Even with the largest vehicles, storage space will never be enough, especially for families or when traveling in groups. When hitch carriers won’t do, the next best option for cargo transportation is your vehicle’s roof. Rooftop cargo bags offer protection and security to roof-mounted cargo, whether camping equipment, outdoor, or sports gear – an excellent investment for any frequent traveling and outdoorsy family.
Rooftop cargo carrier bags come in various sizes and shapes. Most of these are quality-made, durable, and waterproof. These bags offer fantastic protection against traveling wear and tear and environmental damage.
Roofbag Cargo Carrier
You want a bag large enough to hold extra luggage, waterproof enough to keep everything dry, easy to install, and rugged enough to last through demanding trips. The Roofbag cargo carrier exceeds all these categories and stands above the competition, making it the recipient of our Best Cargo Bag award.
What Is a Rooftop Cargo Bag?
A rooftop cargo bag provides extra temporary storage for your vehicle. Generally made from strong, durable, and weather-proof materials, they protect your belongings. They are easier to store and more affordable than their hardshell cargo box counterparts. These are excellent options for people who want a fast solution for lack of storage in the car.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Rooftop Cargo Bag
There are many advantages to rooftop bags:
- Quick and easy installation.
- More affordable and versatile than cargo boxes.
- Most of them are waterproof and can be used in different weather conditions.
Like with everything, there are some disadvantages:
- Car bags are not hardshell; therefore, driving is less fuel-efficient if they don’t have an aerodynamic design.
1. Roofbag Cargo Bag
48 x 36 x 14.5 Inches
Rooftop cargo bags are not small, but installing one shouldn’t be arduous. The Roofbag cargo carrier has an abrasion pad and straps and fits most car types, with or without roof racks. If adjusted correctly, you should be done setting it up in minutes.
This isn’t a huge downside, but the roof bag comes in two sizes, 11 and 15 cubic feet. Compared to other offerings, these sizes fall right in the middle so that the bag can handle a decent amount of luggage but isn’t the largest rooftop cargo bag there.
If the bag is over-filled or something impedes the track, you risk the zipper failing or popping off the way. Avoid this by packing similarly sized items and avoiding overstuffing. I also used extra straps to cinch everything down; the included straps worked fine, and I didn’t notice any wear, but peace of mind came with a couple of extras, especially when driving fast.
The bag’s contents remained dry and sturdy for most environmental conditions. Even during extreme situations, the bag held up. 3-inch flaps and no exposed stitching primarily protect the weaker elements around the zipper. Make sure to position the zippers facing the back of the car; this way, the wind doesn’t lift the flap and let rain settle around the zipper track.
The peel-proof, heavy-duty fabric can handle a lot of strain. This waterproof rooftop cargo carrier bag will accompany you on many trips and through various conditions without the significant wear and tear expected in lesser products.
The Roofbag Carrier Bag works best when filled close to capacity (70-95%). If you’re using the bag to transport a small number of items, they may slide to the back of the bag, putting more pressure on the zipper. The uneven shape of the pack may also lead to more flapping. While initially harmless (despite the sound), excessive flapping can accelerate material rubbing against the straps, which impacts the effectiveness of the waterproofing.
2. Asani Cargo Carrier Bag
44 x 34 x 17 Inches
The price is the most significant selling point. A glance lets you know this rooftop carrier cargo bag is about half the cost of more expensive varieties.
The Asani cargo carrier bag was surprisingly tough compared to its competitors and held up under scrutiny for several long road trips. The material is durable, and the size is perfectly adequate at 15 cubic feet.
The bag is easy to attach to most roof racks but falls short of providing an option for cars without racks. Additionally, while the bag works well for roof rack rails, it doesn’t fit as well if you only have crossbars. Get a roof basket to help alleviate the uncomfortable fit on crossbars, or limit its use to cars with roof rack rails.
The straps keep the bag locked in place, but tightening them is a chore, and any extra slack will bat against the roof of the car unless you find a way to cinch or tie it down. The Velcro loses its grip under intense sunlight and accelerates the wear and tear on the bag.
The bag held up surprisingly well for most uses in the rain. This rooftop cargo bag is effectively waterproof if all components are working together. In high-stress environments or deluges, water may leak in. While perfectly suitable for paved roads, the material will not perform as well on dirt roads in the backcountry. Scratchy pine trees can rip holes into the exterior, and excessive bouncing or dust can reduce the effectiveness of both the Velcro and the straps.
