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  1. Default Car top gear carriers in winter conditions

    Hi Folks. i have taken some road trips before but never with anything on the roof of my SUV which has an installed roof rack with horizontal bars in both directions.(?) (is that you describe a roof rack with cross bars.?)

    I have some gear like a folding table, and folding chairs and perhaps some stuffsacks full of bedding (in black plastic bags for protection )

    I went and purchased a small roof top carrier 12 cubic feet..canvas.. the smallest one i could see.. It is way bigger than the amount of material i have to fill it however..

    as a new person to all of this, after being recommended to thoroughly fill the car top carrier to bulging..for best travel purposes..would i still be able to use this car top carrier partly full, but well strapped down..

    Has anyonne used one of these things?
    any practical tips?

    any winter tips?

    any and all help and comments would be gratefully received.


  2. Default I've used a hard shell carrier...

    I've used a hard shell (Thule) roof top cargo carrier a bunch of times on long trips.

    A couple of comments...

    1) Don't overload the rooftop carrier. You don't want your car top heavy, as that can really increase the risk of roll overs. Serious issue... This is a particular issue for tall vehicles with a high center of gravity (like a SUV). Also, most roof top carriers have a weight limit, typically in the 150-200 lb range (depends upon the vehicle). That's driven by the design of the roof and how the weight of the roof rack is coupled into the pillars around the car.

    2) Put the lightweight, builky stuff you don't have to get very often into the cargo carrier. Having to get into it each evening or during the day can be a pain. I typically put in sleeping bags, pads, spare clothing etc -- and leave the stuff I need each evening in the back of the car. (I drive a larger SUV -- a Toyota Sequoia).

    3) Be aware of the new height of the car. Things like going into parking garages or even under low entrances can be exciting if you forget you have the cargo carrier on the roof. So far I've had to only back out of one parking garage....

    4) The issue with a soft sided cargo carrier is in two parts, compared to a hard sided one. The first is making sure its weather tight, or that anything inside won't get hurt if some rain leaks through the seams and zippers on the cargo carrier, or that it gets cold (since its outside the car). Putting stuff in big garbage bags and into the cargo carrier is a good idea. The second issue is keeping it from flapping as you drive. A half full soft-sided cargo carrier can flap, since its a non-rigid material. Over a few days of driving, this can wear and rip the material. (I suspect this is why you were encouraged to fill it fully.). It also can be REALLY noisy at highway speeds.

    An alternative to this is to either use additional straps or bungees to strap down and compress the soft sided carrier so it doesn't flap in the breeze. I've seen at least one canvas-type carrier that had compression straps on the top and sides to do this. If not, you could do compression strap it with webbing straps, or bungies or even rope. You may have to experiment which what you find works the best. (and which also makes comment 2 above more important...)

  3. Default

    Thank you so much, Larrison..

    i really really do not want excessive road noise and ripped cargo bag.!
    (by underloading)

    I may fiddle with the idea more, by using more cords and things to wrap the bag with.. But i really do not feel like filling the gear bag up and going for a test drive (or seven) to make sure everything is ok..!

    The weather is too cold to be loading and unloading the blamed thing..and there is snow where we are..
    I guess i may have to bite the bullett, however.. oh well.. i guess it will be worth it in the end..

    many thanks

  4. #4


    I bought the cheapest canvass rooftop carrier I could find because I do not go on roadtrips very often and I don't have much space to store a hard shell. I think the idea of filling up the canvass carrier is an excellent idea. Just today I tried loading the carrier with nothing on it just to test it out. It was noisy as hell on the highways.

    As for keeping things dry, I bought a can of tent waterproof spray. This should help keep mild rain from getting inside. Additionally, I will only load items that aren't prone to getting wet inside (eg. hard case luggage) and wrap other things with a garbage bag just in case...

    Hope this helps.

  5. #5

    Default River bags

    I've employed what I refer to as "river bags" in lieu of either hard-side or soft-side cartop carriers. Inasmuch as I only need that kind of thing when I fly somewhere and rent a car, using the riverbags lets me either roll them up and check within regular luggage, or use them as items of checked luggage from the start.

    What I'm referring to is a duffle-type bag made of waterproof material and having a sealable, waterproof opening at one end. Most will have backpack-style shoulder straps for short-distance personal hauling. The beauty of this "system" is the portability and flexibility, as you'll find yourself using the bag(s) for other purposes, as well. It may require a few extra minutes time after recovering luggage at an airport, but getting soft gear into riverbags and strapping them atop a rental SUV (with strapping gear/bungees you've packed along with your luggage) or minivan is a great way to keep the vehicle's interior clear for passengers and other luggage.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Great idea, Foy!

    I have a luggage rack on my trunk. At this time, strapping a big duffle bag with bungee cords works fine. Usually with sleeping bags, pads, pillows, tent inside. Wrapped in a big garbage bag first if weather looks like it might be bad.) However, I really like how weather-proof river bags would be. I'll keep this in mind. thanks!

  7. #7

    Default Well thanks, Judy

    I should add that this "system" allows you to deploy as much cartop watersealed haulage as you might need, eliminating the need to "fill the softside cartop" or otherwise having more carrier catching wind than you need for a particular road trip.

    The styles I prefer are a windowscreen-size mesh cloth sandwiched between highly flexible PVC coatings inside and out. They're more expensive, but I've got one that's been in the arsenal for 17 years. It's logged thousands of miles atop a rental, our personal vehicles, or strapped into our canoe or powerboat.

    A downside is the absence overnight or other "away from the truck" security. It does get to be bothersome to unstrap the bag(s) and toss them in the interior or trunk, then reverse the process when ready to get under way. It's more than bothersome if you don't take care to efficiently organize the strap-down procedure by having proper securing equipment along with right from the get-go.


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