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Old 05-01-2007, 11:04 PM   #1
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Advice needed on purchasing an AS trailer

Hello:

I am thinking about purchasing a new or used Airstream trailer and joined this forum to learn more about them.

I am a conservation biologist who works with amphibians and reptiles in the Northern Intermountain West (mostly Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana). I currently use a 1997 diesel 4WD Ford Van to camp out of for my field work. I thought that a 25' (+/-3') Airstream Safari or Classic would be much more comfortable for extended stays (2-4 weeks), for travel around the US in 2009 when I am on sabbatical, and for a vacation "home" on some land west of the Tetons that I recently acquired.

The questions I would like help in answering include:

1. What size/weight trailer can I safely tow in the mountains with my 1997 4WD Ford power stroke diesel 350 econoline AdventureWagen. I think the van weighs about 7500 lbs with the camping conversion.

2. What would be the optimum size compromise for the trailer? (ease of towing and manuverability vs. space for living). I would mostly be working alone but would like to be able to accomodate a couple of folks to help with fieldwork or guests from time to time. My van can serve as an extra bedroom too.

3. Which series would I choose? Safari or Classic. I like the appearance and potentially greater durability of the Classic but if weight is an important issue then the Safari would probably be the better choice. I have already found some useful threads on the forum wrt this question.

I look forward to learning from you. Thanks.

Chuck Peterson

P.S. I am under no time pressure to make this purchase. I would like to take it slow and learn as much as I can before making a decision within the next year or two.
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:35 AM   #2
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Hello Chuck,

1). Your E350 should have no problem with most any Airstream, of course to be sure you need to review the towing specifications available through Ford.

2). Although you work mostly alone, sometimes with several associates would dictate a 25' or larger to be comfortable. The waste, gray and fresh water tank size is important, and such the larger sizes, again 25' and up, have the largest tanks, very important when boondocking. If going new, a Safari 25FB with twin beds would be a good choice for space and versitility.

3). Go with Safari for weight savings, also more suitable for poor road conditions.

Have fun in your search.

john
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Old 05-02-2007, 06:00 AM   #3
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Chuck -

I agree with what Timemachine said.

Personally, I think any sized trailer would be suitable for a couple of people, and the choice between sizes and models is mainly a personal preference.

You didn't say what types of roads and types of places that you'll need to get a trailer into and out of. Keep in mind that the longer units are more restrictive if you'll be staying in places like national forest or state park campgrounds, and the longer trailers can be a bit more difficult to park in smaller areas.

We've towed our 31' Classic all over the pacific northwest for the past several years, including the mountains of British Columbia, using a 2000 F250 psd with no problems, but we don't go on a lot of secondary roads (no unpaved roads -- gravel is hellacious on aluminum). But, I'd never want to try going over the Teton Pass from Jackson Hole towing it! And this year we're going to park it for the entire summer and fall on the Yellowstone River just south of Livingston.

John
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Old 05-02-2007, 06:23 AM   #4
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Since you are going to be towing on questionable, narrow winding roads at least part of the time, I would recommend no more than 25' of trailer, and ideally no more than 23'. We went from 20' to 26', it was a major difference for towing. For us, it was a good difference, but for someone trying to snake around curves and over humps and dips in the road, the overhang of a longer trailer could be a major issue.
I was reading what John wrote about gravel being bad for aluminum, and maybe a vintage trailer, possibly painted, would be worth looking into. With a vintage, you could have a raised axle (or two, depending on trailer) installed to increase your ground clearance. Inland RV has done this for at least one customer I know of, but when driving on normal roads, the higher center of gravity may cause some towing stability issues.
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Old 05-02-2007, 06:47 AM   #5
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I agree completely with Johns comments regarding large tanks (esp drinking water) and Johns comments regarding gravel, and Terrys comments about narrow roads.