3. Smashier Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
55 x 39 x 17 Inches
The Smashier rooftop cargo carrier bag is made from military-grade nylon fabric and can withstand almost everything Mother Nature can chuck. Like similar models, the zippers are weak, but big Velcro flaps hide the zipper track from rain and debris, and all the straps cinch to various points on the bag, creating much less flapping at high speeds. I liked the smooth driving with this rooftop carrier bag at highway speeds.
However, installation is more complicated than other models. There are more straps to deal with, and for shorter people, it may be hard to adjust the carrier or lift bags into the carrier once it is fastened to the car’s roof. Filling the bag before hoisting it up will likely require 2+ people. At nearly 10 pounds empty, the bag’s weight is heavier than similar models.
With six connecting points for various straps (2 straps to a connection point), you sense that it’s not going anywhere when this bad boy is cinched down. The placement of the straps also helps reduce the rubbing and fading of the nylon, so the waterproofing component isn’t compromised. With options of 16 cubic feet or 21 cubic feet, it offers more space than the average carrier bag and can easily alleviate packing pressure of all kinds.
Too much stress on the zipper will cause breaks and tears. Remember when stuffing any carrier bag not to overfill the contents, and make sure to line up the top and bottom to the best of your ability before zipping. This is a supremely durable rooftop cargo bag option, but it requires less aggression to zip up than one may think.
With a price under 70 USD, this cargo bag is half as expensive as our pick for best overall and feels like a steal for what you get. Remember to follow all the recommendations when setting it up to maximize the bag’s lifespan, including properly using the non-slip carpet pad to prevent scratching the top of your car.
4. Vetoos Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag
52 x 39.5 x 17.5 Inches
The Vetoos rooftop cargo carrier is a LARGE bag at 21 cubic feet, even compared to some of this article’s other sizable rooftop carrier bags. I had no trouble fitting six medium bags (suitcases and duffels), a tent, and two foldable lawn chairs; the bag could’ve accommodated more easily. It pairs well with most cars, with or without roof racks. There wasn’t much added cost (time or labor) when fitting this carrier to cars without roof attachments.
The 4.7-inch zipper flap, designed to fold over the zipper track, is much larger than comparable models, giving rain less chance to get in. The protective mat is a good inclusion, with four straps (one for each corner) that help cinch everything down. Another plus is you can also easily fold the carrier bag into the case.
The bag held up well in the rain but suffered under wild temperature variations, which created some fabric tearing. I discovered the tears while driving through arid landscapes after cresting a snowy mountain pass. It was an easy duct tape fix but potentially problematic if you use the bag often and for demanding trips.
Initially, the bag fit along my roof rails, but after lots of flapping noises (and a drain on gas), I had to pull over to make adjustments. Re-cinching the straps, especially if the bag is less full, was critical. The bag held to the rails easily but migrated to the rear of the setup. Once I adjusted everything, I drove for hours without worry, but giving the setup a good trial run before committing to hours on the road made all the difference.
Many promotional pictures of this product indicate that, at full capacity, the bag holds a squarish shape (rounded off at the corners). If the images are to be believed, it’s close to a hard shell; this is incorrect. The bag is strong but a softshell carrier bag and will not look like the advertisements when filled.
5. Rightline Gear Car Top Carrier
36 x 30 x 16 Inches
The Rightline Gear cartop carrier bag comes in three size options, the smallest being ten cubic feet and the largest at 18 cubic feet. There’s also a 15 cubic foot option, so a lot of built-in versatility is based on your needs.
If you’re not going to fill up the cargo bag to near capacity, it’s best to leave it off the car. When filled below half, cinching down straps becomes more challenging, wear and tear easier, and in some cases, the bag can fly straight off of its mount. If you only use this rooftop carrier bag for small loads, be cautious, adjust often, and drive slowly.
Like other entries in our article, this rooftop cargo bag works with or without a roof rack, so installation isn’t limited to car type, another boon to the bag’s versatility.
The cargo mat is critical to stopping the bag from sliding around and potentially scratching or damaging the roof. If included, this package would sing, but as it stands, the mat is an extra purchase and one you want to consider spending money on.
