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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima Skybox 16S Cargo Box > Test Report by Dawn Larsen

Yakima SkyBox 16s
Test Report

Initial Report 13 March 2012
Field Report 12 June 2012
Long Term Report 19 August 2012

Name:  Dawn Larsen
Age: 51

Gender: female
Height: 5' 4" (163 cm)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email address: vicioushillbilly AT gmail DOT com
Florence, South Carolina USA

Backpacking Background:
I used to backpack in college a zillion years ago and just in the last few years have backpacked some private trails in Tennessee, Missouri and most recently South Carolina. I have been an avid car-camper for eleven years and I have kayak/canoe camped for four years, in South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. I use a lot of the same equipment for both. I hike hilly/rocky trails especially in Missouri (my home state) and Arkansas. I live in South Carolina and am busy checking out the terrain here with my eighteen year-old son.

Product Information

Manufacturer: Yakima
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: $469.99 US
Advertised Weight: 47 lbs (21.32 kg)
Advertised Dimensions: 81 x 36 x 15 in (206 x 91 x 38 cm)
Measured Dimensions:  81 x 36 x 15 in
(206 x 91 x 38 cm)
Advertised crossbar spread:  24 - 42 in. (61 - 107 cm)
Advertised Capacity: 16 cu. feet. (453 L)
Constructed from ABS plastic
Color:  Matte black

yakima image
courtesy of website

Initial Report
31 March 2012

Product Description

My main test question concerned whether I could, as a single women handle the gear by myself.  At 47 lb (21.32 kg), I cannot.  I had to have my son help me put it on the car.  I was hoping the SkyBox would be a little lighter.

packaging  out of box

Having said the above, the SkyBox 16s came in a huge cardboard crate freighted via tractor-trailer.  The guy couldn't get down my street so he had to hand-cart it to my door.  Somehow, I got it out of the box by myself.  It was wrapped in plastic and the instructions were on the inside of the locked SkyBox.  The key was hanging out of the locked box on a cord.  Really, a sticker with "instructions within" or something would have been helpful.  There is a sticker on the side that advertised the features and the dimensions, but no instructions.

According to the Yakima website, there are several new features on this model.  The mounting hardwear is quick-installation and fits car rack systems with round, square, and most factory crossbars.  The lid is 50% stiffer so it vibrates less and is easier to open. According to the instructions, though there is dual side access with locking mechanisms on both sides, I can only open one side of the box at a time. As well, I can change the core of the lock if I ever needed to.  

Initial Impressions

I read the instructions then had my son help me set it on top of the car.  After that, I could attach it by myself.  

courtesy of Yakima

clampclamp closed

Attaching the SkyBox 16S
So the process of attaching it to my 2007 Honda CRV with factory roof rack is this (refer to above images):  First, I opened the SkyBox with the key by rotating the key like it said on the picture on the lock.  I opened the clamp locks by raising the levers to open the four clamps. I closed the lid of the SkyBox.  Then my son and I set the closed SkyBox on the roof rack, placing the opened clamps behind the crossbars (see illustration above).  I unlocked the lock, pulled up on the latch and opened the driver's side of the SkyBox.  
I had to use a stepladder to access the inside of the SkyBox.  I loosened the track thumb wheel, which allows the clamps to slide back and forth to adjust for my roof rack's crossbars.  I lifted up on the front left side of the box to allow me to slide the clamps on the roof rack and slid them to go around the crossbars.  I locked the clamp in place by pressing down on the lever and then tightened the track thumb wheel.  I did this for each of the clamps and that's all there is to it.  

I noticed in the instructions that the SkyBox Pro series comes with a pad for the inside of the box to cushion and keep the contents from sliding around.  I took an old yoga mat and attempted to approximate it.  I think it will work.
yoga mat

We got in the car and drove about 15 miles (22 km) to test it out...and to get pizza, but that's beside the point.  Driving with the SkyBox on the car feels a lot like driving with a kayak on my car.  There is some resistance to wind. Also the placement of the box bends my antenna, which is made of rubber so it should not break, but I wish the SkyBox was a little shorter.  It doesn't affect me opening the hatch of my car any more than my kayak does.  
The SkyBox seems very sturdy and weather resistant.


The SkyBox also does not allow me to also put my kayak on top of my car.  

on car  front view


The SkyBox seems very easy to install once I get help lifting it onto the car.  It also seems very sturdy and weather-resistant.  I  hope that this will be the answer to my 2 1000-mile (1600 km) treks per year to my home state.   

What I like
Attaching it to the car is easy.
It seems very sturdy and weather-resistant

What I don't like
It is too heavy for me to handle by myself.
It is too wide to allow me to carry my kayak on the car too.

