The Sportrack Horizon Alpine is a bare-bones rooftop cargo box that gets the job done. It isn't the sleekest or most stylish rooftop box we have tested to date, and it can be a bit more of a hassle to install and use than other contenders. However, it costs significantly less than the top-tier cargo carrier and is just as effective at transporting skis, snowboards, or other gear on the roof of your car. Because of this, it earned a Best Buy Award, making it our top recommendation for anyone who doesn't want to spend a ton of cash on a cargo carrier.
SportRack Horizon Alpine Review
Cons: Not the easiest to install, less convenient
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Alpine's main benefit is its rock-bottom price compared to the premium models, so if you don't want to spend the equivalent of a new pair of skis on a top-of-the-line Thule or Yakima box, the Horizon Alpine is where it's at. Its 11 cubic feet of storage can hold up to 6 pairs of skis or 3 snowboards, up to 210cm in length. This sets the Alpine apart from most budget cargo boxes, since they are typically too short to hold any skis, boards, or other lengthy pieces of gear. Additionally, SportRack also produces an L and XL version of this box, if your gear storage needs exceed the capacity of the Alpine.
Ease of Use
Responsible for 40% of the final score for the Horizon Alpine and each of the other cargo boxes in the review, Ease of Use is our most significant testing metric. We ranked and scored each cargo carrier by how convenient and easy to use they are on a daily basis, as well as the amount of work required to install or remove them from your car. The Alpine delivered a relatively lackluster performance compared to the rest of the boxes in the review.
The Alpine does come essentially fully assembled right out of the box, but the installation process can be a bit of a pain. It uses a sort of hybrid system between a one-piece clamping system and U-bolts. You mount the metal mounting plates and one of the bolts on the ground, then lift it onto your car to install the remaining bolts.
There are a series of holes drilled in the bottom of the Alpine to accommodate different crossbar spreads as well. Unfortunately, this adjustability provides plenty of places for water intrusion. SportRack does provide you with a set of vinyl stickers to cover the unused holes, but we wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable putting anything particularly moisture sensitive up there unless it had some additional water protection.
Installation for this box can be difficult to do solo, as holding a bolt in place on the bottom while tightening the nut can be quite a reach. It isn't too bad once you get the hang of it, and we were able to remove the Alpine from the racks on a fairly tall vehicle and reinstall in 20-25 minutes without assistance. However, it took closer to an hour to install the box the first time, since the directions weren't the clearest. We did appreciate that no additional tools are needed for the installation.
The lid on the Alpine only opens towards the passenger side, compared to the dual-action of the top models. It also lacks an internal light or any way to secure your cargo, so you are going to want to make sure you have some extra straps on hand and a headlamp when loading up the Alpine.
The Alpine does have a locking latch and a strap handle that makes it easier to close if you have it mounted on a taller vehicle.
Next, we evaluated and compared the durability of each rooftop cargo carrier, which is responsible for 20% of the final score for each product. In this metric, we awarded points based on our overall impressions of the design and construction of each box, how floppy the lid feels, and how much wear and tear it sustained throughout our testing process. The Horizon Alpine again failed to compare to the premium products, but it did do a little better than average.
The actual box of the Horizon Alpine seems comparable to the vast majority of other rooftop cargo boxes we have tested. It has approximately the same wall thickness and level of rigidity. We also liked that the Alpine's matte finish does a little better job of concealing scratches and scuffs than the glossy finish of some of its competitors. The mounting hardware seems solid as well, though it is a little disconcerting when tightening the nuts down, as there isn't really any indication of how tight to go. You can see the bottom of the box start to deform if you go overly tight, but you obviously want them to be tight enough to ensure the box and your gear stay attached to the car.
We did notice that the lid on the Alpine is a little floppy compared to some of the other models. It does have the benefit of being one of the narrowest cargo boxes, but there was still enough play in the lid that you needed to be careful when closing the box to make sure the internal locking mechanism lined up, which brings us to the next rating metric.
We focused on the locking mechanism for our next metric, which constitutes 20% of the total score for each box. Specifically, we looked for locked/unlocked indicators, how easy the lock core is to use, and if you can remove the key with the cargo box unlocked. The Horizon Alpine again did just a bit better than average.
The lock core on the Horizon Alpine is fairly run-of-the-mill, lacking any additional handles or indicators. It does feel decently solid and easy to turn, relying on a much more typical key than many of the other boxes, which have a large plastic handle molded right onto the key. It is a little less comfortable to turn, but the key on the SportRack is quite a bit more compact on your key ring.
It is impossible to remove the key while the box is unlocked, making it hard to forget to lock the box and essentially impossible to lock your keys inside of it. However, we wouldn't want to leave valuables in the Horizon Alpine for long periods, as it wouldn't take that much work to break in — but this is true of all the boxes we have tested to date.
We graded the looks of each cargo carrier for our final metric, which accounts for 15% of the total score. While none of these products are really all that stylish, there are definite differences in appearance and design, with some being far more visually appealing than others. We had multiple judges give their opinion on this highly subjective metric, aggregating and averaging their inputs to determine scores. The Alpine fared quite well in this metric.
The Horizon Alpine is one of the more plain-looking boxes of the bunch, but it was generally well-received by our judges. Its minimalistic design paired with its long and narrow aspect ratio matches the lines of most cars fairly well, aided by the matte finish. You might not be making heads turn with the Alpine on your car, but it's far from being an eyesore.
The SportRack Horizon Alpine is a great value, accomplishing the same basic task as other products that cost two or three times more.
If you are shopping for a cargo carrier on a tight budget, then the Horizon Alpine should definitely be on your shortlist of products to consider. It has all the basic features you could ask for and can transport skis and snowboards, all while costing considerably less than the premium products. It might not be the best bet if you are constantly taking your cargo box on and off your car or want the most features, but it's hard to find a better option than the Alpine for a budget-conscious shopper.
— David Wise