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


INITIAL REPORT - April 02, 2012
FIELD REPORT - June 13, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - August 21, 2012


NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: jrw at backpackgeartest dot org
AGE: 63
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in the Cooper Mountain range, with other day-long hikes on various other southwest and central Colorado trails. I frequently hike the mountains and deserts of Utah and Arizona as well. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.



Manufacturer: Yakima Products, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$ 469.00
Listed Weight: 47 lb (21.3 g)
Measured Weight: N/A - I can't think of any way to weigh this.

Other details: (from the manufacturer)

Capacity: 16 cu feet (450 L). Varies by application. Fits crossbar spreads of 24" thru 36". (61 x 91 cm)
Yakima SkyBox 16
Picture Courtesy of Yakima


The Yakima SkyBox 16s arrived by truck carrier in a HUGE heavy duty cardboard box. This is not UPS or FedEx, but a freight truck carrier.

We use a commercial drop off for our business, so the carrier dropped the SkyBox off there. I was assisted by the owner of our mail drop in unpacking and lifting the unpacked SkyBox to my sports utility vehicle.

Previously, I had added a set of rooftop carrier accessories to my factory-installed crossbars for hauling ladders, so SkyBox needed to be lifted up and set on top of these accessories. Then I had to strap the unit down with a set of carrier straps I keep in the car. This held the unit in place until I could get it home.

The SkyBox is made of a thin fiberglass material that flexes quite easily. It appears flimsy when opened, but very solid when closed because it forms a pretty solidly designed box.

It will be interesting to see how it performs here in Colorado at over 5,000 ft (1500 m) high. Everything I own that is plastic turns to dust in a year due to the UV rays. Seriously. Things fall apart in a pile of dust if touched. Weird.

The SkyBox crossbar hooks (4 of them) are quite well designed and work well.

I think the dual sided hinges are really slick. I can unlock and unlatch either side and the opposite side hinges to open and close. Nice design. I am disappointed that only one key is provided though because I am really good at losing keys. However, Yakima will let me order additional keys on their website which I will do immediately.
Locking Mechanism
Crossbar Lock
Crossbar Hook


The instructions are good. However, I would suggest that a removable label be stuck on the outside of the unit that says "Instructions Inside" because I was dumb enough not to figure there would be and ended up going to the Web site first and printing them all out. Once I had the instructions in hand, they got me through the whole installation process easily.


SkyBox on Subaru Forester The thing is huge. It's not really heavy, roughly 47 lb (21.3 kg); just really too big for one person to handle alone.

Since I had the unit resting on top of the accessories I already had in place on my crossbars, what I did when I got home was remove each of the 4 currently installed accessory stand-offs on the crossbars, one by one. I was doing this on one of the windiest days we've had in months. It was so windy that the dust clouds blocked my vision of the closest mountains. All I could see was a fog of dust from the wind gusts blowing over 60 mph (97 kph) and a constant wind of 40 mph (64 kph).

In all of this, I was able to remove the 4 stand-offs from the current accessory on the crossbars and drop the SkyBox down to the crossbars. Even with the wind blowing at these speeds, I was able to control the SkyBox as I lowered it onto the crossbars.

Once I had the SkyBox sitting on the crossbars, and figured out the way the 4 grab hooks worked, the rest was pretty easy. I loosened up the grab hooks from the inside of the box. It was just a matter of turning the two grab hook control knobs inside the box to loosen the hooks. One knob releases the hook so it can drop down to grab the crossbar and the other knob loosens the hook so it can slide forward
and backward on its track to position it over the crossbar. They were very easy to adjust and tighten up. I made sure to tighten them very well.

Once in position, the SkyBox does not move at all forward or backward or side-to-side even with me pushing as hard as possible.

Taking the SkyBox out on the road for a weekend trip of 90 miles (145 km), I expected more road noise. I'm not getting that at all. So that was a big plus.


I was very excited to be selected to test the Yakima SkyBox 16 and anxiously awaited its arrival. Now that it's here, I'm even more excited. A cinch to install, I was able to wrestle it on top of my vehicle roof in strong winds though I needed some help. It's big and it's beautiful to see perched on top of my Subaru Forester. Gonna pack it up and get out there on the road this coming weekend and find me a mountain to explore.



Well, unlike other items I test, the SkyBox is too large to take off my 2010 Subaru Forester (pictured in my Initial Report) frequently, so throughout this test, the SkyBox is "living" on my Subaru rooftop on the factory-installed crossbars.

