We were fairly sure, nearly from the beginning, that we would want cargo boxes on our roof for the extra storage space.  While we have pared down our possessions to be quite minimal, two people and a dog plus stuff all inside the van is quite cramped.  Putting some of that stuff, especially seasonal items, up on the roof should help quite a bit.  The only other options were to get a larger van or tow a trailer, both of which are unacceptable! (How would we get easily into back-country that way?)

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We’ve been researching the different cargo boxes available, and there are a bunch of constraints that the ideal solution had to meet:

  1. Total height of the van must be under 9 feet (we may add a lift kit to the van in the future, so there’s another few inches subtracted from cargo box height)
  2. We don’t want something that is wider than the van, it looks silly (and might be top heavy?)
  3. Must be long enough to fit skis and/or snowboards (we don’t own them yet, but might in the future!)
  4. Zero, or minimal, shading of the solar panels
  5. Weather-tight and lockable (this rules out a safari rack or ladder rack)
  6. Can’t interfere with the MaxxFan
  7. Hopefully aerodynamic to not completely kill our fuel economy

Because of the long list above, our options were quickly narrowed down.  In the end, we picked up two Thule Sonic Alpine 633 Black cargo boxes and Thule 65 inch wide load bars with 5 inch tall gutter mount feet.  This is about as close to the ideal solution as we could get.  It would be nice if the boxes were a tad narrower and shorter (front to back), but it doesn’t cause any problems.

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We had to get two narrow boxes instead of one large, wide box because of the MaxxFan in the middle of the roof.  As it turns out, the boxes hang over the edges of the roof by a couple inches, but they aren’t wider than the widest part of the van body.

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Another benefit to having the boxes where they are is that the MaxxFan is now a bit more hidden from view.  It’s not quite so obvious when the fan is opened up for venting.

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Sure, it doesn’t look much like a work van anymore, but at the same time, it also doesn’t look so much like a creep van, right?  It just has the ‘adventure mobile’ look now, and in Colorado at least, that doesn’t stick out much at all.

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The Thule Sonic boxes can be opened from either side, which means there are handles and locks right next to the MaxxFan (that we’ll never use), but thankfully, there is just barely enough clearance that the fan and the boxes never contact, even when everything is open.

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It’s very close, but because of the pointed shape and short height of the cargo boxes, there is almost never any shading of the solar panels.

With everything on the roof for the past few weeks, we have noticed that our fuel economy has become 15-16MPG down from 17-18MPG.  It is unfortunate, but also to be expected.