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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima Skybox Pro Cargo Box > Test Report by Gail StaisilYakima Skybox Pro 16
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
Yakima Skybox Pro 16
October 27, 2007
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Product Description and Initial Impressions
The Skybox Pro 16 is one of several car roof storage boxes that are available from Yakima. The Skybox Pro 16 is approximately 16 cu ft (453 L), hence the number attached to the model name. Other Skybox Pro models are available in sizes from 12 cu ft (340 L) to 21 cu ft (595 L). The Skybox Pro 16 belongs to their advanced series of boxes that feature an integrated track system (accessories are an optional purchase), a new lid shape that is also stiffer and an aerodynamic shape.
The Skybox Pro 16 arrived in great condition. I'm familiar with storage boxes as I purchased one at least twenty years ago. Although it served my family well for many years it was very much of the old school design. It couldn't be removed from a vehicle without taking off the entire rack on the vehicle or doing a lot of mechanical work. Needless to say, the storage box stayed in place at least six months of the year. It had many other idiosyncrasies that the new Skybox Pro 16 has remedied.
The Skybox Pro 16 is a sports box that is designed to fit shorter roof lengths such as those on my Ford Escape. The box is about a foot (30 cm) wider than many of the models presumably to add storage space. My biggest and really the only disappointment with the sports box when it arrived, is that my cross country skis don't fit in it. Even though technically the box is 81 in (206 cm) in length and my skis are 77 in (196 cm) or less, the dynamics of the design only allow a usable length of about 70 in (178 cm) for the longest item. This is partially due to the hinge placement but mostly to the curvature of the box. The top lid has a significant undercut on the back edge of the box. This reportedly allows for hatch clearance thereby reducing usable space. However, I will be able to stow other items such as poles, boots, waxing bench, backpacks, duffels and snowshoes in the gear box. As an avid Nordic skier, it would of been ideal to be able to stow the skis too, but Yakima does have many models available that are narrower in width and longer in length to accommodate those type of items.
The Skybox Pro 16 has a very modernistic and sleek design. The top lid has a silver cross-check appearance and the base of the box is black with both components made out of ABS Plastic. ABS (Acrylon Butadiene Styrene) Plastic is reportedly lighter than fiberglass and it's very tough and rigid. The top lid is 50 percent stiffer than former ones made by the manufacturer thereby making the lid easier to open and shut with one hand. From previous experience, I can attest that this will likely be an important feature to me as my old box had a very flexible lid so I had to use two hands to open and close it.
Besides being extremely aerodynamic, the Skybox Pro 16 also features a lid that can be opened from either side but not both at the same time. This certainly allows flexibility for placement on a vehicle if other attachments such as a bike rack are also mounted on the roof. The box can be opened and closed without using the key, but the key would insure safety of the gear inside of the box. The SKS (Single Key System) Lock lever needs to be pushed inwards after turning the key in order to lock the box securely.
My vehicle is a 4 WDR Ford Escape. It came with a suitable or compatible factory rack so mounting the Skybox didn't involve buying any additional rack parts. According to my vehicle's factory rack recommendations it has a load limit of 100 lb (45 kg). Since the box weighs 47 lb (21 kg), this leaves about 53 lb (24 kg) for gear. When I followed the "Fit My Car" section on Yakima's website, it suggested that my vehicle's rack has a load limit of 165 lb (75 kg). Since there's a considerable difference in these two recommendations, I will likely use the lower number recommendation. However, according to the website, Yakima has done extensive testing on factory racks for strength and they have redesigned mounting hardware to fit many kinds of crossbar shapes. The Skybox Pro 16 fits crossbars spreads from 24 in (61 cm) through 36 in (91 cm).
Before I attempted to install the box on my vehicle, I inspected all of its features. Basic instructions featuring great illustrations came with the box so I read and viewed them before I began the installation. The manufacturer suggests that if a person isn't familiar with installation procedures, that they should have it installed by a professional installer. I don't think that would be a issue for most people, but it is definitely recommended to avoid improper installation and possible accidents. Due to the awkward size (very wide and hard to put my arms around it) of the Skybox Pro 16, I asked a friend to help me lift it up onto my vehicle. It made the process so much easier.
The box is really quite simple to position and lock in place once it's on top of the car. It should be positioned so that it doesn't interfere with the rear hatch or a sunroof. I have both on my vehicle so I looked for the optimal position. Because access to the hatch is the most important to me, I placed the box to have more clearance on the back end. Once an approximate place was chosen, I opened the gear box by unlatching the lid with the handle adjustment.
The internal track-mounting system runs the length of each long side of the the box. Attached are four levers on the base of the box (two on each track) that have to be opened all the way to lower the clamps. These levers can be slid or repositioned within a range of about a foot (30 cm) of space. The manufacturer also recommends turning the four thumb wheels on the track inside the box one half turn each.The lower clamps should be placed in front of the crossbars and slid on the tracks inside the box to engage the crossbars. The thumb screws on the levers have to be adjusted so that the levers lock firmly and not too easily. The thumbscrews on the tracks have to be tightened to insure that the box doesn't move laterally down the vehicle. The latter won't have to be readjusted each time the box is mounted unless a different roof position is desired. After I was satisfied with everything, I reversed the procedures to uninstall the box for practice. I opened the levers and slid the box forward to disengage it from the clamps. The box was lowered to the ground and then lifted back upon the rack, I was quickly able to clamp it back in place. I checked for stability and it was good to go.
After re-installation, I placed the Cargo Mat and attached the Cargo Net in the box. These items are available separately from the manufacturer. I made sure to close the box and check that the handles were in a horizontal position. I locked each side of the box and then later that evening, I took the newly equipped vehicle for a road test. When I decide to take the box off my vehicle again, I can store it quite nicely on a Cargo Box Hanger (available separately) that can be attached to my garage wall studs.
The next four months will be filled with winter activity requiring loads of gear. I look forward to being able to store and haul that gear in the cargo box while providing more passenger room in my vehicle.
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Yakima Skybox Pro 16
January 7, 2008
Locations and Conditions
During the field test period, the Skybox Pro 16 has carted gear on top of my car for approximately 1800 mi (2900 km). It has traveled through both the two states of Michigan and Wisconsin on top of my Ford Escape 4WDR. The vehicle equipped with the Skybox traveled on mostly two-lane highways at speeds of normally 60 mph (97 km/h) or less. Freeway or expressway travel has been minimal (less than 200 mi/322 km). Half of the freeway travel was at reduced speeds (40 mph/64 km/h or less) due to a raging blizzard. Temperatures have ranged from 3 F(-16 C) to 41 F (5 C) during the field test period. Weather conditions experienced were mostly cloudy days filled with rain, sleet, snow (over 90 in/2.3 m) this winter so far and moderate-to-high winds.
Performance in the Field
Gear Storage and Accessibility
With the early arrival of the snow season, the Skybox Pro 16 has been a permanent installment on my vehicle for the winter season. I had hoped to use the Skybox to carry my cross country skis, but they are all too long for the box. It has instead become the home for all other gear associated with skiing and other winter sports. Multiples of ski poles, snowshoes, boots and more fit easily into the box. Because I still transport my skis in the back of my vehicle, I have also moved emergency gear such as sleeping bags, extra clothing, shovel, tow strap and other survival items to the cargo box instead of the back of my vehicle. The box has also been used to transport gear for one of my winter sledge trips to a rustic cabin.
I have found that the Skybox has completely protected my gear from moisture even though it has been subject to a great deal of precipitation in many forms as noted above. The great design of the close-fitting lid appears to keep forms of inclement weather from penetrating the inside of the box. The lid of the Skybox can be lifted upwards with one hand, but I seem to prefer to use both of my hands to lift the lid. It has a snug fit and that gives it just a little more power to raise the lid.
The Skybox Pro 16 has been subject to several trips with very windy travel. Most notable was an over 250 mi (403 km) one-way trip to Southern Wisconsin just before the holidays. I left home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in abnormal 41 F (5 C) degree temperatures with heavy fog and rain. By the time I had traveled the first 80 mi (129 km), I hit the brunt of the severe storm that was raging through the Midwest. Winds picked up to a minimum of 45 mph (72km/h) with higher gusts, the rain turned to sleet and then finally to snow as the temperatures rapidly dropped. The whiteout conditions and wind made driving difficult. The temperatures plummeted down to 9 F (-13 C) by the time I reached my destination. I could feel the extra tug on my high-clearance vehicle with the cargo box in place, but I felt it really wasn't much worse than driving that vehicle without it, at slow driving speeds. Although part of my travel was on an expressway (approx 100 mi/161 km), the traffic was reduced to 35 mph to 40 mph (56 km/h to 64 km/h) due to conditions.
