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Old 10-26-2011, 10:24 PM   #1
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bcaffee29's Avatar
1962 24' Tradewind
Adger , Alabama
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 7
New Traveler

My name is Ben and I live in Birmingham, Al. Me, My wife, and our 4 (soon to be 5) children just got off of a 2 week camping, traveling vacation. We stayed in a very small pop-up in national parks visiting The Smokies NP, Shenandoah NP, and Washington DC. We had the time of our lives, but I also realized life could be much more convenient than a popup. I met a couple of people that had Airstreams and fell in love. I have a few questions before I really start shopping for my last camper. We drive a 2000 Ford Excursion with a 7.3 diesel(factory), so it will haul anything but I want to stay on the smaller side because we hope to boondock and continue to stay in NPs that have smaller sites and no hookups probably 22' or less. I also want to try and keep gas mileage as good as possible. What do yall think? Secondly I want to buy one that needs the inside completely redone because I want to put in bunk beds for all the kids (I plan to remodel it myself, I am very handy, I built my own house) The only time we really get in the camper is if it is raining or to sleep. so I wanted to go with minimal size trailer for sleeping and cooking (on rainy days).
I guess My questions are:

Where should I shop for a camper in my area?
What length to consider?
How much will it affect gas mileage?
Does length affect gas mileage as much as weight and drag?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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Old 10-27-2011, 09:43 AM   #2
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2008 27' Classic FB
Burkburnett , Texas
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 976
Your post brings back many memories. 30 years ago we bought a pop-up as an upgrade to tent camping with the kids. Our interests were also with the national parks. We thoroughly enjoyed these trips and they looked forward to each even through HS graduation.

Don't be surprised if you set your sights down the road to visit the parks in the north and out west. Each is a special place to explore and enjoy with your family and memories will be made for a lifetime. The general rule for the NPs is 24'. The pop-up was never a problem, the 27' never kept us away, but in some parks the site selection was limited. As you decide on a trailer size you want to work with, keep in mind that kids grow and they need some place to stow their stuff, and they may want to bring along a friend! Don't rule out that when the boys are a little older they may enjoy sleeping in a tent at your campsite. The girls may well want their own tent, too!

Considering your Excursion has a 10,000# towing capacity with a 3.73 rear end, and some claim it is big enough to be seen from the ISS in orbit, I doubt you had much awareness of the pop-up in tow. I can't think of any Airstream you couldn't tow with it and the size you are looking for certainly won't be a challenge for it whatsoever.

Weight does effect fuel economy, but it is most noticeable on acceleration. Once at a cruising speed, weight becomes less of a factor. Air drag in my opinion is the major factor in the long haul. Compared to the competition, the Airstream rides closer to the ground. This reduces the the cross section above the tow vehicle that is presented to the wind. The flat belly reduces turbulence under the trailer that would otherwise increase drag. The curved endcaps allow the air to flow around and over the trailer without the buffeting found on the square ended trailers. Out here on the Plains we seem to live with 20-30 mph winds nearly all the time. Murphy tries his best to ensure we rarely have a tailwind. It has been my experience that a crosswind has as much if not more negative effect on fuel economy as a head wind.

Each rig has its sweet spot. For me it is at or just below 60 mph. Traffic on some roads dictates I run closer to the speed limit so as to not become an obstruction, but I generally run at 60 on 4 lane roads. I've also found that using the cruise control while towing reduces fuel economy. Not long ago I made a round trip from TX to San Diego following the southern route with my 27FB that tips the scales at 7800# unhitched. My overall average while towing was 11.5 mpg keeping it close to 60 all the way over the 2600 miles. A year earlier, I made the identical trip with the same Expedition but running solo and cruised at the speed limit each way which was mainly 70. My overall average without the trailer was 10 mpg. Towing at 70 for a hundred miles or so gets me 8 mpg. My point is that your Excursion will easily tow the Airstream you are looking for and I doubt you'll feel much additional pain at the pumps especially if you can rein in the horses.

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Old 10-27-2011, 10:05 AM   #3
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1982 34' Limited
Brunswick , Georgia
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Welcome to the forums ben! I am sure you will find lots of good information on this site that will help you make a good infomred choice on your Airstream!
I tow a 34' limited with a 2000 V10 Excursion 4x4. I get 11-12mpg without the AS and 8-9 mpg in tow (this is in Coastal Georgia Low Country). My HP/ torque is about the same as yours, I have no problems with the big triple axle AS fully loaded.
I would recommend looking at several in your area to get a good feel for what you like and to also get a feel for condition/ price.
If you are handy, a used or vintage unit may give you good value for your money. I found an '82 that need some cosmetic work, but the bones were good. I am not so hesitant to modify/change things as I would be on a newer/ more expensive unit. I would start with making sure the major components are in order- running gear, power, water/plumbing/ sewer, windows/shell, appliances/heater/AC. These will be your big $$ items, the rest you can fix as you go.... add them to the "Captains List"! Make sure you have a realistic expectation as to the "project value" of what you buy. The less things that need attention, the sooner you are camping!
I found my AS on Craigslist after looking at about 7 or so that were too much of a project. Mine has the rear twins in a "seperate" rear bedroom that works well for us. I was looking in about a 200 mile radius. I wouldnt hesitate to drive a little for the right unit in the right condition!
Good luck!
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Old 10-27-2011, 10:21 AM   #4
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1997 34' Limited
1970 27' Overlander
South of Atlanta , Georgia
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You've been given good advice on trailer size, etc. We were just camping last week up at the North Georgia Fairgrounds in Hiawassee, GA There were two families there with modifications similar to what you are describing. Both are here on the forum, Skaterio, and Pizzachop. You may want to send them a PM a get their thoughts as they have done what you are thinking of doing.

As to a source for trailers, I know of a 34' with part of the interior all ready out that is for sale at the WBCCI GA Unit campground, Top of Georgia. You can call the camp host for details and status. My in-laws used to winter at the "Travelers Rest" campground near Dade City, FL and there were always several for sale there. Also, don't forget the classified section of this very forum.

Should you find one too far from Birmingham to look at yourself, there are members of this forum who volunteer to inspect trailers for those hunting like yourself.

Best of luck!
Craig and Carol
1997 34' Excella 1000
1970 27' Overlander, International
2009 Ford F150 5.4L
ProPride hitch with 1400# bars

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Old 10-27-2011, 05:52 PM   #5
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1986 32' Excella
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Canton , Georgia
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Come over and see us! We're outside Atlanta and built seven bunks into out 89 excella 29 for our seven kids. We are west of Atlanta, not a bad drive for you.
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Old 10-28-2011, 05:17 PM   #6
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1962 24' Tradewind
Adger , Alabama
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 7
Smile Thanks for the feedback

Thank you all so much for all the info! Hopefully I will be asking restoration questions soon.

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