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Old 08-12-2012, 11:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Outer Banks 4x4 area in an Outback

I saw a few threads in the Gen 4 area discussing how the new Outbacks do in the 4x4 beach area north of Corolla in the Outer Banks and I wanted to start one here. We just returned from a trip there where we rented a house in the 4x4 area off of Albatrose lane.

On the first drive up to the beach, we aired down to 20 psi on all four tires in our 2008 Outback 2.5 with the 5 speed manual. My dad also went to 20 psi in his Chevrolet Colorado, 4 cylinder, 5 speed manual with locker rear diff. Luckily, we arrived at low tide. The sand was very soft and deep getting to from the asphalt ramp to the hard packed beach where most drive. We didn't have any problems here. However, when we got to Albotrose lane, it went right over the steepest dune in that area. Not knowing that there was another way around to get to our house, I attempted the dune road from the South and simply ran out of power half way up in first gear. I just couldn't carry enough speed out of the deep ruts to make the corner and climb the dune. I backed down and got lined up in the ruts to drive up the beach to turn around and make an approach from the North where I could get a better run. However, when I stopped and tried to go forward, I wasn't fully in the deep ruts and I was stuck!

I tried twice to get out but quickly decided that my clutch wouldn't take it. My dad, who tried to climb the dune in 4 HI couldn't make it either. He went into 4 LO and then pulled me backwards. This time, I made sure I was fully into the deep ruts before I stopped. After unstrapping from the Colorado, I drove North and then turned around and made an approach from that direction. I could carry alot more speed and hit the dune in 1st at about 3000 rpm's. With it floored, I slid slideways as I turned up the dune. We made it this time! My dad came up in 4 LO with no problems.

After this initial trial, we found that we could take a few back roads off of Albatrose and approach the beach from Canary, which was nearly flat and a piece of cake. We made numerous trips up and down the beach after that first day without any problems. We did see numerous vehicles stuck and some of them were alot deeper than the subaru got. Vehicles stuck: Landrover, F250 diesel 4x4 (it was really deep), Silverado 1500 4x4 (down to the axles), Chevy Traverse, and Toyota Corolla (not sure why they even tried). I also witnessed a Jeep Wrangler attempt the approach up Albatrose in 4 HI and he too had to back down and then go into 4 LO to make it up.

Tips and notes:
1. They state that 4 wheel drive vehicles are recommended due to lack of ground clearance with AWD vehicles. This is partly true as we were scraping the sand when we were in some of the deep ruts. However, the lack of 4 LO is the real issue. A lower 1st gear or 4 LO is needed in the really deep stuff.
2. 20 psi worked for us and allowed us to drive around Corolla without airing up. If we went farther south than Corolla, we would stop and air up.
3. Keep your engine speed up in the deep stuff so that you have power when you need it. I would travel in 1st with the rpms at about 2500 or higher.
4. Make your first drive up the beach at low tide as you can drive up to 35 mph (the speed limit) on the hard packed sand by the ocean. At high tide, and if the beach is busy with cars and people, you almost have to drive back by the dunes, which is where the deep ruts are. This is doable as long as you keep the rpms up in 1st gear.
5. Avoid the approach in to Albatrose lane from the beach! It is the worst one in that area.
6. Don't even try to pull someone out, without 4 LO, you will just tear up your clutch.
7. Bring a tow strap or recovery strap so someone can pull you out. Also, bring a folding shovel if you are by yourself. There is a tow company that will pull you out but he is nicknamed "The Pirate of the North Beach".
8. One you get off the beach and on the road back to your rental house, avoid the puddles in the road. We saw one Wrangler with a lift kit go through one that didn't look deep and the water went over his floor boards. Go around them or skirt the edges.
9. When you park on the beach, face toward the ocean as this is slightly downhill and will help you get going again (you have to park in the middle of two roads - the hardpacked beach road and the rutty road back by the dunes). This is kind of soft so facing down hill helps.

That's all I can think if for now. We had a blast and plan to go there again. Hopefully, someone will find this usefull. I just wanted to get my thoughts out there.
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Old 08-14-2012, 01:14 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Two weeks ago I was camping at Lake McConaughy near the water which meant traversing 500-600' of sand (with a 21' drop over that distance), 60% of which had the consistency of sugar. Even though I didn't take the advice I know that airing down your tires makes a big difference. If you suspect high centering avoid the ruts, otherwise use them as you might get closer to the wet sand (harder sand). Momentum is key. Get as much speed as possible (safely) before you hit the soft stuff. If you have an automatic put it in the lowest gear to keep it from shifting. Turn off any traction control/stability control aides. If it is allowed find sand with vegetation as the root structure may hold the sand together a little better. I know I mainly restated what was written above, but I just wanted to comment on my limited experience.
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