The Build Up: Winter Outback

Winter time here in Michigan means there’s lots of snow on the ground in all the right places. Why not go on an epic overlanding winter adventure through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? That’s precisely what we’re going to layout in this Build Up.

We all dream of how we want our rig to look, what we want on it, where we want to go with it. The Build Up series puts those ideas to paper. Each installment is a hypothetical build of a selected vehicle, what gear we would take with us, and where we would take it. Suspend reality for a few minutes and imagine with us on the possibilities if money wasn’t an object.

Use Your Imagination

For these scenarios to work, we have to suspend some realities. We’re going to assume the vehicles we are “purchasing” are in excellent working order with no mechanical issues that need to be corrected. We’re not experts on any of this, just throwing together something fun. If there’s something that could be done better or you have a suggestion for what to build and where to go, leave some comments and let us know.

The Rig

For this adventure, we’ve chosen to go with an all-wheel-drive 2006 Subaru Outback wagon with a 3.0 L 6-cylinder engine. The Outback itself is a pretty light vehicle coming in at between 2,700 and 3,000 pounds. The 6-cylinder engine provides more than enough power to get this thing through the snow.

And the fuel economy isn’t bad at 23-28 depending on city or highway driving. For a lower mileage, good to excellent condition Outback we’re going to end up paying between $9,000 and $12,000. Not terrible for a pretty reliable vehicle but it might scare some away. Plus the Outback looks cool, and we like it.

The Build

The Outback by itself is a pretty capable overlanding rig; however, with some modifications, it can be an excellent overlanding rig. Plus we’re going to be running in some deep snow. The UP is known for getting snowfall ranges between 50” and over 100” yearly. That means

Suspension, Armor, and Not Wheels & Tires

First on the list is to upgrade the suspension and in a lift kit. Unlike SUVs and trucks, the options for a lift kit for an Outback seem to be pretty limited. In this case, we’re going to go with a Primitive lift kit that runs for $680 plus an additional $318 for a new set up struts. The kit adds 1.5” of lift and all the necessary hardware to ensure proper alignment.

We’re going to go ahead and put tracks on it from American Track Truck. Their Dominator track system allows the wheels and tires of almost any vehicle to be replaced with tracks designed to eat through any snow the UP could throw at you. We imagine these don’t come cheap, but could not find a price to list so just go with into the thousands of dollars.

The last thing we want to do is provide some protection for the Outback. Just because we’re running trails in deep snow doesn’t mean something could come along and cause some severe damage underneath. In this case, Primitive has us covered with a front cover for $239 and a rear differential cover for $110. We’re also going to go with one of their front lightbars ($559), no cutting of the front bumper needed, just bolt it on to the frame.

Gear Storage and Mounting

The first thing we want to do is create a storage solution for the rear cargo area. There are plenty of examples of DIY storage solutions in just about every overlanding vehicle imaginable. In our case, we’d like something that has two storage drawers for all of the necessary gear we’ll be carrying. The top should also have a slide-out available on one side for a fridge, and the opposite side is just open for anything we can throw in there. We aren’t planning on sleeping in the Outback, so there is no need to extend the storage box up into the second row, although that is a possibility.

The roof is going to be outfitted with a Rhino-Rack Pioneer SX Platform. The Pioneer Platform measures in at 60” by 49” and runs a pretty penny. You can pick one up for just over $1,000. Like we said, pricey, but Rhino-Rack is known to make superior quality roof racks that can stand up to just about anything. To round it out we’ll be adding their ski mount holder, a dual jerry can holder, a shovel mount, and recovery board mounts.

Where Would We Go and What Would We Do?

This didn’t take a lot of thought on our end. The Upper Peninsula in the winter is a venerable paradise of wintery things to do. Skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, and so many more activities can be found across the area.

The annual Michigan Ice Fest is a good place to start in early February. Held in Munising at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the ice climbing fest offers attendees the opportunity to see Pictured Rocks in a non-warm setting. They offer courses and classes for experienced and non-experienced climbers alike.

Much like seeing Niagra Falls in the winter, the waterfalls that populate the Upper Peninsula should not be missed. We’ll probably start somewhere around Tahquamenon and work our way west, hitting the various known and unknown waterfalls.

Lastly, no winter trek through the UP would be complete without hitting some slopes. The Porcupine Mountains offer 15 groomed downhill trails that overlook Lake Superior. They also offer a handful of snowshoeing trails.

All in all, this would be an interesting rig and trip to take. Winter in the Upper Peninsula is no joke, and we think our build up would make it a fun experience. Let us know what we missed, what we should include, or some other places we should have listed to check out in the comments.

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