D&D General Carrying Capacity and Weights Carried by Wagon or Cart


Let me begin by saying that this is a list of 4 wagons and 1 cart which I found on the Internet to go by. Second that WAGON and CARTS are NOT BUILT for how many Animals that can Pull Them, THEY are Built for How Much WEIGHT needed to be HAULED, Example: Take a Chariot a type of Cart it can be pulled by 1, 2, 3 or 4 Horses did that change HOW much the Chariot could Carry NO!! What did was the Size and Strength(Axle) of the Chariot for the weight wanting to be Carried. IE- A 1 man chariot can only carry so much weight go above that(with say 3-4 men on same Chariot) and sooner or later the Chariot Axle breaks. Hence the Different Types of Chariots built by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks.
Now lets get to it.
Conestoga Wagon:
Generally used for merchant or trade. The wagon is capable of carrying 6 tons,and it had a curved bottom. Dimensions:
Length of wagon box bottom–13 feet
Length of wagon box top–16 feet
Height of middle of body from ground–37 inches
Height of ends of body from ground–41 inches
Height of front wheels–44 inches
Height of rear wheels–59 inches
Height of wagon box–31 inches
Height of bows from body bed–6 feet
Width of wagon box–4 feet
Width of tires–3 inches
Width of wagon tread–64 inches
Sag in wagon box–8 inches

Prairie Schooner Wagon:
This is the wagon that crossed the Plains of America to settle the west. The wagon is capable of 1-1/2 tons (3,000 lbs)while generally only being around 1,300 lbs empty. The settlers although were told to keep the weight to somewhere between 2,000-2,500 lbs. That was so that the animals made it all the way being it was several months travel as well as hundreds to possibly thousands of miles of a journey.
The wagon box was 10 feet long and 3-1/2 feet wide by 2-3 feet deep.
The wheels were 50 in diameter on the rear and 44 in on the front. It's wheelbase was over 5 feet wide.
With the Bonnet on the wagon stood at around 10 feet tall.

British Army General Service Wagon:
This wagon was used by the British in Africa and the 1st World War. Dimensions:
Length, without pole 11 feet 2 in
Height, with seat 6 feet 1 in
Height, without seat 4 feet 8 in
Track 4 feet 8 in
Width 6 feet 0 in
Floor space, length 10 feet 0 in
Floor space, width 3 feet 2 in
Minimum space required to turn in 32 feet 0 in
Weight complete 1,380 lbs.
Capacity 5,000 lbs.
The box is 10 feet 5-1/2 in long inside; depth inside, minus shelving 13 in ; width inside, 38 in. The shelving is flared 8 in, removable, running full length of box and across the back. On the outside of the box are ten hooks for rope lashings.The driver's seat is full width of body.

Borax Wagon with the 20 Mule Team:
This wagon was used in hauling Borax ore out of Death Valley, California. They were made to haul 10 tons each, with 2 wagons plus a water tank wagon being hauled by a single Team for a total of 36-1/2 tons.
Iron Rims mounted on wood 8 in wide by 1 in thick. Rear wheels were 7 feet tall and 5 feet tall for the front.
The bed was 16 feet long by 4 feet wide by 6 feet deep.
Empty the wagon weighed 7,800 lbs, while able to carry 10 tons of cargo.

The Red River Ox Cart:
This Cart was used by Native Americans in the North West as well as by fur Trappers for bringing their furs in to be traded. These carts were made for ease of build and repair as well as to functioning in the environment needed. They were made completly of wood and sinew or hemp rope for lashing together of the wooden parts.
There really are no definable dimensions for this cart being each was generally built slightly different than the others with no set blueprints for them. Although I did find a description that follows. * Bed was roughly 6-1/2 feet long by 33 in wide by Depth was what you made it generally 1-2 feet or just open. My adaptation of depth was done through most pictures I found online.* This cart could carry either 500 lbs by horse or 1,000 lbs by ox. The wheels were between 4-6 feet tall with them more at the 5-6 feet tall for stability as well as clearance over rocks,tree stumps ect. The wheels were also dished outwards for better stability.
This wagon was made to be broken down or taken apart so that it could float across shallow streams and rivers. The cart could also be made to have a bonnet type covering. Because of the nature of how this cart was built it made a terrible screeching sound from the wheels turning around the axle with no grease or oil due to if they were then it would just collect dirt and sand and cause more problems than the noise. It should be said that the sound could be heard 1 mile away to 3 miles when a caravan of carts were moving together. It had 2 poles at 13 feet long that sat on the axle as well as attached to the box 1 end of the poles would be where the horse or ox would be attached to haul the cart.

