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Old 03-21-2011, 10:24 PM   #15
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Newbie's Experience

Tony, my wife and I bought a new 27' FC a little more than a month ago. This was our first RV. We decided on an Airstream after years of looking at late model used Bluebirds; it finally came down to not wanting the expense and complexity of a high line class A rig. We spent a lot of time pouring over Airstreams at shows and local dealers. Turns out it was time well spent, because at least so far, the 27 FC is exactly what we have been looking for.

We looked at both the International and FC interiors. The International was just too dark for us, whereas the FC this year uses a beech wood type paneling. It's definitely a European modern, somewhat spartan style. We actually prefer this to the more common, home-like decor in many others. We have a nice home and like the different feel of the Airstream when we're out in it. After all we're camping aren't we?

A couple comments about the rig itself. We've had it out one three "shakedown cruises" so far, the last involved a tow all the way down the infamous CA Hwy 1; that's the water side where in places you look almost straight down to the surf 500' below. To date, there have been absolutely NO problems; everything works. Even the Sony entertainment center was already set up; that blew me away as it has the largest user manual.

We plan on taking extended trips so we ended up deciding between the 25 and 27 foot rigs. The 27 is much more livable. It also is short enough to get into most CA state parks and USFS camp grounds. I think we'll do a fair amount of dry camping. It has some inadequacies and we're experimenting to figure out the best work arounds. Specifically tankage and battery life are a bit low for anything more than a few days. We'll figure it out. In the 27' the extra two feet compared to the 25' end up in wider kitchen drawers, more counter space, a larger wardrobe, and an island queen bed accessible on three sides.

The jury is still out as to whether our 2001 Suburban can handle the tow. It does fine here in Norther California; we take most grades at between 40 and 55 mph. My concern is when we get into high altitude areas. We may be forced to get something that has more muscle.

Like I said I'm an RV newbie, but I've towed a boat on a tandem axle trailer. Our Airstream, as set up by the dealer, tows like a dream, no sway, smooth braking, and absolutely no effect from passing cars and big rig trucks.

I can't over emphasize the importance of choosing a solid, customer service-oriented dealer. I found it easy to get objective references by private email in response to requests on the Forum and simply networking with other owners.

Enjoy the hunt,

Paul
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Old 03-22-2011, 03:10 PM   #16
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Paul, ours towed well too, but once I checked out the hitch thoroughly myself, I re-adjusted it and it towed better. Some dealers just slam the hitch on to save time, some do it right.

You are right about tank and battery capacity for boondocking. With a solar panel, you can go longer. Not showering also helps a lot. Saving dishwashing water and pouring it down the toilet keeps the grey tank from filling as fast. We will soon upgrade the batteries substantially.

Glad to hear you are enjoying your trailer. The 27' is nice and we agonized between the 25' and 27'. We find the 25' works fine for us, although a little more space would be nice. We were on Hwy 1 from Monterey south last fall and while people complain about towing on it, we thought it no more challenging than a lot of other roads. The stretch north of SF is more challenging, but we did the whole thing north a couple of years ago.

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Old 03-23-2011, 01:12 AM   #17
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Gene, I thinking that a battery upgrade might be the easiest way to improve capacity. I'd be interested in what you decide on.

Also, I did make one adjustment to my WD hitch, I took the chains up one link to reflect additional stuff in the trailer.
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Old 03-23-2011, 02:07 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Road Geezer View Post
Gene, I thinking that a battery upgrade might be the easiest way to improve capacity. I'd be interested in what you decide on.

Also, I did make one adjustment to my WD hitch, I took the chains up one link to reflect additional stuff in the trailer.
I carry a small generator - Honda 1000. With a generator you can always recharge your trailer batteries. There are lots of phantom power drains in Airstreams. The sound system display, microwave display if you have one, and if you haven't changed to LED's the lights will do a good job too.

Oh and a hint. If you boondock and leave your trailer hitched, pull the umbilical cord because after your trailer batteries go flat the tow vehicle's battery gets used.

Happy hunting for an Airstream, Paula
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Old 03-23-2011, 08:52 AM   #19
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I think it was 2000 when the Denver area was hit by a very bad hailstorm—quarter sized (maybe marbles too). It did much damage to our SUV and if it does that to steel, aluminum would be much worse. Pea sized is probably ok, but anything bigger, not good.

Gene
I also have lived in Montana and Colorado and I agree with Gene that if the hail were larger than pea size, I would be concerned about the aluminum. It would be best to do as others recommend and get good insurance so you are not worried about it. we keep our unit here in CO under covered storage when not in use for that very reason.

Good luck in your decision.

Sandy
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Old 03-23-2011, 12:22 PM   #20
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Gene, I thinking that a battery upgrade might be the easiest way to improve capacity. I'd be interested in what you decide on.
Geezer,

Last year I thought the OEM batteries were not holding a charge as well as they had before, so when I check them soon I'll see how each cell is holding up. I may buy new batteries just to stop worrying about them.

I have been told AGM's are the best ones for units with solar panels. There is unending discussion about various styles of batteries, some of it incomprehensible to me. What I can gather, however, is that AGM's satisfy most needs.

The next issue is what class battery? The OEM's are just about the cheapest ones available and have less capacity than other classes. One limiting factor is the size of the battery box. Some people make the box larger either by welding or bolting another piece(s) onto it. I will have to go look at batteries and measure them and then see what fits in the box. I will also look at an easy way to make the box taller (the easiest adaptation) if that works for a better battery. The easy way is to bolt something to the lip at the top of the box and move the cover onto them. That means using L or U shaped metal parts that I'll have to look for. So this reminds me it's time to get to work on this.

