Haul of Fame Wheelbarrows

These carts and wheelbarrows will help you get the job done.

| April/May 2007

I can’t begin to count the times I’ve relied on a good wheelbarrow. When my wife, Mary, and I began building our homestead on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron in 1986, I bought the biggest, baddest ’barrow I could find — a Sinclair Erie steel-pan 6-cubic-foot contractor model with an air-filled tire. We used it to haul limestone and mix mortar for more than 400 tons of stonework. We washed our clothes in it with a scrub board, and we even took baths in it before we installed running water. After hauling countless loads of soil, compost, manure and firewood, my good old Erie is still going strong. But since I got it, several more excellent wheelbarrow and cart designs have come on the market.

In the yard, vegetable patch or building site, a good wheelbarrow or garden cart can multiply your muscle power many times over. They also can help you move heavy loads more safely. A good ’barrow always has been an essential tool for self-reliance. But these days, advances in design and materials mean leading models deliver even more value. The trick is choosing the best design for your needs from a wide range of options.

To compare designs head to head, Mary and I gathered more than a dozen wheelbarrows and carts representing the best designs available. With the help of family and friends, we used them on our homestead over an eight-week period spanning the busy spring and summer gardening and building seasons. We discovered some wonderful general-purpose models and some that excel at specific tasks — in all, I recommend several with complete confidence.

Cart or Wheelbarrow?

If you work primarily in the garden, then a cart probably will serve you better than a wheelbarrow. Carts typically include a large box- or tub-shaped body, with big wheels for easy rolling. They usually have crossbar handles rather than the straight-back handles typical of wheelbarrows. You can’t mix a batch of mortar conveniently in most garden carts, but they can’t be beat for hauling a bulky load of raspberry prunings or sacks of topsoil.

If your outdoor work is a mix of building, gardening and livestock care, then your best bet probably is a heavy-duty construction wheelbarrow. These traditional designs include a curved pan, medium-size wheels and two straight wooden handles. They can manage almost any job, and they’re outstanding for a handful of specific jobs.

Got kids? A few small, high-quality carts and wheelbarrows are sized well for introducing youngsters to outdoor work.

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