It should be noted that each of these wagons were pulled by different animals.
The Conestoga wagon was pulled by up to 8 horses or 12 oxen.
The Prairie Schooner was pulled by 10-12 horses or mules but more generally pulled by 6 oxen.
The British Army General wagon generally used 2 horses although 4 could be used if needed.
The Borax wagon was pulled by either 20 mules or 18 mules and 2 horses with the horses nearest the wagon to help better to get it moving.
The Red River Ox Cart was pulled by either a horse but generally an ox. This was due to the horse only being able to haul a smaller amount or get tired doing so. As well as that most times these Carts were pulled through mud, marsh, streams and rivers and the ox was better for pulling through mud and marsh areas.

Now given these to work with Lets look at the Game 400 lb wagon and what it can carry. Being that it is 3-1/4 the size of the Prairie Schooner Wagon we will use that as a reference. PSW- 1,300 lb weight, Haul: 1-1/2 Tons (3,000 lbs) so 1,300 divide by 3.25= 400 lbs and 3,000 divide by 3.25= 923.0769 lbs or 923 lbs rounded. NOW for game purposes I would and could easily accept a 950 lb Capacity for the 400 lb Wagon. PLEASE Remember that the lighter the Wagon the Less it will Haul..... The Heavier the Wagon the More it will Haul, this is of course Not using Magic on the Wagon!!

Now for the Cart Listed in the Game 200 lbs, being that I have not found a weight for the Cart I described above I can easily assume that it weighed somewhere between 100-200 lbs. So for Game I would use the Stats I Found of 500 lbs for Horse or 1,000 lbs for an Ox to be carried by the Cart. Now could the Cart carry more? Of course and put in a More Urban setting(being beefed up to do so) Example: 12 foot long bed axle has to be stronger so you could roughly double the weight carried with just that, as well as add more weight to the Cart.
Finally I want to give you all something to think about, I asked my DM at the time MANY MANY years ago for the largest possible wagon bed and this is what he gave me. 18 ft. long by 12 ft. wide by 6 ft. deep, when he gave me this I of course was astonished by the size. It wasn't until a few Years Later that I found what he Referenced it off of THE BORAX WAGON, Yes it is roughly 4x the Borax Wagons size BUT with that knowledge it could be built, again we are in a fantasy world and YES I can see where if the Dwarves needed a Wagon that size for mining they would get it Built.
With that in Mind Battle Wagons here we go!!!! Always remember that this also depends on whether your DM will allow it or not.
I Truly Hope This Writing Helps.

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The Vehicles in the 5E Player's Handbook have basically been copy-pasted from 3E (compare the 5E SRD's Mounts & Vehicles to the 3E SRD's transports). Some of the weights are so low one wonders if whoever wrote them for 3E had even seen a cart or wagon.

If that wagon can carry 923 pounds, at those ratios a cart could only carry 411 pounds.

What kind of trader or farmer would buy a cart that can only haul so little? If they loaded it with a single barrel of beer and sat down in its driver's seat, the thing might collapse!

That said, the Prairie Schooner you used has the lowest Empty Weight vs. Cargo Weight ratio of the vehicles whose figures are offered:

Empty Weight​
Cargo Weight​
Carry Ratio​
Prairie Schooner​
British Army Wagon​
Borax Wagon​

Note that the Schooner and the Army Wagon have nearly identical weights, but the Army Wagon can carry a whole ton more. The Prairie Schooner was intended to travel for month across the wilderness without breaking down, so I suspect that the recommended 2,500 to 3,000 pound load is deliberately low to reduce the risk of damage (and put less strain on the mules).

The Borax Wagon, on the other hand was exceptionally sturdy - none of them ever broke down. So it too was likely heavier than average.

That Army Wagon, on the other hand, seems more like an "average wagon", since the Army would have lots of them in a baggage train, so it would matter less if one broke down. Since it's a 1914 or so design, it will have a metal parts such as wheel hubs, rims and axles that a D&D Wagon is unlikely to have, I'd think those would be mostly wood with some leather, rope or canvas.

I'm inclined to split the difference and use an average Carry Ratio of 3.

As for D&D carts and wagon loads, if it were up to me I'd multiple the empty weights (200 lb. cart, 400 lb. wagon) by a factor of 2.5 to 3.75, to the SRD sources and toss in some of the 2E flavour, plus a few touches of my own, to get:

Cart: This two-wheeled vehicle is usually drawn by a single horse (or other beast of burden) but can be pulled by two. It comes with a harness.
Cost: 15 gp, Weight: 500 pounds, Capacity: carries up to 1,500 pounds cargo.

