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The Subaru Outback is a very popular SUV – many people have turned it into a home on wheels for short and medium-length trips and it’s easy to see why. It’s a spacious, practical and capable off-roader for traveling and camping in the backcountry.
In this blog post we share the best Subaru Outback camper conversion DIY ideas and kits we could find.
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Why go for a Subaru Outback Camper Conversion
There are a number of reasons why the Subaru Outback makes for a great camper.
You won’t need to take out the back seats to go car camping in it. If you fold them down and move the front seats forward, you create a 6ft by 4ft bed. Not bad for an SUV, huh?
There’s also a decent amount of storage space in the spare tire well and under the front seats, which comes in very handy. The total cargo space is 75 cubic feet, so you will have no problem taking all your favorite camping gear with you.
The all-wheel drive is also very attractive – you can take your Subaru Outback almost anywhere, as it’s got great traction, stability, and control. The 8.7in ground clearance helps you venture even further.
Many models of Outback come with a sturdy roof rack as standard, so you can easily add awnings, roof boxes, roof racks and similar accessories. These make the camping experience a lot more comfortable. Take everything off the car on a Sunday night and you’re ready to drive it to work on a Monday morning.
Turning your Subaru Outback into a camper doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. You can either buy a conversion kit, a roof top tent, a small trailer, or go for a DIY build. Let’s look at all options.
Subaru Outback Camper Conversion Kits
If you’re not a DIY fan, you can buy a camper conversion kit. This will need assembling and installing, but that’s a much easier feat than planning and building furniture from scratch. Some kits do not require any drilling or screwing and all of them can turn your SUV into a camper in less than half a day. What’s not to love?
Bear in mind that most kits are made to order, so there’s usually a waiting list. Make sure you ask for the lead time and order in advance to avoid disappointment.
1) Kitch’In by Vanpackers
The Kitch’In conversion kit is a compact kitchen designed to fit in your Subaru Outback trunk.
It features two slide out tables at the back – one has room to cook on and one has a retractable sink. There’s also a dedicated cooler storage space, a removable plywood drawer, and room for a water tank. The top of the box can be removed and turned into an outdoor table, thanks to the leg and support included in the package.
The kit essentially turns your trunk into a kitchen, making it very easy to cook hearty warm meals on the road.
You can install the Kitch’In kit without drilling or modifying your vehicle in under five minutes.
2) Sleep’In Kit by Vanpackers
The Sleep’In Kit turns your Subaru into a full RV with a sleeping platform. When the whole kit is folded down it creates a decent-size double bed for the night. During the day, you can fold away the bed and use the rear part of it as an outdoor kitchen.
Here there are a storage box and a double slide out table, on which you can cook and wash up. One of the bed panels turns into a table – a leg and support are included in the kit.
It’s really got everything you need and installation only takes five minutes.
Warning: this kit does not fit the Hybrid Subaru Outback model.
3) Subaru Outback Camper Conversion Kit by Compass Campers
Compass Campers produce a lightweight kit made of aluminium and birch plywood with two full extension drawers. The platform bed is lined with carpet to make it feel less hard, so you can put a thinner mattress on top. At the back of your SUV you’ll be able to open two full extension drawers. One has a surface on which to cook, while the other is for storage.
We love the look of the birch plywood finished with Tung Oil. The kit comes fully assembled, so you just need to pop it in your SUV and hit the road.
4) Universal Aluminum Car Camper Bed Platform by Compass Campers
Compass Campers also make this more minimalistic version of their kit. It’s essentially their aluminum frame with the lined bed platform. There are no drawers underneath, which saves you some cash. You can just fill the storage with boxes and slide them out as you need them.
This kit is ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to cook by their tailgate all the time or someone who needs to be able to take the kit out in no time.
5) Camping Kit for SUV by Roadloft
This ply kit is super functional. The platform bed can be set up as a single or double and features ventilated panels to allow plenty of air flow. The platform is hinged and can be lifted to reveal the ample storage space. This is especially useful if you keep a cooler under it, as you can access it anytime.
