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Old 11-22-2009, 10:43 AM   #1
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First post...some questions

I'm in the market for my first AS. I've been reading all the valuable information on this site for months and learning as much as I can before making the purchase. I owned a small Coleman PU for years, and before that I did a lot of tent camping. I'm tired of motels, erecting pop-ups, sleeping on the cold, hard ground, camping in all types of inclement weather... and looking at all those cheap trailers on RV lots. I am finally going to fulfill my long-time dream of owning an Airstream.

I'm a large format landscape photographer and teacher. I travel constantly, chasing the light. I can be found in Utah's Canyonlands or Arches NP in the middle of winter, the Everglades and Keys in the summer or high up in the San Juans in the Fall. It's usually just myself, for several weeks/months at a time, camping (or boondocking, as you folks call it here) in remote un-improved sites, state or national parks or anywhere I can set up to be close to the action when the light is good.

I've narrowed it down to either a new 19' Bambi or Sport 17'. The smaller, lighter, less expensive Sport 17' and Bambi 19' models appeal to me over the larger AS models. I'd love a Flying Cloud 20' or 23', but the cost is more than I can handle and I think the size would limit my access to many areas. So, smaller, lighter and less expensive is better. I like the separate rear corner bed and front dinette/lounge layout on the Bambi, but I can live with the combined front bed/lounge/dinette layout of the Sport, particularly considering the size, weight and price differences. However I do have some specific questions regarding several specific features of both units before making a final choice.

One feature I would really like is the panoramic front window, instead of the smaller front window. I've found the panoramic front window on a few Sport 17s, it's listed as an "option" on some 2009 Sport 17' units, and also on most Bambi 19' units. However, better views and increased interior light aside, what are the mechanical advantages/drawbacks of the panoramic windows compared to the single ones? Weight, strength, insulating properties, maintenance?

I also would prefer the all aluminum interior skin found in the Bambis, and other higher-end AS models, over the carpeted wall covering (it looks like an off-white ID/OD carpet material) found in the Sport's sleeping/cooking/lounging area (the Sport's bathroom interior skin is aluminum). One AS owner told me I should not consider the carpeted interior, that I should get the aluminum interior skin throughout the entire trailer. He mentioned things like cooking odors, ease of cleaning, etc. It seems like really good advice, not to mention the aluminum interior skin looks a lot better. Any thoughts on the carpeted vs. aluminum interior? I don't take any pets with me, I don't smoke and I don't fry fish every evening, so is this that much of a drawback?

Additionally, one large dealer I called told me the new, "upgraded" 2010 Sport 17' would come with both of these features "standard": the panoramic front windows, and the higher-end aluminum skin wall surface in all interior areas. I cannot seem to find any information to confirm this one way or the other. Is the dealer correct on this point? This could make a difference in my choice if I decide I really wanted/needed these features.

The Sport 17' uses a plastic material to encase the propane tanks, while the Bambi uses aluminum. Are there any advantages in weight, durability and ease of tank access in having the metal case over the plastic one, other than purely aesthetic considerations?

The Sport 17' comes with 2 smaller propane tanks. Can these tanks be eventually replaced with the larger tanks found on the Bambi, if needed, and will the larger tanks fit inside the standard plastic box on the Sport? The Sport also uses a single battery, while the Bambi has two. Is it possible to add a battery, if necessary, at some point in the future? Apart from the obvious benefits, any thoughts (pro or con) on the advantages of larger tanks and more battery capacity?

Lastly, if we asume the same cost-cutting and weight-limiting practices are found in other areas of the Sport models as well, are any of the other mechanical systems, insulating properties, components or materials used in the Sport 17' less efficient, cheaper or not as durable than those found in the Bambi 19' models? Any other thoughts or observations on choosing either of these two models would be appreciated.

Thanks.
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Old 11-22-2009, 11:02 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forums with your first post!

Sounds like you have most of the pros vs cons covered in your post. But one reason I would stay away from the "carpeted walls" is bugs. If you swat a bug on the wall it'll leave it's guts in the carpet...yuk! That's just gross to me! Another advantage of the non-carpeted walls is you can wipe them down. Even if smoking and fish-frying aren't your past-times, condensation + boondocking road dust alone will dirty your walls and I would want to wipe them down periodically.

