Photography Equipment Cart

      Soon after I bought my Canon 500mm lens, I realized that lugging this monster around in the boonies was going to be a problem, especially if I took the other things I normally carried - two camera bags, portable blind, camping seat, tripod w/gimbal head, small tarpaulin (for emergency rain cover), beanbag, etc. I began looking for some sort of cart to use. All I could come up with was a folding deer cart (for hauling deer carcasses out of the woods when hunting), but they were larger and heavier than my needs dictated, had no sides (everything had to be lashed on), and most had slim, hard rubber wheels (not so good for sand or wet, soft ground) that would likely bounce my expensive lens pretty hard on rough terrain.

      Eventually I gave up on finding a useful cart. Then after I recently bought a new 4x4 truck, I went to a truck accessories shop looking for goodies for the new truck. I spotted some fishing carts in the showroom and stopped to look them over. As soon as I touched one I knew I had found what I needed. It felt feather light, and had plenty of room for my equipment. It also had fat inflatable tires which seemed ideal for a soft ride, with a wide tread for sand or soft ground.

(Top left -
the cart as it came from the store.
Center left-
The cart after I put a 3/16 plywood bottom and side panels on it, and painted it camo.
Bottom left
The cart with the upper railing installed.

Photo from Angler's
Fish-n-Mate Jr. at
      My cart is the "Angler's Fish-n-Mate". It's designed for surf fishermen (see photo at right). The post with the black "bucket" is removable. It has a cutting board and the "bucket" is really a sort of basket for cleaning fish. It's made with all aluminum tubing and stainless steel hardware, has a removable / reversable pull handle and an adjustable / removable "foot stand" on each end. Another company makes one virtually identical to this (Reels on Wheels) but with a caster wheel on the front instead of the foot stand.

      Unlike "Deer carts" with hard slim tires that would sink into soft ground, this cart has "fat" 4-inch x 14-inch inflatable pneumatic tires. They are designed for sand, which also makes them good for soft, wet, marshy ground.

      The other brand of very similar cart, called the "Reels on Wheels™ Jr. Utility Cart", (at, is approximately the same size as mine at 20x40 inches. Both weigh just 17 lbs. (though it feels like it weighs only half that), and they both handle 200 lbs. capacity.

Other cart sizes are also available:
Reels on Wheels™ Cart
weighs 26 lbs., 22x50 inches, 5x15 inch inflatable pneumatic tires
    Economy Cart
weighs 24 lbs., tires do not appear to be inflatable
  Li'l Mate
weighs 12 lbs. with 10-inch pneumatic tires
available from:
CPI Designs - and Bass Pro Shops -
  available from
     The right images show larger and smaller versions of the carts that are available, in the event you need more or less cargo space. Two of these could be modified like mine with the upper railing to hold more cargo, which I will show next.

      Now that we have the "where can I get one" stuff covered, let's look at my modifications to make it suitable as a photography equipment cart. First, I cut some pieces from 3/16 plywood to make a bottom panel, and two side panels to keep straps and soft bags from rubbing against the tires or dragging on the ground. I primed and painted the panels black, then used a few sheet metal screws to attach them to the cart. This was a simple task, requiring only a jigsaw, drill and screwdriver. You can get a good idea how this was done by viewing the top right photo below.

     Next I made an upper railing from inexpensive PVC water pipe. Its purpose is to allow the stacking of bags and equipment on the otherwise low cart without them falling out or requiring bungee cords to hold things on. This was also easy, requiring only a hack saw (or other type of saw to cut the PVC pipe), and a drill. The right image shows how I used tubular foam water pipe insulation of the right diameter to just slide snuggly down into the four tubes of the cart designed to hold fishing rods. Then I cut 1/2-inch PVC water pipe to desired length, which then slips snuggly down into the tubular insulation. That's all that was required to hold the railing in place (no screws or other fasteners are needed).

