Basic roof bars on your car are just the foundation for a variety of attachments to go on. Making roof racks an incredibly versatile method to carry all sorts of equipment that wouldn’t otherwise fit – all without using a trailer.

Bike Rack

The individual bike rack trays are an attachment to the roof rack and can be removed and positioned individually to suit any need.

They tend to work with all kinds of bikes and there are even adapters to transport kids bikes, tandems and fat bikes.

But be aware that bike racks affect fuel efficiency negatively due to the increased frontal area.

Since bikes only take up much space in height, but not in width, it is possible to use roof bike racks in combination with some other attachments, like roof boxes.

Roof Box

A roof box (or rooftop cargo carrier) is a waterproof and often aerodynamic box attached to a car’s roof rack. Its main purpose is to increase additional overall storage space for recreational and professional gear alike.

It can help securely transport cargo, that otherwise would not fit inside the car or make room for passengers.

It’s also got one of the smallest effects on the roof rack’s gas mileage due to aerodynamic shapes.

car roof box

Most often you encounter these roof carriers in the winter season when they are housing winter sports equipment.

While most boxes are the perfect height and length for that purpose, they are really an all-season roof rack accessory that can transport all sorts of gear and cargo.

High-quality roof boxes can not only hold spacious but also heavy cargo acting as a second trunk on your roof.

Roof Tent

The exact opposite can be said about roof tents. It adds more sleeping space for travelers, instead of cargo.

In general, a roof tent is a roof rack accessory that allows for a tent to be set up on a car’s roof while parked. This enables travelers to sleep safely above ground while keeping all the gear and cargo stowed away inside the car.

Basically, it is a portable home but less expensive than a trailer, camper van, or RV.

roof tent on a car

If you did a multi-day trip by car before, you know how valuable it can be to leave your suitcases and duffle bags where they are in the trunk, rather than make room to be able to sleep there.

Not only is packing up to make room cumbersome, but then that gear still needs to be stored somewhere overnight.

Either way, if sleeping in the trunk (truck bed) or in a roof tent is your jam, your cargo is out of the way with either using a roof tent or roof box.

Kayak & Canoe

With some ratchet straps and ingenuity, a basic roof rack is all you need in order to safely transport a kayak or canoe.

Some manufacturers like Yakima or Thule did the work and brought dedicated roof racks to market.

While placement on top of the vehicle is what is used most commonly, there are adapters for mounting additional water sports gear on the side as well.

kayak car rack
Kayak mount for roof racks by Yakima.

This way you can increase the total load capacity, but may be limited by your local laws as the side mirror becomes basically unusable.

It is however nice to see there are many options to stack your car completely full of kayaks and canoes.

Surf Boards & SUP Boards

This applies to kayaks and canoes too but is even more applicable to surfboards due to their shape resembling an airplane wing: The aerodynamic effects of driving with boards on a roof is significant.

This is not only true for fuel economy but even more so for the wind that is going beneath the board, essentially lifting it upwards.

surf board roof rack
Surfboard mount for roof racks by Yakima.

For this reason, of all possible attachments to a roof rack, secure mounting is most important here. Often you see a sturdy rope attached to the tip of the board, holding it down against the frontal winds.

Ski & Snowboard Carrier

While most likely you would choose to transport skis and snowboards within a roof box, there are in fact dedicated roof rack accessories available.

They are lower-profile and more aerodynamic of course but are not multi-purpose like roof boxes are.

ski carrier roof rack
Skis on a roof rack: the OG roof rack accessory.

One major benefit of going with a small snow sports carrier over a bulky box is that despite the roof rack you are mostly still able to use parking garages with limited clearance.

Utility Tray

A roof rack can by itself be a complete and sturdy accessory for any adventurer or trades professional. In these cases, the rack is more than two roof bars.

rhino rack roof cage
“XTray” roof basket by Rhino Rack.

It’s a complete platform where hooks, baskets, canisters, boxes, awnings, and basically anything else you would ever need for outdoor activities can be mounted and attached to.

That includes other rack accessories listed above!

These kinds of roof carriers are designed to hold a lot of weight.

With a sturdy design comes a certain initial weight for the rack itself. So total roof load capacity may be an issue for some smaller vehicles.

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