Field Report
12 June 2012

Field Conditions

I went on two car camping trips to Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina:
March 30 and 31, 2012 - The weather averaged about 80 F (27 C) during the day and 50 F (10 C) at night.  It was windy and clear.
April 20 and 21, 2012 - The weather was a little warmer at about 85 F (29 C) during the day and low 50s F (10s C) at night.  It was clear.

I also went on one-day beach trip to Huntington State Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on May 18.  The weather was cool, approximately 70 F (21 C), and windy.

Road conditions:  There is typical paved highway driving between my home and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The maximum speed limit posted is 65 mph (105 kph). The road does have some sharp curves. Both parks have paved and unpaved roads. Roads are narrow with low-hanging trees.


First let me say that I got a new phone during this test period.  I took a lot of pictures of the SkyBox with it.  And then, magically, I deleted all of them.  Sigh...

The SkyBox is very roomy. I was able to haul 2 tents, a double burner camp stove, 2 sleeping bags, 4 stuff sacks, a large sun shade, camping tub, as well as other equipment. As a matter of fact, I didn't have enough stuff to fill it.  My gear weighed in at about 35 lb (16 kg) total.  According to the website, there is a pad that I could buy that keeps stuff from sliding around.  In the initial test period, I tried an old yoga mat (see the picture in the Initial Report).  I used it on all the trips.  The box is so roomy that the first part of the first drive, I had just packed all the stuff in there without securing it to see how bad the gear would shift when I drove on the curvy highway leading to both parks that I visited in this test period.  The gear slid around A LOT on the curves, even with the yoga mat.  I could feel the weight shifting as I drove.  I stopped and had to tie various equipment down, first tying the equipment together and then securing it using the tie-down locations inside the box with bungee cords.  I also tried to put the heaviest items in the center per the instructions. I can understand why a gear net (sold separately) would be useful.  After the gear was secured, it was much better because the gear shifted, but did not slide from the front to the back of the box like before.  

After I had help lifting the box on top of my car, it was very easy to clamp down, open and close.  I like the fact that I can lock my gear into it.  Besides the problem of me not being able to put the SkyBox on my car by myself because of the weight, the SkyBox atop my car is too tall for me to access easily.  I remedied this by carrying a small step ladder in my car.  I did store gear in the box when I was camping, but it is a little inconvenient for me because I am short at 64 in (163 cm). The dual access is helpful because I am short.  I found that lifting heavy gear, like my camp tub, was difficult because I had to lift it over my head.

South Carolina gets very hot.  Because the box is black, when it is at the campsite, if it is sitting in the sun, the contents and interior of the box get very hot.  I did not have a thermometer with me this test period, but plan to try to record the temperature in the box compared with the temperature outside the box during the next test period.  I couldn't keep anything perishable, including candles, sun tan lotion, etc. in it because they melted.  As long as I parked my car in the shade, it was fine, but in some campsites, that wasn't possible.

I have never had a hard shell cargo carrier before so I can't compare how it feels when I'm driving it to other kinds of carriers, but the closest thing that I could compare would be a couple of kayaks.  Driving my Honda CRV feels more like a car than a truck. Its suspension on rough roads tends to be a little more smooth.  It also handles well at high speeds and semi trucks don't blow it around very much when they pass. When semi trucks go by when the SkyBox is mounted on my CRV, I do feel them rocking the car because of the added height with the SkyBox. I felt more wind resistance at higher highway speeds.  On rough roads, especially the camp roads that contained potholes, though I didn't feel a difference in the way the CRV handled, I felt the gear shifting and bouncing in the SkyBox somewhat even after I tied it down.  

I initially misread the instructions to mean that the gear could not exceed 47 lb (21 kg).  Instead, the instructions mean that gear plus the 47 lb (21 kg) weight of the SkyBox should not exceed my rack's 168 lb (76 kg) limit.  My gear load met that limit. I think the instructions should be more clear as some racks for my car have a 75 lb. (34 kg) limit and 35 lb (16 kg) of gear added to 47 lb (21 kg) of SkyBox exceeds that limit.  

I like that the SkyBox is easy to clamp down.  I also really like that I can lock gear in its very roomy interior.  The dual access makes it easy for a short person with a tall car to access gear easier.  It seems to be a great solution to long camping trips.  
Though I did not during this test period, I plan to calculate gas mileage during the next test period to see if the added height makes any difference to the 26 to 28 mpg (42 to 45 kpg) that I normally get with highway driving. I will also test for backpacking gear during the next test period.

What I like
It holds a lot of gear.
I like that I can secure my gear.
It attaches to the car easily.

What I don't like
It's too heavy for me to handle by myself.
It's too wide to allow me to carry my kayak on my car too.
The interior gets very hot when sitting in the sun.

Long Term Report
19 August 2012

Field Conditions

This reporting period I took four backpacking trips. Two were in the Missouri/Arkasas Ozarks and two were in South Carolina.  It was incredibly hot in both places.
June 14-16, near Ponca, AR on the Buffalo River Trail for about 19 miles (30 km). Temperatures neared 90 F (32 C) during the day and in the lower 70s (mid-20s C) at night. It was clear. I carried only my gear (one pack) in the SkyBox.

