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RV Out of Storage Room? How About a Rooftop Cargo Box?

RV Out of Storage Room? How About a Rooftop Cargo Box?

For RVers and other travelers needing a bit more storage space, a rooftop cargo box could be just the ticket.

Storage is a big issue for travelers, so we’ve written several posts focused on the topic. Our posts on RV storage ideas and RV basement storage ideas are full of great storage tips for RVers. We also have a post on RV bumper racks with additional storage ideas.

But one type of storage we haven’t focused on before is the cargo rooftop box. So, in today’s post, we’re taking a look at rooftop cargo carriers.

They may not be the best option for every RV (we’ll talk about that). But if you’re pulling a travel trailer or towing a car behind your motorhome, cargo bags and other types of roof boxes could be the perfect solution for providing additional storage.

What Is a Rooftop Cargo Box?

A rooftop box for holding cargo is a soft or hard-sided container that mounts to the roof of a vehicle for the purpose of holding items you don’t have room to store elsewhere.

In cargo boxes that are mounted to the roof, people typically choose to store items that don’t need to be accessed regularly.

For example, if you travel in a variety of climates, you might choose to store cold-weather clothing and gear in a rooftop box. Some people also store tools, recreational gear, life jackets, extra blankets, etc., in rooftop cargo boxes, accessing them only when needed.

Some rooftop boxes are hard-sided and designed to be aerodynamic, while others are made of soft, lightweight, weather-resistant material. If your towing vehicle or towed car has a roof rack, that makes a rooftop box easier to install.

What to Look For In a Rooftop Cargo Box

There are a few things to consider when shopping for a rooftop cargo box. It’s worth noting that people have different priorities. For some, maximum storage space is key, while fuel efficiency may be a priority for others.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you may want to consider when looking for a rooftop cargo carrier.

Durability

Durability is always a consideration with anything that will be exposed to the elements. That’s doubly true if you’ll be driving down the highway for many miles with the item strapped to your roof.

To research the expected durability of a cargo carrier, you’ll want to consider the material it’s made of. You’ll also want to consult reviews from real-life users who can tell you how well the unit has held up for them.

Weather-Resistance

Weather-resistance is another area of concern. You don’t want your gear to be exposed to rain, snow, or road debris. Protection from UV rays is another benefit of keeping your gear inside a carrier.

A wet rooftop cargo carrier with snow in the background

An important feature of any rooftop cargo carrier is good weather resistance.

Here again, you’ll want to look for a well-constructed carrier (hard or soft), including user reviews. RVers who’ve arrived at their destination only to find that the contents of their cargo carrier are soaking wet are likely to report that negative experience.

This is a key consideration. Depending on how a carrier is designed and the material used (seams included), heavy rain can soak your stuff for sure.

Ease of Installation and Removal

Unless you plan to leave your cargo box mounted to your roof long-term, make sure you’re buying a rooftop cargo box that you’re capable of lifting on and off the vehicle.

Size and Weight

Check the size and weight of the carrier to make sure it’ll fit on your roof properly. You’ll also want to be sure that the box and its contents won’t put your vehicle over its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).

Mounting System

Make sure the mounting system for the cargo box you purchase is compatible with your vehicle’s roof rack. You’ll also want to make sure the kit for your box includes mounting hardware. If you don’t already have a roof rack and will be buying one as part of your cargo carrier upgrade, make sure they’re compatible, of course.

Locking Mechanism

Not all rooftop boxes come with a locking mechanism, so that’s another thing to consider when you’re shopping. The reality is that most locking mechanisms aren’t all that secure. But locks do tend to discourage casual thieves. Storing items that are less valuable inside is another hedge against serious theft.

Easy Access to Stored Gear

Some rooftop cargo carriers open and close only from one side. This may be fine for your particular situation, but many users would prefer to be able to access their stored gear from either side of the carrier.

