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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima BlackTop 12 > Owner Review by Anson Moxness

Owner Review by Anson Moxness
July 27, 2007

Age: 18
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lbs (66 kg)
E-mail: anson dot Moxness at gmail dot com
Location: Anchorage, Alaska US
Backpacking Background:
I have been a backpacker for my entire life. Most of my experience backpacking has been in the Chugach Mountains outside of Anchorage. I am experimenting in a more lightweight approach to backpacking and hopefully I will end up with around a 15 lb (6.8 kg) pack for shorter (2-4 day) trips. I try to seek out the most rugged terrain possible; in the Chugach that is mostly steeper rocky terrain with some snowfield and glacier crossing. I mostly hike in the summer months but I do have experience in cold weather conditions.

Product Information:
Model: Black Top 12
Manufacturer: Yakima Inc.
Year Purchased: 2006
Size Tested: 12 Cubic Feet (340 L)
Listed Weight: 53 lbs (24 kg)
Measured Weight: 55 lbs (25 kg)
MSRP: $339US
Dimensions: 90" x 24" x 15" (229 cm x 61 cm x 38 cm)
Measured Dimensions: 90" x 24" x 15" (229 cm x 61 cm x 38 cm)

Box on my car. The BlackTop is Yakima's predecessor to the current SkyBox series of car top boxes. Between the two models the main difference is the shape, which Yakima claims makes the SkyBox more aerodynamic and easier to close. Other than that, the mounting mechanisms, dimensions, and volume have all remained the same. The BlackTop is a fully black car top carrier, which attaches with four quick release clamps accessible only on the inside so the box must be unlocked to take it off the vehicle. The quick release clamps can slide up and down the box to fit spreads of crossbars between 24" (61 cm) and 42" (107 cm). Locks are included with the car top box and include two of Yakima's SKS keys. The box is made of a tough polymer plastic (ABS plastic), which makes it light as well as strong.

Field Information:
The BlackTop 12 has sat on the top of my 2002 Subaru Legacy Sedan (equipped with a Yakima aftermarket rack system) since I bought it, except when I go on long road trips where I don't need the space (to save gas mileage). I have driven in any condition that Alaska has to offer: wind, rain, pouring rain, snow, blizzard, hail, freezing rain, sun (a rarity sometimes), etc. I have also used the car top box in temperatures ranging from around 90 F (32 C) to -30 F (-34 C). I have driven approximately 10000 miles (16000 km) with this box on top of my car.

I originally bought this box because I needed a space to store my numerous Nordic skis and accompanying gear while also transporting a full load of passengers. However I have also used this box as a general storage place for many things such as stinky clothes, backpacks, keeping valuables out of sight when leaving the car at a trailhead, and much more. This box came most in handy when going on a camping trip with four friends where we didn't have to drive around with backpacks over our laps, two could fit in the trunk and another three could fit in the BlackTop. On this specific trip, it was raining fairly hard on our drive up (and the hike as well) and when we got to the trailhead our packs were not wet at all, showing that even driving rain couldn't penetrate the seal of the BlackTop. Overall this box has shown to be very weatherproof, not letting any water get into the storage area and keeping my valuables safe, dry, and locked.It also was able to handle a fair amount of gear. It easily swallowed three 50 L (3000 cubic inches) packs, and could probably handle three 65 L (4000 cubic inches) packs. However the last one is only an estimate using one a full 65 L (4000 cubic inch) pack. Interior of box

One feature that makes this box stand out from many other car top boxes is the latching mechanism. Most boxes, including Yakima's Classics line, require a key to open the box, and keep the box open. However the BlackTop (and cousin Platinum Pro, and the updated SkyBox and SkyBox Pro) features a handle which, when the box is closed and latched, can be left unlocked. This way if I am driving from point A to point B I would not have to use my key to lock and unlock it. If need be, I can lock the box closed by inserting my key and turning the lock core and then pushing in the whole handle, it will then lock down and be unable to turn and therefore unable to open the box.

Another feature that I like about the BlackTop is the fact that it opens from both sides of the box, so I can place it on either side of my car and not have to worry about jumping on the roof just to get my backpack out. To achieve this, Yakima made a dual sided hinge, while it initially appeared flimsy, it has lasted through many openings and closings and much abuse. The one downside of a dual sided opening is that if one side is not completely latched, opening the other side will cause the top to fall off (now attached only at the hinges). Recovery from this problem is easy, but just a hassle, so if I have been changing the side of the rack my box is on, I always check to make sure the box is latched on the other side. Inside quick release mechanisms

When first purchasing the box I anticipated having a problem getting the box on and off the car, to my surprise this was not the case. The BlackTop (and all other Yakima boxes) is equipped with quick-release like levers on the inside of the box which drop down an attachment arm which latches onto the rack system. I found these extremely easy to use, especially when I needed to take the box on or off quickly. In the same mechanism there was a knob (on the left of the picture) which regulates how far the attachment arm drops down. The knob on the right allows the whole attachment to customize the distance between the crossbars. It can fit crossbar spreads of 24 in (61 cm) to 48 in (122 cm). Overall I found the mechanism very simple to adjust, take on, and off.

Mounting clamp Yakima claims this box can fit almost any rack, and from the clamp system it looks like it would fit any aftermarket rack and most factory racks. The only ones that wouldn't fit would be if the crossbars couldn't get within the box's limits or if the bars were particularly wide (over around 4 in [10 cm]) or tall (more than about 2 in [5 cm]). From general observation of vehicles around Anchorage, Alaska, the BlackTop would fit almost all racks. I personally have never seen a rack that I thought "my box wouldn't fit on that one."

I have really only had one problem with this box and that is the fact it is hard to close and latch. The whole box is not very stiff so sometimes I need to press extra hard on each spot next to the latches. I have played around with the newer version of the BlackTop (SkyBox) and they are reinforced with a metal piece running the length of the box and ribs on the bottom of the top clamshell; these make it much easier to close (I could do it with one hand). This problem seems to have been remedied in Yakima's newest boxes, without changing any of the above features that I like.

One problem that I anticipated with this box is that I would have a large depletion of gas mileage when I have the box on top of my car. However I don't really notice it at all. By having the box on my car I lose perhaps 1-2 miles per gallon (0.43 - 0.5 kilometers per liter). Surprisingly my aftermarket Yakima rack system creates more wind noise without the box on than with.

To rehash:
Features I liked:
Dual side opening, makes my life easier
Latching mechanism explained above so I don't always have to keep it locked and unlocked
Weatherproofness, I don't have to worry about my stuff getting wet
Less wind noise with the box on than with just plain crossbars
Only a small drop in mileage

Feature I didn't:
Difficult to latch
A small drop in mileage

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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima BlackTop 12 > Owner Review by Anson Moxness

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