Vehicle Rooftop Cargo Bags & Boxes

Should I buy a roof cargo bag or box?

roof top boxes and bags

The distinction between a Rooftop Cargo Box and a Bag is pretty straightforward: the cargo box is of very solid construction, whereas the bag is made of a soft, flexible, and foldable fabric.  

The cargo boxes are typically made of fibreglass or a strong, long-lasting plastic such as ‘Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene’ (ABS) or ‘High Density Polythene’ (HDPE).   The cargo bags are typically made of a water-resistant, durable nylon fabric, and many of them have a PVC coating (sometimes multiple coatings) on the material to provide good weather protection.  

Should I opt for a Cargo Box or Bag?

Because they can be folded up when not in use, cargo bags are extremely popular right now with people who don’t have a lot of storage space at home.   Ideal for people who live in apartments or small houses with only a small shed or garage.  Rooftop cargo bags can hold a large amount of weight without breaking and are ideal for small cars due to their light weight.

Rooftop cargo boxes have been secured to the top of SUVs for a long time and are widely used by people who go camping frequently.    They are also a popular choice for people embarking on long journeys where extra storage is required and it must be able to withstand the worst of weather conditions along the way.  

Roof cargo boxes are heavier than bags, but they are much more durable, and most can carry cargo loads of up to around 70-75kg.  

Storing loads on your car’s roof is subject to safety and legal constraints.

When packing your cargo box, keep in mind the specifications of your vehicle and roof rack.   Your vehicle, as well as the roof rack, will have load limits.   To avoid exceeding your vehicle’s roof limit, you must account for the weight of your roof rack and the packed cargo box before mounting it on top of your vehicle.  

To determine the weight of your packed cargo box, purchase a luggage scale.  The weight of your roof rack will be listed in the owner’s manual that came with it; if you’ve misplaced it, simply go to the website of your roof rack manufacturer and you should be able to find it there.

Exceeding the weight bearing capacity of your vehicle’s roof is dangerous and, in most countries, probably illegal.   It is dangerous because it makes your vehicle too top heavy, putting it at risk of tipping over.   Too much weight on your roof will also affect your vehicle’s braking ability, which is a major safety concern, and it is for this reason that laws will most likely be enacted to address it.  

So please take the extra time prior to travelling with a roof mounted cargo carrier and make sure you’re going to be safe as well as legally compliant.

Check that your rooftop carry needs do not conflict with your insurance policy.

If you are involved in an accident and the insurance investigator discovers that you were overloaded on the roof, this could have a very negative impact on your insurance claim.   With this mind, it really is worth your time to check with your insurance company about installing a roof rack and using a rooftop carry bag/box.   Hopefully, they’ll say there’s no problem with you doing so, and if you’re lucky, they might even be willing to email you a confirmation.   On the other hand, your policy may prohibit you from doing so, in which case you have the option of not proceeding as planned or shopping around for another insurance provider that meets your needs.

What are the strengths of each rooftop cargo carrying option?

Roof boxes and roof bags are ideal for storing and transporting bulky items that would be difficult to pack in a small car or SUV.   Tents come in all shapes and sizes and can take up a lot of space in your car, so being able to store them on the roof can be a real benefit, and the roof box is a great way to do so.   Roof boxes are also ideal for storing water and snow skiing equipment, sleeping bags, camping gear, and even some types of work equipment and instruments.

Cargo bags are commonly used to transport extra clothing for a long journey, as well as sleeping bags, pillows, foam camping mats, and blankets.   If you don’t fill the rooftop carry bag all the way, make sure to pull the straps down over your load to eliminate any potential for things to move around in any extra space that may exist in the bag.

Protect your rooftop cargo box or bag from theft as much as you can.

Make sure your roof top load is secure, especially if you want to prevent someone ‘borrowing’ your cargo without your permission.

Yes, it’s not a fun thing to talk about but there are some rather naughty thieves in every town of every country, that’s just life folks.

While you probably can’t prevent them from completely liberating your carry box or bag, there are some things we can do to slow their actions down, which may be all you need to prevent them from fleeing with your belongings.  The Rhino Rack Rapid Locking Straps are a high-quality item that can be useful in this situation.   You place the lock on your strap on top of the load to make it more difficult for thieves to reach.   Then make those straps as tight as possible (without crushing your valuable cargo, of course).   By leaving no slack in the straps, you make it more difficult for them to slip a cutting implement under the strap and hack away at them.

Take good care of your cargo box or bag.

When travelling, bugs, dirt, and other types of filth will accumulate on the front of your carry bag or box, so make sure to thoroughly clean them after you return home.

Now you have the hard job of deciding which roof cargo option you go for.

Roof bags, in my opinion, are the most popular option nowadays.   I believe the price factor is important, as is the fact that they can be stored at home in a smaller space than a box.   Personally, I prefer cargo boxes for their durability and long-lasting strength, but it really is a matter of horses for courses.   Whichever option you choose, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the additional storage space it gives you and your family when travelling or going camping on weekends.

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