You've talked about the Sport being a cost savings measure - another one would be to focus on a trailer that is a year or two old. The cost drops ALOT the minute it is taken from the dealer's lot...my guess is that you could pay what you would for a new Sport and get a year or two old Bambi or Flying Cloud. As far as getting into spaces - there really isn't much difference between a 17' and a 19'...we can get into just about anywhere we want in both our trailers - 19' & 22' - and we do a fair amount of boondocking off the beaten path.

One other thought - I have found making up/down the bed all the time gets to be a PITA after about two weeks...a full time bed IMO is the way to go for longer trips. Our Safari 22' has full-time beds and it's much more comfortable for a longer trip - although we used the GT 19' for all trips prior to this last year and it was comfortable except for the bed issue and we still plan on using it for weekenders.

Just some thoughts...good luck on your search! Sounds like a cool adventure lies ahead in semi-fulltiming...I'm jealous!

Shari
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Old 11-22-2009, 12:51 PM   #3
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I wholeheartedly agree that a full time bed would be great in your situation. We got pretty tired of that back and forth and soon gave up - finally just doing everything in bed, and crawling over the dogs (in the other bed) to get to the bathroom, etc.

If it were me doing mostly solo photography on location, I'd likely have my photography gear, laptop, external monitor, hard drives, etc. set up full time on the dinette to allow me to edit in the evenings. What a fantastic mobile studio this will make, assuming there's a good generator factored in to supply plenty of juice. Keep us posted, and feel free to post a link to your work, Sergio. We love nature around here!
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:09 PM   #4
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Sergio... Welcome to the forums and to the search for the Airstream that's right for you... You're i the right place to find out everything you need to know!

All the items you mentioned about the Sport models (cloth interior, smaller LP tanks, 1 battery, etc) are part of what makes that unit both lighter and less pricey. We personally like the 19' Bambi Safari SE. The "SE" package includes the pano window and interior aluminum (along with a few other things)... As of 2009 the Safari SE line was rebranded as the Flying Cloud. The pano window gives you great light and views (and presents no structural downside) and the aluminum interior not only looks great (IMHO) but is also easier to keep clean as Shari mentioned. (I am not sure about the Sports now being offered with the pano and aluminum interior as options...but they would smart to do that.)

We had a small motor home before the Bambi that had interior cloth and it didn't do anything but get dirty. That small motor home also did not have a full time bed...never again...converting to the bed every night became a hassle for us over time.

You also might want to consider solar since you camp off the grid frequently...it's the way to go, and although we also use a generator, the solar is great.

Good luck and keep us posted! Hope to see you down the road in your AS soon!
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:47 PM   #5
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All I can add to what has been said is, welcome to the airforums.com and you mentioned camping in Utah in the winter and Florida in the summer. The all aluminum interior has been reported by some owners to have a great deal of condensation on the walls in the winter. Also, there is an acoustical insulating property to the padded walls. We have appreciated this during every thunderstorm we've camped in. The thunder wasn't what was abated, it was the sound of rain on an aluminum roof. It sounds romantic, but it just keeps you awake at night.

Good luck in the decisions you face.
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:58 PM   #6
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hi sergio...

it is ALWAYS a concern when new shoppers are focused on minor cosmetic issues versus PRACTICAL travel and usage needs.

somewhat like budding picture snappers saying "i want that long lens thing in shinny silver please"

or calling a memory card, FILM then asking where to have it processed.
__________

ALL of the streams have full aluminum inner skins and NONE of them have carpet on the walls.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f46/...lls-44235.html

many models do have materials glued OVER the aluminum inner skin.

this stuff helps with condensation, temperature differences and ACOUSTICS.

it' also softens the way LIGHT (natural or man made) is handled inside.

the material is polypropylene and doesn't ABSORB odors.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f39/...lls-22750.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f46/...dew-23465.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f39/...ing-35124.html

upholstery, cushions, and the fiberglass wall INSULATION may absorb odors and moisture and so on.