Which means it not only went on all the outdoor activities mentioned below, but it went wherever I went and was exposed throughout this period to all the UV light and high temperatures we experienced during this time in Colorado since I do not garage the car.

It's been unseasonably warm and during the weekend of March 30-31, the high was 67 F (19 C) and the low was 55 F (13 C). It was very dry with little wind and no rain at all.

Over Mothers' day weekend in May, we drove from our home in Canon City, Colorado to Twin Lakes, Colorado for a weekend of hiking in the Sawatch Range in Colorado. Location conditions for those weekend hikes were as follows:

#1. The Colorado Trail along the south shore of Twin Lakes to Interlaken: To get there, I drove on all-paved roads to an elevation about 9200 ft (2300 m) in a brief light drizzle and temperatures 44 F (7 C) - 69 F (21 C)

#2. Independence Pass & #3 Maroon Bell in the Snowmass Wilderness (Crater Lake Trail). Again, all the roads were dry and paved up to the highest elevation (the 2nd highest mountain pass in Colorado at 12,095 ft/3,687m) at Independence Pass. Temperatures were 40 to 44 F (4 to 7 C) with partly cloudy skies and low humidity. There was quite a bit of snow at the Pass though none on the roadway

The last week of May, Kathy and I spent in Breckenridge, Colorado checking out the Ten-Mile Range. Driving to Breckenridge from Canon City, Colorado, we were on state highways, all nicely paved and dry, except for a hard but brief snow squall just outside of Breckenridge. There was no snow build-up on the road. Once in Breckenridge, we did three day hikes which were the White Falls Trail, the Quandary Peak Trail and Boreas Pass Trail. Location conditions for those hikes were as follows:

#1. White Falls Trail - This trip involved both paved and rutted dirt road surfaces to our starting elevation of 11000 ft (3400 m) in temperatures of 40 to 69 F (4 to 21 C). We encountered no rain and low humidity.

#2. Quandary Peak Trail - We drove the same route as the White Falls Trail pretty much with the same road conditions to our starting elevation of 10979 ft (3346 m). Weather conditions were mild temperatures of 40 to 69 F (4 to 21 C), super windy but mostly sunny.

#3. Boreas Pass Trail - More dirt than blacktop, but well-maintained roads were driven to get to our starting elevation of 11481 ft (3499 m). Nice weather temperatures of 40 to 69 F (4 to 21 C) and mostly cloudy.


The SkyBox 16s has 16 cubic feet (450 L) of storage. To put that in perspective, that is just over one half of the entire storage capacity of the rear storage of my Subaru Forester, which is 30.5 cubic feet (860 L). So it adds a little over 50% more storage to the vehicle.
In fact, it has so much room; my 11-year-old granddaughter was happily using it as private quarters to play her games.
On the trip to Twin Lakes, we tossed in a bunch of stuff:
4 pairs of snowshoes
4 sets of trekking poles
2 large backpacks
1 lumbar pack
2 RIBZ packs
3 pairs winter boots
2 sleeping bags
2 sleeping pads
1 4 lb (1.8 kg) tent
10 lb (4 kg) bag of stuff
Insulated Water Bladder
Fly rod & reel
And I could have crammed in more.

My son replaced the carpeting in his home so we used some of the carpet padding on the bottom of the SkyBox to stop items from moving around.

On other trips, I tossed in:

3 backpacks
3 trekking poles
2 pairs of boots
3 sleeping bags
3 sleeping pads
1 4 lb (1.8 kg) tent
1 large duffel bag stuffed with clothing
1 small filled carry-on bag
3 tote bags filled with "goodies"
Hats and gloves (hey, one never knows when it'll snow at 14,000 ft (4300 m))

I never had problems opening or closing the SkyBox, but I was surprised that Yakima only provided one key. I ordered an extra key which is priced at $4.50 US and totals $9.18 with shipping and Colorado sales tax. I would hope that Yakima would consider adding an extra $4.50 key as part of a product that costs $469.

NOTE: To get an extra key, the serial number off the key and the serial number on the sticker inside the SkyBox are needed. If the key were to be lost, I would have no way to get the serial number off the key and no way to get inside the box to get the serial number (production date actually). So, I found it is really imperative to write the serial numbers down and remember where the numbers are stored before losing the key. The only way to get into the box if I hadn't done that and had lost the key, would be to get a locksmith. The ordering process is easy and the extra key was shipped FedEx all for $9.18 total.

