Roof Cargo Bag Vs Roof Cargo Box

Roof Cargo Bag Vs Roof Cargo Box: Differences


Are you planning a camping trip or other vacation and thinking that you need more space for all your extra camping gear and equipment? You might be considering adding some roof storage and have heard people talk about cargo bags and cargo boxes. Both choices have their pros and cons depending upon your particular situation. Let’s take a look at your options so you can make the right decision.

What Is A Cargo Bag?

It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a soft container designed to fit on your roof to give you additional storage space when traveling. The main benefits of them are:

  • Cost
  • Ease of installation
  • Easy to store

What Is A Cargo Box?

It is designed to perform the same function as a rooftop bag but its main advantages are:

  • Security
  • Protection
  • Size

How Do They Differ?


As a rule, a hardshell cargo box will cost a lot more than a soft cargo carrier bag. You will also need to factor in the cost of some form of roof rack that will be needed to fix the box to the roof of your vehicle. For the most part, bags will just sit on your roof with straps that pass through the doorframes.

How They Attach To Your Vehicle

A roof box will need a roof rack in order to be fitted to your vehicle. Conversely, a cargo bag will usually be strapped to the roof directly. This should make the roof bag quite a bit easier to install.


A rooftop cargo bag offers limited additional security to your contents certainly when compared with just using a roof rack or roof basket. The fact that the items aren’t visible will probably deter an opportunist thief. However, a reasonably sharp knife is probably all that is required to gain access. In contrast, the plastic construction of a roof box along with built-in locking mechanisms should deter all but the most determined thieves or those that have come prepared!

When looking at the pros and cons of a roof box vs a roof bag the fact that the box is a rigid plastic means it wins hands down.

Size And Shape

Roof boxes are available up to 22 cubic feet of space, while cargo bags tend to reach only 18 ft³. So if maximizing extra space is your primary requirement then you will need to go for a storage box rather than a storage bag.

If the shape of the items you’re planning to haul is more varied then you may need to consider a cargo bag since they can accommodate a wider range of shapes than many boxes and obviously, their construction material makes them a little bit more flexible.


When not in use it is best to remove the extra storage from your roof to avoid carrying unnecessary weight. This is the major advantage of selecting a rooftop cargo bag since you will be able to fold up the bag into a relatively small volume for storage in your garage, barn or shed. By contrast, a hardshell box will take up exactly the same space so you’ll need a fairly large area to store it when you don’t need to use it. Finding room to store a 22 cubic foot box can be tricky for some people.


Generally speaking, roof boxes will have a more aerodynamic design and so on paper should have an advantage. However, the soft rooftop cargo carrier will sit flush with the roof so the difference may not be as great as you might think. Overall your gas mileage won’t be as good because of the extra weight as much as anything.

If you’re thinking of purchasing a soft carrier then you should probably look at models that have protection for zipper seams and offer a warranty on zippers. These are one area that is likely to fail on these type of carriers. The


While a soft cargo carrier is likely made of a durable material the level of protection it can give to your belongings won’t be as great as the ABS plastic that a hardshell box will be constructed from. If you’re looking to keep the contents dry then a box will almost certainly do a better job than a bag despite few manufacturers actually claiming their products are weatherproof. A lot of times I’ve found that a waterproof zipper is not actually very waterproof!

Some boxes also feature an anti-slip mat or other methods of tying down the cargo to prevent it from moving during your journey.

roof cargo basket
Roof Basket

Access To Cargo

In order to gain access to the contents, soft bags will use zippers. Depending upon the quality of the bag you may find that you have double zippers. The particular model you buy may be difficult to access when in place depending on the site of the zipper. Boxes on the other hand will usually be accessible either from the side or the rear. Many models can be accessed from both sides.

Ease Of Use

Given that a cargo bag usually won’t require a roof rack it’s likely that most people would consider it easier to install. On the flip side, it’s probably easier to pack your belongings into a hardshell carrier.


In terms of roof storage, your other option would be to use a cargo basket or just an old-fashioned roof rack. In either case, you have to strap your belongings directly onto the rack or cargo basket. If you don’t mind increasing your vehicle’s footprint then you could opt for a trailer.

Roof Cargo Bag Vs Roof Cargo Box: Summary

For most people, the biggest consideration will be the purchase cost and here the bag will win out easily. However, if you regularly take trips that require extra storage then the extra cost of a box may prove a worthwhile investment as it should be much more durable than a soft carrier.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Roof Bag vs Roof Box – Pros and Cons

Generally speaking you will find a box is more secure and offers better protection for your luggage but it will cost several times more than a roof bag. It will also take up more storage space when not in use.

Here is the largest roof box currently available.

What is a soft roof box?

A soft roof box is just another name for a roof bag.

A roof bag has a couple of big advantages over a hard shell box – price and storage.

Cargo Basket vs Roof Box

A roof box is made from durable hard plastic so should protect your luggage from the elements. A roof basket is just a roof rack that you can attach your luggage to. It won’t offer the same protection for your cargo but on the other hand should be quicker to mount and won’t add as much weight to the vehicle.

Similar Posts