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modified offroad subaru forester wilderness edition with rooftop tent

How To Modify A 2022 Forester Wilderness Edition For The Trails

By Ben Boxer

Are you considering purchasing or already own a Subaru Forester Wilderness Edition with plans to modify it for offroading and overlanding? 

I recently came across Michael’s build and this is by far the most comprehensively modified Forester W.E. that I’ve seen. It’s also lifted more than any other new Forester that I’m aware of.

Let’s jump right in and I’ll let Michael introduce himself, explain how he got into Subarus, and discuss his current Forester offroad build.

Table of Contents

“My car is a 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness and I purchased it back in 11/27/21.

I got into Subarus in 2017 when I totaled my Altima. I wanted car that was a little bigger and capable to drive in the dirt, even though I wasn’t an avid off-roader yet. I purchased a 2017 Crosstrek Limited and began to build it. 2” lift, Falken Tires, small light bar. Nothing special.

I eventually traded the Crosstrek in for a 2021 Forester Sport and again, began to slowly build, more for aesthetic purposes, as I still hadn’t been off road yet. When the used car market was peaking, I traded in my 2021 Sport for the 2022 Wilderness and immediately started building to really take off road.

I kept the Forester Wilderness stock for about a week knowing what I was going to do with it. I had plans. The Forester performs very well from the factory, I just knew I wanted to do more as I was learning more and expanding my knowledge mainly through YouTube and Instagram, looking at mainly Jeep and Toyota builds as I hadn’t seen anybody with a Subaru willing to do what I wanted.”

Before & After Photos:

lifted subaru forester wilderness before and after

Getting Into Offroading With Subarus:

“I knew very little, learned as I went and that’s when the obsession became real.”

“My first time on trail was early 2022. I knew very little, learned as I went and that’s when the obsession became real. I absolutely love being outdoors and camping. Finding camp spots that the “average” car would never be able to get to.

I call it adult legos because as kids, we built trucks and fictional cars. As I got older and became more successful, the dreams of being able to uniquely change and build it exactly how you want became real.”

First Mods & Accessories:

subaru forester wilderness in the snow

“My Very first mod was tinted windows. I did remove some of the OEM “mods” of my 2021 Sport, like the rain and bug guards, some interior things like carbon fiber layovers, seat covers etc. and swapped them over.

My first REAL mod was tires. I started with Toyo Open country 235/75/17. Now I’m running Kumho Road Venture 52s in 265/65R17 which I’ll talk more about in a minute.”

lifted forester wilderness front end

Taking The Build To The Next Level With More Mods And A Bigger Lift:

subaru forester wilderness edition offroad tires

“My set up is extensive but in order to retain longevity, I made sure to check all the boxes. I first started with the Ironman Spec-C 2 inch suspension lift kit, which gives you sub frame spacers, and all the goodies to get 2” properly.

There are small things some people don’t realize they might want when lifting. There are other spacers and bearings, not necessarily needed, but again to ensure longevity of the vehicle they can make a big difference. For instance, 3/8” carrier bearing spacer, as well as an anti-wobble insert from ADF. More lift means more stress on the CV joints, and if you can prevent any extra shake or wobble with an AW insert, you’re better off.”

I really appreciate Michael’s determination to improvise in order to make things work.

He purchased RalliTEK rear control arms for his Forester only to find out that the Ironman struts were too large at the bottom. So he modified them to fit as you can see below.

grinding rallitek control arms (1)
rallitek suspension parts
ironman and rallitek suspension on subaru forester

“In addition to the 2 inch lift, I also added another 1 and 3/8 inch Strut Spacers to given total of almost 3.5”.

I’ve added a transmission mount pitch stop, removed the front sway bars and upgraded the rear control, trail and toe arm. With the extra added load and massive flexing when off-road, strengthening those backside arms helps make it a little stiffer and less likely for any stress breaks.

I’ve also added 1.5” wheel spacers to give a little more clearance and allow more flexion. Both front and rear strut tower braces, less chassis flex and allows suspension to work more. This also helps offer a little more control while using as my daily driver.”

rallitek suspension components for lifted subaru

“This was me essentially thinking outside the box.”

I was curious about one item on Michael’s mod list: “Rock Slide for umbrella” I had no idea what he was talking about. So I reached out and asked “hey what this heck is this? Here’s what he told me:

“I purchased an EZ tire mount from Rock Slide Engineering and then paired it with a pole mount from Amazon to create my own awning of sorts since I didn’t want to spend a thousand dollars on a 270 degree awning.

