How to Move Dirt without A Wheelbarrow? 4 Alternatives


Wheelbarrows are the go-to appliance for a gardener when it’s about transporting soil or dirt. But sometimes, it’s just not an option. 

What times? 

Firstly, wheelbarrows have a weight-bearing limit of 600-700 or at best, 1000 pounds. If the cargo surpasses the limit, you’ve got to find wheelbarrow alternatives. And secondly, when you don’t have a wheelbarrow at all.

Necessity being the mother of invention, we’ve got to find alternatives to wheelbarrows anyway. And this article with 4 quick solutions in it, will show you how to move dirt without a wheelbarrow at all. 

Seems enticing? Let’s start with some basics-

What’s Wrong with Wheelbarrows?

Wheelbarrows are a great gardening tool, almost all the time. But there are times while it just checks the box. 

Here are some of its limitations- 

  • Wheelbarrows can’t transport heavy loads of soil or dirt, heavier than 800-1000 lbs to be exact. 
  • Wheelbarrows can be hardly taken through steep, rocky or uphill surfaces.
  • For small-scale or narrow gardens, wheelbarrows are overkill as a transport medium.  

So, while you’ve to move a large quantity of soil or dirt(i.e. converting a pond into a garden), wheelbarrows can’t be the smartest choice.

Wheels or No Wheels? Decide First

We will be talking around several alternatives to carry garden dirt/soil without a wheelbarrow. But in the first place, what divides all of them into two groups is the presence of wheels.

No Wheels- for Smaller Chunks of Dirt

If the distance or the uneven path is bothering you instead of the amount of the cargo, then these might be your cup of tea. 

These are cheap, quick methods of wheel-less transports that are doable by either one person or two. 

With Wheels- for larger & heavier amount of dirt

While you’ve to carry a large amount of cargo across a significant distance, skidding one some support isn’t a wise choice. 

Wheelbarrow Alternatives for Garden: Without Wheels

Tarp/Duffel/Sack: Best to skid through plain surface

tarp carrying garden dirt and leaves

Source: (Rocky Mountain Goods Drawstring Tarp)

A piece of square/rectangular tarp comes to be the old-school(but working) idea of transporting goods even when the wheel wasn’t invented. 

Anyways, in the absence of a wheelbarrow, this can be a good option. But only if you have to skid it through a plain, smooth surface, free of any clutter or rocks. 

The same stuff works fine if you have a sailor’s duffel or sack as well. 

How Does It work?

Method 1- for Two Persons

Sliding a big tarp full of dirt/soil is a two-person job, by the way. Once you put a pile of load on the tarp, one will be dragging it up the surface, and another will be walking behind holding the back. Therefore, it won’t slide off the back and you can transport your stuff efficiently. 

In this way, you can carry a large amount of garden debris or even soil from place to place. 

For such purposes, here go our recommended tarps-

Rocky Mountain Goods Drawstring Tarp9’ by 9’UV treated poly fabricYes
Xpose Safety BHD-1010-A10’ by 10’16mm polyethyleneYes
Harpster Tarps BR10x1210’ by 12’16mm polyethyleneYes
Method 1- for One Person

In case you don’t have a helping hand, you can put the dirt on the middle of the tarp and pull up the four corners. If you’re strong enough, try to tie opposite corners together. Once done, you can carry it on your back. 

In this way, you have to keep the tarp size short. Here are some of our recommended ones- 

TarpsDirect Brown 12 Oz. Canvas6’ by 6’12 OZ. CottonYes
TarpsDirect Brown Tarp6’ by 8’16mm polyethyleneYes
AmazonCommercial HD16-0810-01SB8’ by 10’16mm polyethyleneYes

Tips Before You Try It

  • Don’t carry too much dirt/soil on one small trip in this method.
  • Don’t settle for tarp made out of lightweight plastic(below 10oz). Go for 12-14oz and at least 16mm thick ones. Painter’s canvas is also good option.  

Yoke and A Pair of Buckets: The Cheapest Option

Yoke and A Pair of Buckets


As long as you have got only yourself to carry away all those garden dirt, a yoke and a pair of baskets is the best way around. 

Now, what would the basket be like that you’d put on both ends of the yoke? Well, it can be the good old ‘Burden baskets’. Or in case you are looking for lighter load, using smart pots or fabric bags is another option. 

Tips Before You Try It

  • Make sure the notches on the yoke are deep enough to prevent slipping. 
  • Also, don’t settle with a yoke that’s not stout enough. 
  • Start light with the load, it would help adjusting. 