      On top of the 1/2-inch "posts" I put 1/2-inch x 3/4-inch PVC "T" connectors to hold the upper rail, which was made from lenghts of 3/4-inch PVC pipe, four 3/4-inch 90° elbows, and four 3/4-inch 45° elbows. You could glue the joints together with PVC cement, but I wanted the option of easily modifying the project later if needed. Instead of PVC cement, I used #6x3/4-inch pan head metal screws to hold all joints (just as I did with the frame for my duck boat camouflage cover project).

     After assembling all the PVC pieces, I drilled small pilot holes on both sides of each joint and ran the screws in so none of the joints would slip apart or twist. The finished railing is shown in the above right middle photo, which also plainly shows on the 45° elbows just how the joints were screwed together. All other joints were screwed only on the bottom side (out of sight), but the 45° elbows were screwed top and bottom to be extra sure the joints didn't twist. The lower right photo shows the whole assembly. It simply slips out of the tubular insulation to make a smaller package for storing. The 1/2-inch vertical posts were not screwed to the "T's", so they can be slipped out of the "T" connectors to make it even smaller to store.

      Next I prepared to paint the cart, since a flashy, shiny aluminum finish isn't the most desirable thing for wildlife photography. I taped up the handle bar grips, the vinyl "caps" around the top of each fishing rod holder pipe, and taped plastic grocery bags over each tire so I could spray paint the whole thing with camo colors. You'll probably want to use a flat finish paint. I used Krylon acrylic flat finish camo color spray paint made for the purpose, which I already had on hand from my other projects.

     You might be wondering about the odd "notch" made by the 45° elbows. This was done to accomodate the vertical "fish cleaning" post which comes with the cart (shown at left). I wasn't going to bother with this at first, but I decided I may as well make use of it. I thought it might make a handy platform to set my camera on when changing lenses, or perhaps to set my beanbag on to take quick shots without dragging out the tripod.

      I slipped out the plastic "bucket" that came with the post/cutting board. Then I covered a piece of foam padding with camo material, and sewed nylon camo cord with loops into the edge seam. You can see in the photo at right how I used the cord to lash the padded cover onto the "cutting board" atop the post to make my padded platform. This could just as easily have been attached with velcro or some other method. The post slips in or out of the "5th" fishing rod holder as desired.

     There is one last modification to show. I made two sets of net straps from nylon web strapping (like on your camera bag straps) to "fill the gap" between the cart and the upper rail. This helps keep items from slipping through the large opening on each side. I put a plastic buckle on the lower part of the web strap to connect the bottom to the cart rail, so I could unbuckle the strap and remove the upper rail unit easily. This is shown in the photo at left. All of this was designed with light weight in mind. The plywood, the pvc pipe and the web strapping add very little weight to the cart. And everything is reversible - it can be taken off the cart so it can be returned to use as a fishing cart if I should ever wish to - except for the camo paint, of course.

      Here is the cart all packed to the gills (pardon the pun) with my equipment. Keep in mind that I was backpacking all this stuff, some 60 lbs. worth. I wasn't actually taking the 500mm lens case though. I was packing the lens inside a backpack. I carried the portable blind, tarpaulin and the rest by shoulder straps and hand straps. I now have the option of using the original 500mm case if I wish.

     If you are familiar with the Canon 500mm lens and it's case at the bottom of this pile, then you can see how the size of the cart compares to the lens case in the enlarged photo. You may note there is no black web strap on this side of the cart. I ran out of buckles, so the 2nd strap was not quite finished as of this writing, but it will be added when I get a buckle to sew on it. One more note: I let some air out of the tires for an even softer ride. The only problem is that I can't actually tell how much air is in the tires now. My air guage only goes down to 5 lbs. and it doesn't move when I check the pressure. I have to assume the tires have less than 5 lbs. in them and the tires still do not look too soft, even with this load on the cart.

     I hope this information is useful. The cart can probably be purchased from sources other than the two I listed above. This type of cart can likely be found at marinas and fishing supplies, particularly those near the ocean where you find surf fishermen.