At the back there’s a big plywood drawer on top of which there’s an aluminum-lined panel and wind guard for cooking on and a slide-out retractable sink.
Installation is quick and easy – it only takes five minutes and a star screwdriver.
To get $100 off your Roadloft order, use the coupon code TWH100.
6) Bounty Hunter Compact by Freeway Camper Kit
The Bounty Hunter Compact features a unique interlocking design. It’s made of 15mm (5/8”) Poplar wood veneers from sustainable wood plantation, which give it a smart look.
The sleeping platform is adjustable, so you can set the height of your bed to allow for more or less storage space. At the rear, there’s a large slide out table with a retractable sink in it. You can use this to prep and cook food.
The best bit? You can assemble the kit without using any tools whatsoever.
Warning: this kit fits Subaru Outbacks with a low profile only.
Subaru Outback Camper Conversion DIY Inspiration
Would you rather design and build your very own Subaru Outback camper conversion? You’ll be able to set up your rig exactly as you like, which is a huge advantage. However, if you plan on building furniture from scratch, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and effort to this project.
If you have to save money and can compromise on comfort, you can go for a no-build conversion. This option doesn’t require any DIY skills and can be done in less than a day, once you’ve gathered the gear you want.
We’ve put together a list of the best DIY Subaru Outback campers out there to inspire your own build.
1) Chase Christopher’s Subaru Outback Camper Conversion
Chase went from truck camping to car camping in his Subaru Outback because sleeping in a 5 and a half foot truck bed in the winter was getting a little cold and… cramped! He removed the seats of the Outback completely to create extra space, so his conversion is semi-permanent.
Chase built a very low platform bed out of plywood which takes up most of the space in the back of the SUV. He placed a thin mattress and sleeping bag on top of it. Underneath it there’s a limited amount of storage space.
On the left hand side of the bed, he added a narrow cabinet which holds all his kitchen supplies, including a water tank, leisure battery, and fan. He can access these from the side and through a drawer at the back of the car. When under the tailgate, he can pull out two long slide out tables on which he can cook.
On the left hand side of the car, he built a suspended desk platform, which he can attach to the headrest of the driver’s seat and use while sitting at the back. Finally, he added two roof storage boxes in which he can keep skis, ropes, snowshoes, and more.
Chris uses the camper on his days off to go on short adventures, so he can keep growing his freelance photographer side business. This rig is super clever and allows him to keep everything well organized.
2) Jake’s No-Build Camper
Jake moved to Colorado to go on wild camping adventures with his wife, so he bought a new Subaru Outback. He didn’t go for a full DIY build, as he wanted to experiment with different setups first. He simply placed a blow-up mattress in the back of the car.
To level the bed, he added some blankets in the trunk. As there’s no storage in the back of the car (other than in the foot wells), Jake installed a roof top box in which he can store everything he needs.
This no-build camper is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to make any modifications to their Subaru Outback. It’s not a setup we’d recommend for holidays or long trips, but it’s a great low-cost option for 1 or 2-night weekends away.
3) Doug: A Versatile Subaru Outback Home On Wheels
Andrew turned his 2000 Subaru Outback, Doug, into a camper with next to no building experience. He needed a rig which allowed him to camp solo or with a friend and to use the vehicle as a car when needed. He didn’t want to disassemble the camper every other day to transport passengers and he wanted to be able to store spare parts in it.
So Andrew built a 6ft1in by 42in bed platform using 3/4in plywood panels. This is made of six carpet-lined pieces, so he can remove the front panels to use the rear seats or to make a single bed. The platform is supported by removable legs. The storage room under the platform in the trunk is 8in tall and the panels are hinged, so he can access deeper storage.
We love ow functional this rig is. It’s not permanent, but Andrew prefers to leave the trunk section set up at all times to keep everything organized.
4) The Hungry Hiker’s Outback Camper
Kathleen, a solo long-distance backpacker, converted Lucy, her Subaru Outback, into a camper with her dad’s help. She uses Lucy to go on solo camping and hiking adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Kathleen decided to build a queen-sized platform bed which takes up the whole of the back of the car.