I tend to go into the boondocks myself and I would offer the following observation. I travel with a 24ft vintage (68) and have found it perfect. A major advantage to the vintage trailers is their width. They are about a foot narrower than the wider bodies (about the width of your van). Because of this, they stay in your lane when you are on narrow roads and in the curves. Further, they fit more places (I think) when you are trying to find that perfect camping spot. A second advantage of the vintage is you will be far better off in terms of money if you are able/willing to do alot of work on it yourself. Finally, lets face it, they are just plain cool. The downside is, the extra foot or so of width in the newer bodies makes a huge difference in terms of space. Since I spend most my time outside, this is not an issue for me, but it is something to think about. On the other hand, I did live in it for 10 months last year and Jan of this year while finishing up my Ph.D., so that should give you a feel for its liveability. As far as the rock issue goes, you could have a rock gaurd built for the front of your rig to help with the gravel road issue.

I will be spending about 2 months in the Four Corners and Rockies this summer under conditions similar to what you seem to be contemplating, so check in with me in a couple months for more ideas if you want. Hope this helps.
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Old 05-02-2007, 07:04 AM   #6
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In addition to Rodney's comments, you can get a more modern trailer than a 1968, you can find an Argosy Minuet, they are about the same width as his (and mine), but have more modern amenities found in the newer trailers. They were produced between 1976 and 1979, and are identified by painted badges giving their length in meters, rather than feet. They are also painted, so any paint chips could be touched up. Someone here on the forums has added rhino lining to the lower front of their trailer to keep the stone dents to a minimum.
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Old 05-02-2007, 01:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gen Disarray
I agree completely with Johns comments regarding large tanks (esp drinking water) and Johns comments regarding gravel, and Terrys comments about narrow roads.

I tend to go into the boondocks myself and I would offer the following observation. I travel with a 24ft vintage (68) and have found it perfect. A major advantage to the vintage trailers is their width. They are about a foot narrower than the wider bodies (about the width of your van). Because of this, they stay in your lane when you are on narrow roads and in the curves. Further, they fit more places (I think) when you are trying to find that perfect camping spot. A second advantage of the vintage is you will be far better off in terms of money if you are able/willing to do alot of work on it yourself. Finally, lets face it, they are just plain cool. The downside is, the extra foot or so of width in the newer bodies makes a huge difference in terms of space. Since I spend most my time outside, this is not an issue for me, but it is something to think about. On the other hand, I did live in it for 10 months last year and Jan of this year while finishing up my Ph.D., so that should give you a feel for its liveability. As far as the rock issue goes, you could have a rock gaurd built for the front of your rig to help with the gravel road issue.
Rodney has a very good point regarding width. I am not as familar with vintage units, but with the current production AS, 23' and under are about 8' in width and 25" and over are about 8 1/2' in width. With that said, I find the extra width to be more of a benefit for the space value than a deterant to traveling on narrow roads. Maybe someone else can chime in on the vintage or older widths.

Another issue that should be considered is single vs double axle. I prefer double for both safety and stability as well as increased carrying capacity. Since it is the axle that carries the trailers load, double axles always have more carrying capacity per linear foot of trailer. Essentially, axle specifications will determine how much you can carry in your AS, be aware of that number, some of the smaller single axle AS have very low capacity.

John
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:07 PM   #8
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More affirmations...

I too would agree with proposal to look for 25' trailer for tank size, ability to fit into smaller sites at public campgrounds, room for gear and yourself, storage, water and holding tanks, etc etc. They also have dual batteries, which improve power reserves if away from hookups, or using solar cells.

Van should have plenty of power and mass and wheelbase to pull a 25 or 23, which are the only dual axle options at 25' or under...

You may not need to go so far back into vintage land, if that is a choice.. The "Wide Bodies" appeared in 1995 for 25' and longer, so any trailer built prior to that date would be 8' width (+/- 1"), and therefore a little easier to maneuver and a little lighter.. One from the late '80's or early 90's is likely to have more current appliances, A/C and plumbing and electrical, unless prior owner (PO here..) has already gone through and done major refurbs.. Older trailers also had smaller tanks, or in 60's no gray water holding tank...
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Old 05-02-2007, 03:26 PM   #9
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:49 PM   #10
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Learn what not to buy, what you like or want.

