Practical advice for all your Loading, Hauling & Transport needs

How To: Roof Bags Installation and Use

A cargo bag is one of the most convenient and affordable ways to carry extra items that just wont fit into the trunk or cargo space of your car or SUV. Here’s a video that shows how easy a roof bag is to install and pack.

When you’re headed out of town on a road trip, room for your luggage and gear can be at a premium. Cargo roof bags are a great way to gain additional space so that all of your passengers will be comfortable for the trip ahead.Bag_On_Roof

Cargo bags are soft, zippered carriers that fasten to the roof of your car, SUV or van with built-in straps to hold them in place on your vehicle’s roof rack. They come in many different sizes, and most are made of PVC coated nylon to keep their contents dry and protected from rain, snow and dust.

Hard car top carriers are another option but tend to be more expensive, heavier to install and bulky to store.

Most roof bags require that your vehicle has a roof rack or cargo bars, though a cargo basket may also be used. Some cargo bags are also designed to fit hitch-mounted carriers.

The amount of gear your roof bag can hold will be determined by your vehicle’s rooftop load limit. While most vehicles can safely carry 100 lbs, we recommend consulting your owner’s manual for verification. Remember to include the weight of any cargo bars or baskets you have added when calculating your weight requirements.


In preparation for installing your roof bag, wash the roof of your vehicle to remove any dust or dirt particles. This minimizes the potential for scratches or other damage that could result from the filled carrier shifting.

In addition, you may want to consider using a non-skid pad or mat between the rooftop and the cargo bag; this also minimizes scratches in addition to helping hold the filled carrier from sliding forward or backward on the rooftop. You should never use a blanket or towel for this.

Installing the roof bag onto your vehicle can usually be handled by one person, but the job will be easier if you enlist some help.

If the cargo rails or bars are adjustable, start by opening them as wide or as long as possible. Place the bag onto the roof of the vehicle with the closed-zipper end toward the rear of the vehicle. Even though most bags are rated water-resistant, having the opening to the back reduces the chance of rain getting in.

Position the bag to fit between the rails for the best aerodynamics and to prevent the bag from flapping once you are in motion.

The same goes for the roof bars. If the bag is longer than the car rack, place the bag directly behind the front bar, and let the excess overlap on the back bar, not on the front.


When loading your items into the roof bag, start with the largest or heaviest items first, placing them in the middle. Continue to work out from there, trying to keep the cargo relatively balanced.

Finish the loading process by zipping the roof bag closed, making sure the zipper flap is completely flat against the zipper.

It is best to fill the roof bag as completely as possible in order to keep the flapping and noise to a minimum. Built-in cinch straps help secure any loose fabric, and (it) also helps to tuck in any loose strap ends.

With all your gear and equipment loaded, tighten up all the slack in each tie down strap.

When adding a substantial amount of weight to your vehicle, both inside as well as the contents of your roof bag, you may notice a difference in your car’s handling and responsiveness. Check your owner’s manual for information on the vehicle’s gross weight rating to make sure you are not overloaded, and adjust the tire pressure as necessary.

On the Road

Once you are on the road, it is important to check your tie down straps periodically. Stopping after your first 30 miles to make sure everything is still secure is a good idea, then every 100 miles after that.

When you’ve arrived at your destination, have someone help remove the roof bag for easy unpacking.

After returning from your road trip, you’ll notice a lot of bugs and dirt that have collected. Take the time now to wash and thoroughly dry the roof bag. Store the roof bag where it will remain dry and out of direct sun.

This will further the longevity of your roof bag, and it will be ready to go for your next adventure. Have a safe trip!


How much does a cargo carrier bag really hold? A 10 cu. ft. rooftop cargo bag will fit two or three average-sized suitcases; a larger roof bag of 15 or more cu. ft. will hold at least four suitcases.

Can I use a rooftop cargo bag on a vehicle with a sunroof? Or on a convertible? Most sunroofs will support a roof bag if the cargo is evenly distributed and you use good judgment. If you have any doubt, we also suggest checking the manufacturer’s recommendations for a sunroof’s weight capacity. However, convertible car tops will NOT support a rooftop cargo bag.

What if I can’t reach far enough across the rooftop to get it installed or packed? A portable wheel step makes installing and packing cargo bags much easier. Simply position the wheel step over the top of one of the vehicle’s rear wheels, and you’ve got a sturdy, slip-free surface on which to stand and reach forward, unlike perching in the frame of the door.

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