Camping in Subaru Outback: Beginners Guide for Outdoor Enthusiasts

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The Subaru Outback – it’s not just a car, it’s a lifestyle. With its rugged appeal, spacious interior, and off-road prowess, this iconic vehicle has long been the trusty steed for adventurers craving the call of the wild. But for those new to the game, transforming this versatile wagon into a cozy campsite might seem a tad overwhelming.

Fear not, fellow outdoor enthusiasts! Camping with the Subaru Outback doesn’t require a PhD in “Car Camping.” With a sprinkle of know-how, a dash of preparation, and a zest for adventure, you’ll be setting up camp under the stars with your beloved Subaru as your shelter in no time.

Whether you’re looking to make memories on a solo journey, a romantic getaway, or a trip with the whole family, let’s shift gears and dive into the ultimate beginner’s guide to camping in a Subaru Outback. Because nature waits for no one, and your Outback? It’s raring to go.

Basic Guide to Camping in a Subaru Outback

We know you’re itching to hit the road and take your Outback camping, and we’ve got you covered. Here’s a basic guide to set up your Subaru Outback for an unforgettable car camping experience.

Basic Pre-Trip Vehicle Check-Up

First things first, you wanna make sure your Subaru Outback is ready for the trip. With its standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and respectable 8.7-inch ground clearance, your trusty Outback is more than prepared to tackle some off-road terrain. Just double-check that your fluids are topped off, tires are in good shape, and give your ride a quick once-over before setting out on your adventure.


It’s all about being efficient and organized when it comes to fitting everything you’ll need into your Outback. Start by folding down the rear seats to create a roomy sleep zone. Keep in mind that you might wanna add a mattress or a sleeping pad for added comfort, especially for overnight trips. Storage-wise, consider using stackable plastic storage bins or soft-sided bags that can easily squeeze into tight spots. Pro tip: pack the items you’ll need most frequently near the opening of your vehicle.

Gather Your Camp Kitchen

If you’re gonna be spending a bit of time at camp, it’s essential to have a reliable cooking setup. A compact portable camping stove is a great option, and you can always use the tailgate or hatch as a makeshift countertop. Don’t forget your cooking utensils, pots, a cutting board, and some reusable dishes. Oh, and a cooler packed with ice or ice packs for your perishable food – gotta keep those brews chill and the veggies fresh!

Power Considerations

For those of you planning to camp in more remote areas, or just want to stay off-the-grid, consider investing in an efficient solar power setup to keep your devices charged. Portable solar panels and an adjustable solar charging station can transform your Outback into a sustainable camper.

Personalize It

Make your Subaru Outback feel like a true camping oasis by adding some personal touches. String some battery-powered fairy lights, bring a compact camp chair, and don’t forget a cozy blanket for those chilly evenings under the stars.

Preparing Your Subaru for Camping

Storage Solutions

You need to make sure you’ve got your storage solutions sorted before setting off. Start by utilizing the roof bars on your Outback for additional space. Grab yourself a sturdy cargo box or basket to keep your gear safe and secure up there, giving you more room inside the vehicle.

For the interior of your Subaru, consider getting a cargo tray to protect the back from dirt and damage. DIY storage solutions like hanging organizers on the back of the seats create extra space for smaller items. And if you need even more room, invest in a hitch-mounted cargo carrier to free up some of that precious cargo space inside.

Setting Up the Bed

Making your Subaru a comfy place to sleep is essential for a successful camping trip. You’ll want a mattress that fits perfectly in the back, filling out the trunk fully when the seats are folded down. An air mattress or a custom-cut foam mattress can both be great choices for this purpose.

Don’t forget to bring some cozy bedding too! A sleeping bag or blankets and pillows will make your nights out in the wild just that much more comfortable. For privacy, consider curtains or window shades that are specifically designed for your Subaru Outback – they’ll keep prying eyes out while you’re getting some well-earned rest.

