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10 Best Rooftop and Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers of 2021

Adventure requires gear, and gear requires storage. Check out these cargo carriers and decide which will work best for your next adventure.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Best Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carrier

How would you like to add half of a full-size pickup bed to the back of your SUV, car or truck? With 12 square feet of space, the Pakmule Sway-Back ($795) can handle 500 pounds of cargo.

The wobble-free design keeps the basket from shifting while hitched to your vehicle, and the mounting system allows you to open your trunk as long as your gear has clearance. The lightweight aluminum frame (42 pounds) is plenty sturdy. Strap down gear with MULEstraps (sold separately) to keep things secure.

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Best Rooftop Basket Cargo Carrier

Some things can’t fit in a box, like a kayak or bike. In these cases, a basket is the preferred methods of transport.

The Vagabond X ($489) from KUAT Racks can carry two bikes with plenty of space for other items. Two accessories make this box even more versatile — the Cargo Net ($25) that holds down bags and other loose items, and the Xtender ($198) that lengthens the basket from 52 to 73 inches.

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Most Deluxe Rooftop Box Cargo Carrier

The Vector Alpine ($1,500) from Thule is a luxury cargo carrier with top-of-the-line looks and performance. The integrated LED lighting, white interior and felt-lined bottom are chic, especially for a cargo carrier.

The PowerClick quick-mount system sets this box apart by giving that “click” telling you it’s mounted correctly. The SlideLock system also clicks to let you know box is properly closed. Plus, with dual-sided accessibility, it’s easy to get at your stuff.

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Best Value Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carrier

The King Bird ($270) includes an 18-cubic-foot waterproof cargo bag, making it one of the best deals out there for a hitch-mounted cargo system.

It folds up when not in use to reduce the overall length of your vehicle, and the angled shank provides a couple of inches of extra ground clearance. The mesh base and six-inch sides keep smaller items from falling out. Reflectors on the sides, bottom and back of the basket maximize visibility.

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Best Overall Rooftop Box Cargo Carrier

The Yakima CBX Solar rooftop storage box integrates a solar panel charging station, giving you a backup power source to charge batteries and other camping necessities.

The 16-cubic-foot box features a dual-sided opening, and we particularly like the angular look that sets it apart from other cargo carriers. The easy-grab lid handle clicks into place once your gear is clear of blockages. The SKS locks add an additional layer of security to give you that extra peace of mind.

Note: This item usually lists at $1,399, but limited availability makes it hard to find at that price.

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Best Hitch-Mounted Box Cargo Carrier

The Transporter Combi from Thule ($700) is a 13-cubic-foot hitch-mounted box that tilts downward so your trunk can open and close freely. It includes pre-wired taillights to improve visibility, and the ContralLock key system that only engages when all locking points are secured.

The Transporter Combi is one of the largest hitch-mounted boxes that provides secure storage while being stylish and convenient.

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Best Rooftop Bag-Style Cargo Carrier

There are a lot of rooftop bags out there but not many expand to meet your carrying needs. The waterproof Roof Pax expandable rooftop cargo bag ($186) fits vehicles lacking a roof rack. It comes with a five-year material warranty and a protective mat so it doesn’t scratch the roof.

One standout feature: The mechanism that holds the bag down. Most rooftop bags feature straps that are unsafe and illegal in some states. In this system, door hooks lock the bag into place, keeping the straps from creating any slack.

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Trailervia amazon.com

Best Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carrier With Ramp

The MaxxHaul aluminum cargo carrier ($471) includes a five-foot folding ramp that transforms it from a simple gear basket to a loading dock for anything with wheels weighing less than 500 pounds.

The ladder folds up and out of the way, acting as a side rail to strap items, and folds down when space is available. The rust- and corrosion-resistant aluminum frame means the entire system weighs less than 80 pounds.

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Bonus: Best Rooftop Tent/Storage Combo

The Roofnest Sparrow Adventure XL ($3,495) isn’t actually a cargo carrier — it’s a rooftop tent with some cargo-carrier features.

The top of the RoofNest has a built-in rail system to attach bikes, skis or kayaks. The tent itself includes a three-inch foam mattress, waterproof bag and a tent with doors and windows on all sides. The front includes a 100-watt flexible solar charging system, and the indented back allows you to strap more cargo to the outside.

The eight-foot, six-inch telescopic ladder takes seconds to set up and hooks straight into the base of the tent. The windows pop out and double as awnings, providing a two-story view of wherever your vehicle takes you.

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Bonus: Best Hitch-Mounted Gear Trailer

For those who need serious gear-carrying capacity for boats, bikes and everything in between, the Go Easy from SylvanSport (starting at $1,995) is a lightweight, towable trailer that can haul up to four boats or bikes. It includes optional gear storage decks.

The front of the trailer can be upgraded to include a 6.2-cubic foot storage box, and you can add a 44-in. x 43-1/2-in. x 15-in. storage deck to the back. When not in use, the trailer stands on its back for space-saving storage in your garage or shed.

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Prices and links are current as of publication.

Yoon Kim
In 1998, Yoon wrote his first major story while living overseas in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. The story was for his middle school yearbook and the story was actually a poem; a limerick about flowers and ramen. Since then, Yoon has written cover stories for outdoor publications like Elevation Outdoors, Outdoor Retailer Daily and Hanggliding and Paragliding. When not writing limericks, you can find Yoon running his gear blog at gearography.com or hosting the annual travel media conference, Outdoor Media Summit.

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