This is me just essentially thinking outside of the box because I wanted something over my head if it was snowing or raining when I was cooking on the grill. And it helps with shade when needed. Here’s a photo of it in use.”


lifted subaru forester wilderness edition with rear awning
subaru forester offroad modded with solar panels

Customer Service Experience Building An Offroad Subaru:

“Customer service during the build process has been awesome for the most part. Most of these companies are small companies or startups so they are quick to respond and most of everything has at least a year warranty on it to begin with, if not longer.

The most difficult part about the build is modified universal parts and/or figuring out how to make something work that’s not specifically made for the Forester; not knowing if it will fit even after hours of thought and measuring etc. 

Inside, the most difficult part has been trying to figure out the best set up for the most space but having everything convenient; which would be the drawer and kitchen slide out. 

Outside, the most difficult part of the build was figuring out how to fit an awning, a shower, and a RTT, with enough actual supplies to live more than a couple hours in the wilderness. So, instead of going with  a prinsu rack or a rack where the stock rails are removed, I kept the stock rails, sat a Rhino rack on that (which gave it a few more inches in the air) and added 3 cross bars, rather than 2.

The cross bars extended out a little bit which then allowed me to bolt an awning on one side and the shower on the other. I also have a water heater through RinseKit.”

Bigger Offroad Tires On The Forester - An Intelligent Approach:

lifted subaru forester in the sand with kumho at52 tires

“Funny story, I ordered way too big 255/75/17 and way too much rubbing. I initially started with Toyo open Country. That was the suggestion, they weren’t too expensive, and that’s what I rolled with. 

After wearing the Toyos down, and wanting to buy a new set, I sat down and actually educated myself and did some research on tires. A lot of people will just look at the size and the tread because their eyes likes it and it fits their car.

However, after some research, I learned about treadwear and other factors. The weight of the tire also makes a big difference, not just the size and the tread. A tire that’s too heavy can negatively affect your Subaru’s performance.

subaru forester offroad modified with overlanding gear

So I compared a handful of different tires, looking at the stock weight of the OEM wheel/tire combination and learning what the Forester’s braking capability is. I didn’t want to go higher than 30 pounds of tire, and there are some tires that are almost 40 pounds. A tire that heavy would severely hurt your gas mileage and wear your brakes down much faster; especially if you’re already loaded like I am with camping gear, a rooftop tent, and a spare tire carrier.

I wanted some light tires with some hard rubber. I live on the East Coast and I’m not driving in sand often. I’m usually driving up rocky mountains that can easily damage soft tires. Falken tires have low tread wear meaning they have soft rubber. The Kumho’s hit ALL the boxes:

  • Only 1 lb heavier than the Toyo Open Country
  • An aggressive tread
  • High treadwear – like 680 where Falken and Grapplers are soft like 540 rubber

So if you’re driving in more soft weather like snow and sand, a softer rubber is probably better for you. But I needed something a bit harder for my application.”

subaru forester wilderness edition with rear tire carrier and camping setup

Kumho Road Venture AT52 Review

“My overall opinion on the AT52 is this: I’m gonna buy another set of Kumho’s and probably never look back.

Like I said, overall they’re just the best tire for somebody that still uses their car to drive to work, but still pushes it pretty hard on the weekends. The KO2s are so incredibly heavy.. it’s a virtue signal tire.. look I can afford $350 dollar tires. Cool bro, these are better at half the price!!”

snowy kumho road venture on subaru forester
kumho road venture at52 (1)
kumho road venture on forester wilderness edition

How Offroad Capable IS A Fully Modified Subaru Forester?

“I was in 2 foot ruts in water that was covering the tires and it was a little scary at times.”

modified offroad subaru forester wilderness edition with rooftop tent
YouTube video

“The most challenging trail I’ve taken the Subaru on has been Big Frog in TN. There is an entire Big Frog loop on Big Frog Mtn, but FS62.. no joke. I’ve done every single trail in Virginia pretty much and the only limitation is really ground clearance, it’s obviously not a rock crawler and can’t get up like 28 inch vertical rocks, but there’s always an alternate route.

Another massive obstacle was when I was down in Francis Marion national Forest and it was a day after the hurricane. I was in 2 foot ruts in water that was covering the tires and it was a little scary at times. But the Forester did great.”

Fuel Economy In A Modified Lifted Subaru Forester Wilderness Edition:

“Gas mileage is around 15 to 16 miles through town and I still get 22mpg highway. I’ve added a Thorton tuner, HikeIT throttle response. I also installed an AEM cool air intake, with Crawford performance billet blocks, as well as some hood vents to give it more air.

