Use the Roof, Spare the Trunk

The Best Roof-Mounted Cargo Boxes

March 19, 2015 Buying Guides By

A reckless adventurer might feel inclined to carelessly throw gear in the back of a vehicle. This kind of behavior leads to dirty interiors and car chaos. But that isn’t you. You demand organization and space for the good of your gear, your car and your sanity. And for your needs, a cargo roof box is in order. These rooftop miracles provide extra storage room by serving specific purposes for different types of adventures. They’re ubiquitous among the adventure crowd, and on your next road trip they’ll keep your gear — and sanity — intact.

Yakima Skybox 16 Carbonite


The Best All-Around Box: The Yakima Skybox 16 has all the qualities we look for in a good cargo box: space, aerodynamics, strength, rigidness and compact size. Yakima’s dedicated to making the Skybox’s lid one of the most rigid on the market, and the dual-sided hinge system increases accessibility. Its 16-cubic-foot capacity hits the sweet spot for most: it can accommodate camping gear for three, and skis up to 180 centimeters long — but the skybox is also available in 12-, 18- and 21-cubic-foot sizes as well.

Keeper Waterproof Rooftop Cargo Bag


The Most Flexible “Box”: So it isn’t a box, per se, but this carrier is waterproof and has a full 15 cubic feet of space. And while you give up some of the protection of a hard box, the soft sides mean it can take oddly shaped gear and can be easily stowed away in the trunk when it’s not in use. A price that hugely undercuts its rigid competition doesn’t hurt, either.

Thule Pulse Alpine


The Best Box for Skiers: If you’re addicted to powder and your cargo-hauling needs don’t go beyond schlepping the skis and boards to the slopes, then look to the Thule “Alpine” line. The Pulse is the best of the breed, with the capacity to hold up to 6 pairs of skis or 3 boards (up to 210 cm long), while the minimal 12.5-inch profile cuts down on drag and wind noise.

Boatbox 650 Leisure Tour


The Two-for-One Box: Flip any cargo box upside-down, and it’ll float (preparedness, folks). But if you’re really looking to increase your sea-going vessel acumen, the BoatBox is for ye, matey. To start rowing, merely unload the box and pop off the top half. It even comes with a wooden seat and oars. And if you can’t be bothered to use a little muscle, a trawling motor can be mounted as well. Buy Now: $726+

Yakima RocketBox Pro 12


The Best Box for Small Cars: There are plenty of reasons to buy a compact car — driving fun, affordability, efficiency — cargo room is usually not one. Granted, the RocketBox’s extra 12 cubic feet of storage may not seem like much, and it’s not long enough to accommodate ski and snowboarding gear, but it’s a godsend if you’re gearing up for a big move, camping excursion or a cross-country road trip in your pint-sized ride.

Whispbar WB700


The Cleanest Lines on a Box: We’re willing to bet half the reason you bought your car was for its looks, so why spoil it with an uninspired cargo box? Whispbar’s dedication to sleek, aerodynamic roof systems pays off here with arguably the best-looking thing you can strap on to your roof. The WB700 happens to be both skinny and good looking, with a modest capacity of 10.8 cubic feet. If that isn’t enough, a larger 13.3-cubic foot model is also available.

Thule Sonic XXL


The Big-Ass Box: If you’re looking for sheer cargo room, few roof boxes beat the Thule Sonic’s 22 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Better still, thanks to its sleek nose, it is one of the most aerodynamic boxes in the entire Thule line. It opens on both sides for easy access and is perfect for an all-in road trip, especially if you need a spot for the friend who insists on playing “Slug Bug”.