MntnReview: The All-Around Adventure-Mobile

If you stop at almost any Eastern Mountain Sports, there is one thing you’re almost sure to discover in the parking lot: a dirty, well-used Subaru wagon adorned with a Thule rack, usually covered in stickers. Upon closer inspection, you’ll most likely find a pile of sleeping bags, puffy coats, climbing gear, bike helmets, and other outdoor essentials strewn about the backseat, in the hatch, and in various states of cleanliness and organization. But, it’s not only with EMS employees that Subaru has developed a cult-like following; the outdoorsy crowd in general has flocked to this car maker. I, too, have fallen for the Subaru’s siren song: In the past eight years, I have owned two Subaru Impreza wagons, and when the time comes for a new car, I will be hard-pressed not to buy another one.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Ask me what my favorite piece of gear is, and I will give you varying answers, depending on which season it is and which sport has me the most psyched at that moment. It could be a pair of ski boots I spent the winter touring in, a bike that I just did the “best ride ever” on, or maybe a helmet, ice axe, or cam that kept me from meeting with a gruesome end. Either way, I will most likely never mention my Subaru Impreza, despite the fact that it has taken me on more adventures than any bike, pair of skis, or boots. The more I think about it, my Subaru Impreza may be the most valuable—it’s certainly the most expensive—piece of gear that I own, and it’s time it gets the recognition it deserves.

The Subaru Impreza is so popular with outdoor people because it can be your gear room on wheels. With a Thule box on the roof, the Impreza works perfectly for ski trips, whether at the resort or in the backcountry. It comfortably carries four adults with plenty of room for boots and packs in the hatch and skis and poles in the Thule box. As a side note, leg room can be tight. My advice is, to make the most out of the space available, stick shorter people in the backseat.

In the summer, I have carried four adults and all of their biking necessities in my Impreza, as well as four bikes on the roof, all over New England. My wife and I have even used my Impreza for a two-week bouldering tour throughout the South’s Sandstone Belt, and had plenty of room for two crash pads, clothes, and all of our camping accessories with the rear seats folded down.

The more I think about it, my Subaru Impreza may be the most valuable—it’s certainly the most expensive—piece of gear that I own, and it’s time it gets the recognition it deserves.

Speaking of folding the seats down, the back of an Impreza wagon can also be used as a mobile motel. People continue to create slick sleeping platforms for Subarus, but for me, simply folding the rear seats down to toss in a sleeping pad has been a good-enough option for nights when I don’t feel like springing for a hotel, don’t feel like setting up a tent, or just need to get a few quick hours of sleep at the trailhead before an alpine start. At six feet tall, I can almost sleep lying straight in the car’s back, but either I have to bend my knees or sleep diagonally to fit. But, who sleeps totally straight, anyway?

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

As an active outdoor person, I require my vehicle to get me to my next adventure no matter the conditions, and the Impreza hasn’t disappointed yet. In the past, I have owned trucks, Jeeps, and SUVs, and in my opinion, the Impreza has been as good as—if not better than—any of them in the snow. I’ve never missed a powder day because I didn’t feel comfortable driving in winter weather.

While Subaru’s winter performance is the reason you see so many of them throughout New England, the Impreza can also stand up to the muddy dirt roads and parking lots found throughout the spring on the way to the crag or trailhead. Sure, at times, I have missed the clearance offered by a truck or SUV, but I have yet to get stuck or bottom out my car, and I have traveled some of New England’s rougher roads.

I’ve never missed a powder day because I didn’t feel comfortable driving in winter weather.

I want to spend my money on gear and adventures—not gas and repairs—and this is where the Subaru Impreza really shines. In fact, I do very little to my car, other than driving it (earmuffs, Subaru dealers, and technicians). Between my two Imprezas, I have driven well over 300,000 miles with only regular oil changes, one timing belt replacement, two batteries, and two brake jobs. The only time I faced a mildly expensive fix, I decided that, with over 220,000 miles on my first Subaru, the car owed me nothing, and I traded it in. To my delight, in the years between owning my first and second Impreza, Subaru managed to get between seven and 10 more miles per gallon out of it, making it even more affordable to drive.

The main reason I think the Subaru Impreza wagon has appealed to so many EMS people and outdoor enthusiasts is that it possesses the same qualities we value in our outdoor gear: It’s versatile, reliable, and durable, all while remaining affordable enough to leave us with some spare cash for the next big trip or must-have piece of equipment. When the time comes for me to retire this Impreza (hopefully, not too soon), I will have a hard time choosing anything but another one to replace it with.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck