Guide To Buy The Best Roof Cargo Bag

Planning a whole weekend trip with your family but end up with too many things to carry and not enough space to put them all? Relax, you’re not alone in this. So many families have this same problem. We can tell you this much, though: a car roof bag is the very thing that will save your plan.

With a roof cargo bag, you can free so much room in the cabin so that your passengers can sit comfortably in the car during the long road trip. Worry about rain that may drench your stuff and ruin everyone’s mood? Just get a waterproof bag. Problem solved!

Now, you have two options on where to put that bag – on the roof or a hitch-mounted cargo carrier.

The thing with a using roof bag is you don’t have to install crossbars. Having roof rails is enough to give the straps the required tie-down points. Even if you don’t have roof rails, you can still put a bag up there. Some bags have straps that are long enough for you to loop them under the roof and over the bag.

Here are some of the best-rated bags that should be on your shortlist. It’s a mix of roof bags and also hitch-mounted cargo carrier bags. Each of them offers the much-needed extra space for transporting your stuff.

best rooftop cargo bag

TOP RATED ROOF CARGO BAGS

Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag

Keeper’s waterproof cargo bag is an ideal choice for active people like you who enjoy traveling with family and friends. When you need to carry tons of gears and equipment, this bag can accommodate your need well with its 15 cubic feet of extra space.

One major point that draws people to this bag is the fact that it’s waterproof. Torrential rain is no match for it. You can be sure the items in the bag will be as dry as when you put them once you get to your destination. Mud, bugs splatter, and road dirt have no chance to spoil your stuff too.

The bag comes with straps and an easy-to-follow instruction on how to secure the bag on the roof. The straps are sturdy, and you won’t need extra tie downs to help secure the bag. Since the straps are built-in, there’s no risk or losing or forgetting where you put them. That’s one less thing to worry about.

This Keeper waterproof bag measures 44-inches x 34-inches x 17-inches. That’s big enough to carry whatever bulky items you need to bring. It folds down easily too. It’s compact when folded, so you won’t have any problem storing it away when not in use.

Rage Powersports 37″ Waterproof Soft-Side Roof Cargo Bag

Rage Powersport roof cargo bag is available in various sizes from only 10.3 cubic feet to 19.7 cubic feet. Whether you have a small hatchback or a giant SUV, there’s one that will fit your requirements.  The bag opens from two sides. It may feel awkward at first, but this design allows the front part to always remain watertight. It makes the bag reliable in any weather.

The bag is made of rather thick Nylon. It’s PVC coated to make it waterproof. There’s also a built-in storm flap to prevent water getting in even when it’s pouring. The flap covers the zipper, so when you are driving through rain for hours, the water won’t get through the zipper. This bag uses large and heavy-duty zippers. They slide effortlessly. The zipper pull is big enough for you to slip in a padlock to prevent your belongings from being stolen when you stop for dinner or sleep.

You get four tie-down straps to go along with the bag. Those straps are sturdy and hold up well in blazing summer and freezing winter. The instructions are not the best, but you should be able to get the hang of it after a couple of tries.

RoofBag Explorer Waterproof Soft Car Top Carrier

RoofBag has two version of this carrier bag – for cars with roof rails and without roof rails. The main difference is the included straps and how you secure the bag on the roof. Both versions feature heavy-duty polyester canvas fabric. It’s thick and coated with waterproof vinyl inside and outside. Each version is available in 11 or 15 cubic feet capacity.

The ones for cars without roof rails work well with any cars. SUVs, sedan, minivans – you name it. If you have sliding doors, however, you’ll need to resort to manually closing the doors because the straps will trick the sensors into thinking there’s an obstacle in the way. The included straps can withstand 3,000 pounds of force. A bit excessive? Maybe so, but that surely gives you the peace of mind when you’re speeding on the highway.

To prevent the bag from scuffing the roof paint, RoofBag includes a protective mat to go along with the bag. The mat also provides extra grips and helps the bag to stay put.

RoofBag claims that the bag is 99% waterproof. For any practical uses, that’s more than sufficient. Those who have used it have no problem with snow and rainstorms. Everything inside the bag will stay dry.

Pro-Series 63604 Amigo Hitch Cargo Carrier Bag

This Pro-Series Amigo cargo bag is an excellent pair for hitch-mounted cargo carriers. It measures 59-inches x 18.5-inches x 24-inches which translates to 15 cubic feet of extra storage for you.

The material used to make the bag is definitely heavy-duty. It will survive cross-country trips with no problem.  All the stitches and hardware are excellent too. The zippers are easy to open and close so that loading and unloading your cargo is hassle free. Too bad it doesn’t come with handles. Carrying it while full is awkward to do alone.