I think it's important to remember there's a space around the batteries for a reason—they should have sufficient ventilation for gasses that batteries produce and to keep them from getting too hot. There's a temptation to cram better batteries into the space. Of course, I could get someone who does metal work make the box bigger, but I think (being cheap) I'll look for a simpler bolt on answer.

Some people get 6 v. golf cart batteries. That seems like overkill to me, but the people who do it seem happy. It does mean if one battery goes bad, you don't have a 12 v. backup in the other one.

You can read the lengthy battery threads and maybe it'll be easier for you to follow than it was for me. After a while it got very tedious and I just wanted to move on.

Gene
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Old 03-24-2011, 06:15 PM   #21
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Batteries Plus

So I stopped by a battery store this AM--too much idle time--and picked the owner's brain about my--our--needs. Here are some useful facts he passed on.

1. Wet cell batteries are the best for "house battery" applications.
2. Deep cycle will allow the battery to be drawn down further than a convention type without damage to the battery.
3. AGM's have little if any capacity advantage over regular deep cycle. They are, however, maintenance free, and last a lot longer. At Batteries Plus, they cost 3x a good quality wet cell version. They also have a much longer warranty and they hold their charge longer in storage.
4. Here's the best info: capacity if a function of size, period. The bigger the battery, the more ampere hours. He said it's that simple. Size matters.

We then spoke about adding a third or fourth battery in parallel. He said that's fine, easy to do, but the only caution was that all the batteries should be pretty much the same in terms of technology, capacity, and type eg deep cycle vs ordinary. He said there's no problem carrying the extra battery(s) inside the Airstream or TV passenger compartment, just don't let them tip over.

So I think I'm going to pop of an extra battery or two, carry them in our Suburban, and set them on the ground under the battery box when we plan for an extended dry camping session. Cabling should be easy. It seems the simplest.

Paul
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Old 03-24-2011, 09:50 PM   #22
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A small, quality generator such as the Honda 2000 is far superior to carrying extra loose batteries, for boon docking. Mostly because you will still need one to charge those 4 batteries during an extended dry camping period. You can dry camp endlessly with a generator and the factory batteries.
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:03 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Road Geezer View Post
So I stopped by a battery store this AM--too much idle time--and picked the owner's brain about my--our--needs. Here are some useful facts he passed on.

1. Wet cell batteries are the best for "house battery" applications.
2. Deep cycle will allow the battery to be drawn down further than a convention type without damage to the battery.
3. AGM's have little if any capacity advantage over regular deep cycle. They are, however, maintenance free, and last a lot longer. At Batteries Plus, they cost 3x a good quality wet cell version. They also have a much longer warranty and they hold their charge longer in storage.
4. Here's the best info: capacity if a function of size, period. The bigger the battery, the more ampere hours. He said it's that simple. Size matters.

We then spoke about adding a third or fourth battery in parallel. He said that's fine, easy to do, but the only caution was that all the batteries should be pretty much the same in terms of technology, capacity, and type eg deep cycle vs ordinary. He said there's no problem carrying the extra battery(s) inside the Airstream or TV passenger compartment, just don't let them tip over.

So I think I'm going to pop of an extra battery or two, carry them in our Suburban, and set them on the ground under the battery box when we plan for an extended dry camping session. Cabling should be easy. It seems the simplest.

Paul
Paul,

Please note that some of your statement above is 'opinion' and not fact, as it was given to you by a battery retailer. I have found thru many years of maintaining and installing several hundred batteries in large motor homes and some trailers, that AGMs provide the BEST overall performance for all battery needs and are head and shoulders above any wet cell battery. Those include AGM deep cycle (golf cart or the larger 4D or 8D sizes), engine starting (specifically manufactured starting batteries in parallel or series/parallel (for 24VDC diesel applications), solar charging systems (most rapid recharge rates and longest off-circuit storage times), longest warranties in the industry (5 years pro-rated), no outgassing when properly charged resulting in no corrosion at the terminals or in the battery box and total freedom of maintenance.

Also, it is not advisable to simply add batteries to your battery bank at will, as it is generally recognized that all batteries within a given battery array should be of the same type, size, rating and of the same manufacture date. If you combine batteries that are constantly in use with those that are not, the re-charge characteristics across the bank will NOT be the same, resulting in full charging of some and incomplete charging of others.

For boondocking use, I would go with a solar charging system or simply, an inverter style generator (Honda or Yamaha) and stick with one well designed and executed battery bank for your trailer.
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Old 04-01-2011, 07:27 PM   #24
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Did you say you tow with a Subaru?

What kind of Subaru do you use to tow a 25' trailer?
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Old 04-01-2011, 08:10 PM   #25
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There are solutions to water problems also

Paul-

Solar or small generator may be better options than extra loose batteries.. Multiple sources confirm charging device won't charge different type/vintage batteries equally, and so only 1 battery will ever get charged.

For boondocking water management, showers are the big "drain", and gray water may be able to be released into wilderness if you're far from civilization.. We have hose bib in our gray tank drain cap for that option, though I'm required to declare "check local regulations" before emptying gray tank onto ground.. <Wally Byam had no gray tanks, and emptied black tanks into holes in ground for years...>

On the fresh side, we keep a couple gallon jugs for drinking water in trailer or tow vehicle, and a Jerry can or BlueBoy Tank can be used for fresh water, with a spout to fill the trailer's tank... Figure about 15 gallons a day with minimal washing and showering, or 25 to be cleaner... At 7 pounds/gallon, a wheeled tank lets you wander off in search of a faucet somewhere in camping area, and bring it back without hurting yourself...
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