The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Thule Force XT XL Review

This is an above-average product that is very spacious and easy to use.
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Price:  $600 List | $569.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Simple installation, sleek matte finish, great shape for skis
Cons:  Clunky shape, inconvenient handle
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Steven Tata ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 14, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 8
  • Ease of Use - 40% 7
  • Durability - 25% 7
  • Security - 20% 7
  • Appearance - 15% 7

Our Verdict

Although it wasn't a leader in any of our rating metrics, the Thule Force XT XL is a great cargo box that offers above-average performance. It has a sturdy construction, sleek matte black finish, and simple mounting system, but lost some points for not having a handle and being slightly finicky to lock. If you need a box that is easy to install or can transport multiple pairs of skis, then the Force is a good option that comes at a reasonable price.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Thule Force XT XL
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $569.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$749.95 at REI
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$1,049.95 at REI
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$559.00 at REI
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$699 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Simple installation, sleek matte finish, great shape for skisEasiest to install, ergonomic handle, sleek designSleek, stylish, easy to useGreat handle, cool appearance, less expensiveSleek look, durable construction
Cons Clunky shape, inconvenient handlePriceyPricey, only available in a single colorFrustrating installationExpensive, frustrating installation, hard to open and close
Bottom Line This is an above-average product that is very spacious and easy to use.The Motion XT is an excellent, high-end cargo box that excels in every category.The best looking box you can buy, if you can afford it.The SkyBox Carbonite is an exceptional value because of its top-notch user friendly design.The ShowCase is an expensive, sleek box with below-average user friendliness and difficult installation.
Rating Categories Thule Force XT XL Thule Motion XT XL Thule Hyper XL Yakima Skybox 16 Carbonite Yakima ShowCase 15
Ease Of Use (40%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
Durability (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
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6
Security (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
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6
10
0
7
10
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6
Appearance (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
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8
10
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7
10
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7
Specs Thule Force XT XL Thule Motion XT XL Thule Hyper XL Yakima Skybox 16... Yakima ShowCase 15
Weight (lbs) 47 lb 42 lb 46 lb 47 lb 56 lb
Volume (Cubic Feet) 18 cu ft 18 cu ft 17 cu ft 16 cu ft 15 cu ft
Size (Inches - L x W x H) 84.5" x 36" x 17" 84.5" x 36" x 17" 90" x 34.5" x 15" 81" x 36" x 15" 80" x 36" x 14.5"
Additional Sizes Sport (11), L (16), and XXL (22) L (16) and XXL (22) n/a Lo, 12, 18, and 21 20
Maximum Ski Length 200 cm 200 cm 199 cm 185cm 180 cm
Box Opening Dual-side Dual-side Dual-side Dual-side Dual-side

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Thule Force XT XL is a solid all-around cargo carrier, offering comparable performance to some much pricier models. It is easy to install, has plenty of space for many pairs of skis, and its components are impressively durable. Some more expensive boxes feature better handles and more aerodynamic designs, but the Force has plenty to offer without any frills.

Performance Comparison



The Force XT is a simple all-around solid performer that is ready for any type of trip.
The Force XT is a simple all-around solid performer that is ready for any type of trip.

Ease of Use


To rank and score the convenience and ease of use of this cargo carrier, we loaded and unloaded the Force XT XL dozens of times and drove with it for hundreds of miles in a variety of conditions. Installation was also accounted for in our tests, but not prioritized as highly since most users only install boxes once before leaving them on vehicles for long periods.

The PowerClick mounting system is very easy to use and makes installation a quick and simple process.
The PowerClick mounting system is very easy to use and makes installation a quick and simple process.

Requiring virtually no setup, the Force comes ready to go out of the box. Mounting took less than five minutes and the clamps are convenient to adjust for a range of roof rack dimensions. Unlike other models that have bulky mounting fixtures, the Force's clamps are easily tightened by twisting a knob, which clicks when it is adequately tightened. The Force also has some integrated strap handles to make the box easier to close when mounted on a taller vehicle.

The Force XT XL is capable of carrying up to six pairs of skis and is easy to load with tons of gear.
The Force XT XL is capable of carrying up to six pairs of skis and is easy to load with tons of gear.

The main flaw that we found in the Force XT was its lack of a handle for opening and closing the box. This was not a huge pain but could be occasionally frustrating when the box was filled to the brim or being closed in bad weather.

Durability


The Thule Force XT proved itself to be one of the most durable cargo boxes that we tested, with an impressively weather-resistant design and solid construction. Through torrents of rain, none of our belongings in the box saw a drop of water. Short of being fully inundated or subjected to a hurricane we cannot see how it would be compromised by even driving rains or blizzards.

Even after a few hundred miles and being removed several times, the Force only had a few minor scrapes and seemed ready for many years of continuous use. Like most of its competitors, the Force's hinges, lid, and mounting system are all well-designed, ensuring that you'll be able to keep it on the road for a long time. Thule backs its products with a lifetime warranty, which provides some peace of mind if you're worried about your box wearing out.

After many miles  the Force XT hardly showed any signs of use.
After many miles, the Force XT hardly showed any signs of use.

Security


Our security testing accounted for lock design and overall construction. Nothing gave us any major cause for concerns and we would feel fairly confident in the security of the Force. However, a dedicated thief would be able to get into any cargo box without too much of an issue. Generally, it is more secure to lock items in your vehicle rather than a cargo box, but as far as boxes go, the Force felt quite secure.

Like practically every model that we have tested to date, the Force must be locked before you can remove its keys, making it impossible to leave it unlocked so long as you remember to take your keys.

The lock of the Force XT is simple to operate  but not as nice as that of some higher-end models.
The lock of the Force XT is simple to operate, but not as nice as that of some higher-end models.

Appearance


To evaluate appearance we accounted for the styling of each box's shape and how well their finishes held up to continuous use in harsh conditions. Our testers loved the Force XT's matte black finish and found its shape to be sleek without sacrificing storage capacity. The matte black did a good job of concealing scratches and dirt, which are inevitable after a few days of driving in varied weather.

We appreciated the matte black finish of the Thule Force XT  especially after the box had been on our vehicles for a while.
We appreciated the matte black finish of the Thule Force XT, especially after the box had been on our vehicles for a while.

The simple matte finish of the Force pairs well with most cars, though it by far isn't the sleekest cargo box we have seen

Taking in the views in Yosemite Valley  the Thule Force XT is ready for another road trip.
Taking in the views in Yosemite Valley, the Thule Force XT is ready for another road trip.

Value


The cost of the Forceis fair, but there are definitely some more attractive budget options out there that offer comparable performance at a lower price.

Conclusion


Even though the Force XT XL came short of winning an award, it is still a top-notch product that works well for a variety of applications. If you plan to carry multiple pairs of skis and seek a simple mounting system, then it may be an excellent choice. It didn't stand out as a leader in any of our tests, but also didn't disappoint us either.


Steven Tata