There has been no discoloring, even in this high UV environment. And I am serious about how rough the UV light is here in this area. We cannot use plastic buckets, plastic solar lights, etc. because within months the things turn to dust. Seriously. I can just touch these plastic items and they crumble. I've never seen anything like that. I just hope it doesn't happen to my body.

Despite our usual desert-like climate, we have had a few real, as they say out here, "gulley-washer" thunderstorms in the past couple of months and at no time did the SkyBox ever leak.

I was concerned initially about gas mileage. But, I was pleasantly surprised and shocked. On the first trip we took, which was not a hiking trip, but a visit to my son's home in Denver, Colorado, we travelled up Interstate 25 highway from Canon City, Colorado for about 95 miles (195 km) one way. This highway has a 75 mph (121 km/h) speed limit for over half the distance. Now, normally on this trip I get between 27 and 30 miles per gallon (11 and 13 km/L). Amazingly, on three trips like this during this period, I got 30.8, 29.3 and 28.6 mpg (13.1, 12.4 and 12.1 km/L). This means I saw no appreciable change in my gas usage. In fact, the 30.8 mpg (13.2 km/L) ) I got on the 1st trip was the best I ever had on that trip. These are not estimates. I used the Subaru on-board computer.

Even driving around town, making customer calls, shopping, etc. I am still getting an average of 27 mpg (43 kpg). So I am not seeing a major difference in mileage.

There is one drawback to having the SkyBox installed full-time. I can't take the car through a car wash. I have to use a self-serve manual wash or wash it at home. The rear end of the SkyBox slants inward from top to bottom; and as I discovered at the manual car wash, when hit with a high pressure water stream just the right way, the water can be deflected right back at me right into my face. I won't do that again. The SkyBox cleaned up well in the self-wash unit. It gets really muddy and grimy from our dirt roads around here.

As with the mileage, I was also concerned about road noise. But there is none. I cannot even tell it is on the roof. With the padding I added to the bottom of the SkyBox, I have never heard anything moving around inside while in motion.

I can't see anything but the bottom of the SkyBox from my moon roof though, yet I can still use the roof opening for extra cooling and fresh air.

I've opened and closed and packed and unpacked from both sides with no problem. Items cannot be near the hinges or the box won't close. This makes sure the top is securely locked in place.

I can stand on the bottom of the passenger side door threshold and reach pretty much all parts of the SkyBox. Pretty much. If there are small items on the bottom of the SkyBox that get out of reach, I can make sure my shoes are clean (or use a towel to cover the seat) and stand on the rear seat to extend my reach. If the item is too far away, I would have to close the side I am at and go to the other side of the car and open the SkyBox from that side.

The SkyBox can make impossible trips possible. There was no way we would have been able to have packed all the stuff for our Breckenridge/Quandary tip into the Subaru considering we also had our 11 year old granddaughter meet up with us at the end of the week and we had to get her and all of her stuff back to our ranch. We had a week of food and water, a hot air popcorn machine, two laptops, cowboy hats, cold weather gear, bins of extra stuff for the week as well as trekking poles, backpacks, etc. The SkyBox made this all possible.

As an aside, I have also discovered that I can securely put my folding, extending ladder in the SkyBox for work. This is one of those heavy Gorilla ladders, but I can easily lift it over my head and into the SkyBox where it can quietly and stealthily rest until needed for some of my wireless installations. I am mentioning this because this box is quite versatile and, since it does little to affect gas mileage, (at least on my Subaru) there is no reason the remove it.

I think the instruction manual's load limit graphic might be confusing and load limit might be quickly read as the load limit being 47 lb (21.2 kg). Wrong. The SkyBox weighs 47 lb (21.2 kg) and that *PLUS* the packed load can not exceed the car manufacturer's roof bar limit. There are several links and references on the Yakima Web site which took me to wrong URLs for finding out this information. I had to use Yakima's site search for "weight limit" and use the third result (the 1st two were bad links) and get to the page where I was able to enter my Subaru info and find that the factory racks are spec'd out at 165 lb (74.8 kg) (which I knew already, so this is correct). That means I can pack 165 lb (74.8 kg) - 47 lb (21.2 kg) = 118 lb (53.6 kg) of stuff into the SkyBox. The load limit for the SkyBox will vary depending on the vehicle and racks used.