Heavy-Duty Sleds

carrying dirt with Heavy Duty Sleds


I know it’s just a kid’s ride, but don’t raise an eyebrow yet. At times when you’ve to transport dirt with no wheelbarrow around, this can be helpful. 

Sleds cost about $20-30, varying on size and material. There are both rectangular and circular sleds available in the market. And both of the kinds come with a pulling rope or handle that would be helpful for the task. 

Is that all? No drawbacks? 

Unfortunately, there is one. 

Unlike wheelbarrows, there are not-so-high sidewalls to protect the cargo from spreading around. Therefore, it’s recommended to put the dirt/soil into 5-7 gallons of baskets or at least, bags. 

Here are some of the sleds that we think are perfect for the job- 

Tips Before You Try It

  • If you put the dirt into bags before carrying on sleds, tie them tight with the grip handles of the sled. 
  • Get sleds that are at least 25-30 inches or higher in length/diameter. 
  • Go for sleds with raised sidewalls(as much as possible) instead of plain ones. 

Wheelbarrow Alternatives for Garden: With Wheels

Hand Truck and Containers: Best for bulk cargo

Wheelbarrow alternative- Hand Truck and Containers


Hand trucks have many names. Such as- two-wheelers, hand carts, stack trucks, box carts, sack barrow, dolly or bag barrow. No matter whatever you call it, the idea is pretty simple. These are L-shaped two-wheelers that can carry objects on it. 

Getting back to our concern, this hand truck can be easily converted into a wheelbarrow alternative for several reasons. 

First, you can carry a lot more in the dolly-container than what you can on a wheelbarrow. Secondly, as they come with two wheels, it becomes easier for you- the user to carry it along. 

So, how do you make one for yourself? Here are the steps- 

3 Steps of A DIY Hand Truck- Storage Container 

Step 1: Get A Two Wheeler Dolly/Hand Cart

It all begins with choosing the right kind of hand truck. As a matter of fact, there are both vertical and horizontal ones. With horizontal ones, there are usually four wheels, which is unlikely for a gardener to move on an uneven, rocky surface. 

However, in the first kind, you can put loads on top of each other, where you’ve to put them side-by-side on a horizontal one. 

Assuming all aspects, we’ll recommend checking these features- 

  • Weight capacity: 300 to 1000 pounds, as per your need. 
  • Stacking height: 40-50 inches. 
  • Base plate size: 8” x 10”
  • Caster/wheel size: 6-10” in diameter rubber tire. 

Keeping these in mind, here go our quick recommendations-

NameCapacityHeightWheel Size
Pack-N-Roll 87-307-917260 lbs30”6”
Milwaukee 47109600 lbs42”8”
Harper Trucks JEDT8635P700 lbs50”10”/5”
Milwaukee 601371000 lbs52.5”10”
Step 2: Get The Storage Container(s)

Now, you’ve to estimate the amount of cargo you’ll be carrying on each trip, and find storage containers accordingly. It can be anything within 10 gallons to 20 gallons, but all of them have to be the same size in order to carry them on top of each other. 

We presume that you won’t be spending too much of your money after these bins. So, we’ve found some cheap but sturdy ones under different capacities-

Ultra Storage Bin40 gallons1 bin36-3/4 x 21-3/8 x 18 inches
Sterilite 30 Gallon Plastic Storage30 gallons6 bins32.6 x 19.8 x 17.2 inches
IRIS USA, Inc TB-288 gallons6 bins20 x 19.6 x 15 inches
IRIS USA, Inc. CNL-5814.5 gallons6 bins24 x 24 x 12.1 inches
Step 3: Combine Them into One Piece

Once you’ve filled the right size of container bins up, put them on top of each other. If needed, tie the bins up by the handles that they come up with. 

Capacity Estimation 

Filling each of the bins up to their capacity, a 30-gallon bin can contain roughly 300 pounds or 136kg (the avg density of soil is about 1400 kg/m3 or 10 lbs/gallon). 

Therefore, a couple of them stacked on top of each other can carry 500-600 pounds of soil/dirt at one trip. 

Similarly, three 15 gallon bins can carry about 400-500 pounds of load. 

Cost Estimation 

Each of the bins cost about $10, as they come in a set. And the dollies come at a lower price range of $40-60. 

So a 3-bin DIY hand truck wheelbarrow alternative would cost around $70-100, which is pretty close to the average price of wheelbarrows($80-150). But considering the capacity, this DIY carrier is way ahead of any wheelbarrow.

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