The Forester also has an oil catch can, and Borla Cat Back Exhaust. I have not dynoed it yet but I’m guessing it’s pushing 220 hp. As stock is right around 190hp.”

YouTube video

Custom Offroad Bumper:

“Matt with Full Force Metal Works created and built my offroad winch bumper. I drove down to Tennessee and parked my car in Matt’s garage for five days and let him do his thing.

I could hang the car up by the bumper and shake it like a ragdoll. It wouldn’t move anywhere. I haven’t recovered anybody with it, but I’ve moved giant trees with my winch, I’ve also been winched out one time with it, and worked perfect.”

lifted subaru forester wilderness edition
subaru forester wilderness with light bar in snow

Torq Locker & Exhaust Modification:

“The locker install was a total b*tch because I had to buy new brackets since mine were pretty much rusted and seized together. I went to several different shops to inquire about professional installation, and they all wanted a lot more money than I wanted to spend on the install. So I did it myself despite the extra work. I hear it click every now and again. My exhaust is loud and sounds great, but still not quite loud enough to completely cover up the clicking sound of the locker.

I enjoy the growl of the engine and it’s definitely louder than any other Subie even with an exhaust. I had the LP adventure exhaust on my 2021 Forester sport, but I upgraded to the Borla… and I’ve had my Borla exhaust next to a Nameless exhaust at boxerfest, and it was night and day. Much louder.”

(Curious about the Torq Masters locker? Check out my Torq Locker review and unboxing to see why it’s one of the best products on the market right now.)

borla exhaust for forester wilderness
torq locker for forester wilderness

Overlanding And Offroad Adventures In The Subaru:

lifted forester wilderness edition at sunset

“I’ve been on six day excursions from North Carolina all the way down to Alabama and back up to Virginia I’ve been to 13 National Forests. I have an entire kitchen and fridge with solar panel and battery power capabilities. I could pretty much live out of my car for as long as I wanted to the unlimited power via the solar panel, my fridge, and the Vtoman1500 that I have to power it all.

I try to have the best experience out there that I can and that’s why my build is so specific and detailed. When I go out I don’t wanna have to worry about where is it. Do I have it? Is it accessible? I want to be able to enjoy the experience of the trail or being outside in the Forest regardless of where it is.

Also, money is only paper so if you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna do it right and that’s what I told myself. I understand parts aren’t cheap, and if you do go the cheap route, you’re gonna get the cheap experience and that’s not what I want.”

YouTube video

Offroad Gear & Tire Tools:

I use a Vtoman X7 Jumpstarter to either start my battery, if needed, and to air my tires back up. I use an Ironman 4×4 tool to air them down. I have Rhino USA 86pc tire repair kit. I also bring 12” 40v chainsaw and axe with me.

I have an Anvil 4500 pound winch, I have two soft shackles, one snatch block, TGL 3 inch 8 foot tree saver, winch strap, 30,000 Pound Capacity tow strap – just in case I don’t have another vehicle around and I need to use a tree to winch myself out. I have four 24” Bunker Indust traction boards and two 48” AllPro Treads. I’d like to get a kinetic rope one day but they are expensive and 99% of the time I’ll have a tree around me, since I’m not in the desert. And I’m usually by myself (with my gf) but only 1 vehicle. 

subaru recovery gear

Interior Setup For Camping And Convenience:

My interior setup is detailed, and I have everything I might need in there. I want to be able to keep a space to sleep for a 6 foot human, just in case for emergencies, or if I didn’t wanna pop the tent. Also I need it to accomodate an animal like my girlfriend‘s dog who sleeps in the car at night while we are up in the tent. I have window vents, and a magnetic screen that covers the sunroof to keep bugs out so can keep that open as well. 

subaru forester wilderness with camping setup rear drawers

Full Modification & Accessory List:

