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Old 09-18-2017, 06:37 AM   #1
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Winston Salem , North Carolina
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Help me decide - Airstream or Sportsmobile

This will be my first purchase. A little about me - Iím in my 30s, have a 10 year old son, getting married next year. I plan to own the vehicle for at least 10-20 years. Weíve rented RVs before but definitely want to go with the Class B. Most of my use (couple times a month) will be 1-2 night trips off the grid (parking at trailheads to mountain bike or hike). I anticipate more than 95% of my use to be away from campgrounds. We will probably do 1 or 2 big trips a year with 4 of us (the kids will sleep in a tent). I will probably go on some longer trips solo or with 2 of us as well, mostly off grid. I know either unit will be limited to a few days of water and fuel. I want 4x4 so I wonít be limited in snow and maybe some gravel or muddy roads in the mountains.

I plan on making the purchase in about a year which is why Iím seriously looking now as I know it will take at least that long to get the Sportsmobile built. Essentially the vans Iím looking at are identical (Sprinter 3500 4x4 Long Body), the question is more about the interior and options. The total cost for either van would be about $140,000.

Airstream Grand Tour Ext
- 4x4 option
- Otherwise standard systems (LP generator 2.5k, propane stove/furnace, 30 gal freshwater)

Sportsmobile
- 4x4 option
- No propane system (although Iím not set on this)
- Extra battery bank (total 4 AGM)
- Extra solar panel
- Diesel 3k generator
- Diesel water heater and furnace
- Electric stove
- Refrigerator and water tank upgrade (to match capacity of Airstream)

I havenít visited Sportsmobile yet. Iíve been in the Airstreams and generally like the plush feel to them (so does my soon to be wife). It looks like the Sporsmobile shower would be a bit roomier and then the benefit of having the water tanks mounted inside.

So here are my general questions and concerns. Any thoughts or input is greatly appreciated. Iím pretty open-minded and admittedly a newbie, so feel free to make other suggestions as well.

- With prices being equal, is there a benefit to the upgraded generator, batteries, all-electric system of the sports mobile

- Do you think having all the diesel options on the sports mobile will be a significant limitation for being off the grid (the diesel tank on either unit is 24 gallon, so no propane to draw off of on the sports mobile)

- Should it really come down to which interior we like better?
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Old 09-18-2017, 08:06 AM   #2
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Welcome to Air Forums. Your needs description is thorough, and I think the most important phrase it contains is "off the grid". If you read through the threads here, you'll find that there are barriers to off-grid usage with the Interstates as they roll off the assembly line. User modifications are needed to achieve a boondocking configuration that is even baseline-workable under modest usage demands. EXTENSIVE modifications are needed to achieve a boondocking configuration that is actually satisfying, touchless, self-sustaining, and reliable across a range of scenarios. My husband and I (mostly my husband) recently installed a system that fits the latter description. It took months of work and thousands of dollars to achieve. If we had hired out the same job, it would have been tens of thousands of dollars and frankly we don't think it would have been done as carefully (due to labor costs demanding that certain shortcuts be taken).

If I were you, I would focus on the off-grid factor first and accept whatever falls out of a deeper analysis there. I personally don't know enough about the Sportsmobile to contribute to a direct pro vs. con comparison in that respect.

Expounding on the off-grid theme, in general, beware of generators and liquid-fueled appliances such as diesel heaters, both of which tend to be too loud for many off-grid applications. Even if you can legally run them in some locations, they destroy the experience, negating the point of being in the wilderness away from other people and noisy human development.
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Old 09-18-2017, 08:19 AM   #3
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Hi

I would most definitely want to spend some time sitting in any RV before I bought it. Stupid little things can turn into a "really big deal". Trying to sort out fit issues from internet pictures or data is really tough.

Bob
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Old 09-18-2017, 09:20 AM   #4
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Welcome to the forum!

How important is 4x4? Not sure if AS Interstate is available that way. Also InterBlog's point about off-grid being difficult with the Interstate would be my next question. I would peruse this sub-forum's list of threads for battery issues, and read up well.

We looked at the SM option years ago, and IMO you will better off customizing one, rather than accepting the AS's limitations.

