by Jill Adler –
I couldn’t get into the underground parking garage at Salt Lake Magazine’s office yesterday. That was a surprise as I can drive into practically every garage – even with a cargo box on top of my SUV. You’re laughing. No seriously I have an SUV with a cargo box and I park in parking garages. I don’t like parking on the street. It costs money or there’s a time limit; or both. I like garages. But when you have an SUV with a cargo box, they don’t always like you.
I tried ski racks but I was forced to take my gear off the car and lock it inside if I wanted to park anywhere. Don’t try to tell me you can just lock the rack. I’ve watched people come out to their car after dinner to find the entire rack- with skis attached – stolen. But throw everything you own in the box and robbers still will never know. Are they really going to spend an hour trying to take the whole box only to discover it’s empty? And you would think someone would notice thieves running down the street carrying a big plastic box.
Sure, I could skip the box entirely, toss everything into the back of my car, save a ton of money and have no problems parking but then I turn the inside of my SUV into a mobile purse ripe for boosting. Not to mention the dirt and snow I’d deposit inside and the slicing to be had on seats and ceilings from my metal edges and points. No, I wanted a box and nothing but the Yakima LoPro Skybox would do. Literally.
Standard-height boxes barred me from even my own garage. I scraped the concrete ceiling or metal combustion tubes at the mall and most times I had to skip the garage altogether and park on a street. Boo. The profile of the Yakima LoPro Skybox enabled me to have my cake so to speak. The box of ABS plastic stands under a foot high but holds 15 cubic feet.
I’ve squished five sets of skis and poles in the box without a gripe. And the total height on my car remains less than 7 feet (actually it’s about 6’8″) which means I’m parking in most underground garages. In addition, it opens from either side so you can choose where you mount it on your rack.
The box itself took a little getting used to and later some TLC from Yakima customer service. But now I’m happy.
It mounted quickly and easily onto my crossbars but I had issues with the locks. The salt, snow and cold turned them into little enemies intent on blocking me out. I’d stand over them in the freezing cold, fighting to either unlock or lock the box for what seemed like an hour.
Yakima designed their locking system to keep you from driving away with the box gaping open so you have to lock the box whether it’s full or empty before you can get your key out. That’s a pain if you know the lock doesn’t work because it renders the box unusable. I called the 800 number, CS immediately sent me new locks (which I’ve used for two seasons now) and all was right with the world.
The aerodynamic box itself is bomber. I regularly grab the base to hoist myself up as I’m removing gear and it feels solid under my hand. There’s a solar-powered light inside the lid that shines when you open the box and a removable pad on the base but both are irrelevant. I don’t usually unload in the dark and my edges and bindings shredded the pad in a matter of days. A lid mirror, on the other hand, would have been an slick feature.
Despite what the manual tells you, it often takes more than one hand to open and close the box with the “Super Latch” system. One hand pulls down on the lever and the other pushes up on the lid. But it all happens from the center so you aren’t moving front to back to unlock the box. There’s a red pull rope inside the lid that you grab to close it but it can get in the way. If you lock it into the latch you’ll be struggling with full force to get the box open the next time. I plan to play around with it and figure out a better spot for the rope. Finally, to get the key out, you have to actually give the lid a firm slap on the back end to get it to close completely and lock.
One word of advice. Watch your head if you have a mini-SUV. The clamps on the base around your crossbars don’t move back far enough to scoot the box up towards the windshield. In other words, expect to nail your head on your hatch at least once a week because the box keeps it from opening completely.
Ultimately, the LoPro is my favorite part of my car even with all of its minor nuisances. There are other slim boxes on the market but none install or open as easily, fit so much, and get me into super tight spots without disintegrating.
Jill Adler is an award-winning outdoors writer and broadcaster based in Park City, Utah. As a professional skier, rock climber, kayaker, hiker and mom, she goes out of her way to play hard and tell about it. To find out more or to send her a note, follow her on Twitter @pcskigal.