I like to think that there are three options for hauling large volumes of supplies across a deserts: cars, camels and carts.
The former two methods are utilised frequently but examples of the latter, carts, are fewer and further between. Below are a few notable carts that have been used to cross deserts and there’s a series of videos at the bottom too.
Crossing the Simpson Desert in Australia, Lucas Trihey found his cart, the ‘Paddy Wagon’, would topple on steep descents and was only stopped by improvising some brakes. To stop punctures, he also ran a leather strap around the inside of each motorcycle tyre.
Ripley Davenport – a veteran of many desert crossings – aborted his first attempt at walking solo across the Gobi when the ball bearings in his cart ‘Molly Brown’ got worn down after just two days because dust was able to enter the chamber. The problem resolved, Ripley towed the cart 1000 miles with an average weight of 220kg. Molly was last seen being dragged across China by adventurers Rob Lilwall and Leon McCarron – www.walkinghomefrommongolia.com.
As with bikes, thinner tyres are faster but thicker tyres are better for difficult terrain. Belgian Louis-Philippe Loncke’s ‘Camel-on-Wheels’ combined the best of both worlds. He used two pairs of thin bicycle wheels for speed on easier terrain but would wedge a strip of foam between them when going through deep sand to increase the surface area and stop it from sinking.
Singaporean mountaineer David Lim and his team spent six months designing carts only to have impounded by customs upon arrival in Bolivia. Against a deadline, they were forced to improvise carts with the old steel rag-and-bone men’s trolleys they found in the local township. The resulting makeshift trolleys carried 100 litres of water and six days’ food all the way across the Salar de Uyuni salt flats.
Todd Carmichael has made two attempts to cross America’s Death Valley towing all of his supplies in the cart he affectionately terms ‘The Pig’. The second design of the cart runs low to the ground and has four small wheels with fat, half-inflated tyres.
Chris Bray and Clark Carter added huge tractor inner tubes to two kayaks that they dragged across Victoria Island. In the Canadian Arctic they were up against mud, rocks and snow rather than sand. When not used for floating, they would let air out of the tyres – as you would with a jeep on sand – to give the wheels a greater surface area and not sink into mushy ground.
(Special thanks to Louis-Philippe Loncke – a contributor to the book – for his help with this topic).
How to Get to the North Pole:
and Other Iconic Adventures
Newly published for April 2012