Good luck,

Peter

PS -- Forgive me getting personal, but I sense a possible tension between your focus on functional issues, vs. wanting the interior to look nice. Probably best to address this sooner rather than later. Sportsmobiles are pretty utilitarian. AS look nicer.
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Old 09-18-2017, 10:06 AM   #5
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I'd be a bit surprised if you could purchase a custom build for near the price of a AI. The diesel gen would be nice to have. Keep in mind, the AI now comes with 300W of solar and changing out the mickey mouse (sorry Disney fans) Atkinson Solar Charge Controller is an inexpensive and simple task.
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:00 AM   #6
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Welcome to the madhouse...I mean FORUM!! Lots of good people here with great advice, although some are a bit mental (hey, why is everyone looking at me?)

Sportsmobile vs. Airstream. Capable overlander vs. plush ride. More spartan interior vs. luxury. These two choices seem....conflicting.

First order of business: Wife. What type of bathroom does she want? Portapotty, cassette, full wet bath, full dry bath? This will dictate a lot of your Sportsmobile build.

Second order of business: Offgrid. We are very fortunate to have people like Interblog, amirm, Boxster, and others who have made significant modifications to their Interstates and freely share their experience here, so do check out their posts on their conversions/mods. Personally, I only boondock. I don't go camping to be packed cheek to cheek with 150 other "campers". I want to be out away from congestion and noise, I just don't want to sleep on the ground anymore . If money were no object (I wish...), I'd buy a custom rig from Advanced RV and be done. It would have the following: no rooftop A/C, no awning, no genset, no propane. Fully electric "house" with ARV's new Volta 48v battery/alternator setup, 300W of solar, 3kW inverter. 4x4 diesel Sprinter on the 2500 chassis (more on that next). As much fresh water as they can stuff in it (30 gallons minimum). This would give me at least a week offgrid with no noise and remove many of the common failure items that frankly I don't need (genset, A/C, etc).

Third order of business: Size matters. Frankly, I find the Sprinter 3500 EXT to be a frustrating compromise. At 24' long, it's too long to comfortably use as my daily driver (#1 issue is it won't fit in a standard parking spot so it's a PITA at work, doctor appts., grocery shopping, you name it), and at 6 1/2' wide it's too narrow to really afford much room inside. If I could take a chainsaw to mine and cut off 4', I'd do it in a heartbeat. As is, I feel like I want to either go a bit bigger and just accept using it as a dedicated "fun mobile" (FWIW I'd go with Leisure Travel), or go smaller so I can get rid of my truck and just use the "RV" as my daily driver. I REALLY WISH Airstream would make a "small" Interstate on the 2500 chassis, but sadly they've gone the other way with the introduction of the new Atlas. Anyway, carefully consider how you want to use your rig before you decide on the size. This will also be a major factor in your decision.

All the best. The good news is there are lots of choices. Unfortunately, that's also the bad news....
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:18 AM   #7
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This might be helpful: Work the inverse problem. List your top five off-grid destinations, right down to their GPS coordinates. That'll have a lot to say about the capabilities that you really have to prioritize. Because one person's version of off-grid does not equal the next person's.
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:35 AM   #8
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It's a good question/conversation. Earlier this year we spent 10 days in New Zealand camping. We rented a VW that is very similar to a Sprinter. It had a shower and all the stuff the AS Sprinters have or SportWagons ( 21ft)...Here we have a VW TDI Touareg that we tow our 17ft Caravel with. Now having done both, we really like the option of setting up camp and being mobile. Going out to dinner or exploring the back country in our 4 x 4 and then returning to our Caravel. Also some parks we found only like smaller trailers.
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:50 AM   #9
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Winston Salem , North Carolina
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
If you read through the threads here, you'll find that there are barriers to off-grid usage with the Interstates as they roll off the assembly line. User modifications are needed to achieve a boondocking configuration that is even baseline-workable under modest usage demands. EXTENSIVE modifications are needed to achieve a boondocking configuration that is actually satisfying, touchless, self-sustaining, and reliable across a range of scenarios. My husband and I (mostly my husband) recently installed a system that fits the latter description. It took months of work and thousands of dollars to achieve. If we had hired out the same job, it would have been tens of thousands of dollars and frankly we don't think it would have been done as carefully (due to labor costs demanding that certain shortcuts be taken).
Thank you for the reply. i realize I have a lot to learn! A few questions related to your post..