July 18-20, near Van Buren, Missouri on the Ozark Trail for about 16 miles (26 km).  Temperatures were near 102 F (39 C) during the day and 75 (24 C) at night.  
I carried only my gear in the SkyBox.

August 9-11, north of Charleston, South Carolina on the Swamp Fox Trail for about 15 miles (24 km). Temperatures were hot, near 98 F (37 C) during the day and 75 F (24 C) at night.  It rained intermittently all three days. I carried only my gear in the SkyBox.

August 16-19, near Cheraw, South Carolina on private land. We hiked in, did several day hikes, then hiked out. I carried my gear and one other person's gear in the SkyBox. Temperatures were in the 90s F (mid-30s C) with intermittent rain showers.

Road conditions:  I drove on typical paved highways.  The maximum speed limit posted was 65 mph (105 kph). Roads, especially in Missouri and Arkansas, have sharp curves and changes in elevation.

The main difference between this reporting period and the other, was the amount of gear I carried.  On the first three trips, I was alone so only carried my packed pack in the SkyBox (see picture below).  Though the picture below shows the box on the ground, this is the same way that I traveled with the gear in the box on top of my car.  I just couldn't get a good picture up on top of my car.  The weight of the cargo was approximately 27 lb (12 kg).

Full box

I secured the box on my car first, then loaded and tied down the gear.  It was too heavy and too difficult to get to the interior clamp mechanism if I had first secured the gear in the box and then lifted the whole thing onto the car.  I tied the gear in using elastic cords attached to the tie down locations inside the box.  
Notice that I also used my old yoga mat because it really helped to keep the gear from sliding around.  The height of the packed pack JUST fit in the SkyBox.  The pack was almost too tall with my sleeping pad attached to my pack.  It was actually kind of difficult getting the pack into the SkyBox when it was on top of the car.  I had to push the pack in, then attach the cords to the tie down locations on one side, close the box and lock it, then open it up on the other side to attach the cords to those tie down locations.  And, of course, one time the elastic cords had slipped off the side I had locked.  I think if the box could open just a little higher, it would be better for me.

tie downs

The last trip, my son and I went, so I carried two packs in the Skybox. The weight was approximately 55 lb (25 kg). I tied the packs one in front of the other.  Two packs end-to-end just fit.

I noticed with use that the locking latch became harder to catch and latch, especially on the side that I use the most (driver's side when mounted on the car).  

Temperature and Weather Conditions
This report period was incredibly hot.  I was glad that I didn't leave any gear in the box while I was hiking because the temperature inside the box when sitting in the sun was significantly hotter than the outside temperature.  I measured by opening the box after it sat for 2 days in the sun (on the day that I hiked out). I put a thermometer inside immediately, then closed it back up for 5 minutes.  On a 102 F (39 C) day, the box interior read 125 F (52 C) on a candy thermometer.  I did the same thing after driving in the sun and the temperature was only a couple of degrees higher.  I assume the wind from the moving car kept the interior cooler.

On the trip with all the rain.  The gear stayed very dry.

Because I carried very little gear this report period, I could feel the cargo shift, both side to side and front to back, more this time than with a loaded SkyBox like in the field report period.  

Use and Storage
Most importantly for my testing, the SkyBox is too big for me to handle by myself.  I can't even get it out of my shed without banging it on surrounding stuff (doors, boxes, bikes).  I can't get it on top of my car by myself. Besides the weight of lifting it on top of the car, the main problem is that there are no handles to lift it. We used the clamps on the bottom of the box and I don't suppose that is too good for them to be used as handles.  Handles on the sides or bottom, even if they were canvas, might make handling it a little easier.  


The SkyBox protects the cargo inside.  I will use this, especially in the winter, on my 1000-mile (1610 km) trek to my home state of Missouri to carry luggage, gifts, etc. I will also use it when I camp with several people, especially when transporting base camp gear because it saves a lot of gear space in the back of my car.  However, as a backpacking carrier for just one or two people, it really isn't worth the effort to me. It is much easier to throw two packs into the back of my car rather than deal with putting the SkyBox on my car, trying to get the gear into it, and then tying it down properly so it won't slide around.  
I probably will not use it in the summer when I need to have my kayak on top of my car.  

What I liked
It attaches to the car easily.
It holds a lot of gear.
Very sturdy and protects the cargo inside the box.

What I didn't like
I can't get the SkyBox on and off of my car by myself.
The latch got stiff with use.
I can't carry my kayak on my car too.

This concludes my Long Term Report. Many thanks to Yakima and for the opportunity to test the Yakima SkyBox 16S.

Read more reviews of Yakima gear
Read more gear reviews by Dawn Larsen

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