I have been looking for solutions to coping with the inability to carry a backpack or use anything requiring shoulder straps. I’ve found some useful solutions for other issues, things like the “Wilder-Gimp” are wonderful, and while I haven’t tried it, it isn’t a solution for someone who can’t use both arms. Even navigating a shopping cart with one hand can be a challenge on a level floor, so managing a cart of any kind over a trail doesn’t sound like a good solution for that situation.
I think I might have come up with one though.
With the concept of pushing something in front ruled out, that leaves the idea of pulling something behind as a potential option. At the same time, since the use of a walking stick greatly aids in maintaining one’s stability on the trail, tying up the lone “good arm” with a wagon handle doesn’t sound too brilliant either.
My idea is a quick release buckle on a wide hip belt, with the cart’s tow line attached at the center of the back. Traditional child’s wagons are a good width, but their wheels and tongue aren’t adequate for the job they would be assigned to do. Most garden carts are too wide, heavy, and sluggish to spend a day being tugged along narrow hiking trails, and would present a huge problem when faced with obstacles that require assistance to cross, such as rivers, creeks, and gullies.
I’m envisioning something using a 16″ bicycle wheel because they are easily obtained, match the wheels on our bicycle trailer, have good clearance for minor obstacles, and are large enough to not beat the wagon itself as it navigates the trailer. It would have to have a handle that would allow it to be used to push the trailer, as well as a tongue handle to allow it to be pulled easily. By making it have a large enough capacity to carry two backpacks, two sleeping bags, and a tent, it could be used by a couple, allowing them to alternate pulling the cart through the day. That means it needs to be capable of a 75 pound payload.
While two wheels can be used on a dolly, that doesn’t have the weight capacity and stability we’re seeking, so we would need at least three wheels. In addition, many parts of the country, including where we live, has a lot of water, and if the cart is capable of floating while fully loaded, it would make it a lot easier to cross bodies of water, otherwise, if it is more than 12″ deep, carrying the cart across would be necessary.
Now it’s sounding like a little boat on wheels, which is a bit whacky, I suppose.
So, we want it about 18″ wide, and no more than 36″ long, with a handle that extends up on both the front and the back. the front wheel is going to have to pivot somehow in order to make it easy to turn, whether it has a front pair of wheels or a single wheel. The front handle should be able to be folded back, like the tongue on a child’s wagon.
Okay, great idea…if you own a machine shop, I suppose. I don’t, and I’m also not able to do extensive work of this nature. So what kind of a solution would I find by searching online?
I knew I’d have to give up some things, but the width was really important. Any narrower than 18″, and it wouldn’t work too well for holding a backpack. If it was too wide, it wouldn’t be able to be used on a typical hiking trail. Too long, and it’s apt to high center as we cross obstacles, as well as having a poor turning radius.
Amazon.com, that amazing super-internet-store, but one also well known to be reasonable secure to shop with, had a number of wagons. At first, I was mostly searching in regards to a wooden wagon, but those seemed to be mostly for the typical tote-the-kid-around-the-block types. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, that’s not exactly what I had in mind either.
I found something that looks like it would work with minimal modifications. It’s called the “Tricam FR110-2 Farm & Ranch 400-Pound Capacity Steel Utility Cart, Green“.
It won’t float. It doesn’t have 16″ bicycle wheels, although they are air filled, which could be a problem if a puncture occurs. They are fat, which means more resistance than a bicycle wheel would have, but they are 10″, which is a decent size. It has a tongue, and the reviews indicate that it does have a tight turning radius.
A strap could be attached to the tongue that then fastened to a wide hip belt with a quick release buckle. It has plenty of cargo capacity, as I seriously doubt that we’d ever load 400 lbs onto a cart to take along on a hike. It could do double duty by helping haul things around the yard too. The deck is two inches longer than what my target size was, since it is 34″ long. It costs $88.31, with a free shipping option, via Amazon. That’s not a bad price, especially with good reviews from other purchasers.
While we could probably come up with something to bolt onto the cart to allow someone to push from the back, I’m not sure it would do much good after thinking about it some more. With the pivoting front wheels, steering would still be a potential problem. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t use a handle on the back. That rear handle would allow a second person to slow the cart’s descent down a slope, as well as provide something to grab to help get it over obstacles or even to help carry it across them. In fact, it might be a good idea to bolt handles to the sides, just for that purpose.
That leaves the belt and the straps. For the hip belt, nylon seatbelt webbing is available from Seattle Fabrics for $1.50 per yard. 3/4″ black webbing, also from Seattle Fabrics, is only $.65 per yard and would be perfectly adequate to use from the belt to the tongue, freeing up the person playing draft horse’s hands. A side release buckle runs $1.85 from Seattle Fabrics. 3/4″ buckles, of which we’d need 2, (one for the belt and one for the handle end) runs $.85 per buckle.
Obviously, the belt and strap will be the least expensive part of the project.
On considering the belt, while seatbelt weave nylon straps are going to distribute the resistance of the cart over it’s entire width, it’s still depending on the person’s clothing providing adequate padding to prevent chafing, bruising, etc. It may require pads to be attached, and that part…I’ve not worked out entirely yet.
Even so, it looks like I could assemble a prototype from the cart and straps for about $100-120, including shipping and some relatively simple modifications. That’s not bad, actually, especially when compared to taking a design to a shop and asking for custom fabrication.