1) What are the major barriers you're talking about? At least initially, my biggest use would be taking off for destinations 2-5 hours away to spend 2-3 nights. I would want to be able to take a hot shower, have AC (in certain months), and be able to cook. Would this not be possible right off the line with the AI?

2) What were the major components of your new system? (i.e. batteries, water capacity, solar, etc..)
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:00 PM   #10
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Winston Salem , North Carolina
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyFishinRVr View Post
First order of business: Wife. What type of bathroom does she want? Portapotty, cassette, full wet bath, full dry bath? This will dictate a lot of your Sportsmobile build.

Second order of business: Offgrid. We are very fortunate to have people like Interblog, amirm, Boxster, and others who have made significant modifications to their Interstates and freely share their experience here, so do check out their posts on their conversions/mods. Personally, I only boondock. I don't go camping to be packed cheek to cheek with 150 other "campers". I want to be out away from congestion and noise, I just don't want to sleep on the ground anymore . If money were no object (I wish...), I'd buy a custom rig from Advanced RV and be done. It would have the following: no rooftop A/C, no awning, no genset, no propane. Fully electric "house" with ARV's new Volta 48v battery/alternator setup, 300W of solar, 3kW inverter. 4x4 diesel Sprinter on the 2500 chassis (more on that next). As much fresh water as they can stuff in it (30 gallons minimum). This would give me at least a week offgrid with no noise and remove many of the common failure items that frankly I don't need (genset, A/C, etc).

Third order of business: Size matters. Frankly, I find the Sprinter 3500 EXT to be a frustrating compromise. At 24' long, it's too long to comfortably use as my daily driver (#1 issue is it won't fit in a standard parking spot so it's a PITA at work, doctor appts., grocery shopping, you name it), and at 6 1/2' wide it's too narrow to really afford much room inside. If I could take a chainsaw to mine and cut off 4', I'd do it in a heartbeat. As is, I feel like I want to either go a bit bigger and just accept using it as a dedicated "fun mobile" (FWIW I'd go with Leisure Travel), or go smaller so I can get rid of my truck and just use the "RV" as my daily driver. I REALLY WISH Airstream would make a "small" Interstate on the 2500 chassis, but sadly they've gone the other way with the introduction of the new Atlas. Anyway, carefully consider how you want to use your rig before you decide on the size. This will also be a major factor in your decision.

All the best. The good news is there are lots of choices. Unfortunately, that's also the bad news....
1) We would both want the full wet bath. We do a lot of biking, hiking, and running. Currently when we're able to do overnight trips, we sleep in our car or a tent. Sometimes we shower at a campground if nearby. But the value of having one of these units is to be able to get comfy after our adventures.

2) The AC is probably a must for us. We live in the SE and will use it mostly here (for now). I want to be able to use it in 90 degree weather. The genset I'm +/- on. I think for the AC we would probably need it. I know the AC can be run briefly off a large battery bank, but frankly I'm not yet educated enough to know for how long and if this is really a good option.

3) I personally like the looks of the smaller units. However, wanting to have as many creature comforts as possible, I'm comfortably with the 24'. Fortunately for us, this won't be a daily driver. Just used for fun trips and for me to sleep in during the day when I work nights.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:02 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanster View Post
It's a good question/conversation. Earlier this year we spent 10 days in New Zealand camping. We rented a VW that is very similar to a Sprinter. It had a shower and all the stuff the AS Sprinters have or SportWagons ( 21ft)...Here we have a VW TDI Touareg that we tow our 17ft Caravel with. Now having done both, we really like the option of setting up camp and being mobile. Going out to dinner or exploring the back country in our 4 x 4 and then returning to our Caravel. Also some parks we found only like smaller trailers.
I/we definitely want to be able to stealth camp and sleep in parking lots at trailheads, so a trailer is out for us.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:06 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
Welcome to the forum!

How important is 4x4? Not sure if AS Interstate is available that way. Also InterBlog's point about off-grid being difficult with the Interstate would be my next question. I would peruse this sub-forum's list of threads for battery issues, and read up well.

We looked at the SM option years ago, and IMO you will better off customizing one, rather than accepting the AS's limitations.

