Modifying Subaru to support paddling

Looking to modify 2006 Subaru Outback 2.5XT to support paddling hobby, and would appreciate any cautions or suggestions from folks who have already been down this road.

Will be adding a hitch receiver to pull a half ton trailer. While both the 1.25" Class II and the 2.0" Class III meet/exceed the capacity of the vehicle, would the 2.0" receiver provide any other benefits, such as more stable attach point for a bike rack? Are the Hidden Hitch, Draw Tite, etc. brands pretty much the same for appearance, construction and installation? Any benefit to a Subaru factory hitch? Anyone have experience installing a transmission cooler on this vehicle?

Also planning to add Yak roof racks, but not sure whether to use cradles or the new folding J racks? We haul both yaks and canoes, depending on the group and water.

2001 Legacy wagon
Yakima has a frame mounted class II hitch that fits. I use it for my bike rack and have never towed. I also have an adapter that goes from II to III which I have not had to use. Cant tell you about a cooler. I have considered getting one of the very light trailers from Harbor Freight and making a kayak trailer out of it. I dont think a cooler would be necessary for my limited and light use. The whole set up with kayaks would weigh less than 300#.

I have the old Double Cross from Yakima on my factory rails and I built an extension rack to get the boats more forward with more spread. The boats sit hull down.

Hidden Hitch

– Last Updated: Apr-10-08 11:07 AM EST –

I have a 05 XT with the 5EAT auto and the Hidden Hitch trailer I got from JC Whitney. I don't have a trailer yet but my intent for the hitch was basic firewood hauling duty. But I did use the hitch to drag (very slowly) a splitter home.

If I remember,the 3rd gen Soobs have a 2000lb towing limit and my Hidden Hitch is a class II hitch. Installation of the HH wasn't bad, the hardest part if manhandling the rubber hangers that hold up the dual exhausts. (there's a trick to it). After that, installation was a snap.

BTW, there are detailed instructions on installing the Hidden Hitch, both the hitch and the electrical on a great Subby forum:

About your transmission cooler, I did a quick search and came up with:

But search that site and you'll find towing threads and how to install the hidden hitch, etc. etc.


Subaru transmission cooler
I have a '98 Outback (180,000 miles) with an aftermarket hitch with a ball pulling an 800 lb trailer and a bike and seakayak on the factory rack. I’m on the road for a while so I had a transmission cooler installed. About $150. After 3000 miles and numerous mountain crossings, no problems. My Subaru guy said the cooler probably wasn’t necessary but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Talk to the Subaru dealer. VF

Hollar at Billinpa
he used to pull several types of campers with his Outback. Probably can give you some insight as to capacities.


I am here…

– Last Updated: Apr-10-08 1:32 PM EST –

No need for trans cooler on Outback. 05 is rated for 2700lbs,250 lbs tongue weight,for 4cyl 2.5 auto,but check your manual,it's all spelled out in there. One thing you will need is trailer brakes if over 1000lbs tow weight{it's in the manual too}. I hauled 2 kayaks of various sizes on the roof weighing about 100lbs{think factory limit is 105},again in the manual.

I towed at 1900# pop up with a 02 Outback,and trailer had brakes. Also towed a 1000# teardrop trailer{no trailer brakes} with canoes on top.Neither gave me a problem with transmission, overheating,handling,etc. Above 2000#s may be a bit more strain on drive line,but occassional duty hauling,shouldn't be a problem.

Gas milage of 02 towing a 1900# Pop up to SC,averaged 20mpg. Towing with 05 ,and teardrop, 21.5mpg. If you do slow steady starts the mileage isn't bad.

Had Hidden Hitch class II installed by RV dealer. Hitch,brake controller and installed $360.

Any further questions,feel free to e-mail me.


on my list
…and at under $100 I think I’ll also get a diff shield since the car will be lower towing a trailer and I tend to do a bit of “un-roading”.

2" receiver benefits
More stuff is made for it than for the 1.25" receiver opening.

BUT I have seen ads for adapters that allow you to use the less-expensive Class I or II with accessories that require a 2" opening. So this is not a decision that will lock you out of using bike racks that call for 2" receiver. For heavier stuff, I don’t know if the adapter and the Class I/II tongue load limits will suffice.

If it were me (with a car) and I were not going to tow anything heavy, I’d go for the lighter Class I or II hitch.

I’m all for saving fuel
but I think that paddling your subaru would be an exercise in diminished returns…

paddling a Subaru

Thanks for the laugh, I needed it today.