Another notable bit of windy travel involved traveling more than 100 mi (161 km) west of here with a fierce southerly wind. The Skybox battled the crosswinds with no evident problem. Again, I could feel the extra pull on the vehicle, but the roads were barren of ice or snow and travel was easily completed.
In general, the Skybox has seemed to be very aerodynamic and it's barely noticeable in ordinary driving. In fact, when I first placed it on the vehicle I felt like I had to keep checking if it was still there. I simply couldn't tell while driving if it was still on top of my vehicle. I do have a sunroof on my vehicle, so I just peeked through the roof to assure me. I have noticed little-to-no vibration of the box even during strong crosswinds.
Exposure to Weather
I've also had to keep my vehicle outside for the winter due to my garage door being just a little shy of allowing safe passage of the Skybox Pro 16-equipped vehicle. This means the cargo box has experienced all of what the seasonal weather has offered as my driveway gets the brunt of the northwest winds and blowing snow. At first I thought I would miss having the use of my garage for my vehicle, but the perk has been that I've had less snow to shovel. The vehicle effectively acts as a block to completing covering my driveway with snow. Any snow that accumulates on top of the cargo box is easily brushed off with a broom.
Most of the time, I access the cargo box on the driver's side of the vehicle. One day I noticed that I didn't have the passenger's side lock fully secure with the key (lever pressed in). I tried to lock it with the key, but discovered that the lock was frozen in place. After a couple of attempts, I decided it was best to wait for a slightly warmer day and then it unfroze itself and I locked it for security.
Although the Skybox Pro 16 can be removed for automatic-car washing, it's not very enticing to remove it when the temperatures are continuously cold and wet. I also have to arrange to have another person help me each time to remove and re-install the Skybox on my vehicle due to the awkward size of the box. With that said, I decided it would be best to just keep the box on the vehicle for the entire winter season. Needless to say, the vehicle and Skybox have only been manually washed one time so far this winter. Although my vehicle gets splattered with a fair share of road salt and sand, the box receives little exposure to that, due to its height above the vehicle.
During the long term period, I will continue to monitor the Skybox's usefulness for hauling my sports gear. I also hope to establish a better method of getting my vehicle and box washed more frequently during the winter season :).
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Long Term Report:
Yakima Skybox Pro 16
March 2, 2008
Locations and Conditions
During the long term period, the Skybox Pro 16 has continued to carry gear on top of my car for approximately an additional 1500 mi (2415 km). All travel has taken place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I made several road trips of which four were each more than 200 mi (322 km) round trips and another was approximately a 120 mi (193 km) round trip. All travel was on two-lane paved highways or dirt roads (no expressways). Various road conditions were encountered including wet pavement to completely snow-covered roads. Speeds for the road trips were up to 60 mph (97 km/h) but they were often much less due to stormy conditions. Travel on dirt roads was often at 20 mph (32 km/h) to 30 mph (48 km/h).
Travel locations ranged from and included roads through conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to roads along open lakeshore. Elevations ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1200 ft (366 m).Temperatures have ranged from -20 F(-29 C) to 38 F (3 C) during this period. Weather conditions experienced were mostly cloudy days filled with rain, sleet, or snow (130 in/3.3 m this winter so far) and moderate-to-high winds (up to 55 mph/89 km/h).
Performance in the Field
During the long term period, I've made a concentrated effort to record gas mileage continuously. At every fuel fill up, I recorded the necessary information so that an estimate could be established. I was glad to see that the overall gas mileage for this period was 16.9 mi (27.2 km) per gallon (3.79 liters). While this may seem rather low, it's not unusual for my 4 WDR, 6 cylinder vehicle to use a similar amount of gas without the Skybox attached (difference is negligible - less than 1.0 mi/1.61 km per gallon/3.79 liters).