  • Full Force Metal Works High Clearance Hybrid Bumper
  • Anvil 4,500lb Power Winch W/ Synthetic Rope
  • Rough Country 2x 8” 60w Bumper Lights
  • Nilight 20” Light Bar/Brush Guard W/ Mounting Bracket
  • Lensun Solar 65w Solar Panel W/ 20amp MPPT
  • ASPL 29.5″ 54 LED Strobe Light Bar Double Side
  • Rhino Rack W/ 2x accessory bars
  • AAIWA 14” 60w Light Bar
  • 3x 48” INNO Cross Bars
  • Muge Racing Premium Oil Catch Can
  • AEM cool Air intake
  • Crawford Performance Billet Blocks
  • Torque Solutions Pitch Stop
  • Cusco Progressive Equipment Front & Rear Strut Bar Mounts
  • Ironman 4×4 C-Spec 2” Suspension
  • Anderson Design Fabrication 1 3/8” Strut Spacers
  • Duralast Universal Racing Hood Vents
  • Crawford Performance Rock Sliders
  • LP Aventure MODIFIED Bumper
  • LP Aventure Front, CVT, Gas Tank & Rear Differential Skid Plates
  • Ironman 4×4 6ft Awning
  • Yakima 7g Road Shower
  • Baja Design Sport Squadron 30w Ditch Lights
  • Rough Country 240w 42” Light Bar
  • Dirtcom Trail Swing W/ drop down table & trail bracket
  • Borla Performance Cat-back Exhaust
  • Nomad Kitchen LT Pantry
  • Set Power Fridge Slide Out – Set Power PT45 Dual Fridge/Freezer
  • Orbis Overlanding 2x Rack Wings
  • ADF Fire Extinguisher Bracket
  • Kidde ABC Fire Extinguisher
  • Rotopax 2x Two Gallon Water, 1x Three Gallon Gas, 1x Two Gallon Storage Pack
  • Rock Slide, for Umbrella
  • WeBoost Overland Cell Phone Booster
  • Kumho Road Venture AT 52s 265/65/17
  • Yeti Overland Blanket
  • TJM USA Yulara Roof Top Tent, Annex & Ladder Ext.
  • OEM Rain & Bug Guards
  • ECCPP 1.5” Wheel Spacers
  • Alpine iLX-f309
  • Vtoman Jump 1000 Battery & X7 Jump Starter
  • Wanderlost Portable 3 Gallon Water Tank W/ Rechargeable Faucet
  • HikeIt XS Premium Throttle Response
  • Thorton Power Performance Chip Tuner, Stage 3
  • NashFabCo Rear Ladder, Version 2 W/ roto pack swing mount and pivot side step
  • Torxe 39” Tinted Sunroof Visor
  • Zrpiot 30” Car Trunk Adjustable Organizer
  • Tacticool 2x Car Seat Back Molle Organizer
  • TACNEX Molle Panel Car Seat Headrest
  • MOCHENT Dashboard Mats
  • TintWorx 5% Tint Front, 1% Rear
  • Mixsuper Custom Fit Window Shade Subaru Forester
  • CruxMoto Yellow Fog Light tint and rear wing Topography Pattern.
  • OPT7 Rear Break LED Spoiler Light
  • BUNKER INDUST. 4x 23” Traction Boards
  • ALL-TOP 2x 42” Recovery Traction Boards
  • Flame King 5lb Propane Tank
  • Power Tank Propane Bracket
  • MENSI Propane Quick Connect Adapter
  • RhinoUSA 14pc Tire Repair Kit
  • RhinoUSA Ultimate Survival Shovel & 2x 3/4” D-Ring Shackles
  • Yota Twins 2x OH SHIT Paracord Grab Handles V2.0
  • Boxer Overland Rear Differential Breather Extension
  • Torq-Masters Rear Differential Locker
  • NEXAR Scosche Full HD Two-Way Smart Dash Cam
  • ADF 2x Universal 12” x 4” Side Door MOLLE Mount
  • Rhino USA Spare Tire Trash Bag
  • ADF 3/4″ Carrier bearing spacer
  • ADF Type 1 CVT Subaru Anti Wobble Insert 2.5/2.0 (Medium)
  • Zarnicy Black Car Door Edge Guards
  • RalliTEK Adjustable Rear Control Arms, Heavy Duty Adjustable Trailing Arm, & Heavy Duty Adjustable Toe Arm
  • ADF V2 Rear Differential Lock Out Bushings
  • Hella 12v Super Tone Horn Set
  • Mixsuper Custom Fit Window Shade
  • Lift Support Depot (Rear Hatch) ST263M1-180N10S
  • AuxBeam 2x 6.3” 60W LED Light Bars

I hope this build article has given you some inspiration as you plan your offroad Subaru modifications. I really enjoyed hearing Michael’s story about creating this build and using it the way it was intended.

If you want to follow along with his build, Michael can be found on Youtube at Subie_OffXroad and on Instagram at @subie.offxroad. You can also find him online at if you are in need of personal training or fitness information.

2 thoughts on “Lifted 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness Edition: Offroad Modified”

  1. This thing is dope!! I love that front bumper. I just bought a new Forester Wilderness and I would love to build it out to look and perform similar to this. I need one of those trail drawer systems.

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