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Subaru Forester on the beach

First off, new member here. This was one of most helpful places when it came to making up my mind about what to buy so I figured it was worth sharing what I've learned so far.

For the the last 14 years I've driven a Nissan Xterra. It wasn't the most practical vehicle in the world--things were always breaking and the mileage was awful. But I fish a lot on the Outer Banks and a few other places and something that could get me on the sand was enormously useful. And that's where it really shined. I never got stuck, never lacked for power, never dragged bottom, nothing. It was my fishing hoopty and I loved it.

It got to the point where I had to replace it so I did the circuit through all the SUV options plus a couple of pick-up trucks. I landed on the Forester because this vehicle is also my daily driver. It just didn't make sense to buy a pure beach vehicle when 99% of the time it's just getting around normal roads.

Before I took it offroad I started making changes. Based on a thread from this forum, I bought the Subtle Solutions 1.5" lift kit and had a local vendor install it. I figured a roof basket would be good for tossing my sandy gear into. I went with the Malone Airflow2 50" crossbars and paired it with the #59504 Rola cargo basket. It's small but it does the trick, and I can always put in the extender if I need something bigger.

For the rear I put in a Weathertech cargo liner and a cheapo large quilted waterproof cargo liner for dogs off of Amazon. I also and bought two cheap seat covers for dog owners to stop myself from grinding saltwater and mullet stank into the seats. I stayed for a week on the northern Outer Banks to fish for red drum, something I do every year. And I recently went back just this weekend to squeeze in a couple of days trout fishing up that way and spent a day on the beach. Here are my observations so far for any of you thinking about doing the same:

-Don't expect it to perform like an SUV. It doesn't. It drives like a car. In sugar sand and heavy ruts you will feel it starting to bottom out and lose power. So if you're driving in places like Assateague or Coquina/Oregon Inlet it may be challenging.
-That said, if you are properly aired down (I go 20 PSI) and you drop it into Low it actually performs quite well. The torque is better and it pops right over steep ramps. I also tried Xmode but couldn't tell the difference from Low, so I just used that when I got in tight spots or loose sand.
-30 MPG with a lift kit and a roof basket is awesome. Gas will go back up again one day, but it won't stop me from taking as many trips as I want.
-This thing traps sand like crazy underneath. Most SUV's are pretty open underneath so it's easy to knock most of it loose with an undercarriage wash. But sticking a garden sprinkler underneath when I get home leaves tons of sand on my driveway. Just something you need to keep up with if you don't want salt and sand to wreck your undercarriage.

Every vehicle has a feel to it. Now that I've gotten a little more comfortable and have stopped driving it like I did the Xterra I'm happy with it. It requires a lighter touch and a little more wariness around deep ruts. Final verdict: it can function as a real beach vehicle if you make a few mods and exercise care.

It still has stock tires, so if anyone wants to make recommendations on wheels/tires I'm all ears. It does seem a little silly to have lifted it and then not (eventually) put something a little beefier on. I also need to figure out how to mount my internal rod holders, since there appear to be no hooks/attachment points I can use.
 

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Good post, thinking of taking mine to IBSP in NJ. I've got a 2018 premium stock. I was thinking of swapping out the stock tires, but after your post, perhaps I should go with the lift kit first. No plans to take it off other terrain other than beach. Did you swap out your spare tire for beach driving?
 

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I've got a 2014 Forester 2.5 Limited ... no lift, added skid plates (Primitive Racing) and all terrain tires - the Continental TerrainContact AT that were on the stock tires but then upgraded to a Konig rim.

I don't drive on the outer banks or on beach sand, but I'm in the deserts of SoCal and do drive on some desert sand covered roads and pathways.... I can "feel" the Foz sinking in to the sand, but the tires do seem to be able to get me out, along with either L or using X-Mode (or both). The only thing I hear pinging on the underside would be some of the shrubs or scrub brush that may be in the path. Airing down the tires will surely help with grip - stock all season or heavier duty all terrains.
 

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Nice post - thanks

(I go 20 PSI)
I will start at 18psi on a beach and drop to 14psi if necessary. You can go to 10psi in an emergency

It still has stock tires,
Probably best for sand, less beef is better ;-)

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Discussion Starter #5
I will start at 18psi on a beach and drop to 14psi if necessary. You can go to 10psi in an emergency
I'm scared to go below 15 psi. Too easy to come off the bead.

In terms of continuing to outfit my vehicle for surf fishing, there was literally nowhere to put rodholders in the interior of this vehicle. There are no built-in hooks or other proper attachment points like there were in previous generations where you can connect something custom-built. (Feels like the current model went in more of a mom-mobile direction instead of outdoors-oriented.) I didn't want to drill into anything if I could help it so I ended up buying a rodholder off Amazon that attaches to the headrests. I pull a bungee over the rods so they don't bounce out of the holders and I'm good to go.

And the lift kit is helpful but not absolutely necessary unless you're on a beach where everyone is driving those monster trucks with dualies and everything is rutted out. I actually saw a nut on Chincoteague/AI in May that took a WRX out and--shock surprise--he got stuck on the ramp trying to leave. Those things have the clearance of a snake.
 

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2004 FXT / 2020 Outback Onyx XT
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Good post, thinking of taking mine to IBSP in NJ. I've got a 2018 premium stock. I was thinking of swapping out the stock tires, but after your post, perhaps I should go with the lift kit first. No plans to take it off other terrain other than beach. Did you swap out your spare tire for beach driving?
I've taken my Foz on IBSP many times and even took my '97 Outback Sport before that! My summer tires are 225/55/17 (+1 for that MY) and never got stuck too badly. Got stuck near the entrance of A23 at the end and a guy and his 14 year old just gave me a little push after I aired down more. Also got stuck once after I was on an incline parked facing away from the beach. Also got out myself of that one after airing down further.

15-18 psi's does seem like the sweet spot for East Coast sugar sand. I've also taken it on Assateague and Carova on the OBX. Passed by a couple of stuck Wranglers and a Suburban once leaving Carova. The Forester is a manual and I'm planning to hit IBSP with the Outback soon and it will be my first time on the beach with a CVT. I went to the Pine Barrens last Sunday with the Mtn Roo Tri-State folks and had no issues at all. There was a some loose sand but probably a bit more dirt than soft beach type sand.

On the Forester I ran 225/55/17's with all-seasons or summer tires, and I have OEM 225/60/18 all-seasons on the Outback.
 

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I'm scared to go below 15 psi. Too easy to come off the bead.
Yes it can if correct driving practice is not adopted i.e. no sharp turns, no heavy braking, in fact you should avoid the brakes completely. Keep in mind that the Foz will be somewhat lighter than the Nissan Xterra so you can air down further.
Have you added a skid plate?
 

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@dunebilly sand tends to tear the OEM plastic under-guards off; and any other low down plastic bits as well. The older Foresters had little "winglets" in front of the front wheels and on sand these would catch and tear the whole inner wheel arch moulding out!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
@dunebilly sand tends to tear the OEM plastic under-guards off; and any other low down plastic bits as well. The older Foresters had little "winglets" in front of the front wheels and on sand these would catch and tear the whole inner wheel arch moulding out!
Good to know. Thanks.
 
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