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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima Skybox 16S Cargo Box > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen

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SkyBox 16S
Car Top Cargo Carrier

Test Series by
Ryan Christensen

Last Update - August 21, 2012

SkyBox 16S

image courtesy of


April 2, 2012
June 12, 2012
August 21, 2012

April 2, 2012

Reviewer Information Backpacking Background
Name:  Ryan L. Christensen
Age:  47
Gender:  Male
Height:  6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:  235 lb (107 kg)
Email:  bigdawgryan(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country:   Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

I began backpacking at twelve, continuing until 25. After an extended hiatus, due in part to a bad back, I resumed cycling, hiking, and backpacking several years ago. I also began snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I share my love for backpacking and these sports with my children. I am a midweight backpacker, but carry a full array of necessary gear.

Product Information:

The information below came from Yakima's website and SkyBox Instructions.

Yakima SkyBox 16S
Manufacturer: Yakima Products, Inc.
Manufacturer website:
Place of Manufacture: USA
Year Manufactured: 2012
Materials: ABS Plastic, Zinc die cast handle
Models Available: There are 13 different SkyBox models available in various sizes and colors

Limited Lifetime Warranty

"Love It Till You Leave It" Limited Lifetime Warranty -- a limited lifetime warranty to original purchaser

$469 US

Product Specifications
Manufacturer's Specifications  
Weight: 47 lbs (21.3 kg)
Listed Dimensions 81 in x 36 in x 15 in (205.7 cm x 91.4 cm x 38.1 cm)
Capacity 16 cu ft (450 liters)
Tester's Actual Measurements  
Weight: I am unable to weigh the carrier
Dimensions 81 in x 36 in x 15 in (205.7 cm x 91.4 cm x 38.1 cm)

Product Description:

top view bottom view

The SkyBox 16S [hereafter also referred to as "cargo box" or "carrier"] is a rooftop cargo carrier. The SkyBox, made of ABS plastic, is constructed of up to 80% recycled material. This cargo box is designed to attach to either a vehicle's factory roof rack or a Yakima rack system via "Quick-installation mounting hardware" accessed from inside the carrier. The cargo box's mounting hardware will fit car rack systems with round, square and most factory crossbars. The top of the cargo box has a locking handle on each side (photo below left) and is hinged such that one can open it from either side of the vehicle to which it is attached (photo below right). The cargo box came with two keys for the locking handles. The SkyBox 16S has a black "matte, stealth anti-scratch finish."

handle hinge

In addition to the mounting hardware, inside the cargo box is an integrated track system to be used to secure contents. The tracks are somewhat visible in the two photos below.

back front

The SkyBox came with easy to read and understand text and photo instructions in three languages; English, French, and Spanish. The instructions appear to cover installation of all models in the SkyBox series. Twelve of the thirteen steps apply to the SkyBox 16S. Step 12 of 13 only applies to the SkyBox Pro models. In addition to instructions for installing and removing the cargo box, there are care and maintenance tips which include the following: "Yakima cargo boxes should be cared for and maintained, especially in extreme weather conditions."

  • To clean, use only mild detergents. Harsh detergents could damage the gear box surface.
  • Protect your gear box from extreme temperatures, (heat and cold) during prolonged storage.
  • Remove gear box before entering automatic car wash.
  • Hardware such as locks should be lubricated with graphite or other dry lubricant.

Additional warnings included with the instructions are:

  • On some vehicles, hatch interference is unavoidable. Use caution when opening your hatch.
  • Periodically check the levers inside the box and tighten if necessary.
  • Attachment hardware can loosen over time. Check and tighten if necessary, before each use.
  • Be sure all hardware is secured according to instructions. Failure to perform safety checks before driving away can result in property damage, personal injury, or death.

There is also contact information for Yakima Technical Assistance or replacement parts as well as the "Love It Till You Leave It Lifetime Limited Warranty."

Initial Impression:

When the SkyBox arrived via commercial freight truck, I realized this is a large cargo box. The packing list stated the weight of the package (SkyBox and associated packaging) was 60 lbs (27.2 kg). It was a little cumbersome moving it into the garage by myself. With the assistance from my youngest son, we pulled the cargo box out of the cardboard box and out of the protective foam wrapping it was in.