Off-Road Preparations

When you’re camping in the great outdoors, you never know what kind of terrain you’ll come across. Luckily, your Subaru Outback is built for off-road adventures with its all-wheel drive system and impressive ground clearance. But, let’s make sure you’re extra prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

Check your Subaru’s battery – you don’t want to be caught with a dead battery when you’re miles away from civilization. Carry a portable jump starter just to be on the safe side. Also, ensure you have sturdy and durable tires that can handle a variety of terrains.

Keep an eye on your Subaru’s underbody. Although the vehicle’s high ground clearance helps prevent scrapes and damage, it’s still a good idea to inspect regularly and consider some extra protection, like skid plates, if you plan to tackle rough roads frequently. And ensure you have some essential off-road gear like a shovel, traction mats, and a tire repair kit just in case any surprises come your way.

Staying Comfortable

Managing Space

Organizing your Subaru Outback’s interior is a crucial part of staying comfortable. Use hooks and bungee cords to secure your stuff and maximize space. Remember to fold down seats for extra sleeping quarters, and consider a sleeping bag for added coziness. Just make sure you’ve got enough room for all your gear.

Maintaining Privacy

When camping in your Subaru, privacy can be essential. Get creative with window coverings like sunshades, blankets, or curtains to block out prying eyes. You can even make your own customized window shades for a perfect fit. Always keep your belongings out of sight, and park in secluded spots if possible to enhance your sense of privacy.

Ensuring Ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential for a comfortable camping experience. Crack open your windows to allow airflow and prevent condensation. Use car window screens or mesh to keep out bugs while allowing air to circulate. If you’re worried about rain, invest in window deflectors to keep water out while still allowing for fresh air.

Protection from Bugs

Nothing ruins the camping experience like a swarm of bugs getting into your cozy Subaru. Prepare for these uninvited guests by using bug repellent and fabric with permethrin. Install car window screens to allow for ventilation while keeping insects at bay. And before settling in for the night, double-check your vehicle for pesky critters that might’ve snuck in.

Maximizing Off-Road Performance

Ground Clearance

When you’re hitting the off-road trails in your Subaru Outback, ground clearance is essential. You want to ensure your vehicle can easily navigate rough terrain without scraping its underbelly. Thankfully, the Outback boasts a respectable ground clearance of 8.7 inches, which rivals many SUVs. With this clearance, you can confidently tackle rocks, branches, and other obstacles without worrying about damaging your ride.

However, if you’re looking to enhance your Outback’s off-road capabilities even further, consider investing in a lift kit. This will raise your vehicle’s suspension, providing even more clearance for challenging off-road excursions.

All-Wheel Drive Capabilities

The Subaru Outback is equipped with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD), which is crucial for maintaining traction and control in off-road conditions. This system evenly distributes power to all four wheels, enabling your vehicle to conquer mud, snow, and uneven terrain with ease. But remember, it’s important to use the appropriate AWD settings based on the specific terrain you’re tackling.

When it comes to off-roading, certain modifications can also improve your Outback’s AWD performance. For example, installing all-terrain tires can enhance grip on various surfaces, while upgrading your vehicle’s suspension can lead to better handling and control.

Mud and Trail Handling

Thanks to its advanced AWD system and high ground clearance, the Outback provides you with ample confidence when faced with muck and mire. But to make sure your vehicle can really show off its mud-slinging abilities, there are some additional upgrades you might consider:

  • All-terrain tires: Designed for improved grip and traction in mud, sand, and other rough surfaces.
  • Skid plates: Protect your vehicle’s undercarriage from damage caused by rocks and debris.
  • Recovery gear: Equip yourself with a winch, tow straps, and other essential safety equipment in case you get stuck.

Options for Sleeping in the Vehicle

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses are a popular option for car camping in your Subaru Outback. There are several products specifically designed for your vehicle, such as the Luno Life air mattress. This custom-fit mattress inflates in minutes, providing a comfortable surface to rest on. Be sure to pack a battery-powered air pump to make inflation a breeze.

Foam Mattresses

Another option for converting your Outback into a sleeping chamber is using a foam mattress. Foam mattresses are great for providing consistent support and insulation from the ground. You can find foam mattresses in different sizes and thicknesses to suit your needs. Memory foam options can also be found for added comfort.

