Since Nancy and I were engaged back in 1999 (was it really that long ago?), we have dreamed of owning and traveling around the country camping in an Airstream trailer. We both enjoy camping, the outdoors, and visiting interesting out-of-the way places and what better way to do these things than in an Airstream. When we were younger, we were without much money and there was no way we could justify buying one of these shiny aluminum trailers, so we camped in tents, on the ground and that was OK. Time went by, we had a child, who seemed to enjoy being outdoors and camping with us, so we made the decision to upgrade our digs and we purchased a tent trailer for our tiny family. This is the kind of trailer that sort of folds down into a box when you’re driving and somehow expands into a decent sized camper when you’re parked. It’s basically a canvas tent in a metal box that has two beds that slide out on either side. It’s certainly better than sleeping on the ground and has some nice features, like a tiny refrigerator, some lights, and a propane tank attached! We had this trailer for several years and took many memorable trips with it. We very much enjoyed our time with our tent trailer and have no regrets purchasing it, but like with so many other things, life moved on and we hit a patch where we were too busy with other activities and just weren’t camping enough to justify having it sit in our driveway. So, we sold our tent trailer to another young family and the three of us teared up as we saw it drive away with them.
Fast forward about 10 years, our child is now nearly a grown man who can take care of himself (almost), and we have a little more money and time on our hands and still have that dream to travel around the country and camp in an airstream trailer! So, last month we decided, damnit let’s make this dream happen before we don’t have the chance to! Before I tell you which trailer we purchased, as Airstream makes several different ones, I thought it might be interesting to describe our decision-making process. For example, from our experience in owning the tent trailer, we were confident that we wanted another travel trailer, as opposed to a Sprinter van, VW bus or other self-contained RV. It’s just so nice to be able to detach the tow vehicle from the trailer once your camp site is set up; and smaller trailers really aren’t that bad to pull around. Also, we consider ourselves simple people and there’s just the three of us, so owning a large, luxurious RV with many bells and whistles just wouldn’t line up with the way we roll. We have no interest in things like full size kitchens, TV watching or elaborate interiors while camping or traveling. Cutting to the chase, here’s a somewhat ranked list of our decision criteria:
- Travel Trailer – Didn’t want a big RV or camper van because we like being able to establish a base camp, detach the trailer and then use our tow vehicle for day trips into town or remote trail heads and points of interest. Also, didn’t want another tent trailer, as although they’re a good starting place, they’re not great shelter in inclement weather, including being cold at night and prone to leaking in the rain.
- Airstream – Great design, robust well-proven structural integrity and build quality, easy to tow and have terrific resale value, among other reasons.
- < 20 feet in length – Small enough to fit in most campsites, national parks and easier to store when not in use. Not to mention backing up or navigating through tight parking lots!
- GVRW < 4500 lbs – We own a GMC Canyon (6000 lbs) which has a towing capacity of 7000 lbs. From experience and what I read, aside from considering the towing capability of your vehicle, it’s important to ensure that your tow vehicle weighs significantly more than the load you intend on towing.
- Layout – Enough interior room to stand up and move around a bit such that we would be able to spend a rainy weekend inside the trailer without feeling trapped. Also, avoid trailer layouts with the primary bed located at the entrance door (no privacy).
- Simple – Don’t pay for expensive upgrade trim packages or features that wouldn’t add true functional benefit while camping, e.g. leather cushions, recessed lighting, faux fire place …
With this in mind, we chose Airstream’s 19ft Bambi https://www.airstream.com/travel-trailers/bambi/. We really liked the layout and the openness of the floor plan, and the smaller 16ft model just seemed too tight. Besides being an Airstream, the Bambi line has very few bells and whistles, is light, nimble, and easy to tow with smaller vehicles. It just seemed like a good fit for us and although a bit expensive, didn’t throw money at frivolous extras or a couple of extra feet in length. We’ll be sure to update you on just how satisfied we are with our choice over the course of 2021 as we begin to use and abuse this shiny little trailer! Stay tuned.