Initial Testing:

My initial testing was limited to visual inspection, measurements, and unlocking the handles with both of the supplied keys. Prior to receiving the SkyBox, I spoke with a local Yakima distributer as well as Yakima Customer Support and learned that to mount the SkyBox 16S to my 2004 Chevy Z71 Suburban, I need to purchase the Yakima RailGrab Towers and crossbars. Yakima only certifies the factory crossbars on the Suburban for ski racks.

I spoke with the local retailer today, and have made arrangements to get the RailGrab Towers and crossbars later this week. Then I'll see how easily I am able to attach the SkyBox to my vehicle. I can't wait to get it installed and start carrying gear in it.

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June 12, 2012

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

Once atop my Suburban, the SkyBox has remained in place. I have driven my Suburban to Provo, Utah (260+ miles, or 418+ km, one way) twice with SkyBox in place. The SkyBox has been through wind, rain, hail and cool temperatures during this phase of the test. Temperatures ranged from a high of 93 F (34 C) on June 4 to lows of 31 F (-1 C) on June 7 and 34 F (1 C) on June 11, 2012.


As stated in my Initial Report above, Yakima would not certify the factory crossbars on my 2004 Chevy Suburban Z71 (the sport utility vehicle pictured below in my Field Report) for use with the SkyBox. Therefore, I had to purchase a Yakima Base Rack System. Consequently, for those looking to purchase any rooftop rack/cargo box I suggest checking with the manufacturer to determine how to properly fit the item to your vehicle.

I purchased the Yakima RailGrab Towers (came as a set of four) which attach to my Suburban's factory rails. I also purchased a set of two 66 in (168 cm) crossbars. After an initial try, followed by reading the instructions, my sixteen year old son and I were able install the RailGrab towers and crossbars. Next, I installed a keyed-lockset in each of the RailGrab towers. I happened to get lucky as the key for the SkyBox is the same needed for the RailGrab locks, which is very convenient. Finally, we lifted the SkyBox 16S cargo box atop the Suburban. We then opened the latch on both sides, raised the lid, and easily secured the cargo box to the crossbars using the integrated "Quick-installation mounting hardware." [see summary sequence in photos below]

suburban RailGrab Tower
Rail SkyBox System

The SkyBox opens easily from either side. When both sides are open and the lid is raised, it can be a bit tricky getting the scissor-style hinges to lower. With a little help from my son, we figured it out. When opened from only one side, the hinges work very smoothly and the lid closes with ease.

On our trips to Utah, the SkyBox readily held three 21 in (53 cm) expandable carry-on wheeled upright bags with room to spare. I did not secure the bags inside the cargo box as I wanted to see whether they would slide around much. Although the road we drove, a four-lane limited access interstate highway, is not bumpy, the bags did not seem to slide much at all, which was nice. Unfortunately, due to the height of the vehicle and the cargo box, my wife at 5 ft 2 in (1.6 m) neither was nor is able to comfortably access the bags inside the SkyBox; even standing on the nerf bars.

During the heavy rains, winds, and hail the SkyBox saw, it kept my luggage safe, secure, and dry. Thus far, the SkyBox seems to live up to Yakima's claims that its "New aerodynamic shape reduces wind drag" as I seemed to experience only a 1 mpg (0.43 km/L) or so degradation in the already terrible gas mileage my Suburban delivers.

For fun, I tried to fit my cross-country skis in the SkyBox. Alas, the 210cm skis will not fit. In fact, the supplied information states the SkyBox "Can hold up to 180cm skis."

Field Test Phase Summary:

The SkyBox 16S cargo box has performed very well during this phase of the test. I have been especially impressed with how much less wind noise it creates than what I expected it would.

Likes Thus Far Dislikes Thus Far
  • opens from either side
  • latching/locking mechanism
  • weatherproofness
  • less wind noise than I expected
  • can be tricky to close when lid is opened on both sides and lifted up
  • reduces my fuel economy slightly

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August 21, 2012

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

I used the cargo box to haul gear to and from as well as during Cedar Badge National Youth Leadership Training course. This is a Boy Scouts of Ameria (BSA) program which is held at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp, located at the base of the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. The camp is approximately 10 mi (16 km) east of Driggs, Idaho at an elevation of approximately 6,500 ft (2,000 m). High temperatures during the ten days I was there were in the upper 90s F (35 - 37 C). I believe the overnight low temperatures were in the upper 30s F (2 - 4 C).