IF a unit smells badly it is THOSE materials, NOT the ozite on the walls.
_________

ALL wall finishes have issues and folks who prefer 1over the other.
_________

the biggest issues with the 2 units on YOUR radar are CARRY CAPACITY and WATER.

u are NOT gonna be able to take MUCH STUFF inside either of those units...

and will NOT have much fresh water or holding tank capacity for those remove areas u plan to visit.

narrower may be a plus for some remote sites

but a SHORT 2 axle unit with MORE payload and water available should be considered.

u might also want to look at a carefully USED unit in the 23 foot range or a 20 footer.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f335...ons-17339.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f301...del-37214.html

and in reality IF you are gonna get very REMOTE, ground clearance will be an issue with ANY 'stream.

u might be better served with a 4/4 truck and slide in off/road camper thing.

there are units like this DESIGNED specifically for trekking off the path.
____________

the FULL WRAP pano windows add significantly to the trailer weight and REDUCE payload even more.

i know a professional fella who does video/photo on the road and he blows out tires 4-5 times a year while traveling.

it seems carrying the gear (and basic personal needs) in his toyota or bambi puts him 500-1000 lbs over the ratings...

his walls are shiny too, but the trailer still stinks from other issues.
_________

so again welcome and IF U R the analytical type it might be wise to expand the investigation and shopping...

2 the issues that MATTER relative to the intended usage.

LOOKS alone can be deceiving...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f48/...-it-21921.html


cheers
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Old 11-22-2009, 02:34 PM   #7
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There ain't many new Streams that will fit your needs....

Consider a new TV(tow'r), and a nice used 25 footer...

Toyota Tacoma Truck - 2010 Performance & Specifications

Good Luck
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Old 11-22-2009, 02:49 PM   #8
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If you are to do a lot of boondocking, you might consider a motor home with 100 gallon tanks and a built in generator. But if you are set on an Airstream, check out all the tank capacities for all the models. You can get a lot of info on the Airstream site for past years. The specs are under "service" or something like that.

Everyone would like a trailer that is smaller on the outside than the inside, but the compromise for a lot of us is the 25'—fairly large tanks, some storage space, a little room to move around and a queen bed. The Safari SE often came with panos, but they transfer heat or cold to the outside very well. It also had the aluminum interior.

Quality control is an issue for many recent years and you might as well look for a used model and save depreciation. You'll have to fix things regularly either way.

Winter camping will use a lot of propane and battery power. That means you need 2 30 lb. propane tanks and frequent refills. Summer camping in the Everglades means no A/C unless you have a big generator or shore power.

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Old 11-22-2009, 04:19 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the advice and observations so far...

Thanks to all who took the time to respond, and for all the great advice and information so far.

I realize that 3/4 ton diesels...the TVs of choice and the ones suggested for all situations by many participants on these forums...would be required for larger trailers, but I'm considering a 17' trailer, not a 25 footer. Is it the general consensus around the AS Forum that a Sport 17 (or a Bambi 19) cannot, or should not, be towed by someting like a 2010 Toyota Tacoma V6/AT/4WD/factory Tow Pkg/with a 6500 lb. tow rating?
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Old 11-22-2009, 04:43 PM   #10
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There are several forums members that tow the smaller models with a Tacoma. TBRICH (post #4 in this thread) tows his 19' Bambi Safari with one and often.
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Old 11-22-2009, 05:33 PM   #11
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Would something like this be a good price for a used Bambi?

This one is only four hours away from Gainesville, and I'll be in Miami this week for the holiday:

http://miami.craigslist.org/brw/rvs/1456822454.html

Or this, but just a lot farther away:

http://www.onestopmotors.com/2006_Ai...ale_27811.aspx

The new Bambi 19s I'm seeing are considerably higher. But the two above are within the same price range I'm seeing for new Sport 17s, like this new one, only two or three hours away, being offered to me for 23,900.

http://www.batesrv.com/rv/airstream/...railer/526.htm

Any thoughts on these?
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Old 11-22-2009, 06:15 PM   #12
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in terms of layout/functional floor plan, MANY folks like the 16s OVER the 19s.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f365...bed-20767.html

unless you have crawled around INSIDE several units, no one knows the ideal layout yet for your needs.

it's wise to shop lightly used to beat the new trayla depreciation/markup issue.

and your linked ad above clearly meets your objectives...