The material holds up under various weather situations, including heavy downpours, and the waterproof zipper design means no velcro flap to deal with. It’s a simplified design but very effective in repelling moisture and keeping contents dry.
This is a separate point from the waterproofing. Straps need to be hooked into the car in cases without a roof rack. Moisture managed to travel down the length of the straps, into the car, and onto seatbelts and seats. The overall amount was relatively low, but the inconvenience of water leaking into your vehicle during a storm is negative.
6. MIDABAO Waterproof Rooftop Carrier
51 x 39 x 17 Inches
This rooftop cargo bag is BIG. At over 20 cubic feet, you can fit a cornucopia of things in there, from multiple hardcover luggage pieces to duffle bags and sports equipment. Of all the rooftop cargo bag options I looked at, the MIDABAO stood out for its easy-to-use design. Installation is a breeze, and the bag is compatible with cars that don’t have roof racks and those that do.
It’s not usually an immediate concern when buying rooftop cargo carrier bags. Still, some models create a lot of wind resistance, impacting overall drive efficiency and making unpleasant noises. If your road trip takes a few hours, cargo bag noises get annoying. The MIDABAO held up exceptionally well here, with minimal noise and air resistance for longer road trips when strapped down correctly.
I saw an ad that overtly references an included abrasion pad; this was not my experience. You can always buy one separately, but this marketing snafu could disappoint future shoppers.
If you rely on rooftop cargo carrier bags frequently and use them weekly, at some point, repeat use issues rear their head; this is true for all products across most disciplines. The most common issues I’ve noticed with the MIDABAO cargo bag are difficult zipping when the bag is stuffed and a soft-shell design that is hard to keep center-mounted without enough weight in the bag.
Choosing the Best Rooftop Cargo Bag – A Buyer’s Guide
It’s always a good idea to research key considerations to remember, especially when investing in transportation accessories for your vehicle.
Like with all bags, you can choose between different carrying capacities. The most common and all-around size is around 15-20 cubic feet. If you transport a lot of cargo, choose a bigger rooftop carrier bag.
The largest size you can fit depends on the car’s roof dimensions. Whichever rooftop cargo carrier bag you choose, there will be a dimension of it, and you can measure if it works for you.
Of course, something that transports your luggage needs to be durable. Cargo bags must protect against harsh conditions such as rain, snow, UV rays, etc. Usually, the best materials or rooftop bags are synthetic.
Something loaded onto your vehicle’s exterior should have some level of waterproof abilities, especially during the winter months, when rain and snowfall are a regular occurrence. Protecting your gear and luggage from water damage should be one of your top considerations when choosing the best rooftop cargo bag.
A good rooftop cargo carrier bag should have an aerodynamic shape. This will help minimize drag while driving, while the oncoming air pressure will stabilize the cargo load and bag.
Anti-theft features should also be considered, as you want to ensure that your belongings are fully protected. Some cargo carrier bags have additional security features or accessories, such as locks, to ensure that the bags can’t be opened or removed from your vehicle’s roof.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Rooftop Bags Safe?
Yes, they are safe to use. However, it is up to you how secure the bag will be. Ensure that no part of the bag is hanging over the sides of a roof. Also, pack your cargo tightly to prevent it from slipping inside the bag while driving. Before your trip, ensure all straps are properly tightened and secured. When driving under low-hanging structures, remember that additional height is added to your vehicle through the rooftop cargo carrier bag.
How Can I Keep My Rooftop Cargo Bag From Making Road Noise?
The noise from cargo bags can be due to bag shape or poor placement. Some noise can occur while driving if your bag doesn’t have an aerodynamic design. If an aerodynamic design isn’t the case, the carrier bag probably isn’t secured correctly. A rooftop cargo bag often has a rubber placemat that prevents movement during transit and protects your roof. These also help to minimize road noise.
Can You Use a Rooftop Cargo Bag Without a Roof Rack?
While loading a rooftop cargo bag with a roof rack is much easier, roof racks are not always necessary. It mainly depends on the bag and its strapping and securing methods.
Timo is an outdoor enthusiast and gear specialist who is constantly exploring. As an avid hiker, he has completed the ADK 46ers, South Beyond 6000, GA4000, and the Colorado 14ers. He's ice climbed Mt. Hood, hiked up half a dozen mountains in the Alps, and spent three consecutive summers constructing a sustainable trail through the Colorado high country.