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Choosing Roof Basket Versus Roof Bag on 2018 Subaru Outback

Question:

I’m honestly trying to determine whether a roof basket or roof bag is best for me. I have a 2018 Subaru Outback and will be taking a cross country drive. I will be moving in the next year so I’m not sure how much space I will have in my garage to store a basket. Or can I keep it on 24/7 I live on the coast? I have cross bars that came with the Subaru. I guess my confusion with a bag is that, while I know the bag will mount to my rack bars, I don’t understand how much weight I can put in the bag since it’s directly on the roof. Also, can a roof basket be helpful for trips to hardware and what not and strapping down lumber and such? It would be suitcases and maybe like occasionally ice chests and whatnot on the roof. I have two car seats in my car so using the trunk capacity isn’t always an option and we don’t keep our trailer hitch cargo installed all the time.

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Expert Reply:

I can understand your confusion. Setting a cargo bag directly on the vehicle roof isn't the greatest idea not only for the reason you mention, which is weight. Having the bag directly in contact with the roof's painted surface isn't a wonderful idea either. While traveling down the road, you're always going to have dirt and grit get on the roof surface between the bag and the roof. This can scratch the paint in a surprisingly short amount of time. The best practice is to use a cargo basket if at all possible. Subaru lists a capacity of 176 lbs for the roof rack in the owner's manual, so you'll want to keep below that. The Thule Roof Mounted Cargo Basket # TH859XT you were interested in weighs 29 lbs, so using this particular basket would leave you with about 147 lbs worth of capacity for luggage and odds and ends which is pretty decent.

The factory crossbar spread, or center to center distance between the front and rear crossbar on your vehicle is 30 inches, so you'll need a cargo basket that is compatible with that spread. The Thule # TH859XT that you'd looked at meets that criteria. We do have some carriers that are lighter, but the capacities are less and they are smaller than the Thule model. For anything of similar size with equal capacity but with a lighter weight, the price point climbs pretty rapidly much past the Thule model, so this would actually be my best recommendation for you.

You certainly could use the roof rack for carrying lumber, as long at the capacity is not exceeded and the load is properly tied down.

You could leave the rack on year-round, but the rack is constructed of steel so you'd need to keep it maintained by touching up any scratches or gouges before they can start to rust. I used to have one of these baskets myself, and I just kept it hung on my garage wall where it didn't take up much space. I live in the rust belt, and I kept a coat of car wax on mine and it stayed looking pretty good for the 4 years I had it.

Anything that's not waterproof could be wrapped in plastic and placed in a cargo bag like # RL100S30. A bag isn't absolutely necessary, but the bags do a good job of keeping the bugs off of everything and keeping everything contained. A cooler should be securely ratchet strapped in place.

I've linked you to some product description videos featuring the products I've recommended.

expert reply by:
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Mike L

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