Good luck,

Peter

PS -- Forgive me getting personal, but I sense a possible tension between your focus on functional issues, vs. wanting the interior to look nice. Probably best to address this sooner rather than later. Sportsmobiles are pretty utilitarian. AS look nicer.
The AS does offer the 4x4 option now. Ultimately functionality will prevail, but we also want to be comfortable. As mentioned by someone else above, we really need to go visit SM to actually see some of these units. What we liked about the AS was the general comfort of the seats/bed. We also liked the forward facing bench seat in the back (compared to the dinette in the SM). I know about anything can be done with the SM, but we don't want to give up comfort in general daily living and sleeping. We could care less about the shiny laminates in the AS. We just generally liked the feel, the screens, the privacy shades, etc.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbmtb View Post
This will be my first purchase. A little about me - Iím in my 30s, have a 10 year old son, getting married next year. I plan to own the vehicle for at least 10-20 years. Weíve rented RVs before but definitely want to go with the Class B. Most of my use (couple times a month) will be 1-2 night trips off the grid (parking at trailheads to mountain bike or hike). I anticipate more than 95% of my use to be away from campgrounds. We will probably do 1 or 2 big trips a year with 4 of us (the kids will sleep in a tent). I will probably go on some longer trips solo or with 2 of us as well, mostly off grid. I know either unit will be limited to a few days of water and fuel. I want 4x4 so I wonít be limited in snow and maybe some gravel or muddy roads in the mountains.

I plan on making the purchase in about a year which is why Iím seriously looking now as I know it will take at least that long to get the Sportsmobile built. Essentially the vans Iím looking at are identical (Sprinter 3500 4x4 Long Body), the question is more about the interior and options. The total cost for either van would be about $140,000.

Airstream Grand Tour Ext
- 4x4 option
- Otherwise standard systems (LP generator 2.5k, propane stove/furnace, 30 gal freshwater)

Sportsmobile
- 4x4 option
- No propane system (although Iím not set on this)
- Extra battery bank (total 4 AGM)
- Extra solar panel
- Diesel 3k generator
- Diesel water heater and furnace
- Electric stove
- Refrigerator and water tank upgrade (to match capacity of Airstream)

I havenít visited Sportsmobile yet. Iíve been in the Airstreams and generally like the plush feel to them (so does my soon to be wife). It looks like the Sporsmobile shower would be a bit roomier and then the benefit of having the water tanks mounted inside.

So here are my general questions and concerns. Any thoughts or input is greatly appreciated. Iím pretty open-minded and admittedly a newbie, so feel free to make other suggestions as well.

- With prices being equal, is there a benefit to the upgraded generator, batteries, all-electric system of the sports mobile

- Do you think having all the diesel options on the sports mobile will be a significant limitation for being off the grid (the diesel tank on either unit is 24 gallon, so no propane to draw off of on the sports mobile)

- Should it really come down to which interior we like better?
I have nothing to offer with respect to either vehicle. I do, however, have a suggestion about children sleeping in a tent while the adults sleep inside the rv. If you are boon docking what wild life is likely to habitat the area? If bears, black, grizzlies or brown, may be in the area, your children in a tent and you inside is a bad idea, in my opinion. They may sneak food into the tent which will attract bears or they may be an attractant to the bears. If you are in the southeast there are bears and alligators are also a possibility. My advice is to bed the kids in the rv with you.

David Parker
1993 Excella
1989 Dodge D-350
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:12 PM   #14
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Winston Salem , North Carolina
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Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
This might be helpful: Work the inverse problem. List your top five off-grid destinations, right down to their GPS coordinates. That'll have a lot to say about the capabilities that you really have to prioritize. Because one person's version of off-grid does not equal the next person's.
Great point. Our off the grid for now essentially means being able to sleep in parking lots, remote trail heads, and the like. Not quite off the grid as remote in the desert or Alaska. Although one can dream...

In the next couple of years we would have some trips planned out west. Again, I'm new to this whole thing. I just know we don't want to be spending the majority of our trips sleeping in campgrounds. We prefer the side of an isolated dirt road to that. Nothing against campgrounds, but we'd like to be able to finish a long hike or bike ride and not have to drive somewhere else to plug in.
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