in Roofnest Tips & Features / by Adrian

So you have a Subaru Outback?!

We get a lot of questions about fitment on the Subaru Outback, and for good reason!  It’s a great car and super capable for a lot of different activities.  It also comes equipped with several different setups for its roof rack.  With this article, I’m hoping to help clarify your options and fitment requirements.

First off, if you have a Wilderness Edition Outback, you’re in great shape!  The raised side-rails on those models are strong enough for almost all of our tents and allow for plenty of spacing between the crossbars.  Simply choose your favorite brand of crossbar, such as Yakima or Rhino Rack, and you’re ready to fit any tent you like as long as you’re within the racks posted weight rating.  We’re big fans of the Condor Overland or the Sparrow on that setup.

Now, what about those slick looking crossbars that swivel out of the way when not in use. This is easily the most common rack setup we see on Outbacks.  And honestly, they’re great for a lot of uses, such as for a cargo box or bike rack. However, they do pose some challenges for roof top tents.  

First, they are almost exactly 30” apart center to center.  This is the minimum spread we recommend for our Sparrow and Falcon series tents.  To measure for yourself, take a tape measure and run it from the leading edge of the rear crossbar to the leading edge of the front crossbar.  The spread varies a bit depending on model year, so it’s always good to double check!  

Moving on, the bars also sit very low to the roof of the vehicle. This makes it easy for the included mounting bolts to contact the sheet metal and potentially damage it. In addition, you have those nice, BIG, solid plastic side rails.  Those do a great job of impeding access to the mounting hardware which makes the whole setup difficult to work on.  

Last, but not least, they have a decent amount of flex in the system.  Each bar is only anchored by a single, central bolt or plug, which means the bars can twist quite a lot. And when you put something as large as a RTT on them,the bars compress under the load, spreading the force outwards towards the sides of the vehicle.  This is not the type of stress these racks are designed for and can significantly weaken the system, especially with heavier tents such as the Condor XL or Falcon 2.  

For better flexibility, it’s worth the upgrade to a good quality aftermarket rack system.  The go-to system is the Yakima Skyline Tower with Landing Pads and either the JetStream or the HD crossbars.  These can be found at most quality Yakima Rack retailers. This system is significantly stronger, has extra clearance over the roof, and is much more rigid. It’s simply a better, safer system for mounting your car tent.

Do you plan on taking your Outback even farther off the beaten path?  There are some high-quality platform racks available that are ideal for the stresses that go along with off-road travel.  Check out FrontRunner Racks, Prinsu racks, or Spider Roof Racks for some great platform options.  These will be a complete replacement for the factory rack system.

Now the fun part.  Which tent is best for you?!

If you still wish to stick with the factory crossbars, it’ll be best to look at the lighter weight roof top tents.  Our top suggestions are the Condor and the Meadowlark.

The Condor is our lightest weight hard-shell tent and has compact shell dimensions when stowed.  This is great since it minimizes interference with the rear hatch.  With its soft-shell construction, the Meadowlark is our lightest tent (full-stop). This is also our smallest tent when stowed, so will have the least effect on driving dynamics when mounted. With an ultra-lightweight and small footprint, the Meadowlark is our easiest tent to install and remove from your vehicle when you’re not using it.

Have you already pulled the trigger on an upgraded rack system?  Then the next best options to look at would be the Condor Overland or the Falcon 2.  The upgrade to an aluminum shell roof top tent is really nice since they’re basically impervious to the elements– and let’s face it– most people are not taking the tents on and off the vehicle on a regular basis. Both options also give you the ability to attach more accessories directly to the tent such as MaxTraxx, solar showers, or a set of our 6-Channel Crossbars.

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