Story by Kelly Nomura
Photos by Andre Alvarez


A compact commuting 2019 Subaru Crosstrek turned into an overlanding explorer.

A thirst for adventure doesn’t keep the curious away. Not to mention that a thirst for car modification also doesn’t keep an enthusiast away.

Andre Alvarez, owner of this 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Premium, soon learned that his commuter is also great for fun times off the pavement and adventures in the great outdoors. Proving that one can fit quite a bit into a smaller package, Andre built himself an overlanding rig capable of going places he never imagined.

“Andre enjoys finding the hidden gems and learning about the history within the vastness of the Mojave Desert. Trips such as the Mojave Road or Milestar XPND 1 have both shown Andre how special the Mojave is.”

Complete with awning, the Crosstrek is perfect for a daytime or overnight lakeside stay.

We first met Andre at King of the Hammers 2021, where his outgoing personality drew us in to learn more about him, his skottle skills and his Crosstrek.

While his tacos are tasty, his 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Premium is even tastier. Packing the right number of mods and a lot of accessories in a smaller setup, Andre proves that an AWD vehicle can have just as much fun as its 4WD brethren. The two years spent planning this build were well worth it, because Andre takes this compact dirt-traveler all over the southwest U.S.A.

Andre added the right amount of lighting needed to find the perfect camp spot at night or do a night trail run.

Not having grown up going on outdoor adventures and camping, Andre was first introduced to unexplored areas as an adult. He always wanted to explore and camp in undiscovered places when he was younger and made it a goal to achieve this in his adult life. However, it wasn’t until he took what was supposed to be his commuter car out on a trail one day that he truly learned of the capability of his AWD. From that moment, the commuter car turned into an overlanding machine.

A Subaru Crosstrek Is No Longer A Commuter

Inspired by the off-road Subaru community, Andre spend the next two years dialing in this compact overland build.

“Although the rig doesn’t have a low transfer case, its symmetrical, all-wheel drive and lightweight frame have allowed me to get to places that I had never dreamed were possible,” Andre shares. This includes places it’s taken Andre and his wife: They’ve gone on various trips throughout their home state of California, as well as through Utah and Arizona.

“Andre recommends that the first modification someone should do to their Crosstrek is to switch the stock wheels and tires to a set of all-terrain tires with a lighter, aftermarket wheel.”

Andre has been impressed with his wheel/tire combination with ICON Alloys Ricochet and Milestar Patagonia A T/Rs.

To get through rougher terrain while exploring, Andre’s Crosstrek sports a proper, upgraded suspension and armor. Bumps and dips are better handled, thanks to the Ironman 4×4 America 2-inch All Terrain Suspension (ATS). Extra protection on the underbelly is provided by Rallitek via the company’s engine skid plate and transmission skid plate. The full-sized spare is secured to the custom rear swing-out bumper built by Stellar Built (in Sacramento, California). Also noteworthy is the rear sway bar delete. Whether on purpose or accidental, one interesting trip led to this mod.

The Ironman 4×4 2-inch ATS Kit suspension helps keep the Crosstrek handling well through varied terrain.

Andre’s most memorable experience was the night of his rear sway bar removal. He and his wife went on a one-week trip through southern Utah and Arizona, near Lake Powell. They were driving along when suddenly, they heard a loud rattle coming from the rear of the car. At first, they thought nothing of it, because the car already made lots of noises.

A Stellar Built custom rear swingout bumper holds Rotopax, a full-sized spare and traction boards.

When they came upon what Andre calls “the most beautiful site we’ve ever camped at,“ he checked the back of the car to see what caused the sound. He realized the rear sway bar mount had broken off the vehicle frame.

“‘The rig is truly meant for overlanding, because it has everything you need in its small frame … ’”

The Subaru Crosstrek has all the ammenities to camp for a week in southern Utah and Arizona.

“Although it wasn’t an essential part that broke,” Andre points out, “we still had to take the sway bar off, along with the end links, so our trip could go on.” So, remove it he did, and they set up camp and made dinner—always the highlight of their overlanding trips. Unfortunately, on this night, they weren’t able to relax with full bellies by the campfire. A sudden storm rolled in; it was bigger than any they’d ever seen before.

“In the snap of a finger, everything suddenly became unsafe: Our rooftop tent was bending due to how strong the winds were.” Andre explains. “My wife started screaming, and everything was flying everywhere. It was in that moment I knew that I wasn’t prepared for this.”

The most epic camp spot also turned into a mechanic’s garage when Andre found out the loud noise was a broken rear sway bar. (Photo credit: Alyssa Alvarez)

They quickly packed up camp and drove to a hotel, where they stayed for the night. That trip taught him an important lesson. As he put it, “You can never be too prepared; and, if Mother Nature doesn’t want you to stay somewhere, she won’t be afraid to let you know.”

Luckily, that night didn’t deter Andre and his wife from continued adventures.

Next-Level Mods for the Subaru Crosstrek

Andre enjoys finding the hidden gems and learning about the history within the vastness of the Mojave Desert. Trips such as the Mojave Road or Milestar XPND 1 have both shown Andre how special the Mojave is. He’s also tested the rig on some of the most treacherous terrain he’s experienced.