For a hitch-mounted cargo carrier bag, being waterproof is crucial. Even when it’s not raining, driving through puddles will splash dirty water on the bag.  The Pro-Series Amigo will not let any water from puddles or storm gets in. The fabric is weatherproof, and the rain flap has Velcro to secure it better on the bag. Your spare clothes, sleeping bag, and other gears will not get wet or damp even when it’s raining during your whole trip.

Six straps and buckles secure the bag firmly on the cargo carrier. No extra straps are needed. The straps are easy to use, and they hold the bag snugly without needing you to retighten them every now and then.

ROLA 59119 Rainproof Cargo Carrier Bag

Rola makes their cargo carrier bags to withstand the weather. They are dependable to use in any season, all year long. With weatherproof fabric and sealed seams, water will have a hard time getting in. Rain flaps surrounding the zippers block raindrops from getting through while you’re driving in the rain.

This bag has a rugged construction with rubberized interior. The material is sturdy and should last many vacations and fun times across the country. Rola gives you a 5-year limited warranty on this bag. Such a long warranty is usually a good sign of how confident the manufacturer is about the quality of their products.

Six straps secure the bag to the carrier. They don’t have quick release buckles, so you need to loop the strap on the cargo carrier and through the buckles.  However, they are very strong and won’t loosen throughout your weekend trip. Smooth or bumpy roads, that bag will stay put.

Having 20 cubic feet of extra storage helps a lot when you need to take your whole family to the beach, park, or mountains. The bag measures 59-inches x 24-inches x 24-inches which is roomy enough to pack a couple of large duffel bags and suitcases. The bag folds compactly for easy storage.

Rightline Gear 100S20 Sport 2 Car Top Carrier

With or without roof rails, the Rightline Gear car top carrier is ready to take whatever gears and equipment you need for your next family vacation. This carrier includes four straps that you can use to loop around the roof rails. They are long enough for you to run them under the roof if your car doesn’t have roof rails. You can also buy car clips to hook the straps on the window frame.

The carrier itself is very well-made. The material is a combination of Hydrotuff and  PVC mesh. They’re durable, and the seams are welded to ensure they’re waterproof. Just like most carrier bags in the market, this one also has protective flap surrounding the top part to prevent rain drops getting through the zippers. The big difference is, in this bag, the zippers are inside the flap. That way when you’re speeding on the freeway, the wind will not force water to break through. The zippers are coated with Urethane, making it even harder for water to get in and ruin your stuff.

Rightline Gear adds a nice touch to this package. You get a sack with drawstring closure where you can put the carrier when it’s not in use. That’s a really nice touch.

ARKSEN© 58″ Weather and Water Resistant Cargo Carrier Bag

This 13 cubic feet cargo bag from Arksen is your reliable traveling companion. It’s a basic weatherproof bag that’s roomy enough to haul your extra cargo conveniently on a hitch-mounted carrier.

The not-so-basic feature is that its expandable width. This bag measures 58-inches x 20-inches x 19.5-inches, but you can expand the width to 27-inches for a roomier 17.7 cubic feet of extra cargo space.

Arksen makes the bag from weather resistant fabric with PE coating on the outside. Instead of zippers, this bag uses Velcro along the top side of the bag. If you feel unsure if those Velcro straps are good enough to secure your cargo, you can use cargo net for additional peace of mind.

To attach the bag, Arksen gives you eight straps so tie the bag down on the hitch carrier.The good thing is, those straps use quick-release buckles which Arksen call click clasps. Those things are particularly important for forgetful people. Sometimes you’re so sure you’ve put everything in only to realize a minute before departure that you’ve got important stuff left out. If you have straps where you need to loop it around the cargo carrier side rails and through the buckles, that kind of scenario will be nerve-wracking.

CURT 18221 Waterproof Cargo Carrier Bag

The Curt 18221 is a reliable bag that can withstand even the heaviest rainstorms and blizzards. It’s made of thick and heavy-duty Nylon with generous rain flaps surrounding the zippers. The flaps have Velcro strips to help them stick to the bag better.

Having twenty-one cubic feet of extra storage at your disposal is no joke. Your family can take whatever they want on your next family trip to the beach, woods, and park.

The Curt 18221 is usable as either a hitch-mounted cargo carrier bag or a roof bag. The zippers design shows that this is more of the former than the latter. This bag opens on two short sides and one long side. Such design makes it easier for you to load and unload your cargo. The other long side is facing the back of the car, so there’s no need for the zipper to extend all the way there.