Look out for problems: Leaks, frame corossion, frame sag, cracks, new flooring (maybe cover-up), biting off more than you can chew (too big, too expensive), or not going big enough, twin or double, rear or mid bath.
If married, ask the boss.
But we, 5 of us, lived a month in our 25' and it was great.
A year to learn the pitfalls should do you.
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Old 05-02-2007, 06:50 PM   #11
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If you are looking at current models, the Classic line has the largest fresh water tanks available. 54 gallons vs the Safari and International CCD lines which have up to 39 gallons depending on length of trailer.

If you plan on being off-grid (boondocking) for several days at a time, it's something to consider.
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Old 05-03-2007, 10:01 PM   #12
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Thanks for the advice

Thanks for all the information. It has helped me narrow things down some. I hadn't appreciated the importance of the various tank sizes.

It sounds like a 25' trailer would be appropriate for my use. I think I will probably go for a newer, wider one because I don't plan to take the trailer on bad roads; I can use the van for shorter stays down narrow or rough roads. I will look at both the Safaris and Classic 25' models.

Flyfisher:

I frequently go over Teton Pass with my van to get to Grand Teton National Park. Do you think I would have trouble towing a 25' Safari or Classic on that road? Is it primarily the grade or would the switchbacks be a problem too?

Thanks again for you responses.

Chuck
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Old 05-03-2007, 11:59 PM   #13
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You can do it

Quote:
Originally Posted by petechar
Flyfisher:

I frequently go over Teton Pass with my van to get to Grand Teton National Park. Do you think I would have trouble towing a 25' Safari or Classic on that road? Is it primarily the grade or would the switchbacks be a problem too?

Thanks again for you responses.

Chuck
Chuck,

I know you were asking flyfisher because of his quote, but hell, you got a E350 4X4 with a PSD, it isnt the grade that is gonna stop you. You should have no problems going up a tough grade with a 25' Classic or Safari even if you were dragging a tree behind the AS. I don't know the road, but we drag our 25' Safari up and down Highway 1 along the California Coast with twists and turns that damn near cramp your hands, but have never tagged so much as a bush let alone a guard rail. And if the road your refering to is dirt, well then the turns are even easier cause you can just "drift" through and keep the throttle floored. I hope ya know the last statement was kind of a joke.

Hopefully, flyfisher can be more specific.

John
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Old 05-04-2007, 06:25 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petechar
Flyfisher:

I frequently go over Teton Pass with my van to get to Grand Teton National Park. Do you think I would have trouble towing a 25' Safari or Classic on that road? Is it primarily the grade or would the switchbacks be a problem too?

Thanks again for you responses.

Chuck
Chuck -

It's been awhile since I went over the pass with just a car or truck, and we've ALWAYS followed the river via Hwy 26 when towing our trailer from or to Jackson and points west in Idaho.

I'm mainly concerned about towing going down steep grades with my truck, and braking. What's the grade on that road, 15%, or more?

I've done some 15% grades, and my truck is in pretty good condition (At least I hope!) It's not going up that % grade, or the switchbacks specifically that worry me, it's keeping the speed under control going downhill, without burning up my brakes, that has me white knucked until I've gotten safely to the bottom. I know you can add something like a pac brake on your truck/van, which I don't have, which might help this situation, but I don't know whether it would completely eliminate the concern.

I alway remember driving over that road a couple times in cars with friends who are mechanical engineers in the auto/agriculture/construction industries, who design and develop machinery involving various types of braking systems, and they wanted to stop to let our car brakes cool. That wasn't something I'd have done on my own, and we weren't towing anything, but I figured if they were wanted to stop for a couple minutes, it would be much better to stop by choice that stop by collision.

John
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