The Thule Weekender was the right box for us because we didn't want or need to carry 200 pounds of stuff on top of our car (and don't forget that every pound raises your vehicle's center of gravity and changes your handling).
We often travel with two kids in a sedan or '99 Chevy Blazer, both of which have limitations on cargo space. We like to carry our golf bags, but there's no way to fit them inside the vehicle. Many of the longer, more aerodynamic boxes don't have the interior height to hold objects the diameter of golf bags, but they're a perfect fit in the Weekender.
Here are some pertinent specs:
- REAR opening - most other boxes are side opening. This also means the lid at the rear of the box opens higher than the front...takes clearance room.
- Fits just about any racks, whether Yakima, Thule or factory roof rack. All you need is crossbars on the car.
- There is one lock (in the center back of the box), and the lock can be keyed the same as other Thule racks and equipment.
- Weight is light enough that I can lift it on and off the car myself.
Access: About the rear opening: this is a plus when you can access the box from behind (like in a Blazer, where you can stand on the rear bumper and it's a snap to access) but it's a pain on a sedan. If you use this box on a sedan or other vehicle with a trunk, you'll end up needing to do a lot of leaning over to avoid dropping things on the trunk. (Or maybe you'll use the trunk as a sitting place? Just don't drop anything!) If you have small objects that slide up near the front of the box, you'll have to dig for them. The box lid opens wide enough that you can reach sideways into the box near the front, but if it's mounted on a SUV you'll have to open a door and stand on the doorsill to be able to reach inside. Don't try this with snow on your shoes or you could end up needing dental work!
One generic comment: THINK about where you want to mount your box and where it opens. If you have a right-side-opening box (as most boxes are) you MUST mount it on the passenger side of the car or you won't be able to get into it. I believe this is actually a safety measure to keep idiots from loading and unloading their cargo boxes on the driver's side of the car while standing in traffic, but the words "plan ahead" do apply.
Also about the rear opening: if you REALLY want to learn how to work with fiberglass, just leave the box lid open and back out of your garage. CRUNCH. The lid sits up high enough when fully open that it will jam on the wall above the garage door opening and "damage" will result. Actually, the plastic of the box held up better than I expected, but I had to fiberglass the pieces back into the front of the box where both front hinges tore out. A side-opening box probably would have scraped but the lid would likely have been forced closed instead of jamming. I also became good at drilling out and replacing pop rivets, as those are used to mount all the hardware.
Adjustments: Each of the four rack mount clamps uses two bolts through holes in the base of the box, and you can move the mounts fore and aft by selecting the holes which line up with your rack placement. You can also drill more holes if you want (as I did) to modify the position options a bit. By making a couple more holes near the front of the box, I shifted its mounting point just a bit rearward and it lines up beautifully with the rear end of the Blazer. The rack clamps are designed so that when the box is locked, the bolts cannot be loosened and you have reasonable cargo security.
Locks: There is just one, right in the center of the box's back panel. As noted above, it can be keyed same as all your other Thule gear. I wouldn't leave the crown jewels in the box, as a few strong pries with a crowbar (or tire iron) will break open any of these boxes, but the lock is strong and well-designed and provides as much security as any box of this nature can. The hardware is good quality, all hinges are strong and stable, and the two pneumatic struts (one on each side) open the lid easily and hold it up strongly.
Aerodynamics: The greatest disadvantage of this box is aerodynamic. The front is more blunt than most other boxes. Although that's the reason is holds golf bags easily, it also means more wind resistance. On a 20-mile trip, this is no biggie, but on 2000-mile trips like the ones we take on vacation, it does add up.
Some mileage difference data:
On a 1990 Audi 200 Turbo, highway mileage fell from an average of 22-24 MPG to @16 MPG with the box mounted. On our 1999 Blazer (the small or S-10 version) the box works better with the body of the vehicle, and highway mileage fell from about 22 to about 18. I would expect this or any other box to make less mileage difference with a boxier vehicle like an SUV than it will with a more slippery car like a sedan.
That's one important issue with a cargo box: there is no free lunch, and the extra frontal area and capacity of the box increases both wind resistance AND total vehicle weight, both of which steal gas. If you're a gas mileage geek who leaves the AC off in summer to save gas mileage, you don't want a cargo box.
Capacity: What box you buy depends on what you need to carry in it. If you want to carry golf bags, then measure the diameter of the bags and make sure the box has the interior capacity to hold them. The Thule Weekender will hold up to three golf bags and a few other items as well, especially if they're soft and pack in around the sides. DO NOT plan to pack all your heavy stuff in such a box, as every cargo box has weight limitations. Weight on top of the car also affects handling and makes cars more prone to roll by shifting the center of gravity upwards. Use cargo boxes for bulky but lighter objects like sleeping bags, coats and sporting goods. Suitcases are probably not the ideal load on top! If you have a Suburban or other large vehicle and want to carry tons of skiers and snowboarders, it will be hard to buy enough racks for all their gear, but a cargo box long enough for the skis will hold a ton of that stuff! Even our small Blazer will hold enough people (5) that if you have snowboarders on board, you may find a cargo box handy to hold the boards because ski racks run out of space fast when loading snowboards.
In addition to being one of the smaller boxes (@ 13 cu. ft.) the Weekender is one of the least expensive boxes available; we bought ours on sale at $215 and were lucky to do so. It's well made, works very nicely for us and serves as extra cargo space for long trips. It may also be the answer for you!
Storage: This thing has to go somewhere when it's not on the car! Storing the box is actually quite easy for me. One afternoon I built a two-piece rack from 1x4 lumber which hangs down from the ceiling of the garage, and I just slide the box into it. The entire storage rack is above head height, and uses ceiling space which could not be used for any other purpose.
And by the way - when you're not actually using them, take the cargo boxes and ski racks off your car! They reduce fuel mileage for every mile you drive by adding wind resistance.
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