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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima Skybox Pro Cargo Box > Test Report by Andrew Henrichs
Yakima Skybox Pro 16
Test Series by Andy Henrichs
February 29th, 2008
The Yakima Skybox Pro is a rooftop storage box. According to the Yakima website, it is constructed of ABS Plastic. The lower half of the box is black, while the upper half is a "sleek automotive pro series finish." Basically, it's silver with a faint crosshatch pattern. According to Yakima, it also features a "new aerodynamic shape reduces drag, cuts back on wind noise, and is wicked fun to test in a wind tunnel." The Skybox Pro opens from both sides, though not at the same time. Each side features one lockable latch. The Yakima SKS lock cores are included preinstalled and the box comes with two keys. Inside the box, there are two red pull cords to aid in closing the box. These are located directly above the latches. The inside of the Skybox roof features four predrilled holes in six locations to mount the Cargo Box LED light (not included). The floor of the Skybox Pro features two metal tracks which are designed to provide an anchor for the Yakima Skybox Cargo net (not included) or other means of securing your cargo. These tracks each have four oval cutouts to make securing the load easier.
The Yakima Skybox Pro is attached to the roof rack via four clamps mounted underneath the box. These clamps are opened by unlatching four corresponding levers inside the box. There are two cutout track sections running a significant length of the floor of the Skybox Pro. Two clamp/lever systems are found in each track. There are two thumb wheels associated with each clamp/lever system. One adjusts the amount the clamp opens, allowing it to fit over various sizes of crossbars. The second holds the entire clamp/lever system in place on the track. This prevents the cargo box from sliding forward and backward.
My testing will take place on the Western Slope of Colorado as well as southeastern Utah. The Skybox Pro and my Subaru Outback will travel to elevations ranging from 4500 ft (1400 m) to approximately 11000 ft (3400 m). I, however, will go much further. My car and I will travel from rivers to desert canyons to aspen and pine forest. I expect to experience a wide variety of weather including wind, snow, rain, sleet, and sun.
I was a little nervous when the Skybox Pro arrived. It was the one size that, according to the manufacturer's website, would not fit my skis. Before even mounting the box on my car or looking it over, I ran into the garage, grabbed my skis, and stuffed them into the box. I was able to breathe a sigh of release, and the skis just barely fit in the Skybox. Disaster averted, I underwent the task of installing the Skybox on the Yakima roof rack. My first task was to place the Skybox on top of my car. According to the instructions, "a friend could help with this." I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, as all my friends were at work, I had to wrestle the box on top myself. It proved to be more awkward than anything. With the box successfully on the roof I began to follow the easy-to-understand installation directions. This actually proved to take longer than I anticipated. I first discovered my rear crossbar wasn't mounted completely straight, which forced the Skybox Pro to sit at a slight angle. After adjusting this, I had to move my bike racks slightly out to provide enough clearance for both bikes and the box. After about 45 minutes of fine tuning the fit, I was very happy with it. I opened the tailgate and discovered that it hit the back of the Skybox Pro when opened. As the rear clamp/lever systems were as far back as they could go, I had to shift the rear crossbar forward several inches to provide the proper clearance. With this last adjustment, I moved the entire Skybox forward and secured it. Perfect! All told the installation took approximately one hour.
Now that it was attached, I could get down to inspecting the workings of the Skybox. I was impressed with latches right away. Having seen older rooftop cargo boxes, the latches always seemed like a weakness. They never seemed to latch easily. The latches on the Skybox Pro are very obvious when they are or are not latched. The stiffer ABS Plastic is also nice. I can easily close the Skybox Pro with one hand, especially with the 1 in (2.5 cm) ledge that runs the length of the bottom border of the top half of the Skybox. The interior metal tie-down tracks look very secure and also look to be adequate for securing my cargo. I've only driven with the box on twice, and I wasn't carrying any cargo at the time. It was raining quite hard at the time, and once the rain stopped I opened the Skybox to look for any leaks. To my relief, I couldn't find any! There is, however, a lot of testing to be done before I make any firm conclusions on these or any other features of the Skybox Pro.
So far, my testing has taken place on the Western Slope of Colorado and in southeastern Utah. The Skybox Pro and my Subaru Outback have traveled to elevations ranging from 5000 ft (1500 m) to approximately 8800 ft (2700 m). The Skybox Pro has accompanied me and my car from desert canyons to aspen and pine forests. I have experienced a wide variety of weather, including rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, and blowing dust. Temperatures have ranged from 75° F (24° C) to -20° F (-29° C).
I have primarily used the Skybox Pro while on ski trips to either the local resort or the local backcountry. I've had anywhere from one to four pairs of skis and poles in the box at any given time. Despite information on the Yakima website saying that the Skybox Pro 16 will fit 180 cm (70.9 in) skis max, my 185 cm (72.8 in) skis fit without any issues. Anything much longer may take some finagling to fit. I really like the convenience of being able to throw all of our skis and poles into the gaping maw of the Skybox Pro and forget about them. Even with four pairs of skis and poles, I didn't notice any banging or unusual noise from equipment shifting, although I have been using the cargo box utility mat. It's also very nice to be able to protect my skis from road grime by transporting them in the box. I've found that I typically store ski boots in the rear area of my car. This ensures that they stay warm on the drive to the ski hill, and it's become a habit on the way home. I have, however, thrown my boots in the box after skiing on occasions when we have items we want to stay dry already stored in the back of my car.
