Norwegians are the most discerning people on earth when it comes to roof racks. Not that I claim it – Norwegians themselves do as in this article. But I can prove it true. In no country I have seen so many cars with rooftop boxes as in Norway. Probably one in every 10 cars has a stylish box fitted to the roof.
Norwegians themselves also claim that many among them drive around with the rooftop boxes mounted all the year round, just because of the looks. Also true – in Norway you can see lots of cars with no load on the rear seats (and presumably none in the trunk either) and only one person inside, but still with a rooftop box mounted.
So as the self-proclaimed most loving country for roof boxes in the world, Norway is the perfect environment to watch one rooftop boxes war – the one being waged between Thule and Packline.
Yes, besides the huge proportion of cars with roof boxes, the second thing you’ll notice when in Norway is that the locals adore the low-height and sleek rooftops made by Packline, a brand whose boxes are famous for its length, width and low profile.
Famous? Well, not so much. In reality, while most people are at least loosely familiar with Thule, not many have heard of Packline. At least outside Scandinavia.
The reason is that Packline roofboxes are only sold in Norway and Sweden (and marginally in Finland) and consequently the brand is mostly unknown to continental Europeans. But Packline, like David in the biblical battle, is making inroads against Goliath – the Swedish giant Thule.
Most of us are accostumed to Thule roofboxes and almost pay no attention to them, but as a novelty for us Packline boxes attract eyeballs with their very low, aerodynamic design, which usually match the car’s personality.
But, are Packline roof boxes better than those made by Thule? Or, is it the other way around? Which brand should you choose? In reality, what’s the difference between Thule and Packline? Well, there are some differences.
On one hand, Thule has been manufacturing roof boxes since 1977 and today it is one of the world’s largest manufacturer – and probably the most well-known. Thule roofboxes are defined by capacity, good usability and nice design. Many of them are big, they are surprisingly easy to mount, and most of them have a very nice bullet-shaped look. However, it must be said that their old, lower end range of grey boxes with a blue sticker were a ‘total fail’, as a teenager would put it.
The portfolio of Thule roofboxes is organized along 4 ranges: Pacific, Motion, Dynamic and Excellence (bear in mind that in Canada, USA and Mexico, Thule has different ranges, namely Pulse, Force, Sonic and Boxter, with different sizes and features).
THULE PACIFIC – Thule’s low end range offers durable roof boxes for the family at a lower price. They lack most of the features that can be found in ranges upper scale. You’ve got them in a variety of sizes, with lengths varying from 139 to 232 cm and heigths ranging from 37 to 45 cm. Available colors are textured anthracite black and silver grey.
THULE MOTION – An upper range, which adds the PowerClick system and a rear gate friendly design. They’ve been designed to fit both cars with short roofs as well as SUVs. Lengths range from 175 to 235 cm and heights from 42 to 47 cm, which is a lot. Available colors are shiny black and shiny silver. These are much more attractive colors than those of the Pacific.
THULE DYNAMIC – This high-end range has an awesome design and features better aerodynamics thanks to the fact that the Dynamic boxes are the shortest in height in the Thule catalogue – the two models in this range are 34 cm and 35 cm tall only. They are designed for SUVs in the first place but they are equally suited for a Volvo V70. As for colors, here we find again the shiny black, but the shiny silver is replaced by a even nicer shiny titanium.
THULE EXCELLENCE – Finally, this is an exclusive, posh roof box with 520 liter packing volume. A luxurious box in a sleek two-tone color with a X-cross on its upper side. It features luxurious specs like box cover and automatic load fixation, but it’s also very pricey. I would only recommend it for large cars.
All of them are hard-shelled roofboxes. Additionally, there are some soft, fabric-made boxes in the so-called Ranger range:
THULE RANGER – Flexible roof boxes which easily folds and stores easily in a bag when not in use. The model is mainly for those who have limited space at the garage or want a cheaper option.