When mounted on the roof, this soft-shell carrier will work with or without a roof cargo rack. Of course, having a rack is more beneficial since you get more tie-down points. The side rails on the frame also help to keep the bag in place. The Curt 18221 doesn’t make too much noise when mounted on the roof.

Rhino Rack Luggage Bag

This luggage bag is a beast. It’s cavernous, and the material feels like it will hold up to wear and tear for years to come. You’ll find the same combination of zippers and Velcro on this bag like you’ll find on most soft-shell carriers. It’s a tried and true combination. You can abuse this thing every day, going through on-road and off-road tracks. Dust, dirt, and water just won’t get through. The zippers are tough and robust. The holes on the zipper pulls are big enough for you to slide in a padlock for added security.

This Rhino Bag is an excellent pair for a roof cargo basket, but it’s okay if you don’t have one. It will function well as long as your car has roof rails. The heavy duty straps and buckles can secure the bag sufficiently to the rails. Be advised that the buckles on the straps are quite big. If the basket has metal mesh, you may need to wiggle the buckles a bit to get them through.

Rhino Rack also makes this bag in other sizes. They are available in small, medium, half-size, and extra large – 16, 21.4, 28,4 and 36.6 cubic feet of capacity respectively.

XCAR Waterproof Soft Roof Top Cargo Bag

The XCAR top cargo bag is a super affordable rooftop bag for occasional travelers who have crossbars but don’t have roof cargo baskets on their cars. The bag comes with a drawstring carrying bag. When not in use, you can store the bag along with the cover and put them all in the trunk. You’ll always have extra storage space at the ready.

The bag itself is not waterproof. The material used is polyester with PVC lining on the inside. That’s the same kind of combination used for making soft side luggage. That’s why XCAR includes a rain cover to go along with the bag. If you think it’s going to rain, just cover the bag, pull the drawstring at the bottom of the cover, and you’ll have a waterproof bag.

Securing the bag on the rooftop is simple. Two pairs of side straps loop through the roof rails and two straps loop on the crossbars. The side straps use quick-release buckles that are simpler to use than slip buckles.

It’s neat that the bag has carrying handles. If you only load the bag with sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, or similar lightweight items, you can carry the whole bag relatively easy.

YOUR GUIDE TO BUYING A CAR ROOF BAG

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Based on all the consumers’ reviews, these are the top things they mentioned about their new stuff:

  • Flexible: It’s easy to put oddly-shaped and bulky items inside a bag. Duffle bags, golf bags, large luggage, and things like that.
  • More affordable: Many outstanding bags cost less than a hundred bucks. They will pay for themselves just after one trip.
  • Easy Storage: Fabric is easy to fold compactly. Some bags even come in carrying bags. Toss it in the trunk, or put it in a corner in the garage. You’ll hardly notice it’s there.
  • Keeps everything dry: Weather these days is rather unpredictable. One moment it’s so bright and sunny, an hour later the rain is pouring hard. Having a waterproof bag to protect your belongings is nice because you don’t have to worry about the weather suddenly changing.

PROS & CONS

Cargo Bags Pros:

  • Flexible: Being flexible has many merits. First, a cargo bag can fit stuff of any shape. Secondly, it can fit whatever carrier you have installed on your car.
  • Affordable: Compared to cargo boxes, cargo carrier bags are much more affordable. When you’re not ready to invest in expensive gears, a bag will make an excellent choice.
  • Easy Storage: Manufacturers meticulously fold their cargo bags, so they arrive at your doorstep in a teeny weeny package. However, even when you fold it sloppily, a cargo bag still doesn’t take much space at all. You can stuff it everywhere you want.
  • Rainproof: When you arrive at your destination, and you find that everything you put in the cargo bag is as dry as you put them, you have fewer things to worry about, and everyone can continue having a good time as planned. Being rainproof also means no dust or dead bugs can get in the bag. Nobody enjoys cleaning bug splats from their luggage.

Cargo Bags Cons:

  • Minimal protection against theft: You can put padlocks on the zipper pulls, but anyone with a knife can slash open the bag and take whatever inside. When you make a stop at night to get some sleep, you need to unload and put everything in your room.
  • Increased drag and turbulence: Two or three mpg drop is normal when you put something big on your rooftop. No matter how neatly you pack, the end shape of the bag will never come close to the aerodynamic shape of a hard-shell carrier.
  • Flapping Noise: When you don’t pack the bag fully, the excess material will flap in the wind. Same thing with the excess straps.