Since almost the entirety of my travel is done at relatively slow speeds and the terrain lies at low elevation with little change, it may have a considerable influence on why the box hasn't significantly affected my overall gas mileage. Much of my mileage is attained on short jaunts to my favorite cross-country ski areas (5 to 6 times a week when I'm not traveling elsewhere). Most of them involve approximately a 10 mi to 15 mi (16 km to 24 km) roundtrip drive on a combination of paved and rough dirt roads. Speed is rarely over 25 mph (40 km/h) for the latter and rarely over 50 mph (81 km/h) on the paved roads. My vehicle is rated at 16 mpg (25.8 km/h) for city driving and 20 mpg (32.2 km/h) for road trips. However, it never has seen the upper limit in my experience.
Gear Storage and Accessibility
Throughout the long term period, I have continued to use the Skybox Pro 16 for miscellaneous winter equipment. Much of this equipment is used on almost a daily basis (5 to 6 times a week). On these routine ski or snowshoe outings, I often have one or two extra passengers. Although we stow the xc skis inside the vehicle, the box has been handy for all the other equipment. It has kept the car clutter to a minimum and the gear has been easily accessed from the driver's side of the vehicle (box is positioned closer to this side).
My longer road trips included multi-day out-of-area ski outings/visit family trips and another rustic-cabin multi-day outing. My most notable trip for gear storage during this period was a recent excursion that had my vehicle holding three cargo sleds and equipment for a walk-in rustic cabin trip. The sleds were stored in the back of my vehicle but the other equipment needed was stored in the Skybox Pro. That included cooking and food supplies, sleeping bags, snowshoes and poles, and a host of other smaller items.
In general, I have placed the heavier items on the bottom of the cargo box and topped it with the lighter and softer items such as sleeping bags. Gear has stayed in place quite nicely (I've been using a cargo net that is available separately) and I haven't noticed any shifting of items upon arrival. I generally stand on my vehicle's door step in order to place and remove items due to the height of the vehicle.
Since initial placement on my vehicle, I haven't altered the fore and aft position of the Skybox. Since my vehicle's tailgate lifts upward, I didn't want the Skybox to interfere with its operation. The Skybox does partially cover the area of my vehicle's skylight but there's still enough clearance over it to operate if I desire. During these winter months, it has been a non-issue.
Continuous Exposure to Weather
My vehicle with the attached Skybox, has been subject to a very cold and winterly environment during the entire testing season. The Skybox Pro has been outside all winter rather than in a garage. Almost daily it has been subject to snow accumulation, ice and sleet. It appears to have suffered little as it's remained quite shiny and unmarred in its appearance. The locks have remained in good working condition other than a few times when water penetrated the locks, froze and made them a bit harder to open. Admittedly, I haven't hand washed the vehicle and Skybox as often as they deserve due to the inclement weather during the entire season.
Overall, the addition of the Skybox Pro 16 has been a great addition to my vehicle. In the future, I don't plan to keep it on my vehicle all the time as I have throughout the testing period during the winter season (total of 3300 mi/5315 km). It will be hung on the accessory hanger (available separately) in my garage. During the spring and summer months, it will only be added to my vehicle when I have a lot of cargo to haul for long distance travel.
Although the length of this particular model hasn't suited all of my storage needs, it has adapted well for miscellaneous equipment as noted in both my field report and this report. Being an avid skier, I would recommend that skiers carefully check the "usable length" of many of the models before they make their purchase. Even though the actual length of this model of Skybox would appear to qualify to hold my cross country skis, the usable length is much less due to the undercut lid of the box. Many of Yakima's models are longer in length and would fit those needs very precisely.
On another note, I must say that I've been really impressed with the improvements over the years to cargo boxes in general. As a previous owner of a couple of types of cargo boxes, it is remarkable how much they have improved. The rigidity, quietness, easy placement and removal, better locks for security, available accessories and streamlined aerodynamics are some of the perks that come to mind. Many current vehicles such as mine also have factory racks that are already suitable for the placement of the Skybox Pro making the whole process a lot easier than in the past. I'm really impressed with this Yakima product for the aforementioned reasons.
Fits on many types of factory racks
Optional accessories available separately
Easy to place and remove on vehicle
Quiet with little-to-no vibration
Gas mileage has been altered very little by the addition of the box
Length was too short to carry my skis (however, it is available in longer sizes)
Usually need both hands to lift lid
Didn't have enough clearance to drive my vehicle with attached Skybox into my garage
Can't use an automatic car wash with the Skybox attached
Thanks to Yakima and BackpackGearTest for making possible the great opportunity to test the Skybox Pro 16. This report concludes the test series.
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