Besides roof boxes, Thule manufactures an enormous portfolio of products, like tows, trailers, backpacks, luggage and duffels, cases for consumer electronics, snow chains… In fact, the Malmö-based company’s brand promise is ‘Bring your life’ – meaning that you can carry whatever you want with the infinite Thule cargo systems.
On the other corner of the ring you’ve got Packline. It’s also a Swedish brand, located at Jönköping, but it’s owned by the Norwegian investing groups HTS. Contrarily to Thule, they pride themselves in focusing in only one product – roof boxes. Their slogan is ‘The Mother of all roofboxes’.
Packline has been manufacturing roof boxes since 1982 with a high finish, optimum strength and perfect fit. Most models are made of metal reinforced fiberglass, but some of them are made of UV-resistant ABS plastic as those made by Thule. Their patented iZi2Connect system to mount on roof bars and roof rack makes fitting really smooth. However, Packline roof boxes are distinguished by nothing but their ultra-sleek, very low height design and the way they match the car’s shape and colours. In their own words:
Pack Line roof boxes are simply the perfect combination of form and function. A box that blends in with the car’s lines. Packline allows all cars to increase storage space without changing the vehicle’s form and function significantly. (…) It is also the result of our pure commitment, and the fact that we are dealing with a single product – roof boxes – and that we have the ambition to bring to the world’s prettiest, most functional and elegant choice. One proof of our success is the fact that Packline produces the world’s best-selling fiberglass boxes.
Packline’s products are divided along three ranges: F, FX and X series:
PACKLINE F-SERIES – The F is for Family, not by chance they provide more load volume and higher than the other models from Packline. A range of spacious roof boxes for those who regard capacity as a top priority – without compromising too much on aesthetics. Some models are made of ABS plastic, while others are made of fiberglass, a material providing long-standing superior properties. Heights vary from 30 to 35 cm.
PACKLINE FX SERIES – All of them made of fiberglass, they combine form and function. They are presented as roof boxes that are in harmony with the car’s design instead of disturbing it. They can be distinguished by their very low profile (heights from 27 cm to 30) and they also assembly extremely close to the car roof. The secret behind this is the lowered position of a unique fastener where the two roof bars are hidden in tunnels inside the box. Additionally, the FX box’s slightly downward angled front improves aerodynamics even more.
PACKLINE X SERIES – This range includes fiberglass-made boxes with unique designs. They all are of the same size (Length: 210 cm, width: 90 cm, height: 27 cm ), but with different patterns: military, calligraphic, girlie, marine, flames, and some of them designed by other brands like Nordica (for skiing enthusiasts) and Sail Racing (for those who prefer the seas). The variety of designs are supposed to reflect your personality and to stand out among roof boxes with conventional colors like black, grey and white.
It is not obvious at first sight, but while both Thule and Packline manufacture roof boxes, their offer is slightly different.
For instance, the tallest Packline boxes (the Packline F Basic and the F Avantgarde, both at 35 cm) are as tall as the shortest Thule (the Thule Dynamic 800, at 34 cm). That means that for the height-conscious buyer, Thule and Packline do not face each other except at the 34-35 height point.
For those who want a very sleek, low-heigth and aerodynamic roof box, Packline is the obvious choise, since Thule can only compete with its shortest box, the Dynamic Dynamic 800 (34 cm tall), but with limitations since it remains far from the 27 cms of the Packline FX-SUV model.
On the other hand, those who need to carry tall objects can disregard Packline almost immediately and should choose Thule, whose range scales up to the impressive 47 cm of the Thule Motion 900, far above from the 35 cm of the tallest Packline model.
In fact, if you prioritize capacity, Thule is a better bet. If form trumps function in your head, then you are naturally attracted to Packline and only the Dynamic range of Thule could compete.
If you’re still unsure, then go for Thule. It’s also a safer bet. Not only their products are distributed worldwide and it’s going to be much easier to get replacements and spare parts, but their aftersales service is absolutely stunning. Additionally, Thule has a greater variety with rooftop boxes all sorts of sizes, colors and features and it’s easier to find the perfect fit.