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Yakima Skybox 16 Carbonite Review

An exceptional value because of its top-notch user friendly design
Yakima SkyBox 16
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $559 List
Pros:  Great handle, cool appearance, less expensive
Cons:  Frustrating installation
Manufacturer:   Yakima
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 14, 2019
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#2 of 7
  • Ease of Use - 40% 7
  • Durability - 25% 7
  • Security - 20% 7
  • Appearance - 15% 7

Our Verdict

We've awarded the Yakima SkyBox Carbonite our Best Buy Award because we felt that it holds its own with the top models, all while costing quite a bit less. The SkyBox scored highly across the majority of our tests and only had a few noticeable flaws. We love its sleek, easy-to-use handle; matte black finish; and sturdy construction. However, its installation process can be a bit frustrating, making it better suited for someone who is going to put it on their car once and leave it there.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The SkyBox Carbonite is an undoubtedly good buy. You can expect exceptional value, especially in comparison to the more expensive boxes in this review. The opening/closing handle is one the best we tested and its matte black finish was hands-down our favorite look. The main downside we found with the SkyBox is the mounting system. We know that many of you only plan on mounting this box once, though, before leaving it planted on your roof for months. If this description fits you, we bet you'll quickly forget about the annoying twenty minutes you spent mounting it and will spend months enjoying all the great other features of its box, including the cash you saved over the premium models.

Performance Comparison

Now presenting our Best Buy Award winner  the SkyBox Carbonite!
Now presenting our Best Buy Award winner, the SkyBox Carbonite!

Ease of Use

We love the handle of the SkyBox and found it extremely easy to open and close, a key factor in its enjoyment score as we packed for a big climbing trip. The box came fully assembled, which we were grateful for, but we were less than impressed with its mounting system. We did like the handle and the security system.

With absolutely no assembly required, we were able to get right down the mounting business with this box. We were already familiar with the system after testing similar products, but we were still left frustrated. The directions given with the box were difficult to understand and we had to turn to the Yakima website for an instructional video to understand the multi-tiered approach. Compared to the U-bolt systems, this system was significantly easier, but compared to the unibody clamps, we were a little disappointed. We eventually got the installation time to under 15 minutes with some practice but always found it to be a bit of a hassle.

Great Value from Yakima
This cargo carrier is also available in a smaller volume than the one we tested. It can still fit skis up to 215 cm but has a volume of 12 cubic feet, compared to 16.

The mounting system includes two thumbwheels and a big, sturdy lever. We weren't instinctively sure which of these three things to do in what order, and it took some playing around to find the right level of tightness for the thumbwheels. Goldilocks syndrome was the name of the game with the Yakima mounting system: we would loosen them too much, but then the lever wouldn't snap tight; we'd tighten them down, but then it was too tight. It took some back and forth to get it right, and then we dreaded taking it off the car because we knew we would have to go through the same ordeal next time. Snapping down a too-tight lever also left the box extremely difficult to remove from the car. While you may be left wondering why we'd recommend this box at all, here's the "but." Many people who use roof boxes install them once and leave them there for a long time. In this case, the savings may be worth the one-time annoying install, especially since the rest of the features of this box scored marks almost as high as the top products overall.

The multiple steps of the SkyBox's installation system left us confused and frustrated.
The multiple steps of the SkyBox's installation system left us confused and frustrated.

Once we got the box on our tester's car, the SkyBox started to shine. We loved its Superlatch handle which is easy to turn and click. The handle pops open the lid, which is both sturdy and easy to open due to the big lip that overlaps the bottom of the box. We never had issues opening or closing this box and enjoyed its straightforward design. It was one of the sturdiest of any in our test and we thought it above-average in simplicity and elegance (if a cargo box can be elegant). All four "long and lean" boxes in our review open on both sides — an amazing feature that shouldn't be overlooked. While not particularly useful on the tester's bigger vehicle, we unanimously agreed that this is a must-have component.