Helping the Subaru Crosstrek maneuver through his favorite spots (such as the Mojave Desert) are Icon Alloys Ricochet size 15.7 with +15mm offset wrapped in 235/75/15 Milestar Patagonia A T/Rs.

“Proving that one can fit quite a bit into a smaller package, Andre built himself an overlanding rig capable of going places he never imagined.”

The combination of his Ironman 4×4 America 2-inch ATS Kit and the Milestar Patagonia A T/R with the Icon Alloys Ricochet comprise his favorite modifications. These updates took the ability of the vehicle to the next level. More clearance and better traction allow him to tackle obstacles that weren’t as easy before. However, Andre recommends that the first modification someone should do to their Crosstrek is to switch the stock wheels and tires to a set of all-terrain tires with a lighter, aftermarket wheel. We agree with that advice, because that change will get most overlanders farther than they realize.

The Ironman 4×4 Night Saber light bar mounts cleanly to the Prinsu roof rack. It provides Andre the ability to see better while driving on the trail at night.

To light up the trail when the sun goes down and stay safe, essential lighting is mounted around the Subaru. The Crosstrek is geared up with an Ironman 4×4 37-inch Night Saber light bar mounted to the front of the Prinsu Design Studio Roof Rack and a Trigger Controller Chase Light mounted in the rear. Ironman 4×4 3-inch Side Shooters are mounted on each side of the hood as ditch lights. To round out the arsenal is a set of Diode Dynamics SS3 Pros, which replaced the OEM fog lights. To control all these lumens, Andre installed a Trigger Controller 4 Plus.

Overlanding Gear In a Subaru Crosstrek

With the basics—and a little more—covered, we’d be remiss to not point out the additional overlanding gear this Crosstrek is sporting so it can take on adventures beyond the city limits.

A Roam Adventure Co. Vagabond Lite tent mounts to the roof rack, along with an Ironman 4×4 America awning with LED lighting. Andre built a custom rear storage/platform in the back, where he also stores his Ironman 4×4 America 30L Icecube fridge. And, let’s not forget the very important (to Andre) Tembo Tusk Skottle.

Inside the cockpit, Andre stays connected and on track with his comms and navigation tools. He uses both a Midland DBR2500 two-way HAM Radio and a Midland MXT-275 GMRS. Navigation is handled via GAIA on an Apple iPad, with GPS provided by a Garmin In Reach. Both are mounted using RAM Mounts Custom mounts.

Andre built the Crosstrek to head out on trips lasting from one day to weeks.

“The rig is truly meant for ‘overlanding,’ because it has everything you need in its small frame, ranging from a fridge to auxiliary power and supplemental navigation. People are truly amazed to see the number of things I have in my car due to how small the rig is,” Andre comments.

AWD Camaraderie

Within the overlanding community, a characteristic that holds true is that most everyone is willing to help anyone else in need. Andre gravitated to the overlanding community, because he likes to help others as much as he can.

While he found inspiration among the Subaru off-road groups, he soon found himself surrounded by people who drive different makes and models of vehicles. Together, they wanted to continue the camaraderie of the overland community and support others looking to learn more. With this thought in mind, they created AWDBOYS, an inclusive group that allows people to foster a relationship through soft-roading and overlanding.

Packed up and ready to hit the road, this 2019 Subaru Crosstrek is always ready for its next adventure.

Andre told us, “This community has delivered on what we set out to accomplish, because we connect people with questions with those that have answers.” He adds, “Overall, we created a place that allows everyone to connect virtually and in person via trail runs, overland trips and other social events, such as the AWDBOYS Surf & Skottle in Bolsa Chica State Beach, California.”

(Follow the adventures of Andre Alvarez on YouTube and Instagram @thetrailtrek. Learn more about the soft-roading community and AWDBOYZ on Instagram @awdboys.)


2019 Subaru Crosstrek Premium

Engine: Subaru FB20, 2019, H4, 2.0L (1995cc) with Mishimoto Auxiliary CVT Cooler

Suspension: Ironman 4×4 America 2-inch All Terrain Suspension; rear sway bar delete

Wheels & Tires: Milestar Patagonia A T/R 235/75/15; ICON Alloys Ricochet 15×7 +15mm offset

Interior Accessories: Custom rear storage/platform; Ironman 4×4 America 30L Icecube Fridge; Tembo Tusk Skottle; Ram Mounts; Midland DBR2500 and MXT-275; Midland PPG1000 Power Station

Exterior Accessories: Rallitek engine skid plate, transmission skid plate; Stellar Built Custom Rear Swingout Bumper; Ironman 4×4 37” Night Saber, 3-inch Side Shooter (2); Trigger Controller Chase Light; Diode Dynamics SS3 Pro; Prinsu Design Studio Subaru Crosstrek Roof Rack; Roam Adventure Co. Vagabond Lite rooftop tent; Idrive Throttle Controller; Nameless Performance Muffler Delete


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