A man opening a rooftop cargo carrier from the side

For easy access to the gear you’ve stored on either side of your rooftop cargo box, be sure to buy a unit that opens from both sides. Some open only from one side or from the rear.

As you shop, be mindful of this so that you can choose a cargo carrier that suits your needs in terms of access to your gear.

Cost

And as always, budget is a consideration for most of us. Some rooftop carriers cost hundreds of dollars, while others are very inexpensive.

Look for a durable cargo carrier that suits your budget. We’ll link to some in a section below. As usual, we’ll do our best to provide links that fit a variety of budgets.

Should You Mount a Cargo Box to the Roof of an RV?

We haven’t found rooftop cargo carriers that are specifically made to be mounted to the roof of an RV (though there may be some out there). This is probably the case for a few different reasons:

  1. The mounting system needs to be connected to a support beam (wood or metal) in the roof, and the spacing needed for the mounting system may not match what’s needed for the cargo box.
  2. Mounting a cargo box to the roof of an RV adds a potential point for leaks in the future.
  3. Adding too much weight to the top of the RV could be an issue for stability and/or the overall weight of the RV.
  4. Having the cargo box on the roof of an RV doesn’t provide easy access since it requires climbing a ladder.
  5. Of course, whatever gets stored would also have to be carried up and down the RV’s ladder, which many people may be uncomfortable with.

Popular Rooftop Cargo Boxes

Let’s take a look at some popular rooftop cargo boxes for a variety of budgets to see how they might compare to your needs.

You’ll note that we’re focusing on the cargo carriers that mount to the roof rack of a tow vehicle, or a towed car or truck. It’s possible that the mounting systems of some of these could be adapted to mounting to the roof of an RV, but you might have to be willing to assume some risk in mounting a given box to the roof of a particular RV.

Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Starting with the high-end rooftop cargo carriers, Thule is a name recognized by travelers for its high-quality carriers of cargo, skis, kayaks, bikes, and more. Thule units generally come with a considerable price tag, but if a Thule cargo carrier is in your budget, it’s definitely a high-quality product.

The Thule Motion XT is an aerodynamic rooftop cargo box that comes in 16, 18, and 20 cu. ft. sizes. It’s also available in an “Alpine” design (long and slim), specifically for carrying skis.

The “large” 16 cu. ft. Thule Motion XT measures 77 x 36 x 17 inches (interior dimensions are 69 x 31.5 x 15 inches) and weights 42 pounds empty. It has a cargo capacity of 165 pounds.

The Motion XT has a SlideLock system with separate locking and opening functions. the system automatically locks the lid in place and lets you know when the box is closed securely.

This unit is easy to open and close with grip-friendly handles and supportive lid-lifters. It offers dual-side opening for easy access from either side of the vehicle. The quick-mount system makes an audible “click” sound when the roof box is secure and properly mounted.

Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier, Black
  • Roof-mounted cargo box provides 16 cubic feet of additional packing space
  • Designed for optimal space efficiency, aerodynamics, and vehicle fit

YAKIMA SkyBox Carbonite

Yakima is another well-known name offering high-quality aerodynamic carriers. The Skybox Carbonite is available in two sizes – 12 cu. ft. and 21 cu. ft.

The 12 cu. ft. version has dimensions of 94 x 29 x 18 inches and weighs 41 pounds. It has a textured lid and is made from 80% recycled material. Its design reduces drag, wind noise, and hatch interference.

This Yakima cargo box also offers dual-side opening, allowing you to access your gear from either side of your vehicle. Yakima’s SuperLatch system secures the lid to the base, keeping your gear secure. The box includes SKS (Same Key System) locks.

This unit works with most roof racks and fits Yakima round, square, factory, and aerodynamic bars. It requires a crossbar spread between 24 in and 42 in. Installation is tool-free, with no additional assembly required.

