I grew up loving cars. I didn’t have many toys when I was a kid but one that is memorable for me was the original Fun-To-Drive Dashboard. It was my favorite toy that made me aware of how much I would love being behind the wheel someday. My favorite cars were the 1967 Ford Mustang and the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
I’ve always had a passion for photography. I remember as a child, my father would always watch the National Geographic channel. I was intrigued to see how close these photographers got to wild animals and the types of photographs they would capture. I began my photography journey back in November of 2016. It wasn’t until I started photographing landscapes that I realized the necessity for an off-road vehicle. So, I’d have to say that photography led me into the off-road scene. I wanted a car that could get me to remote areas to photograph certain landscapes.
[Checking All The Boxes]
The Subaru Crosstrek I have now is my first off-road vehicle build. I’m a big fan of the Subaru brand and I love the aesthetics, size, and fuel efficiency of the Crosstrek. I work pretty far from home and fuel economy is a priority for me. I wanted a vehicle that I would be able to drive daily and go off-roading with. The Crosstrek checked all the boxes for me. I love the build’s transformation process. Seeing my stock Subaru change from a plain-looking all-wheel-drive compact car to what it looks like now and the much improved off-pavement capabilities have been a real treat.
[Not So Soft]
I find it somewhat funny that some enthusiasts started referring to small all-wheel-drive rigs like the Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade as soft-roaders because of their relatively limited off-roading capabilities. Compared to wholly built out Wranglers, Gladiators, Tacomas, and 4Runners that can tackle more challenging terrain, the Crosstrek is obviously at a disadvantage with its shorter suspension travel and lower ground clearance. I honestly do not believe that what we do in our Crosstreks is different from off-roading because you’re technically going off-road when going on trails or Overlanding. I do not consider my Crosstrek a soft-roading rig. Part of exploring and off-roading is to test the capabilities of your rig. Just like Jeep owners know their rigs have limitations, I also know the Crosstrek’s limits, but I’ve put it through the test on some pretty challenging trails and it hasn’t disappointed me.
[Picky Picking Parts]
I pick my parts after doing extensive research. I like to look into hard-working companies that, for the most part, build their products in the U.S. I compare parts from various companies and decide what I think would work best for my rig. There are three modifications right now on the Crosstrek that I love. The first is the Prinsu Design Roof Rack for second-generation Crosstreks. The second is the Warn Industries semi-hidden bumper kit. Lastly, the Rigid Armor swing-out spare tire carrier is a must-have for Crosstreks built for Overlanding. I went with these three companies because I believe they make high quality, functional products. Regarding the Prinsu Rack, it is so sleek and practical that it has allowed me to customize what I carry and organize my light system and awning. I went with the Warn Industries bumper instead of a tubular custom off-road bumper because I like Crosstrek’s OEM aesthetics. I also felt that this option added a more aggressive look to the rig. It’s super functional since it allowed me to install a Warn 55S winch for self-recovery. As far as Rigid Armor, I wanted to have the option to haul my spare tire on a carrier as opposed to strapping it on my roof rack. Since I previously owned their drop-down spare tire carrier and was very impressed with the quality. Therefore, I decided to get their swing-out option to get easier access to the trunk. I’ve done most of the wrenching on my rig, so it gives me a lot of sense of accomplishment when I’ve added new mods to the Crosstrek. I’m planning on installing a dual-battery system and rock sliders to give my rig some extra protection for my rocker panels and undercarriage from getting absolutely thrashed.
I’ve taken my Crosstek on countless trips already, but the most memorable one so far was to Anza Borrego State Park. Specifically, the Hills of the Moon Trail. From the research I had done before planning that trip, I knew it was a moderate to difficult trail. I wanted to explore this trail because of its renowned reputation. It was a caravan of three rigs – all Crosstreks. We faced some challenges, but also advantages. Having smaller rigs allowed for us to get through some pretty narrow areas a lot easier. However, halfway through the trail, this particular area made us think that the Crosstreks weren’t going to be able to handle it. Nonetheless, the adventurer in me motivated everyone else to continue the trail! We got our shovels and began digging away dirt and rock to create a better passage. I’m glad we all made it through, only to find out that further down the trail, we would have to head back the same way we came because going forward wasn’t an option. The trail turned into a path of large rocks that only bigger rigs could handle. When we reached the same location that we previously had difficulty with, that’s when the most memorable moment of this experience occurred. I was the leading rig and I couldn’t see anything because of how elevated that part of the trail was. I decided to turn my tires to the driver’s side as much as possible, hoping to land safely. Once I made it through, I radioed the rest of the group to do the same. However, for whatever reason, the last rig got stuck in a pretty bad ditch. We got to work immediately with the shovels and used the tow straps on the vehicle to attempt to pull it out. Fortunately for everyone, we were successful and all three rigs made it out of the trail safely. The final destination was good old steaks and some brews.
