Review: Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite Roof Box

Is Yakima's mid-range SkyBox roof box worth it? Is installation a pain and does it offer enough extra cargo space? Here's a closer look.

Before having kids, the need to own a roof top cargo box was never really on the radar. I was familiar with the storied Yakima brand and had seen the SkyBox 16 Carbonite on the road, along with older, borderline vintage roof boxes still holding their own today — but again, this wasn’t for me. Plus, they’re not inexpensive especially if the vehicle doesn’t have existing roof rails. 

But then reality sunk in, realizing a mid-size SUV’s cargo capacity wasn’t going to cut it with a full cabin, including a dog, on those longer road trips and camping outings. Our 2018 Subaru Outback’s low roofline adds to the sleek, wagon SUV look, but it also compromises precious real estate. 

Well, we gave the SkyBox 16 Carbonite a shot — is it worth the money? Does it really offer that much more space, and is it easy to install and take off? 

SkyBox vs Yakima’s other roof boxes

Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite amee reehal
Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite. Photo: Amee Reehal

The Washington State-based company offers roof boxes in a series of 4, and the SkyBox sits second from the bottom. But it’s perhaps the best Yakima roof box in terms of versatility and clean, aerodynamic design at a reasonable price point. You can view the Yakima’s roof box lineup here.

  • CBX (over $1,000)
  • GrandTour (over $1,000)
  • SkyBox (under $1,000)
  • RocketBox (under $1,000)

The entry-level series is the compact RocketBox (Pro 12 and Pro 14), followed by the SkyBox. Next, and with a significant price increase, is the high-gloss GrandTour (18 and Lo), then premium CBX series with 4 models, including the top dog CBX Solar at $1,939.99.

SkyBox 16 Carbonite specs

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Within the SkyBox family, the 16 sits in the middle of the pack and is a good fit for families seeking some extra space for medium to small-sized objects. It will haul gear for up to 3 campers and fits snowboards and skis. Note, if you’re a skier, the SkyBox 16 will hold up to 185cm skis, whereas all other SkyBox models will hold 215com skies.

Above the 12, 16, and 18 is the slimmer, pricer SkyBox Lo and range-topping SkyBox 21. Below, the lineup and SkyBox 16 specs:

SkyBox 21 Carbonite – $999.99

SkyBox Lo Carbonite – -$899.99

SkyBox 18 Carbonite – $899.99

SkyBox 16 Carbonite – $849.99

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SkyBox 12 Carbonite – $769.99

Weight: 47.00 lbs.

Dimensions: L 81.00 in x W 36.00 in x H 15.00 in

Minimum Crossbar Spread 24.00in

Maximum Crossbar Spread 36.00in

Limited Lifetime Warranty

More space than expected

Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite
Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite. Photo: Amee Reehal

Aside from packing the car’s rear cargo trunk, I wasn’t sure exactly how much extra space I’d get. Turned out: it was a lot more. For an overnight camping trip, we managed to reasonably stow a great deal of stuff up there — from sleeping bags to firewood. 

Not having to strategically jam and Tetris all our gear into the trunk was refreshing — it was nice to have some extra trunk space without needing to leave anything behind. 

Not having to strategically jam and Tetris all our gear into the trunk was refreshing — it was nice to have some extra trunk space without needing to leave anything behind. 

Much of this is courtesy of the box’s 15-inch height, allowing things to be stacked. Plus, the tapered design reduces hatch interference while the SuperLatch security ensures the lid is secure to its base.

Stowing duties & installation

The box is designed with internal lid stiffeners for durability and easy open and close, plus it offers dual-sided openings for easy access on either side of the vehicle, which turned out to be handier than we expected. 

Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite
Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite. Photo: Amee Reehal

Getting into the box is easy, so is the latch system with key. There is zero assembly and no tools required to get this big boy up top either, so installing and removing it is easy with two adults. And the looks of the SkyBox 16 are deceiving, weighing only 47 pounds it appears to weight 3 times that, so it’s not heavy for a pair of adults to manage. Our vehicle here has factory-provided roof rails so the install was quick, with the box easily sitting on the rails and secured by large clamps.

Only downside when it’s not installed: where do you put? This box is very fairly big and long at 81-inches; small garages may have an issue. For everyone else, it’s not a big deal and can sit upright in the garage corner without any problems.

For installation, minimum and maximum crossbar spreads are 24” – 36” and fits Yakima round, square, factory, and aerodynamic bars.

Quiet on the road

Again, I wasn’t sure what a box on my SUV’s roof would sound like on the highway. Even at high speeds, there was very little wind noise to be had. The overall look is ultra-aerodynamic but is really designed to reduce drag. Yakima has been in the roof box game for a long time, so this refinement in style and function comes as no big surprise. 

Takeaway: is the Yakima SkyBox worth it?

Quality roof boxes like the SkyBox series from Yakima won’t come cheap. But once you discover the joys of extra cargo space, where no gear gets left behind (and no children are crying) and you hit the road with that confidence and stress-free departure, the value of owning one makes a lot of sense. 

Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite amee reehal
Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite. Photo: Amee Reehal

Whether it’s a sedan with a few snowboards up top, or a full-size SUV seeking all the extra cargo space it can get, Yakima offers a wide range of products at a low, medium, and premium price points. 

While I haven’t tested Yakima’s entire lineup of roof boxes, like the premium CBX, I can say the SkyBox ticks all the boxes — it’s secure on the road void of any annoying wind noise, surprisingly stows more than enough extra gear, isn’t heavy at all, is easy to install and remove, actually looks really nice and refined on any SUV’s roof, and is priced reasonably for all the advantages if offers. Just make sure you have enough space to store it when not in use.

Designed and produced in the USA with up to 80% recycled material, the SkyBox 16 Carbonite currently sells for $849.99 on Yakima’s website, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. 

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