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Gear Review: $50 Rooftop Duffle

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Taking a prairie dog break under the big sky in Montana.

 Item: CargoLoc Rooftop Carrier
Size: 15 cubic feet
Price: about $50

This is basically a big duffle bag for your vehicle’s roof. We bought this after failing to find a hardshell rooftop carrier on short notice. It was about $50 at the local Farm and Fleet, which gets bonus points for actually stocking it. We lashed it to the roof of a rented Dodge Journey (don’t stop believing) for a trip from the Midwest to the West Coast in July. Eight states, 1,900 plus miles there and and another 1,900 back, interstate speeds legally reaching 80 mph. Loading and unloading during hotel stops each night.

I was very impressed with how this gear turned out. Only problem was the fixtures on the straps. The buckles held up, but I busted two of the four plastic cinching hardwear pieces during the initial load up. For a workaround, I knotted the straps at the buckle to hold the position. The roof cargo included four roller suitcases, a medium backpack, a soft swim gear bag and an extra pillow we brought along for some reason.

For weather, we encountered everything for 100-degree heat and blazing sun in the Badlands to light rain to short but intense showers in Wyoming to snow in Yellowstone and more snow in the mountainous Idaho/Montana border. No sub-zero temps, though. As an added precaution, we wrapped everything in contractor-grade trash bags before zipping it into the roof bag. Turned out everything stayed dry. The weather never got through to even dampen the trash bags.

The bag probably gave us more flexibility than a hard-case carrier when it came to arranging the cargo, and it was easy to store when we reached our destination. 

Bag worked great there and back, and it’s ready for more travels. Excellent value for the price.

Assorted notes:

Tie down the loose ends of the straps or they will bang around and annoy the crap out of you as you drive.

Crossbars on the roof rack help. Keeps the load from migrating back with the wind. We used a pair on one-size-fits-most bars we acquired at a big-box retailer. They have the added bonus of fitting on my wife’s Jeep after we removed them from the rental.

Driving with the empty bag on the roof sounds like a hailstorm and risks damaging the duffle bag — even at a slow 15 mph while driving from the hotel to the Cody, Wy., Wal-Mart to buy my son a belt that he forgot to pack.

Rain ride

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Saturday morning

I took another bike ride in light rain under cloudy skies. Here’s a list of people I passed:

— Two residentially challenged cyclists breaking camp on the bike trail.

— A couple out for a morning ride.

— A church youth group setting up for a car wash fundraiser. Now that’s faith.
Thursday night

Last night, thunderstorms had just finished rolling through after two days of on-and-off rain. Sometimes hard, driving rain. Everything was soaked — the streets, the grass, the leaves in the trees — and there was still a constant spray in the air.

Heading out for a quick trip to the grocery store, I walked into the cold air and across the wet lawn to the garage. Unlocked the door, turned on the light and glanced at my car. Then glanced at my bike parked a foot from the front bumper.

I weighed my options and chose for the cold, wet, invigorating bike ride in the dark.

Photo: Rain on the bridge

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We spent the morning looking for things to do around our old stomping grounds but ended up driving around in the rain. Too cold to try out the splash park, too rainy to take the kids for a walk on the banks of the Mississippi River. Our favorite coffee place didn’t open until noon. During the drive, I held the camera out the window as we crossed the Centennial Bridge at got this shot. (6.26.12)

(Note: Originally posted June 26, 2012)

Photo: Tank

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A few weeks ago I traveled to Nashua, Iowa, to cover a Civil War reenactment in the rain. On the way to the historic site, I passed a veterans park next to the city dam. I snapped this shot of a M60A3 tank as the rain came down. (c) J.S. Reinitz

A few weeks ago I traveled to cover a Civil War reenactment in the rain. On the way to the historic site, I passed a veterans park next to the city dam. I snapped this shot of a M60A3 tank as the rain came down. (c) J.S. Reinitz