Roof boxes (sometimes called cargo boxes) make packing for a holiday or camping trip much easier. They offer extra storage space as you can mount them to the top of your vehicle, so you'll no longer have to sit with a suitcase on your lap! However, there are a few things you should consider before buying. For example, do you know the difference between hard and soft shell designs?
In this article, we'll guide you through the buying process to help you decipher the different locking options, mounting systems and more. Make sure to check out our ranking of the top 10 best roof boxes in the UK, too. We've got great picks for all budgets from brands like Thule, available to buy online from Amazon and Halfords.
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Roof boxes are handy for travel, but how do you pick the best one? As cargo boxes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, we've listed some of the key points below to help you pick the right one for your needs.
Roof boxes can either have a hard or soft shell, both of which have different benefits. To find out which one is best for your needs, read the handy information we've provided below!
Soft roof boxes (also called roof bags) are a popular alternative to hard plastic versions. They're inexpensive, lightweight and are easy to store, making them more convenient to use. You can even fold your soft roof box up once you've finished!
They're more versatile than hard boxes, which also makes them better for storing oddly shaped items. This is because the fabric can mould to fit your belongings, allowing you to squeeze in a few extra things.
These roof boxes are typically made from Oxford cloth, polyester or rubber. They're all sturdy materials and each fabric has a thick 600 denier, although rubber offers slightly better protection. Plus, they have a waterproof coating and are abrasion resistant to keep your belongings safe.
Although roof bags are durable, hard roof boxes offer next-level protection. They're often made from ABS plastic, which creates a hard shell to protect belongings in case they move around during transit. Although, you still shouldn't pack any breakables in there, just in case!
Even though bags are often advertised as being 100% waterproof, they can only protect your luggage up until a certain point. On the other hand, hard shells are completely weatherproof and ideal for use in all conditions.
Roof boxes don't all close in the same way, so you should consider the benefits of different fastening methods. Here, we're going to explain what each of the different closures are and their individual advantages to help you out.
If you're carrying valuables, pick a roof box with either a slide or key lock. Locking a roof box with a key is straightforward enough, as you simply insert it and turn to lock. Just be careful to keep the key somewhere safe to prevent you from losing it!
Alternatively, you can opt for a slide lock. These boxes automatically lock the lid in place, with a red indicator that lets you know if it's been successfully closed. You still need a key, but it saves you time and provides additional security.
Soft roof boxes don't have locks, so you shouldn't store any valuables inside them. Instead, you zip the bag up, just like you would with a suitcase. You can then secure straps with buckles around the bag to protect it if the zip comes open. It's not the safest method, but it's fairly effective.
Sometimes, these bags have a flap that goes over the zip, which can be secured with velcro. This offers some extra support to stop the zip from opening or breaking in windy conditions. Although, it should be noted that velcro can also come free quite easily.
You'll need to mount your roof box once you're ready to use it, so it's important to check how to mount it before you buy. Take a moment to familiarise yourself with the different methods, so you can find a box that's quick and easy to attach.
You can mount a hard roof box onto a roof rack, or roof bars, using a power grip or u-bolts. U-bolts can be a bit fiddly to fit, but these roof boxes often come with instructions to make the process easier.
If this method sounds too complex, opt for a roof box that's fitted with a power grip system (sometimes called a quick fix system). It's user-friendly and allows you to mount your roof box in seconds. This is because they have grip claws that tighten around the roof bars, which is quicker to install.
Soft roof boxes are mounted using the buckle straps that secure the zip. You simply wrap these under the roof bars and click them in place. It's much easier than other mounting methods and fairly quick. Although, it's less secure as the straps aren't as sturdy as metal fittings.
You can also secure soft roof boxes (or bags) without roof bars. Instead, you can hook the strap around the top and pass it through the inside of the car. Alternatively, you can use inflatable roof racks, which are cheaper. They're both fairly straightforward, but are the least secure methods.
Last but not least, you need to figure out if your roof box is big enough to hold all your belongings. Roof box capacity is measured in litres and usually ranges from 300 to 700 litres. Unfortunately, this measurement doesn't mean all that much on its own.
Imagine a roof box with 580 litres of space. This will be big enough to fit four medium-sized suitcases and a sleeping bag. That's a lot of storage room, and those that are slightly larger can fit even more! On the other hand, a smaller 330 litre box can only fit two large duffle bags, so it'll be better for a couple's camping trip.
You should also weigh the box before you attach it to your roof to ensure it's safe. Roof boxes typically weigh somewhere around 50 kg or 75 kg. Make sure to allow for the weight of your roof bars and passengers too, as you won't want to exceed the weight limit stated in your vehicle's user manual.