For this metric, we looked at how well the cargo box could withstand both time and weather. We drove around in harsh conditions and waited out numerous rainstorms watching movies in the van while the SkyBox kept our beloved gear safe and dry above. While aerodynamics have long been a big concern in cargo box shopping, we were pleased to find that there was no noticeable difference in our gas mileage during our tests, with the SkyBox or any other model.

Against the elements, the SkyBox was superb. Yakima's mounting system leaves no openings in the box whatsoever, leaving us completely confident in its waterproofness. We sat through a big wind storm on the Eastside of the Sierra one evening and thought we could hear the box bumping around. When we peeked our heads out of the van, however, we could see that the only movement was coming from the flexing factory roof bars themselves; the SkyBox was undoubtedly solid. We should note that since the manufacturer doesn't claim full waterproofness for this box, it would be smart to take extra precautions for your electronics, just in case.

Opening the SkyBox's sturdy lid with ease
Opening the SkyBox's sturdy lid with ease

The construction materials of the SkyBox are top-of-the-line, and we love how easy to open and close it is due to its sturdy lid. While it doesn't feel quite as thick as some of the burliest products, we were still able to open the box with one hand. Its hinges and locks feel on-par with the rest of the boxes in this review. Its handle, one of our favorite qualities that we described above, is burly and firm. We have no doubts that the SkyBox Carbonite will be with you for ages, but if you don't believe us, Yakima offers a lifetime warranty as long as the box remains with the original owner.

Getting ready for a big wall mission in Yosemite thanks to the spacious SkyBox
Getting ready for a big wall mission in Yosemite thanks to the spacious SkyBox


As a full-time road tripper, our main tester was understandably worried about leaving her beloved skis and climbing gear in the roof box while away on overnight missions. The locking mechanisms of the SkyBox left us all more confident, though, and by the end of testing, we felt completely comfortable trusting in the box's security.

One of the things we appreciated about the SkyBox was how easy it was to tell if the box was properly latched or not. The big, beefy handle that we adore stays tilted until perfectly latched. Like all the boxes we tested (except the Sidekick), the key cannot be removed until the box is latched and locked, but we especially like the clear "click" the SkyBox makes to let you know you've closed it right. With the help of the big handle, we can tell from a glance if the box is locked or not, a nice feature that adds to our sense of confidence in the security of our belongings.

The handle of the SkyBox aligned properly  indicating secure latching
The handle of the SkyBox aligned properly, indicating secure latching


We know, we know: all the boxes in this review look pretty similar. At highway speeds, you may not even be able to tell one box from the other. We gave appearance fifteen percent of the overall score, though, because we know that looks matter- whether you admit it or not. We love the matte black finish of this box and we think its timeless shape will let you appreciate this box for years to come.

While marketed for its aerodynamic properties, we generally like the slightly less flashy but equally classy look of the matte and agreed that black was a universal color option. We think the textured finish hides dead bugs easier and could conceivably hide scratches from rocks or other road debris the same way.

The SkyBox displays its timeless  matte black finish.
The SkyBox displays its timeless, matte black finish.


We think this box is an exceptional value for its price. It falls right smack in the middle of the price range for our review, and while its performance was light years ahead of the cheaper boxes, it was also nearly on par or ahead of the most expensive ones. The SkyBox provides excellent user-friendliness, cool style, and long-lasting confidence. What you don't get is ease in taking the box on and off the car, which we think can be overlooked if performed rarely.

Could the SkyBox double as a bivy sack?
Could the SkyBox double as a bivy sack?


We knew pretty quickly when testing this box that it was a great value, making the SkyBox was the obvious winner of our Best Buy Award. Its ergonomic handle is easy to open while also letting us know if the box is latched properly or not. The matte black is our favorite look of any box, and we were impressed by its durable materials and solid construction. While annoying, its mounting system is significantly easier to use than that of the cheaper boxes in this review, so unless you find yourself taking this box on and off your car every weekend, we can wholeheartedly recommend this product.

Lauren DeLaunay