Is a Subaru Outback Big Enough to Sleep In?

The almighty Outback is by far the most popular and esteemed model in Subaru’s impressive lineup.

One of the things car owners love the most about the robust, adventure-ready road hugger is its spaciousness: each generation of the best-selling compact SUV offers ample leg and elbow room and an astounding amount of cargo space to boot.

That’s great news for when you go grocery shopping, but what if you’re tuckered out from an all-day drive or you’re thinking about taking your car camping? 

Is the Outback roomy enough to allow you to get some quality shut-eye?

Is a Subaru Outback Big Enough to Sleep In?

Most people will find that they can easily sleep comfortably in their Subaru Outbacks. With its extended chassis, broad wheelbase, and lofty roofs, the redesigned Outback is remarkably similar in size to a standard two-person tent. 

If you can pass a night more or less undisturbed in one of those, you should have no trouble passing a night or two in your Outback.

Not everyone will fare equally well come bedtime, however. 

While most weary travelers will have an easy enough time catching some Zs in their Outbacks, some may consider their mobile accommodations somewhat cramped. 

Keep reading to find out exactly what kind of real estate you have to work with and how to make the best possible use of it.

Making Your Bed in a Subaru Outback (and Lying in It)

A quick flip through the owner’s manual of an Outback will reveal a seemingly interminable list of dimensions and design specs. 

When it comes to sleeping in your vehicle, though, there are only three measurements you need to be concerned with: length, width, and height.


Outbacks from about the fourth generation onward (2009-now) run approximately 70 inches—or just under six feet—from behind the front row of seats to the inside edge of the rear gate. 

That means two adults of roughly average height could stretch out to their full length and get quite cozy within the vehicle’s Y-axis, provided there’s nothing in the rear seats or cargo area to get in the way.

If you’re on the taller side of average and you expect to be slumbering solo, you stand to increase your total head-to-toe clearance to around 90 inches by stretching out diagonally (as measured from the back of the armrests on the front-row doors to the opposing rear corners just behind the tail lights).


The second row of seats in a redesigned Outback boasts an overall width of 53 inches door to door (just shy of 4.5 feet), with a slightly lesser width of 42.75 inches between the wheel wells in the rear cargo area. 

That’s big enough for two average-sized adults (or possibly even three smaller-than-average ones) to lie shoulder-to-shoulder without being crammed together like sardines or having to compete for breathing space.

By comparison, a deluxe two-person tent is generally no more than 160 cm (63 inches, or 5.25 feet) wide, with normal models often being considerably more cramped.

The Outback may not be the most luxurious SUV in the world in terms of shoulder room, but it’s not too shabby either.


Is a Subaru Outback Big Enough to Sleep In 1 Is a Subaru Outback Big Enough to Sleep In?

The redesigned Outback features relatively high roofs that grant 39 glorious inches (3 and 1/3 feet) of headroom, which can be defined simply as the distance between the roof of a vehicle’s cabin and the tops of its seats. 

Again, that’s remarkably similar to your typical dome tent.

If you were to measure yourself from crown to rump, you’d probably get a number well below 39 inches.

In other words, making your roost in the posterior portion of your Outback would leave you with more than enough room to sit up and move around without bumping your noggin

What About the Seats Themselves?

Assuming you don’t have any qualms about resting in a recumbent position, you also have the option of drifting off in the front row of seats.

This may be the most practical solution if you’ve got the back of your vehicle loaded up with luggage, equipment, or other belongings. 

Simply ease your seat back, close your eyes, and enjoy your Outback’s 42.8 inches of legroom.

Keep in mind, though, that the rear seats don’t recline as much as the front pair (or at all on models made before 2019), and that you’ll have to fold them down completely to take full advantage of the car’s maximum capacity.

For this reason, the Outback isn’t an ideal choice for sleeping multiple people, regardless of their exact configuration (then again, no vehicle is).

How to Sleep Soundly in Your Outback

Knowing you hypothetically have enough room to overnight in a Subaru Outback is one thing. 

Actually doing it is another.

Having had more experience than most snoozing in various vehicles, I feel qualified to offer advice on how to do it well

Here are three surefire strategies for getting a better night’s rest in an Outback or any other automobile.

Flatten Out

If you have the option of setting up in the back, fold down the rear seats to create a nice level sleeping surface. 

Then, if possible, put down an air mattress or foam sleeping pad

Shove as much of your stowed cargo away from the sides of your nest as you can—otherwise, you might be in for a rude and potentially painful awakening if you happen to roll over wrong in the middle of the night.

If you have no choice but to take your forty winks upfront, simply drop your seat back as far as it will go and do your best to settle in. 

The seats in an Outback are well-cushioned enough to make half-sitting, half-lying for hours on end bearable, yet firm enough to still be supportive.

Pro tip: putting a folded pillow under your butt can buy you a few extra inches underfoot if you’re itching to stretch your legs.

Bring Plenty of Comfy Bedding Materials

If you plan on sleeping in your vehicle for more than a single night, I highly recommend packing a sleeping bag or warm blanket and at least one pillow.

Personally, I like to have two pillows, one to cradle my head and the other to give my lower back a little extra support.

The external conditions in the area where you stop for the night will be the chief factor in determining how much to bring.

It can get pretty chilly inside a car cabin, especially if you crack the windows for ventilation.

If you intend to travel somewhere cold, a good idea is to have an additional blanket or some insulated accessories. 

Items such as a knit hat, a scarf, and gloves are crucial to keeping cozy in a cold car.

Go Dark

If you’re anything like me, nothing derails your attempts to doze off faster than a little unwelcome illumination, whether from the full moon or the piercing beams of headlights passing on the highway.

A good eye mask will shut out all that distracting light, allowing you to get the kind of rest you need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to resume your journey the next morning.

If you don’t like the notion of being effectively blind while unconscious inside your vehicle, your next best bet is to place reflector screens over the windows. 

Alternatively, you could plan to park in a sheltered location. 

Whatever you have to do to cut down on the ambient glare, do it. Your circadian rhythms will thank you.

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