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Motion XT XL Glossy Black
The Perfect Box With Power Grip and Slide Locking
Car Roof Bag
Extra Protection Thanks to a Rubber Outer Layer
Advanced 470L Black Roof Box
Duel Opening for Easy Access
Car Roof Bag
Can Be Attached Without Roof Bars
Large Vehicle Roof Bag
Easy to Mount Bag With Poles in the Base
Grey Roof Box
A Sturdy ABS Plastic Design
Car Roof Bag
UV Protection for Hot Temperatures
Roof Box Dual Side Opening With Central Locking
Extra Large Capacity That's Perfect For Families
Car Roof Bar Box
Multiple Mounting Holes to Fit Cars of All Sizes
Thule is without a doubt the best brand for roof boxes, and the XT XL is a popular choice. In fact, it has everything you'd want a roof box to have. The slide locking system allows for automatic locking, and indicates when it's closed for extra security. Plus, it has a power grip mounting system, so you can get it up and running within seconds.
It's a good size and can hold 500 litres of luggage, or up to 75 kg. That's a nice size, but not so big that it won't fit on smaller cars. It's even been designed to have the best aerodynamics to reduce noise from the wind on motorways.
Rubber is a better material than polyester or oxford fabric, when choosing a soft roof box. That's because it's better at keeping water out and can stretch to fit your belongings. It's even anti-friction, which prevents the material from wearing down with use.
The zip is strong, and there's a wide velcro covering to keep it securely in place no matter what conditions you're driving in. Plus, it has a notably large capacity for a soft roof box, so you'll be able to fit lots inside.
This roof box is a great alternative to the Thule Motion if it's out of your budget. It has a duel opening so you can open it up from either side of the car, saving you some extra time and effort, and the lid even stays open on its own!
It's easy to install with a power grip system that allows you to attach it in seconds. And for those who find the sound of the wind distracting while driving, this box is aerodynamic which will reduce noise from wind resistance.
This roof bag is one of the few that you don't need a roof rack to mount. It comes with six built-in straps and two extras, that can be hooked over your bag and through the inside of your car to secure it. It also has a relatively large capacity that can fit up to fit four medium suitcases inside, making it a great choice for family holidays.
It has oversized zipper flaps to stop grit from coming into contact with the zip, which could otherwise cause it to break over time. It even comes with a carry bag, making it one of the easies options to store.
Are you looking for a soft roof box that's easy to mount? There are poles inserted into the base of this bag that give it a rigid bottom, similar to a hard box. This makes it simple to install and more stable when used with roof rack bars. It even has handles so you can lift the bag off and carry it inside once you've reached your destination.
The only downside is that it has a much smaller capacity compared to other boxes in a similar price range. That said, it's worth the investment, as the sturdy material is sure to keep your possessions safe!
If you're looking for something sturdier, pick this inexpensive ABS plastic roof box. It's UV protected and scratch-resistant, so it'll last a long time without becoming brittle and breaking. For additional peace of mind, you can't remove the key unless it's fully locked, which reduces the risk of any technical difficulties occurring.
It's full-width, so you'll be able to fit in more luggage than you would in a more streamlined box. Just be aware that the lid rattles a bit when in motion, but this shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Some roof bags don't have very good weather protection, but not this one! It has UV protection to keep your belongings safe on hot days, which is ideal for the summer holidays. It comes with four fixing straps to keep your luggage securely in place, and you can even adjust them for a tighter and more stable fit.
Sadly, the material isn't the best quality and it might rip if you're travelling long distances or using it regularly. However, it is fairly inexpensive, so you can replace it easily if needed.
This roof box has the largest capacity at 680 litres! It's ideal for large families and long trips away where you'll need to store lots of luggage. This size also makes it better for larger vehicles, like an SUV. Plus, it's shock-resistant to protect your luggage from knocks during transit.
Disappointingly, the keys are plastic and the locking system isn't the best, so you'll need to double-check to see if it's locked correctly. On a positive note, you can open and close the box easily thanks to the patented spring struts.
Are you worried the roof box won't fit your car? You don't need to be, as this box has multiple mounting holes along the bottom that mean it can be easily fitted to any car. You can choose from two sizes, depending on how much luggage you have. As a rule of thumb, their 320 L box will be best for couples, whereas the larger size will better suit families.
Unfortunately, it's not as high quality as other roof boxes, and the hinges aren't very sturdy. Despite being better for occasional use, it's still a good product with an aerodynamic design that's TUV approved for wind resistance.
Now you have a roof box to store all your luggage, you can head out on camping trips. But have you got all the essentials, like backpacks, sleeping bags and a tent? Don't worry, we've got some handy guides to help you pick the best gear to fully enjoy the great outdoors!
Whether you've decided to choose a soft roof box or a hard one, we hope you've found our article informative. Remember to check the volume and weight capacity, but most importantly - enjoy your travels!
Author: Rosa Fairfield
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