Five Myths About Airstream Trailers

There’s no doubt it’s a conversation piece, and go figure- I always enjoy discussing our Airstream.  But, it’s funny the different misconceptions I often hear.  Here’s a list of the most often repeated, in no particular order.  (I’m only referring to the travel trailers, Airstream used to produce various motorhome types, and currently manufacture the “Interstate” model on a Benz chassis).

“That’s really lightweight, right?”

Almost everybody’s seen the picture of the bicyclist pulling an old Airstream.  Amazing what sticks in the public consciousness.  If you’re talking about a vintage model, then ‘yes’ for the most part, they are lighter- as far as recreational vehicles go.  Late models, not so much.  Unit base weights started to really fatten up with the wide-body layout.  Obviously, unit length is the primary determining factor on weight, but on average, most of the modern units will be heavier than their “standard old box” counterparts.  Particularly the top line ‘Classic’ trim.  Ours is 8600 lbs empty, with a 1200 lb tongue weight.  Try hooking that to your Schwinn.

“They still make Airstreams?”

I was pretty surprised to find out, many people thought Airstreams were no longer in production.  I definitely do not see as many as I did when I was younger.  Then again, when I do see them, they’re usually vintage (Airstream boasts 66% of all trailers ever built are still in use).  Or maybe it’s a malicious lie perpetrated by the so-called “purists” with the help of Google and the NSA.  By “purists”, I mean the folks who think the modern design has been mutated too radically from the original intent; appearing as little more than a rounded ‘box’.  A ‘twinkie’ as opposed to the 60’s, sleek, silver projectile with a slab tail.  As for me, the Airstream legend didn’t die when they were acquired (some might say ‘fouled up’) by Beatrice Foods in 1969, nor when they were acquired by Thor Industries in 1979 (“Thorstream”).  I think Wally would be thrilled with its current design, I know I am.  Besides, I like Twinkies.

“Airstream’s don’t have slide-outs.”

Slide-out models were produced from 2000-2009.  Only the 28’, 31’, and 34’ models with ‘Safari’ and ‘Classic’ trim lines.  The “slide” is another design iteration that puts the purists in a snit-fit.  I heard: “It’s like putting a slide out on an airplane.”, to which I replied: “Which is only a problem if you open it during flight.”

 “The interior is too cramped.”

The rounded cross section and 7’ width on the vintage models does present a cozy interior.  However, the modern ‘wide-body’ has an 8’ width, and smaller radiuses between the walls and ceiling, so space and headroom is not an issue.  Ergonomics are very well done, and all available space is utilized very efficiently.  Storage has never been a problem.  Honestly, I think this is an issue that gets back to the fundamental differences in peoples idea of “camping”.  For some, ‘camping’ is in a tent, for others a trailer, and still others ‘camping’ is all about having the floor space of a two bedroom condo, with all the toys and amenities of home.  To each his own.

“Airstreams are for full hookup camping, not boondocking.”

How well your trailer boondocks is going to be based on a combination of things:

Battery capacity.  Need to have adequate amp/hr capacity.  Even with photovoltaic panels, you’re still going to need reserve to handle potential furnace draw overnight, or cover your overhead when you have a stretch of overcast days.  Most Airstreams are fitted with dual battery compartments.  I upgraded ours with a pair of Group31, true deep cycle batteries.  Approximately 280 amp/hr (or 400A reserve capacity).  I’ve never dropped below an 85% state of charge, even after two full days of boondocking.

Insulation.  For cold weather camping, obviously more is better. At some point I actually did a heat load calculation for our trailer, and discovered, when you’re discussing RV’s, the most important factor is not R-rating of the envelope, but infiltration that affects energy consumption.  In other words, even if we insulated the trailer with Aerogel, and replaced the windows with double insulated fixed glass, the reduction of LP to heat or electricity to cool would be minimal.  In warm weather, insulation will reduce the heat gain thru transmission, in addition the reflective white roof, and awnings all around do an excellent job keeping the interior cool.  We get excellent results extending the awnings, and circulating the air with the 2 Fantastic Fans skylights.

LP tanks.  Dual 30# LP tanks typically last us anywhere from 12-18 months, depending on how much camping we do.

Holding tanks.  60 gallons fresh water, 39 gallons grey tank, and 39 gallons black.  With a family of 7, the grey capacity is the only limiting tank.  Typically, we’ll fill it after a full 2 days of boondocking (and that’s living comfortably, skimping could double that).  Of course, grey water is harmless, and dumping it where-ever we are is no worse than going thru a carwash.  Yup, that’s right… I’m a grey-water-ghost-dumper.  Feel free to respond tree-humpers.

Thanks for visiting.

See you down the road!

5 thoughts on “Five Myths About Airstream Trailers

  1. To be exact. Grey water is not any better than black water. No state in the US allows dumping of grey water. You have to understand that water being passed over food and humans will contain every bit of matter that would go into black water. I tried to put in an advanced water treatment for my rain water collection house that would let me use the house waste water. No engineer would sign off on it. Just not safe. Doesn’t take a lot to get water from a hill down to a stream and down to a beach. Your kids may by in that stream or lake.

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