Yakima SkyBox Carbonite 12 Cubic Foot Hard Shell Vehicle Roof Box Cargo Carrier with Aerodynamic Carbonite Textured Lid and Dual-Sided Opening, Black
  • Generous 12 cubic feet of cargo space, carries all your gear and essentials in the roof carrier box that features a SuperLatch security system for...
  • Boasts a sleek aerodynamic carbonite textured lid that not only enhances its visual appeal but also reduces wind drag, contributing to improved fuel...

JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier

The JEGS rooftop cargo carrier is available in a 10 cu. ft. size and in an 18 cu. ft. side open OR rear open option. (We’re looking at the 18 cu. ft. side open unit here.)

Made of ABS (HDPE) plastic, this cargo carrier has dimensions of 61.25 x 39 x 12 inches, and weighs 35 pounds. It has a four-corner locking system and offers a weather-tight seal for protection and security.

Assembly and installation are easy, with no tools required. Instructions and all mounting hardware are included. This unit is made in the USA and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

JEGS Rooftop Cargo Carrier for Car Storage - Large Roof Rack Cargo Carrier - Heavy Duty Weatherproof Storage - Made in USA - 18 Cubic Ft - 110 Lb Capacity - Aero Hard Shell Cargo Carrier
  • Secure & protect your gear in this 18 cubic ft. HDPE plastic hard shell vehicle cargo carrier; high-capacity interior dimensions 57 L x 38 1/2 W x 17...
  • Weatherproof storage for your luggage with a four corner locking system, front latch, and weather-tight seal for ultimate car rooftop protection and...

RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Available in 13 and 17 cu. ft. sizes, this RoofBag cargo carrier is waterproof and made of a single piece of strong military-grade fabric designed not to peel or tear. The material has no exposed stitching and resists heat, cold, and UV rays, and can be used with or without a roof rack.

The 17 cu. ft. version has dimensions of 48 x 38 x 12 inches and lists a weight capacity of 3,000 pounds. (If you’re transporting gold bars, you might want to check to be sure your vehicle can handle that kind of weight!) A double flap protects the zipper, and the straps are water-repellent.

The manufacturer notes that it’s important to fill the bag completely to avoid noise and damage from wind-flapping, so choose the appropriate size bag for your needs. The RoofBag comes with a 2-year warranty.

17 Cu Ft RoofBag Rooftop Cargo Carrier, Waterproof Roof Cargo Carrier for Car with/Without Rack Cross Bar Including Strong Nylon Straps + Storage Bag
  • FITS ANY SIZE CAR, small, medium or large, with or without sunroof or moonroof.
  • MOST SECURE DESIGN: Your belongings are safe at any highway speed with the roof top car cargo carrier boasting the strongest nylon straps: 1.5”...

FIVKLEMNZ Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Available in either a 15 or 21 cu. ft. size, this rooftop cargo carrier from FIVKLEMNZ is made of waterproof material and can be used with or without a rack.

It includes a “Topper” anti-slip mat, eight adjustable reinforced straps, six door hooks, and a luggage lock. The 15 cu. ft. version shown below has dimensions of 14.2 x 10 x 6 inches and weighs 6.6 pounds.

There are lots of excellent reviews of this model, but be aware that it’s backed only by a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 12-month limited warranty.

FIVKLEMNZ Car Rooftop Cargo Carrier Roof Bag Waterproof for All Top of Vehicle with/Without Rack Includes Topper Anti-Slip Mat + Reinforced Straps + 6 Door Hooks + Luggage Lock
  • 【Most Safe Design】: For security reasons, we use 8 reinforced adjustable straps to keep the cargo carrier in place. In addition, equipped with...
  • 【Large Storage Space】: FIVKLEMNZ roof bag (46*34*17 inch) was designed to solve the problem of limited storage space in the car. 15 cubic feet...

There are many excellent hard and soft-sided cargo carriers on the market at various price points, offering an opportunity to store lots of extra gear on your tow or towing vehicle’s roof.

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