I've also used the Skybox Pro on a solo multi-activity trip this past fall. I spent four days backpacking in Canyonlands National Park, one evening car camping, and one day mountain biking in Fruita, Colorado. The Skybox Pro was invaluable on this trip. On these types of trips, the back half of my car is usually overflowing with stuff, but the Skybox Pro cured all of that. I filled it with my rolled-up Paco Pad (which are amazing river sleeping pads), a camp chair and table, a warmer sleeping bag stored in a large cotton storage bag, my pillow, and the front wheel of my bike. It was amazing! I could see my back seat! I was initially nervous that it would enable me to bring along even more stuff, but so far, that hasn't been the case.
I drove my car for one week with the empty Skybox Pro on my car to check my average fuel economy with the box in place. I found that it decreased my fuel economy by 10-15% on average. I would like for it to have less of an impact on my fuel economy, but I feel that it's acceptable. I could probably make up the difference by modifying my driving habits. For a while, I would take the Skybox Pro off my car if I wasn't using it for a few days and put it back on in the morning before I left to go skiing. This got old very quickly. While it's simple to get on and off (as described in my Initial Report), I usually ended up doing the changeover by myself, which is rather awkward due to the size, shape, and weight of the box. My current plan is to leave it in place through ski season, except when I'm taking a longer (2 hours or more) trip in my car. I get out skiing several time per week, so feel that's a reasonable compromise.
When driving with the Skybox Pro attached, I notice an increase in noise, but it's fairly minimal. Typically, I won't notice the noise until I'm driving 55 mph (89 kph). If it starts to bug me, I can always turn the radio up just one more click and drown out the noise. If I'm driving in high cross-winds, I'll notice that the Skybox Pro catches more wind, but again, it's still fairly minimal. It's much less noticeable than when I drove an SUV without a rooftop cargo box in place. I've also been quite impressed with the seal of the Skybox Pro. I've driven with the Skybox Pro attached in blowing dirt and sand, heavy snow, rain, sleet, and even hail. I have never noticed any trace of moisture, sand, or dirt inside the box. One fear I had was that I would only be able to store items in the box if I didn't care that they got wet. So far, those fears appear to be unfounded.
My car rack has 48 in (122 cm) crossbars, and I was worried that I'd have to buy longer crossbars to fit the Skybox Pro and my two bike racks on the crossbars. Fortunately, all I had to do was move the bike racks outside of the towers. It took a little bit of time before I had the location of everything worked out, but I can fit two bikes in the racks with the Skybox Pro in place. Better yet, I can open and access items from the Skybox without removing the bikes!
The remainder of my testing has taken place primarily on the Western Slope of Colorado. I had one additional trip east of the Continental Divide to the Front Range of Colorado. The Skybox Pro and my Subaru Outback have traveled to elevations ranging from 5000 ft (1500 m) to approximately 12000 ft (3700 m). During the Long Term Report period, the Skybox Pro has accompanied me and my car from aspen and pine forests to roads above treeline. I have experienced a wide variety of weather, including rain, snow, sleet, hail, and wind. Temperatures have ranged from 75° F (24° C) to -20° F (-29° C). In total, I've hauled ski gear in the Skybox Pro more than 30 times, and hauled backpacking, cycling, and car camping gear four times each.
The testing during the Long Term Report phase has consisted almost entirely of me hauling ski gear around in the Skybox Pro. As during the Field Report phase, I would store my skis and poles in the Skybox and store my boots in the back of my car. This continued to be a very good system for me. Using this system, I never had in issue with lack of room in either the Skybox or the back of my car even with four or five pairs of ski gear.
During the latter stages of testing, I had a week-long stretch where I wasn't going to be using the Skybox for anything. In the name of fuel economy, I removed the Skybox from my car for that week. During that time, I continued to watch how my fuel economy responded without the Skybox Pro in place. While I noticed a 10-15% decrease in fuel economy when the Skybox was in place during the Field Report phase, I now began calculating a 20% decrease. I was pretty surprised by this change, so I continued to monitor it more carefully than I had earlier. I continued to notice a 20% decrease in fuel economy when the Skybox Pro was on my car. This concerned me a bit, so I began to change my testing strategy. I no longer left the Skybox in place all the time. Instead, I would remove it for days at a time when I knew that I would not use it. While it was slightly inconvenient, I felt better about not wasting as much gas.
Everything else about the Skybox Pro was great. Again, the noise created by the Skybox was minimal. I really didn't feel like the car had a higher profile or I was buffeted more by winds. The locks and latches continued to work well. Yakima claims that the Skybox Pro is "easier to open and shut one-handed," and I agree - with a catch. Opening the Skybox Pro one-handed is simple; twist the latch, push the lid up. Closing the Skybox Pro one-handed takes slightly more awareness. I couldn't just push down in the middle of the side rail, trusting that the latches would engage. I had to push down once over each of the two latching points to ensure that the Skybox Pro was securely closed. As I stated in my Initial Report, once the latch covered the red background, I knew the Skybox Pro was closed securely.
Even after four months of pretty rigorous testing in a variety of climates, the Skybox Pro looks like new. There is no visible damage to either the interior or exterior of the box. This amazes me, given the significant amount of sand, gravel, and rocks typically found and kicked up by vehicles on Colorado roads.
Thank you to Yakima and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test this cargo box.
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