As tricky as Hills of the Moon Trail was, it’s not the most technical and challenging trail I’ve been. As far as the most challenging trail I’ve done, I would have to give that to Phillips Loop in Calico, California. I was about to finish the trail when my rig got stuck. My front skid plate got stuck on top of a pretty large rock. Luckily there was a good samaritan with a rock-crawling Jeep who winched me out of that predicament. After that, I was able to finish the trail. It was a great adventure for sure!
I make it a point that I’m prepared to go on a trip even before my tires hit the road. I make sure my off-road maps are updated and check that my rig would be able to do certain trails and to make sure that I can get to certain areas to Overland. I make sure the weather is right to go on a trip. Most of the time, the destination and weather dictate what gear and supplies I need to take with me on the journey. I make sure that I have all the basics – camping gear, recovery gear, and tools if anything goes wrong. Obviously, I give my rig a once over for mechanical and maintenance items. I check that my battery and everything under my hood is functioning correctly. I make sure that all bolts are properly torqued. I inspect my tires and ensure that everything is up and running.
Things don’t always go as planned when you’re out in the backcountry. That’s why I have contingencies so I can make it back home in one piece. I have my Warn 55S winch, Pro Eagle off-road jack that never leaves the trunk, all the recovery gear, and tools. However, I would say that one of the most important things is my Midland USA GMRS 2-Way radio. It is essential to have good comms when you’re out there adventuring.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek
Wheels & Tires:
- 15×7 Black Rhino Sandstorm wheels
- 235/75R15 Milestar Patagonia A/T tires
- Optima Red Top AGM BCI Group 75/25 Starting Battery
- Magnaflow Exhaust
- Rallitek 2” Lift Kit, Overload Springs, Adjustable Rear Control Arms. Bilstein B6 Struts
- Warn Industries Semi-Hidden Bumper & Grill Guard
- Primitive Racing Front, Mid and Rear Skid Plates
- Rigid Armor Spare Tire Carrier with Rotopax and Shovel mount
- OEM Wind Deflectors
- Perrin License Plate Relocator (rear)
- Trigger Six Shooter Controller
- Baja Designs S8 40” Driving Combo LED Amber Light Bar
- Baja Designs Squadron Sport Amber LED Driving/Combo (Pods)
- Baja Designs Squadron-R Sport LED Driving/Combo, Amber (Fog Lights)
- Baja Designs S2 Sport Work/Scene LED (Side Lights)
- Baja Designs S1 Work/Scene LED (Rear LIghts)
- Baja Designs S2 Sport, LED Red (Chase Lights)
- Warn Industries 55S Winch
- Factor 55 Flatlink Shackle
- Factor 55 Hitch Link 2.0.
Gear Storage, Organization, Racks:
- Prinsu Design and CBI Offroad Fab Roof Rack
- ROAM Adventure Co. Rugged 95L Case
Electronics, Communication, In-Cabin Accessory Mounts:
- iDrive USA Throttle Controller
- Midland USA MXT275 GMRS Radio
- Midland X-Talker 2-Way Handheld Radios
- Ram Phone Mount
- Owlcam (Intelligent Dash Cam)
- 23 Zero 180R Awning
- Shiftpod 2
- Nomadica Outfitters Titan Flat Chairs
- Kovea Cupid Heater
- Big Tent Outdoors CLAYMOR3 Lights
- DMOS Delta Shovel
- Fireside Outdoor Pop-Up Fire Pit
Camp Kitchen Gear:
- Kovea AL Bamboo One Action Table
- Kovea Retro All-In-One Mini Stove
- Kovea Fire-Z Torch
- Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 55 Hard Cooler
- Pro Eagle 2 Ton “The Beast” Offroad Jack
- MORRFlate Quad and Digital Gauge
- Ecoflow Tech Delta 1300 Portable Power and 85W Solar Panel
- Factor 55 Extreme Duty 20” Soft Shackle
- Overland Gearguy GPC Tool Bag and Spare Tire Carrier Trash Bag Version 2
- Rhino USA 3/30” Recovery Strap
- Tuff Stuff 4×4 Air Compressor
- Rotopax 2 Gas Gallon
- Rotopax 2 Water Gallon
- Xbull Track Boards