"The 19' Bambi Airstream International travel trailer has shiny aluminum inside walls, wrap around Airstream built windows, plexiglas sliders in overhead storage compartment and Christopher C Dean designed interior in the art deco style...."

even if the seller doesn't know art deco from an instamatic.
___________

but the trailers listed are limited to 3-400 lbs of STUFF and the tac-oh-ma! not much more once hooked up.

http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/towing/


cheers
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Old 11-22-2009, 06:33 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azflycaster View Post
There are several forums members that tow the smaller models with a Tacoma. TBRICH (post #4 in this thread) tows his 19' Bambi Safari with one and often.
Richard is correct...we tow our 2006 19' Safari SE with a 2007 Tacoma Double Cab TRD V6 automatic (it is not 4WD) with a factory tow package (#6500 lb tow capacity)...and we are perfectly happy with it... This is our every day vehicle, too.
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Old 11-22-2009, 08:09 PM   #14
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Thanks for the real life feedback on the Tacoma, TBRich

And to: to err is human...

I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I've spent considerable time poking around a number of AS trailers in dealers' lots over the years. My wife has had to literally drag me out of several, worried that I'm actually standing in the showers with my shoes off, sitting on the toilets (with my pants on and the seats down, of course), stretched out on the beds or lounge/dinette areas, or just sitting quietly in a trance staring into space....for way, way too long. Mostly I just sit and look out the panoramic windows, making mental notes and pretending I'm in Monument Valley, or the Tetons.

So far I really like the two models discussed, the Sport 17' and Bambi 19', for their very compact size, reasonably low weight and real world towabilty. I'm the type who tends to think less is more, so I'm limiting myself to the smaller sizes and staying away from the gently-used 28 footers. But, I admit, the Flying Cloud 20' I also spent far too much time in had me thinking of what I could sell to afford the thing.

I like the relatively-large, rear bathroom situated across the entire rear of the Sport 17'. The shower is huge for a unit this size; I can actually stand up and turn around in there without hitting my head. I agree, the layout of the 16 footer is smart for its size, but the tiny wet bath in the 16' reminds me of a 25 foot sloop I used to own...I still have bad memories of using the head in heavy seas. I prefer the larger baths in the Sport 17' and Bambi 19' over the 16'; I can see myself and others actually doing important things in there with the door closed.

I don't like the front layout of the lounge/dinette/bed area in the Sport 17'. Having to practically remodel the front half of the trailer to take a nap, or build a folding tv table to have lunch is not so appealing. But, for the lower price, I could maybe get used to it. In contrast, the rear corner bed in the Bambi 19' is ideal, you can leave it in sleep mode and use it whenever the needs arises at a moment's notice. And the Bambi 19's totally separate front dinette, convertible to a spacious lounging area, with that large panoramic window in front, is very inviting.

The optional front panoramic window I discussed above, available in some Sport 17s like the one in this unit:

http://www.airstreamrvsource.com/rvi....asp?id=561181

is very nice. Units so-equipped are a lot brighter inside than the single window on most Sport 17 trailers. I can picture myself lounging there and enjoying the view as well.

The kitchen layouts on both 17' and 19' units are about the same to me, though my wife likes the kitchen and counter space in the Flying Cloud 20' far too much. Cooking for me is boiling water for coffee and making a sandwich, so spacious gourmet galleys are not my priority. Storage space in both the Sport 17' and Bambi 19' are just OK, I'll just have to leave more stuff I don't really need at home if go with the Sport 17' over the 19' Bambi. I've spent a summer touring on a motorcyle, so I'm used to traveling light.

The interior aluminum skin throughout the interior appeals to me more than that spage-age miracle fabric discussed by an earlier poster. Though the sound-deadening effect of the fabric walls/ceilings sounds like a plus. I'd like to be able to sit inside one of these trailers at night, with the interior lighting on, to see how the aluminum walls/ceilings would reflect the interior illumination compared to the fabric. But, in the end, I'd like to be able to just wipe down the interior surfaces with Windex, rather than some kind of special miracle carpet cleaner or a vacuum. And I still suspect the smell of burnt bacon grease would permeate the miracle fabric, but what do I know?

At any rate, thanks for all your patience, advice and helpful and informative observations.
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