Our temperatures here in Canon City, Colorado have been well into the mid 90 F (32 C) range and will be that way for the next several weeks. So I'll be keeping an eye on the weathering of the SkyBox and check to see if the high temperatures and high UV have any affects.



During the Long Term Report testing period did not remove the SkyBox from my Subaru 2010 Forester. I drove about 4,500 miles (7,242 km) during this time on both nicely-paved highways and rutted dirt off-road "two-tracks". Temperatures ranged from 65 F to 106 F (18 C to 41 C), in mostly low humidity (from 5% to 30%) and altitudes ranged from 5,200 ft to 10,000 ft. (1.6 km to 3 km). I did encounter rain from light drizzles to monsoon downpours. All my driving took place in Colorado and Utah.


First off, I really need to mention that on a trip to Salt Lake City, we were not able to enter a parking garage that had a 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) ceiling height. Fortunately, I was going really slow through the entrance and heard the top of the SkyBox scraping the ceiling. And, also fortunately, the garage attendant allowed me to park close to the entrance to avoid the low ceiling entrance. I was pretty surprised because I thought larger and higher trucks and vans were beyond the entrance, but my Forester with the SkyBox was taller.

I had no problems off-road with hitting low branches though. I was able to steer around all the overhead branches I encountered. I was also impressed that even going over deep erosion ruts in dirt roads with the Forester shifting quite a lot from side to side, I had no problems with the SkyBox twisting, making noise or causing the Forester any handling problems.

As I mentioned before, when I had the SkyBox fully loaded, my gas mileage was no different than what I normally expect from the Forester. However, very interestingly, it appears that with the SkyBox EMPTY, my gas mileage went down about 5%, from an average of 28 mpg to 26.5 mpg. I can guess that the empty box has more lift and causes the Forester to slightly rise off the road. I can't think of any other reason for the change because once the SkyBox is fully loaded, this reduction in average gas mileage went away.

Similarly, I found that with an empty SkyBox, the Forester swayed slightly more in windy conditions and cornered slightyly worse than if the SkyBox was fully loaded. So, now I keep equipment in the SkyBox at all times.

I have not had any problems with shifting loads. As I stated in my previous reports, I have the bottom of the SkyBox covered with carpet padding. Granted, if the padding shifts when I am loading the SkyBox, I have to reposition it if the cargo causes the padding to impinge upon the SkyBox brackets and keep the box from securely closing.

Sometimes it is difficult to judge the capacity of this box just by showing a bunch of gear loaded in, so I am attaching a photo of my 11-year-old granddaughter comfortably enjoying private time in the box with her game machine.
Jillian in SkyBox

We have high UV sunlight here in Colorado at the altitudes we work and play in and I see no change in color or signs of wear and tear after all this time with the SkyBox fully exposed. Anything that is plastic does not last long out here. A plastic water bucket left outside will get brittle and break apart in a few months. Every single solar landscaping light I put out the first month we moved here fell apart into dust in several months. Seriously, dust. There is no decomposition seen of the fiberglass SkyBox yet after four months of exposure.

There are no chips from road-rocks or heavy rain or slight hail.

The unit cleans up great in a commercial manual carwash.

The box still opens and closes just fine after a lot of use almost every day. I see no change in alignment of the hinges and no problems with leaking or twisting.


The SkyBox is a great addition to almost my vehicle. On many trips we were able to pack everything we needed into the SkyBox and leave the rear seat and storage area of the Forester almost completely available.

I am impressed with the fact that gas mileage is hardly impacted at all when the SkyBox is fully loaded and that there is no noticeable additional road noise.

The only negatives I can think of:

* I can't see anything out of the moon roof, although I still can open the roof and get ventilation
* I can't get through an automatic car wash with it on the roof
* I now have a 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) vehicle height, which limits my parking garage use

I never considered that I would want to keep a storage unit on my vehicle at all times, but this unit works so well and is so functional, I have no plans to take it off. I have no problems washing the Forester manually in a pay-by-minute car wash, since the Forester gets so muddy and I need to blast the mud off its wheels anyway, and I can usually find outdoor parking lots anywhere. As far as seeing the moon, we can get out of the car.

I am very pleased with the performance, capacity and durability of the SkyBox and I thank Yakima Products and for the opportunity to test the SkyBox 16s out.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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