It simply rests on the rear seats. She keeps all her gear under the platform in easy-to-slide, large but short, storage containers.
At the back of the camper there’s an extra panel that folds out of the trunk and becomes a big table and kitchen surface, thanks to two telescopic legs. She keeps her cooler in the right hand side passenger seat footwell. Kathleen also added a roof box, in which she stores more hiking and camping gear.
When it rains or it’s very hot, she places a Sportbrella on top of the tailgate to create a sheltered area under which to cook.
We love how easy to build this standard car camper conversion is and the clever use of the Sportbrella.
5) 4xpedition Adventure’s Off-roading Rig
Scott created his dream Subaru Outback overland setup and tested it for three years; he’s still in love with it. He didn’t want his bed to take up the back of his car, so he opted for a roof top tent. The surface area of the bed in the tent is a lot bigger; it can sleep two people very comfortably. Scott stores all his camping gear in the back of the car.
He installed a tow hook, all terrain tires, a bumper guard, an LED light bar and fog lamps, a class 3 hitch, and a off road high clearance hitch gate. This gear allows him to venture further into the wilderness.
His Subaru Outback camper conversion looks serious.
6) Bourbon Moth Woodworking’s Conversion
Jason converted his friend’s Nathan’s Subaru Outback into a camper using his fine woodworking skills. After removing the back seats, he built a platform bed with two full extension drawer slides accessible from the back of the car. These feature a panel on which Nathan can cook. Nearly half the platform is taken up by a furniture unit in which Nathan can store a lot of gear, including a cooler.
On the roof, Jason added a solar panel, so the car has an independent power system.
This setup is fantastic for solo travelers wishing to go on longer trips.
7) Alex Haraus’ Subaru Outback Camper
Alex goes on wild camping adventures on his 2017 Subaru Outback Spaceship Smitty regularly. His build features a platform bed and a storage unit with a dresser, library, shelf, and drawers. Under the platform bed there are two full extension drawers which act as a kitchen.
The camper sleeps one person but the back seats are still in place and part of the platform can fold up, so Alex can use the right back seat as a mini office.
This camper suits a solo working van lifer perfectly.
8) Jalapeño On Trail’s No-BuildSubaru Outback Camper Conversion
Jalapeño On Trail wanted to camp out of his 2019 Subaru Outback with his wife without losing any of the headspace available in the vehicle. He didn’t build any furniture – he just placed a futon mattress in the back. The couple use the rear seats’ foot wells for storage, as well as a roof top box.
Jalapeño On Trail also added a side awning and a hatchback tent at the back to make it more comfortable to camp in the summer. We love how simple, yet clever, this rig is.
Subaru Outback Camper Gear
Here’s a quick recap of the gear you can install on your Subaru Outback to turn it into camper without building furniture.
Roof top Tent
If you don’t like the idea of giving up the room inside the back of your car, why not install a rooftop tent on your Subaru Outback? You’ll be able to use all seats and to store even more gear in the car itself. If you opt for a pop-up tent you’ll just need a few minutes at night to set up your bed.
Beware: most pop-up roof top tents can’t store bedding, as they are low profile. You will need to keep the bedding in the car and put it back in the tent every night.
If sleeping on the roof isn’t for you, you can choose a hatchback tent. This allows you to extend your cargo space and use it for storage or sleeping. Some bigger tent models feature a lot of extra headroom, which is great if you’re tall and want to get changed while standing up. Improved privacy is a huge advantage – you can keep a portable toilet in the tailgate tent, so you can go to your private bathroom anytime.
Finally, you can buy a small lightweight trailer that’s towable by your Subaru Outback. There are a wide range of trailers – from teardrop trailers and tent trailers to utility trailers. These are super cool and practical – just tow them to your chosen wild camping spot, set them up for the night, and go off on a fantastic off-roading adventure. When you get home, you just need to detach the trailer.
Conclusion on the Subaru Outback Camper Conversion
The Subaru Outback makes for a fantastic home on wheels for adventurous van lifers who want to boondock in remote places and travel light. If you choose the right set-up, you can get yourself a fantastic rig which features everything you need to stay comfy on the road.