The Subaru Outback is a great go-anywhere vehicle! You can take it on the freeway, country roads, and off the beaten path. Some would say it’s the perfect camping vehicle! It has great ground clearance, great fuel economy, a roof rack, and plenty of cargo space.
Now that we know you can go anywhere in your Outback, the question is, what is the best camper for your Subaru Outback? To answer that question, we need to dive into some technical aspects of towing to make sure your adventure is safe for both you and your vehicle.
Subaru Outback Towing Capacity
First, let’s get an understanding of your Subaru’s towing capacity. One main factor in determining your towing capacity is the engine and transmission. Depending on your engine, you will have either a 2,700lb (2.5L Boxer engine) or a 3,500lb (2.4L Turbocharged Boxer engine)(both outfitted with a cvt transmission) towing capacity. Now, I wouldn’t just go out and buy a 3,500lb dry weight camper without getting a full understanding of weight and what towing capacity means.
Besides the trailer weight, your vehicle is also pulling additional weight in things such as passengers, fuel, propane, batteries, food, and anything else you decided to bring on your camping trip. As we start to think about weight, or sometimes called gvwr (gross vehicle weight rating), we need to account for items to your camper and suv that will add weight.
A good, quick rule of thumb is to tow no more than 80% of your max towing capacity. The reason for this is that you will likely encounter hills, headwinds, and exceed speeds that your vehicle may have not been tested for. So give yourself that extra 20% should help account for real-world scenarios. Given that we want to stick around the 80% mark, I suggest towing a camper fully loaded from 2,160lb to 2,800lb (depending on your engine as we mentioned above).
Alright, now that we figured out our max towing, let’s figure out what accessories you need to tow your camper. You will of course need a trailer hitch outfitted to your Subaru. You can have this done at either the Subaru dealership or at a camper dealership. There are some different sized hitches depending on your camper, but you will likely get a 2″ receiver that will handle most of your trailering needs. The hitch receiver will mount just below and slightly stick out from your bumper. Clearing the bumper will give you less trouble and the likely hood of hitting your bumper while driving.
Depending on the weight of your camper, you can also add a brake controller to your Subaru. Usually, any camper over 1,500lb will have electric brakes. Your camper will likely be fitted with electric brakes, and the brake controller will activate the camper brakes once you step on the brakes in your Outback. This is great for reducing stopping distance and also limits wear and tear on your vehicle brakes.
When towing a camper, you are adding extra strain to your tires. The load increases on them and they may not be equipped to handle the extra weight. Make sure you have newer ties (anything older than 6 years is pushing it) and that you are at the proper tire pressure for your camper.
Now that we have a good understanding of what you can tow and the accessories needed, let’s figure out what campers you can tow with your Subaru Outback. Many pop-ups and teardrop campers fall within the capacity of your Outback.
1. Forest River 176LTD Pop-Up Camper
This pop-up camper has a dry weight of 1,465lbs. If you have the 2.5L engine, This leaves about 600lbs free for your camping gear, water, and food. This pop-up has plenty of sleeping space and all of your kitchen needs in a nice, lightweight package. This pop-up is great for a lightweight option for 4 to 5 people.
2. NuCamp Tab S Boondock – Tear Drop camper
If you are looking for a more off-road camper, that sleeps 2 to 3 people, then this is an excellent option. This camper has 15″ sport tires and an Aluminum Utility Platform. It can handle the offroad excursion that you may want to take your Outback on. This camper is just under 2,000lb dry weight, so I would suggest hauling this one only on your Outback that has the higher towing capacity of 3,500lb (remember, we only want to tow 80% of the max for safety).
3. Jayco Hummingbird 10RK
The Jayco Hummingbird is a 2 person offroad camper. It has 15″ mud radial tires and a rubber torsion axle for those bumpy trails. Also, should you decide to go camping in the extreme weather, it has an enclosed underbelly with insulation to keep you warm. This camper is only 1,570lbs dry and can carry cargo to get it up to 2,000lbs. Making it a perfect camper for any Subaru Outback.
So what is the best camper for your Subaru? We have reviewed that a Subaru Outback can safely tow 2,160lbs to 2,800lbs (depending on engine size). And that outfitting with a trailer hitch and a brake controller will get you geared up for your camper. With many options, the choice is yours. Many pop-up, teardrop, and off-road campers are well within your ability to tow with your Subaru Outback.