Rooftop Cargo Carriers for Any Occasion

2011 Mitsubishi RVR GT AWDWelcome to the wonderful world of rooftop cargo carriers, a world despised by 5-foot-2-inch women and beloved by MacGruber-type husbands. After the next 400 words, you shall be an expert in all things cross bar, volume capacity and wind resistance. But first, let’s get naked.

A “naked” factory roof has no roof rack. Many SUVs and trucks come with “vertical” OEM roof rails (alias: tracks) upon which “horizontal” cross bars can be attached. Aftermarket systems can be installed on hatchbacks, minivans, and even the occasional intrepid Volkswagen Beetle. Bars and rails are the skeleton upon which all rooftop cargo carriers are mounted.

Choosing the best rooftop cargo carrier requires a few measurements: the height of your vehicle, size of your luggage, strength of your shoulders, etc. Will the added height exclude you from parking garages? Can it accommodate skis? Will it be mounted with clamps or tightened with ratchet straps?

Thule Sonic Large Cargo Box: a lockable, waterproof, aerodynamic, dual-side, 13-cubic-foot cargo box that Sasquatch himself couldn’t dismember. It’s as aerodynamic as a falcon and as silent as an owl. For a Sun Valley ski trip or a Muskegon camping trip, it can’t be beat. But not everyone can stomach a $759 price tag, which could almost pay for a private jet for your luggage. And not every overworked mom can hoist a 40-pound box onto her minivan.

Curt 18115 Cargo Basket: a powder-coated, black, steel cargo rack begging for an adventure. The two-piece cargo basket is shaped like a short, square shopping cart, and it comes with less formidable $232 price sticker. For snaking up the Argentine Pass or mudding in the North Carolina Outer Banks, what’s not to love? Unfortunately, exposed cargo baskets offer no protection from Mother Nature.

Rightline Gear Sport 3 Cargo Bag: a waterproof, zippered, UV-resistant cargo bag for the bargain shopper. Unlike hardshell cargo carriers, bags can be strapped directly onto the roof. They can be easily installed and folded for safekeeping. And who doesn’t love a $120 price tag? Disadvantages include wind hullabaloo, reduced fuel efficiency and, with cheaper models, sunlight degradation and water adsorption.

As a last resort, you can strap a reused garbage can to your truck and drive on while singing “Californy is the place you outta be” like the Beverly Hillbillies. Don’t laugh. Someone actually did it.