Sleeping Pads

If you’re looking for a lightweight and minimalist approach, sleeping pads can do the trick. Sleeping pads offer a thin layer of cushioning and insulation between you and the vehicle surface. These tend to be more affordable than air mattresses or foam options while still providing plenty of comfort. Some popular options include self-inflating pads and closed-cell foam pads.

Rooftop Tents

For those who want a separate sleeping space from their vehicle, rooftop tents are the way to go. These tents are mounted on top of your Subaru Outback and can accommodate traditional gear like sleeping bags and mattresses. Rooftop tents come in various styles, such as three-season tents, to meet your camping needs. Just keep in mind, they require a compatible roof rack system for installation.

Practical Tips for Camping on the Road

Choosing Locations

When you’re planning a road trip in your Subaru Outback, picking the right camping spots can make all the difference. Be sure to research campgrounds, trails, and off-grid locations in advance, taking into account their accessibility, popularity, and available amenities. 

Packing Efficiently

Smart packing is key for a comfortable and successful camping experience. Make use of your Subaru Outback’s storage space, and be sure to pack only what’s necessary. Consider:

  • Clothes: Bring weather-appropriate clothing and pack layers to handle temperature changes.
  • Shelter: Pick a compact sleeping bag, a bivy sack, or a small tent, depending on your preferences and space limitations.
  • Food & cooking: Don’t forget a camping stove, fuel, and lightweight cooking utensils. Pack non-perishable and easily-prepared meals.
  • Equipment: Bring reliable navigation tools, such as a GPS device or maps, and essential tools like multitools and spare car parts.

Managing Power Usage

Power management is crucial when camping with your Subaru, especially for extended trips and off-grid adventures. Keep track of your battery usage and pack a dedicated power station to charge your gadgets and devices. As for charging your vehicle, make sure you’ve got a good idea of the nearest charging stations or plan stops at places with charging facilities.

Camping Off-Grid

Off-grid camping in your Subaru Outback can be an exciting experience, but be prepared. Research routes, trails, and potential campsites so you’ve got several options in case plans change. Make sure you have enough fuel and battery reserves to handle off-grid conditions, and carry plenty of water and food, as you might not have easy access to these necessities.

Additional Vehicle Upgrades and Modifications

DIY Modifications

When it comes to maximizing the potential of your Subaru Outback for camping adventures, there is a wide array of DIY modifications you can undertake. With the versatile nature of the SUV, you don’t have to be an advanced mechanic to pull off some impressive tweaks.

  • Roof Rack: Installing a roof rack expands your cargo capacity, allowing you to carry more gear or even a rooftop tent.
  • Hitch: Adding a hitch to your Outback enables you to pull a small adventure trailer, increasing your cargo space and camping flexibility.
  • Sleeping Platform: Building a custom sleeping platform can provide you with a comfortable, stealthy sleeping area while maintaining the vehicle’s storage space.

Overlanding Set-up

As an avid hiker and camper, you can convert your Outback into the ultimate overlanding rig. The Subaru Outback’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is perfect for handling off-road terrain, and its fuel efficiency is an added bonus. Some key upgrades for overlanding include:

  • All-terrain tires: Enhancing your vehicle’s off-road capabilities with more aggressive all-terrain tires.
  • Tentbox: To get the most out of your overlanding adventures, attach a Tentbox for elevated sleeping and additional storage.
  • Bash Plates: Protect the underbody of your Subaru by installing bash plates as additional armor for your vehicle.

Adventure Mobile Conversion

Completely transforming your Outback into an adventure mobile is an ambitious and fun project. This process aims to create a self-sustained, fully-equipped vehicle for extended trips. Some adventure mobile conversions include:

  • Solar Panels: Installing solar panels on your roof rack helps power accessories and charge batteries while you’re off the grid.
  • Cooking Set-up: Design a compact cooking area with storage for utensils, dishes, and supplies to enjoy home-cooked meals on the road.
  • Water Storage & Shower: Add water storage tanks and a portable shower system to ensure you have clean water for drinking, washing, and cooking.

With these modifications, your Subaru Outback will be ready to tackle any adventure with ease and make you feel right at home, even in the great outdoors.

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