USEFUL TIPS FOR SHOPPERS:

  • Before buying a rooftop cargo bag, measure your roof first. Two bags with similar capacity can have totally different measurements. The bag’s width should be less than the distance between the roof Same thing if you want a bag that’s hooked on the window frame or have straps that loop under the roof. Bags that are too wide are harder to strap securely.
  • What’s your preferred attachment method? For roof bags, you can attach the straps on the side rails and crossbars. You can also loop the straps under the roof, or use hooks to grab the window frames. There’s no right or wrong in this. Just pick what you feel is the most comfortable option for you.
  • Buying a bag that’s too small is a lot more irritating than a bag that’s too big. Imagine preparing five large duffel bags with all your clothes, gears, and equipment ready, but the cargo bag is two inches too short to fit all five of them. You’ll be pulling your hair out trying to figure out if you should squeeze it in or sort out what should you left behind.
    Pro Tip: If you have a growing family, there’s no such thing as a bag that’s too big. 

ACCESSORIES

There are some important accessories that you should get along with the luggage carrier. Frankly, depending on the situation, these may be too important for you to call them as accessories.

  • Protective Roof Mat
    This is an important accessory to prevent the bag from scuffing the roof paint. You want your paint to stay in good condition, do you? You can also use a piece of camping foam if it’s still clean. A foam that already has sand and dirt on it will do more harm than good.A roof mat also prevents the bag from slipping around. There may come times when you need to brake hard or go over steep climbs. A mat works in tandem with the straps to keep the bag in its place during the whole trip.
  • Extra Straps
    All cargo bags come with tie-down straps. However, some are not built-in, so there’s always a chance of you forgetting where you had placed them. Having spares mean your camping trip will go smoothly as planned even when the original straps are nowhere to be found or broken. Imagine packing up after a trip and discover that one of the straps is missing. Keep spares in the car and enjoy the peace of mind knowing you have your backup plans sorted out.
  • Cargo Net
    A cargo net is an excellent alternative to straps. You attach the net on the carrier using hooks and that makes them relatively easier to deploy than straps that use slip buckles instead of quick release systems.
  • Step Stool
    Why is this thing on the list, you say? Well, if you opt for a rooftop carrier bag, then loading and unloading your cargo can be quite a challenge without one.  You can stand on the wheel or the car floor, but they are simple to do only when your hands are free. Skip the circus act and just get a foldable step stool. You’ll thank yourself later.

MORE TIPS WHEN USING A CARGO CARRIER BAG

  • When packing, try to fill up the cargo bag to the fullest so that the rain flaps can surround the zippers properly. If you only can pack it half full, put some pillows or blankets in it so you can increase the volume without increasing the weight much.
  • Try to dome the bag by placing the tallest item around the middle area. The dome shape allows rainwater to slide off to the sides instead of pooling on the center.
  • Organize your cargo in smaller bags. This will make loading and unload a lot easier. If you just dump everything in the cargo bag, you may need to jumble through the whole content just to find what you’re looking for.
  • There’s such a thing as over tightening the tie-down straps. There’s a reason why a cargo carrier bag has six or eight of such straps – it’s to distribute the load of holding down the bag in place. By over tightening the straps, you’re putting unnecessary stress on them which will reduce their lifespan.
  • Tie down the excess straps once you finished securing the bag. Otherwise, you’ll be hearing them flapping in the wind.
  • Use rigid foam inserts at the bottom of the bag before you start packing anything else. The rigidity helps with organizing the stuff so you can maximize the space better.
  • The effect of drag is more noticeable at high speed. For instance, when you want to overtake, it may take a bit longer to get up to speed. Adjust your driving style accordingly and stay safe.
  • Zippers are harder to slide around the corners. Don’t force them. Instead, straighten the material a bit to allow the slider to move freely. Most bags use heavy-duty zippers, so being rough on them for a bit won’t pose a problem. However, if you keep forcing the zippers around the corner when it snags a little, they will break sooner than later.
  • Feeling a bit paranoid about how waterproof your new cargo bag really is? Pack your spare clothes in vacuum packs and put large items in a trash bag first. In case water does manage to get in the bag through the seams, zippers, or a small tear on the bag, your stuff will be okay.
  • If you put the bag on a hitch-mounted cargo carrier, make sure the exhaust is not pointing at the bag. The heat will melt the bag along with your cargo. 

Conclusion

When vacation is just around the corner, and you need extra space to haul a family’s worth of gears and equipment, a cargo carrier bag is an easy solution to that problem.

As you can judge from the reviews above, you have quite a selection of carrier bags, whether you want to put them on the roof or the back of the car.

Pick a roof bag if you already have factory roof rails installed. If you’re willing to invest in a hitch-mounted carrier, go for the cargo bag instead.

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