Carry or Haul?

Most long distance pedestrian journeys are backpacking trips. To get your gear from point A to point B you generally need to carry it, and putting the weight on your hips and shoulders is the most efficient way to do it.

On the other hand, putting 30, or 40, or 50 extra pounds on your vertebrae and feet for hundreds of miles can take a toll.

For some reason, I’m especially prone to blisters and hot feet, so in April I decided to do a little test walk of almost 20 miles through Seattle with 40 lbs in my pack.


I may look happy here, but my feet were pretty sore, and the idea of doing this every day for three weeks didn’t sound appealing.

An alternative idea had been building for a while to try to buy or build some kind of a cart that I could pull behind myself. After all, the old railway bed I’ll be walking on will not be steep and with the exception of a few short unmaintained parts it’s definitely wide enough.

A bit of research encouraged by my friend Dave Reeck led me quickly to Burley, an Oregon company that specializes in bike trailers. Burley has a few trailers that are primarily carts (as opposed to kid-carriers),  and a cross-country ski kit for converting them into something you could haul your belongings across the great frozen north. If I left the wheels on the cart, but added the “hauling harness” and arms I thought I might just have a rig that would work on the John Wayne Trail.

On April 30th I set off with my Burley “Nomad”. From home, I walked through Wallingford,


then down to my friend Peter’s house. Peter was going to accompany me in the test drive.


The Nomad is loaded with 50 lbs of books, water, and a concrete block. It was a bit jerky on the flat and up hills, but definitely better than having all that weight on my back.

After crossing the Fremont bridge, we went west along the Ship Canal Trail, and were joined for a while by my old Aussie mate John.


John’s a geologist and immediately made the generous offer that I could come haul his rock sampling equipment in central Washington if I really wanted to put the cart through its paces.  We may yet do that. Watch this space!

After John left us, we did a loop of Discovery Park, enjoying the beauty of the spring flush and checking out performance in the sand.

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A late lunch in Ballard, and by that time we’d done about 13 miles. My feet were a little sore, but not nearly as tender as they had been with the pack on. The only thing that could have been improved was the jerkiness of the pull, and Peter had an idea for this.

We stopped in at Stone Way Hardware, went back to his basement shop, and made these excellent little swing arms that absorb the hip-swivel and even out the pull.


Conclusion: I’ll be hauling my trailer along the trail in September. The best part of it is that the difference between hauling 30 lbs and 60 lbs isn’t that great, so I’ll be able to carry lots of water, a few camping luxuries, and probably even some of the load from friends who join me along the way.

The only thing left is to name this little chap. The model name is “Nomad”, but I think it needs it’s own name. Who’s got a suggestion?


5 thoughts on “Carry or Haul?

  1. Bobber.

    From the web: Most railroads opted for a caboose with two trucks (called “bogies”) and eight wheels, but some eastern roads chose a no-truck, four-wheel design called a “bobber.” The lack of trucks reduced the amount of steel needed for the caboose, thus lowering the final cost. This car got its name from the way it would “bob” down the track. Its tracking was so bad that several states enacted laws prohibiting the use of bobber cabooses (although by then the railroads had already stopped buying them).”

    It would be even better if the cover was red instead of yellow.


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