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HAV­ING been a se­ri­ously keen off-road camper for years but hav­ing re­cently down­sized my ve­hi­cle, it was easy to say “yes” when of­fered the chance to test a piece of equip­ment of­fer­ing me more load space.

Yakima is a Us-based com­pany that has been mak­ing carrying equip­ment for ve­hi­cles – roof racks, bike racks/car­ri­ers, wa­ter­craft carrying stems, lug­gage boxes – for 40 years, gar­ner­ing mul­ti­ple awards for its prod­ucts since. The com­pany’s roof­box range is head­lined by the Skybox, first in­tro­duced to the mar­ket in 2006. It was a hit from its launch and has since earned a rep­u­ta­tion as the tough­est on the mar­ket, thanks to its re­in­forced nose and lid (to stop it vi­brat­ing/flap­ping in high wind), in­no­va­tive dual-access de­sign, and the fact the Sky­boxes can be made from up to 80 per cent re­cy­cled ma­te­rial; the of­f­cuts from the moulds are re-used in fu­ture boxes, en­sur­ing min­i­mal wastage.

The Skybox Pro 16S (S denotes sil­ver – it is also avail­able in ti­ta­nium and onyx black) has a load ca­pac­ity of 450 litres (16 cu­bic feet, hence the 16 moniker) and is de­signed for ve­hi­cles with shorter roof lengths. It’s com­pat­i­ble with most pop­u­lar roof bar shapes and its di­men­sions are 205cm long, 91cm wide and 38cm tall. Larger 18 and 21 mod­els hold 510L and 590L re­spec­tively.

The mount­ing process to a roof bar is very sim­ple. Quick-fit mount­ing clamps are in­te­grated into the Skybox and are slide-ad­justable to en­sure they fit over the dis­tance be­tween the two roof bars. A lever­op­er­ated cam tight­ens the fit to the bar and there is a knob in­side the box to en­sure it is ad­justed firmly. Hav­ing the box-at­tach­ment parts in­side the box also ups the se­cu­rity level – there’s no way of ac­cess­ing the at­tach­ment points of the box from out­side, es­pe­cially once you lock it.

The lock/latch sys­tem (the box has latches on both the driver and pas­sen­ger side) is sim­ple to op­er­ate and has shown no signs of fail­ing – and it won’t lock un­til the lid is se­curely shut, an­other great safety back-up.

Its light weight makes in­stal­la­tion a one-per­son job, if you pos­sess rea­son­able strength – you’re look­ing at five min­utes max. It re­ally is bloody quick and easy to fit.

The same caveats ap­ply when load­ing the Skybox as they do for any roof-mounted stor­age sys­tem: be sen­si­ble and only load light, bulky items if pos­si­ble. Items such as tents, clothes, sleep­ing bags and prams can be loaded up there without a prob­lem.

The higher pro­file that re­sults from fit­ting

a Skybox on your roof will in­crease wind drag, but the aero­dy­namic shape seems to do an okay job of less­en­ing the im­pact on fuel con­sump­tion. I reckon we use around 10-15 per cent more fuel with the Skybox up top – free­way driv­ing is where it has the most im­pact due to the higher speeds.

We’ve driven through a few rain­storms with it on top and there’s been no wa­ter ingress. This is due to the over­lap­ping lip around the box and the fact it is so tightly se­cured once locked, with no way for a gap to form be­tween the lid and the base.

The hinged arms that al­low for the dual-sided access are clev­erly de­signed and in­trude min­i­mally into avail­able load space. They are made from strong plas­tic ma­te­ri­als with over­sized bear­ings in the hinged sec­tions, to en­sure dura­bil­ity. I have in­ad­ver­tently belted them a few times with hard-sur­faced gear and that doesn’t seem to have af­fected their op­er­a­tion at all.

In­side the box is a cargo pad and cargo net to make sure your gear doesn’t bang around loose in­side, which is some­thing we’ve re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated when oc­ca­sion­ally us­ing the en­tire 450 litres of space. The cargo net is af­fixed via four hooks on each side to stir­rups screwed into the base of the Skybox – these are made from tough plas­tic, are easy to hook into and of­fer zero move­ment. We’ve had the net stretched pretty tight over bulky stuff and it has never failed.

The Skybox’s lock sys­tem is great as well. To un­lock the lid and access the gear in­side you need to have the key in­serted, which makes for great peace of mind if you de­cide to leave the ve­hi­cle parked any­where.

We’ve used the Skybox for camp­ing week­ends and the an­nual so­journ down to the NSW far-south coast for Christ­mas. Hav­ing to fit hik­ing/mtb/pad­dle and camp­ing gear in the ve­hi­cle – plus all the para­pher­na­lia as­so­ci­ated with two kids un­der five years of age – has seen the Skybox be­come our first go-to item pre-trip.

It’s com­ing up to four years of pretty reg­u­lar use for our Yakima Skybox 16S and so far it has done the job per­fectly. Some of the gear – and the sheer amount of it – we’ve man­aged to fit in there has of­ten been sur­pris­ing. The unit’s sim­plic­ity of func­tion, ease of fit­ting and re­mov­ing, and build qual­ity has made it one of our favourite pieces of tour­ing equip­ment – and great value for any tour­ing fam­ily, re­gard­less of the size of your ve­hi­cle.

RATED AVAIL­ABLE FROM: www.yakima.com.au RRP: $999 WE SAY: Easy to in­stall; wa­ter-tight; re­li­able.

AF­TER four years, the box is show­ing no signs of sun da­m­age, fad­ing, be­com­ing brit­tle or leak­ages. uv pro­tec­tion A low rim makes load­ing and find­ing stuff easy. The keys must be in the lock – so they can’t be slammed in­side.

Clever hinges mean the box can be opened from ei­ther side.

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