as it will inhibit back deck re-entries), see if the wheels can actually be stored inside the cockpit in front of the footrests (I am checking this at the moment as I have a solid foam footrest mounted against the front bulkhead - If they could be fitted into a carved compartment inside the foam it would be quite an elegant solution) or thirdly buy a smaller set of 8" diameter wheels specifically for use with the NDK kayaks (I have a pair of these so this is an easy option for me - but I would rather be able to use the supplied C-Tug wheels if I can).
RAILBLAZA continue to innovate and there are now even more options for the C-Tug like rails instead of pads better suited to certain hull types, a "Double Up Bar" so you can join two C-Tugs together for really heavy boats, other products for dinghy wheels and lots more. They also produce the extremely useful and interchangeable StarPort/QuickPort system and accessories, which I have also now standardised on across all my various craft, for mounting umpteen clever fittings for everything from the ever popular action cameras to fishing rod holders, navigation lights,etc, etc.
The C-Tug has a couple of disadvantages in that the chassis components are reasonably large and at around 4.3kg it is not the lightest trolley on the market. If maximum storage space in your kayak for expeditions or super light weight is important to you then there may be better options for you than the C-Tug. The C-Tug is also not the cheapest trolley on the market but I definitely think it is a case of "you get what you pay for" and spread over the likely lifetime of the trolley cost of ownership works out at a pretty low yearly rate. However if, like me, you value a super tough trolley that can be used for practically any kayak or canoe you are ever likely to own and will last for many years, if not decades, then I cannot think of a better trolley than the C-Tug. If anything ever happens to mine (I would be devastated!) I would have no hesitation in immediately buying another.