Whether you a small car, lots of people in your car or you simply have a lot of gear, car top carriers can come in handy to transport equipment and supplies that can’t fit in your car. They are also helpful in keeping your gear organized and out-of-the-way.
However, the big drawback to hard rooftop cargo boxes (even though they can be really nice) is that they can get expensive. Depending on the size and brand you want, like Thule and Yakima, you can easily spend upwards of $800.
If that price isn’t in your budget, don’t worry, there are other budget-friendly alternatives that can fit almost as much camping stuff – and some might argue that they are easier and more convenient to use.
Compared to the Thule Force ($439-$824) which comes in sizes 13 cubic feet to 21 cubic feet, Rightline’s line of soft car top carriers are available in sizes 9 cubic feet to 18 cubic feet and cost only $90-$120.
Specifically, here are the dimensions of Rightline’s largest carrier: 48″L x 40″W x 14-19″H.
No, they do not have a hard shell like traditional cargo carriers, but they are aerodynamically designed to give you optimal gas mileage on your trip (another cost savings) and they are 100% waterproof. In addition to being waterproof, the PVC mesh (nylon re-enforced PVC) and Hydrotuff material (PVC-backed polyester) is UV resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the material wearing out quickly while the sun beats down on it.
Of course they are lighter in weight (when they are empty of course), so they are easier for even a small person to load on top of a car. The easier a rooftop cargo carrier is to use – the more you will use it, which makes a much better value.
In addition, no roof rack is required. This is yet again another cost savings because if you need to install a roof rack on your car, you’re looking at spending an additional several hundred dollars. This advantage also means you can use your carrier on different vehicles. Bonus!
How Does it Work?
Connect the carrier’s straps to a roof rack, run them through the vehicle or add the Rightline Gear Car Clips (purchased separately) to attach them to the vehicle’s door frame. The clips attach under the vehicle door’s weather molding – they couldn’t be any easier to use, and they are very secure.
Why are they Better than Other Soft Carriers?
The reason I like Rightline for “soft” carriers is that the company carries some of the largest car top bags on the market, so they are ideal for family camping trips where you are likely to have lots of gear, or people, or both.
What if you need to wash your soft carrier?
No problem! Hand wash with mild soap and water. Or simply drive around in the rain while you have it strapped on top of your car. OK, just kidding.
Keep in mind that if your vehicle does not have a roof rack on which to attach you roof top carrier, you’ll probably want to get a non-stick roof pad as an extra security precaution to use between the carrier and the roof of your car. Not only does it prevent shifting and slipping of the bag, but it also protects you car from any sharp or heavy objects in the carrier which might scratch your car.
The dimensions of the pad are 36 inch length x 36 inch width, but it can be cut to size if you find that it hangs off the roof of your car.
What About Locking the Carrier?
Although this type of cargo carrier is not as secure as some of the locking hard boxes, You can still secure it using a car top carrier cable Lock, which makes it more difficult for people to access the items inside. The retractable steel cable simply threads through both zipper pulls on the bag. It’s a combination lock, so you don’t have extra keys to worry about.