How to Attach a Cargo Carrier to a Roof Rack

Whether you're gearing up for the bike trails, hitting the ski slopes, or just packing for a long weekend, a cargo carrier is an excellent way to bring everything you need. And why not utilize all that empty space on top of your car?Of course, properly strapping down your load is crucial in making sure all your gear reaches its destination. We'll walk you through the process of attaching a cargo carrier below.
Roof Rack Cargo Carrier
*Note: Consult your vehicle's owner manual to confirm the weight carrying capacity of your roof prior to loading.
Watch Now: Using a Cargo Net

Step 1: Choose Your Cargo Carrier

There are a variety of cargo carrying options available, each with certain benefits and drawbacks. When choosing a carrier, keep in mind the size and amount of gear you want to carry, as well as whether or not you require the carrier to be weatherproof.
Roof Cargo Bag

Roof Bags

Roof bags enclose your gear and provide protection from the elements. Most include straps for mounting to a naked roof, roof basket, or roof rack crossbars. Roof bags are a more economical option than roof boxes and are easy to store when not in use. Unlike boxes, roof bags cannot be locked for additional security. Roof bags are also less aerodynamic than their sleeker basket and box counterparts. Lastly, although bags do provide some protection from the elements, they do not offer the same level of protection as the hard outer shell provided by roof boxes.
Roof Basket

Roof Baskets and Trays

Roof baskets and trays provide a stable surface for you to stack and strap down your gear. However, when used alone, baskets and trays are not weatherproof. If this is a feature you require, you'll also need a weatherproof bag (see below) to load into the basket/tray.
Roof Cargo Box

Roof Boxes

Roof boxes offer the best security and protection for your gear by keeping it enclosed and protected from the elements. Most also include locks to keep your belongings secure. On the other hand, boxes are the most expensive option and are harder to store due to their size. Unlike roof bags, roof boxes must attach to a roof rack and cannot be used with a naked roof.

Step 2: Strap Down Your Gear

The tie-down process differs slightly depending which carrier type you choose (basket/tray, box, or bag). Fortunately, the methods are all pretty simple! Just make sure to install your carrier on the roof before loading cargo into it—the carriers might be easier to fill on the ground, but they'll be heavy to lift.If you have trouble reaching the top of your roof to load/unload your gear, a wheel step or hitch step may help. One of our favorites is the Rightline Gear Moki Door Step.

Roof Baskets and Trays

Assuming your roof basket or tray is installed, begin by loading your belongings into it. Use tie-down straps or ratchet straps to secure your gear to the carrier. You can attach a strap to anchor points, as seen in the first image below. You can also wrap the straps beneath the crossbar on both sides of the vehicle and then tighten the strap buckles.
Bag on Roof Rack Tray
Strap connects to two anchor points on roof cargo tray
Luggage in Roof Rack Basket
Tie-down straps secure gear in roof basket
Tie-Down Straps Secure Cargo in Roof Rack Basket
Ratchet straps secure gear in roof basket
Tie-Down Straps Secure Cargo in Roof Rack Basket
Buckles are tightened and secured around cargo
A roof luggage rack net can also be used to help secure your belongings. However, note that it's often difficult to find a net suited to the exact size of your particular load, so a net alone won't likely hold your gear snugly in place. For this reason, you'll likely want to secure your belongings with straps first. Some cargo nets even include cargo straps.
Note: Choose a strap based on its safe working load limit (WLL). The weight of the secured cargo must not exceed the combined WLL of the straps being used. For example, if you are using straps with a WLL of 500 lbs each to tie down a 1,000-lb load, you need at least 2 straps to safely secure that load.To determine the maximum load, or break strength, of the strap, multiply the WLL by 3. The WLL is always one-third (1/3) of the maximum load. It is recommended that you always use straps in pairs.
To attach a cargo net, drape the net over your luggage on the roof basket or tray. Attach the net's hooks on the roof basket/tray.
Roof Rack Luggage Net
Connect Net Hooks to Roof Luggage Rack
Roof Rack Luggage Net

Roof Bags

Roof bags are available in multiple capacities. Some roof bags mount to roof racks or raised side rails, some mount to roof baskets, and others mount to naked roofs. Most include tie-down straps for attachment. Simply wrap each strap around a solid anchor point, thread the strap through the buckle, and pull until secure.Both water-resistant and waterproof bags are available.

Bags on Naked Roofs

Car clips allow you to mount bags to naked roofs.
Car clips mounting bags to naked roof
Roof bag strapped to naked roof
Bags in Baskets or on Roof RacksIncluded straps attach to the basket, roof rack, or raised side rails.
Cargo bag on roof rack basket
Cargo bag on raised side rails
Roof BoxesMount the roof box to your crossbars via the included attachment system. Open the cargo box lid, place your luggage inside, and close the lid. Many boxes include locks to secure your belongings.
Cargo Box on Roof Rack
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Written by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/28/19

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