Wagon: This is a four-wheeled, open vehicle for transporting heavy loads. In general, two heavy horses draw it (or other beasts of burden), but it can be hitched to anywhere from one to twelve draft animals, or maybe even more. A wagon comes with the harness needed to pull it.
Cost: 35 gp, Weight: 1,500 pounds, Capacity: carries up to 5,000 pounds cargo.

 Larger and sturdier wagons are possible, but more expensive.

EDIT: I've since come across an interesting post on Axis History about "Red Army" horse-drawn carriages. The most salient section are:

Looking at Arts list of horse drawn vehicles, here is an attempt to show what each type is like and its basic characteristics. There were defined in the 1950 and 60s under the GOST scheme of standards throughout the USSR but many of these are unavailable on the internet. Horse drawn vehicles are defined by their purpose/load and the number of horses.
одноконный (оглобельный) single horse or single shaft
пароконный (дышловой) pair of horses
троечный (русская тройка) three horses or Troika
четвёрочн ый(тачанки) four horses or four in hand

Carts and Gigs are two wheeled
Wagons and drays are four wheeled

There are various types of harness (the leatherwork that connects the horses to the wagon.) This is referred to in Russian as запряжек and is a complex subject but there are two groups, one which uses a 'collar' around the horses neck to connect the horse to the traces or the other type uses a breast strap usually held in place by a lightweight strap. For heavy work collars are essential but cumbersome.

Capacity or load carrying:
one horse wagons 0.75 tonne
two horse wagon 1.5 tonne
one horse cart 0.5 tonne (principally because in a two wheeled vehicle some of the weight rests on the back of the horse via the shafts.
two horse cart 0.75 tonne
one or two horse gig 0.5 tonne (carries two or four passengers)
modern steel wagons with rubber tyres on roads 2.0-2.5 tonnes
Sleighs (passengers) 400 kg
Sleds (cargo) 1000 kg

Weight of vehicle was set at 1/4 the load weight for light duty or 1/3 for heavy duty. 1/2 the load weight was deemed unacceptable (the hf.7 Stahlwagon "Horse killer" wagon in the German Army met this standard)
Sleds and sleighs 160-180kg for cargo types and 140-160kg for passenger types

Other than that there were regional variations and names but in reality these broad parameters were adhered to and this was the same as in Great Britain. So an Irish Side or "Outside" Car looked different from an English Trap or Governesses Cart but is reality they were both 4 people single horse cart frames with different bodies

So a small one-horse cart or gig would carry 500 kg or four passengers, a one-horse wagon 750 kg of cargo and a two-horse wagon 1,500 kg.

Since an average horse weighs about 500 kg, that follows the "1.5 bodyweight" rule.

Also, a "heavy duty" horse drawn vehicle weighed 1/3rd the load it could carry, a "light duty" vehicle (i.e. one unsuitable for rough terrain) could carry 1/4th.

So the Carry Ratio of 3 I suggested above corresponds to the Russian specification for a "heavy duty" vehicle.

A lightweight cart able to carry, say, 1,200 pounds would weigh about 300 pounds empty.

A lightweight wagon able to carry 4,000 pounds would weigh about 1,000 pounds.

Presumably wagons intended to carry particularly massive loads would be unlikely to be "light duty" in construction. Apart from the famous 10-ton capacity Borax Wagons, heavy wagons able to carry up to five or six tons seemed to be fairly common.

For example, the Conestoga Wagon could transport up to six tons.

Some Beer Wagons could carry up to two dozen barrels of beer, or maybe even more. Since a 36 gallon beer barrel weighs about 450 pounds, that's about 11,000 pounds or so. This picture shows a good sized "Brewer's Dray" (apparently it should be called a Horse-Drawn Trolley rather than a Dray) that appears to be carrying about 24 barrels and about twenty or so smaller casks - mostly firkins and a few kilderkins, by the look of them (see English Cask Units):


Unfortunately those barrels are obviously empty, as they have no bungs in them, so there's no concrete evidence the wagon could handle such a load. Also, note the triple-hitched horses pulling the wagon - I think that's the first time I've seen a "Troika" pulling a beer trolley.

Here's a few more pictures I stumbled upon:


Looks like ten barrels plus a couple of drivers, so 4,800 to 4,900 pounds. There are plenty of 5,000 pound wagons mentioned in catalogs and online. Note that was the load capacity of the British Army Wagon.


Obviously a modern design - note the inflatable tires and steelwork, plus the metal kegs are a bit of a giveaway! Look like maybe twenty kilderkins and at least three firkins, say twelve barrel's worth. Metal kegs are a bit lighter, but that's still about 5,000 pounds or so.


