How to Pack a Rooftop Cargo Carrier

December 18, 2021

Ready to hit the road and need some extra space in your vehicle? Introducing the Pelican rooftop cargo carrier, designed to secure cargo boxes to bring along all your important gear and belongings. From hunting and sporting equipment to suitcases, sleeping bags and pet beds, a cargo carrier can give you and your passengers some extra elbow room for a more comfortable ride.

But before you stash all your gear up top, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, learn how to pack a rooftop cargo carrier properly so you can travel safely, keep items from getting damaged and retrieve items quicker once you arrive at your destination.

Distribute Heavier Items Correctly

Before we dive into how to pack a rooftop cargo carrier, let’s talk about weight distribution. Even with the hardiest and toughest roof storage box, you don’t want to overload it on top of your car.

So, first, determine your car’s weight limit and the storage box’s weight limit. While the weight limits are usually pretty high, it’s a good idea to know it regardless. You can typically find your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) on the driver-side door sill or the manual. For the cargo carrier, it should be in the instructions or manual also.

Now, before you load up the carrier itself, place heavier items in the vehicle, whether it’s a truck bed or the trunk of a car. Keeping heavier items closer to the ground is safer and ensures your vehicle is not top-heavy.

Be mindful of your weight distribution, both inside and outside of your car. For example, weighing your cargo carrier down on one side can cause items inside to be crushed or slide around too much. A good rule of thumb is to secure heavier items towards the middle or split the difference with some heavy items to each side.

Know Your Roof Rack’s Weight Limit

In addition to knowing your GVWR and carrier’s weight limit, you should also know your roof rack’s weight limit. The average roof rack caps out around 165 pounds. But remember that this is your entire weight, so you will need to consider how many pounds the cargo boxes weigh, too.

Also, determine your cargo box size and how many you might need. What size cargo box do I need? Learn more and find the perfect size to keep hunting gear, camping equipment and all your essentials.

Place Suitcases and Sports Equipment Overhead

secure cargo rooftop carrier

Place bulky or awkward items like suitcases, luggage and sports equipment up top. Lay suitcases side by side in your cargo carrier to stack them snugly together. This will prevent them from sliding around. Plus, by keeping your luggage in your overhead carrier, you can free up some trunk space for heavier things like coolers and camping gear.

When it comes to sports gear, especially long equipment like skis and snowboards, place them overhead as well. Then, these cumbersome items can slip in nicely and won’t crowd or get in the way in the back seat.

Secure Items with Extra Straps and Holders

Some cargo carriers come with extra interior straps and holders that help secure smaller, looser items. Be sure to take advantage of these small conveniences and take time to secure bits and pieces that might otherwise tumble around and make lots of noise once you get on the road.

Even if you don’t use exterior straps and holders for long pieces of sports equipment like skis, they are versatile enough to act as compartment dividers, separating and securing belongings.

Lastly, strap down the cargo boxes themselves once everything is tucked and packed in nice and tight. Pelican cargo boxes offer tie-down plates specifically for this step, giving you some peace of mind even as you are off-roading for your next hunting or camping adventure.

Choose a Weather-Resistant, Dustproof Cargo Box

Many cargo carriers are designed to be placed on the top of your car with little concern for whatever downpours you might experience on your journey. Some sites even suggest covering your cargo boxes and carriers with an extra protective layer of plastic.

Why choose a cargo carrier that requires this extra step? Instead, we suggest using something more durable, like the weather-resistant and dustproof Pelican cargo cases. These cases are made tough-as-nails and can withstand downpours, dust storms and more with a roto-molded construction and interior O-ring to keep everything out.

Use Teamwork to Load

Rooftop cargo carriers and boxes can be challenging to load, especially if your vehicle’s roof is higher and harder to reach. So, our last suggestion on how to pack a rooftop cargo carrier is to use the buddy system. Have one person climb a small step stool or into the truck bed, while the other hands off the lighter preloaded cargo boxes and larger equipment and items to go inside ones already mounted. This way, one person isn’t wasting time climbing up and down. It also offers a level of safety, too.

Now that you have a few tips on how to pack a rooftop cargo carrier, where will you go? Or more so, who and what will you choose to bring with all that extra interior cabin space and freedom to move about?

shop pelican cases


Sign up for our newsletter and get exclusive access to new product launches, special offers and much more.