I used the cargo box to carry my pack on a two-night backpack trip into Alaska Basin/Devils Staircase via Teton Canyon, which is approximately 15 miles(22 km) east of Driggs, Idaho. The trailhead is on the western side of the Tetons.

I used the cargo box to carry the packs of my son and me on an overnight backpack trip in Island Park, located between Ashton, Idaho and West Yellowstone, Montana. Island Parks is approximately 6,500 ft (2,000 m) above sea level.

I also used the cargo box to carry gear for our BSA Varsity Scout/Venturing High Adventure. I carried all sorts of gear in the box to and from our week-long outing at Bear Lake which straddles the Idaho/Utah border.

I used the cargo box to carry my son and my packs on an overnight backpack trip to the Menan Buttes, located approximately 38 mi (61 km) northeast of Idaho Falls. The North Menan Butte is designated as a National Natural Landmark.


During Cedar Badge National Youth Leadership Training at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp, in addition to carrying a lot of my personal gear to and from the camp, the cargo box was used to haul backpacks for four of our group of fifteen who had planned an overnight backpacking trip into Alaska Basin. However, there was too much snow to get into Alaska Basin, so we spent the night in along the trail, and hiked Devil's Staircase the next day instead. The box easily accommodated the backpacks, which included sleeping bags, pads, changes of clothing, water bottles/bladders, and food.

Several weeks later I went back for a two-night trip into Alaska basin. My pack looked lonely in the cargo box by itself. Because it was in there by itself, using paracord, I secured my pack to the integrated track system to keep it from sliding around. It appeared to have worked well. On my two overnight backpack trips, one of my sons accompanied me. We did not secure our packs and they seemed to ride very well. Our packs contained our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, jackets, extra clothing, hydration bladders, I carried the stove, and we both carried food.

In July, I took my family to Salt Lake City, Utah to see the musical "Wicked". As we have done in the past, we used the cargo box to hold suitcases and other items when traveling. One evening we went to see a movie at a theater in a nearby outdoor mall. I parked my Suburban in a parking garage; this is where the "fun" began. As we proceed to leave the parking garage after the movie, my son tells me the cargo box hit the bottom of one of the hanging signs. I jumped out and quickly realized that with the cargo box on top, my vehicle was too tall for the garage. Had I gone much further, I would have hit some drain pipes. In order to get out of the garage, I had unload and remove the cargo box. To get the cargo box in the Suburban, I had to ask several of my family to walk out of the parking garage--they were not very happy with me! Once out of the garage, I parked on the street, my sons and I put the cargo box back on the Suburban, we loaded it with stuff again and returned to our hotel. What a pain, but I learned a valuable lesson--it is important to remember when the cargo box is atop the vehicle to avoid such problems.

The cargo box worked very well on our High Adventure. I carried my cot, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp chair, and numerous items that I used for the low C.O.P.E. activities (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience; sometimes referred to as "ropes course") we did during the week. The cargo box was completely full. The items did not seem to shift or slide at all. Housed in the cargo box, they remained dry, even during a significant rainstorm our first afternoon.

The keyed locks, hinges, and the "Quick-installation mounting hardware," which is accessed from inside the carrier, continue to operate smoothly and as designed. Other than my failing to notice the height restriction of the parking garage, I have had no issues with the SkyBox during this test series.

Test Summary:

The SkyBox 16S cargo box has performed very well during the test series. I have been especially impressed with how much less wind noise it creates than what I expected it would. At the conclusion of this test series, my likes and dislikes associated with the SkyBox remain unchanged from those I had initially.

Likes Dislikes
  • opens from either side
  • latching/locking mechanism
  • weatherproofness
  • less wind noise than I expected
  • can be tricky to close when lid is opened on both sides and lifted up
  • slightly reduced fuel economy [added storage space offsets this however]

This concludes my Yakima SkyBox 16S test series. Thanks to Yakima and for allowing me to test this rooftop cargo box.

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