It's not all barrels! About twenty cases of stout plus a driver. So 24 pint bottles per case for maybe 55 pounds a case? It's hard to find pint bottles these days, but a 500 ml glass bottle of beer weighs 800-900g full, so including the box that sounds about right. That's only 1,100 pounds plus the driver, explaining why it only needs one horse to pull it.
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Guess it might be interesting to compare some other D&D edition's Core Book sources.

In 1E AD&D, the Player's Handbooks just lists a cost (50 gp cart, 150 gp wagon in 1E), but for some reason carts and wagons are not listed in the 2E PHB's Equipment page, only two types of carriage (150 gp "Carriage, Common" - same price as a 1E wagon, 7,000 gp "Coach, ornamented"), although it does list a "Wagon or cart wheel" as costing 5 gp.

The 2E Dungeon Master's Guide (page 166) says Carts are two-wheelers with 1 or 2 draft animals, Wagons are 4-wheelers with "anywhere from two to 12 (or even more!)", and that both triple the carrying capacity of the animals pulling it. It gives the example of that "a wagon pulled by eight draft horses could carry 6,420 lbs, or slightly over three tons of cargo (260 x 3 x 8)" but it "will be slow". That figure is too low by a factor of about three. Eight non-descript 1,500 pound heavy horses should be able to pull at 9 tons for a sustained period, going by the "long-distance wheeled loads of 1.5 times body weight" rule of thumb.

This is wonderful data! Thanks so much!

There was a TV show back in the day called Little House on the Prairie. It was about the settlement of the American West, and there was a wagon used by pretty much everyone who had a wagon in the show. It seemed like a similar type of wagon used by everyone else who made a TV show or movie set in the West. I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be a Prairie Schooner, but a more local method of transporting cargo, people, &c. Any idea what that's called or what size it would be?


This is wonderful data! Thanks so much!

There was a TV show back in the day called Little House on the Prairie. It was about the settlement of the American West, and there was a wagon used by pretty much everyone who had a wagon in the show. It seemed like a similar type of wagon used by everyone else who made a TV show or movie set in the West. I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be a Prairie Schooner, but a more local method of transporting cargo, people, &c. Any idea what that's called or what size it would be?

Yes, I remember seeing that back in the day.

Having difficulty finding any decent photos online. The best picture I could find was this:


Looks like a "Covered Wagon" to me - it has a cover after all! Some Prairie Schooners were purpose-built wagons, but many pioneers couldn't afford such a vehicle so had to make do by adapting a wagon they already had.

So the Little House's wagon could be meant to be a farmer's wagon that has been adapted to "go west" by having a cover added to it.

These could be smaller than the wagon in the TV series. Look at these people's conveyances:


Notice that the wagons don't have proper seats and are much smaller relative to the Little House wagon. Presumably these pioneers were on a tight budget.

The lead wagon in the wagon train below seems a bit bigger than the one in Little House on the Prairie, but some of the wagons further back in the train seem about Little House Wagon size:


While this wagon looks substantially larger than the one in the TV series:


*Incidentally, while the reenactors' wagon looks fine to my untrained eye if a bit bulky, I'm fairly confident the two Clydedales pulling it are ahistorical. It'd have been a team of mules or oxen, most likely.

The cover on the wagon in The Little House on the Prairie was a little smallish compared to the giant spreads of some Prairie Schooner:
But that's just a matter of the length of the cover's hoops. The height of the cover in the TV series seems to vary over time as they changed the hoop length:


In some episodes the cover was taken off:


Look at this Prairie Schooner reconstruction. I see no appreciable difference to Little House's wagon:


So, in conclusion. I think the Little House's wagon is supposed to be a Prairie Schooner style covered wagon, or at least "close enough for TV". It's certainly not a Conestoga Wagon, those are a lot longed and have sloped ends. Here's a web article on the difference.
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I think the Little House wagon was a buckboard wagon, not a a prairie schooner (or at least I'm pretty sure the Olson's was).

Funny anecdote - I got to see the cast of Little House in a parade way back in my hometown back when the show was on - in Salinas, CA. They were on board a wagon of some sort, not sure if it was the one from the TV show or not.


I think the Little House wagon was a buckboard wagon, not a a prairie schooner (or at least I'm pretty sure the Olson's was).

Funny anecdote - I got to see the cast of Little House in a parade way back in my hometown back when the show was on - in Salinas, CA. They were on board a wagon of some sort, not sure if it was the one from the TV show or not.

This kind of buckboard?

I think those are usually a lot lighter than the covered wagon in Little House. Aren't they for personal transportation rather than farm work? They wouldn't very be suitable for carrying heavy goods since the boards are so flexible.

Certainly there were many horse-drawn vehicles in the TV series, so I expect buckboards turned up in some of them.

EDIT: I checked, there were 204 episodes. Enough for plenty of wagons to turn up!
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