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Old 11-05-2015, 11:21 PM   #1
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Off the Grid Airstream Lengths: Optimum to Risky

I posted this onto another Thread, but the idea could be of some value to an adventurous Airstreamer, wanting to experience some Off the Grid camping. Are there any opinions that I missed, as I have only towed OtG a 23 and 25 foot Airstream? These ideas do not apply to Other Brands with higher clearances. Just low clearance trailers... as we Airstream owners are well aware. I used continuous footage from 16 to 34 foot for convenience as older models are not as standard in lengths. Considering OUR OtG camping a longer trailer carries more water

There are some questions as to the suitability of various lengths of trailers on the 2016 Wyoming Adventure. While tossing in my sleep... I thought it all out without any diversions of my attention, other than WHY? can't I just sleep with or without diversions.

Off the Grid Airstream Lengths: (Note- Airstreams...ONLY)

16 to 20 feet: Optimum Off the Grid travel with fewer resources "within" trailer
21 to 25 feet: Favorable Off the Grid travel and for longer periods of time
26 to 28 feet: Less than Favorable Off the Grid travel, but for longer periods of time
29 to 34 feet: Risky Off the Grid travel and the maximum period of time

Even though I am considering at the present time the Length of a Trailer in FEET... your real concern is with your clearance in... INCHES.

The 16 to 20 foot Airstreams can easily extend their period of time Off the Grid, by merely having fresh water and solar/generator for battery recharge within their tow vehicle. This IS a big plus for these trailers having a pickup truck for towing.

The 21 to 25 foot Airstreams risk dragging their bumpers on roads crossing washes and dry or running water creek beds. It is the extra length beyond the axles that is always most at risk for dragging. Once your bumper is dragging, chances diminish to back up out of this dilemma. One will have to use leveling blocks to elevate the rear bumper to back OUT of the difficulty.

Any 26 to 28 foot Airstream can risk not only dragging the rear bumper, but ALSO the hitch and spare tire... AT the same time. Extra caution must be considered when traveling alone in an area Off the Grid with the possibility of crossing a dry wash or gravel bottomed creek bed.

Most with a 29 to 34 foot Airstream would have to be very careful. Sharp turns become nearly impossible to "easily" maneuver and I sweat now with the idea finding the space needed to turn around. Each additional foot of length brings in new caveats.

Remember: I have only traveled in a 23 and a 25 foot Airstream to make these comments. I fly fish better in my sleep as well, so let that be a warning to you.

The longer the Airstream, you must mitigate the possibility of dragging the rear bumper... FIRST. Remember, coming back the same way you change the angles once again and must mitigate the possibilities.

At first you might believe that it is impossible to go anywhere off the asphalt with a longer trailer. Some Off the Grid roads are totally harmless for 100 miles. It is that ONE dry creek bed crossing at mile marker 99 that can block you from going the last mile. Your fuel is down below a safe return from where you entered... and you have come to a situation only a few of us have encountered. Myself included. This is why for new OtG towing, it is safer with one or more others traveling untested territory.

None of the routes on this 2016 Wyoming have any risk of high centering your trailer, but the 28 to 34 footers need to make adjustments in your position in the road to make curves easy, which a 16 footer meanders around easily. It comes down to a "mental game" and you "mentally" map your route using what road is available as you travel, looking as far ahead as possible for oncoming traffic and potential turnouts to let opposite direction traffic to pass safely.

The majority of County and Forest Service main routes are well designed for all traffic... as Ranchers bring in 18 wheelers of cattle for grazing. But... these trailers have higher clearances compared to an Airstream and the length of "cattle hauler" is of little concern... unless finding a turn around that is convenient.

There are many other ways to make your Off the Grid camping convenient. Please incorporate those in this "short essay" concerning just lengths and clearances. There is a long list of smart ideas to be added by those experienced OtG campers. I wanted to get this conversation started and this is merely the "beginning" of staying safe and comfortable.

When... YOU are tossing in your sleep... put yourself in some awkward situation pulling your trailer and consider your options. Your dream will be much worse than reality, but it does help to expect the worse, and not experience it... while awake. Although, rolling over in your sleep CAN change the bad situation you find yourself and avoid these diversions while traveling.

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Old 11-06-2015, 11:18 AM   #2
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The Optimum Airstream with some Off the Grid risk...

The one Optimum Airstream with the least risk for length is the 23 Foot Airstream. It is also 6 inches narrower and 9 feet 5 inches in height for the 2006 Safari. Our 2014 25 foot that we decided was worth the risk for the additional comforts that is wider and taller. The 2015's were even taller with the new venting systems within!

What would make the 23 foot Airstream... better, would be using the same axles as the 25 footer and 15 inch D Rated tires. The double axle is a big plus for weight distribution per tire on irregular roads, yet the current 14 inch tires are a poor excuse to save money at the manufacturer. The current 14 inch C Rated Goodyear Marathons are not worthy, in my opinion, for such a beautiful trailer. The first tire problem... replace these 14 inch Marathons at the nearest possible Costco or reliable tire dealer.

After eight years towing our 23 footer... it was able to resist cross winds, head winds and not drag the tow vehicle's ability to tow up any steep grade or require braking excess down grade. A wonderful trailer that Jackson Center refuses to OVER engineer the wheels and axle arrangement. By swapping out the five wheels to 15 inch D Rated tires and 15 inch five lug nut pattern wheels... The axles limit your tire size to a maximum 15 inch with the five lug nuts with plenty of clearance under the skirting.

The 23 foot with the rear bed is a "challenge", but a trade off for the well designed interior.

Our 25 foot International just seems to be "bloated" in comparison for size. But that is the cost of more convenience and capability of fresh water hauling.

Although we now own a 25 footer and will not replace it with a longer Airstream... the 23 footer is the best compromise for an Airstream not surpassed by any shorter or longer Airstreams now in production.

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Old 11-06-2015, 09:11 PM   #3
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Many a wash we have crossed. One simply needs to know about approach and departure, how to maneuver, and when one should disconnect anti-sway/wd.

I'll be heading to another spot here in the Mojave next week that I scouted today that has two such spots that are going to require angled approach.
Family of 4 living, working & exploring the USA in our Airstream.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:16 PM   #4
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Have you considered looking at some way to jack up the trailer suspension to make it more off road capable?
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Old 11-07-2015, 10:19 AM   #5
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Off the Grid versus Flying your Trailer

Another idea for understanding the limitations of longer Airstreams came to mind this morning.

Take a 2" x 4" piece of lumber. Cut the lumber into 16 inch, 20 inch, 23 inch, 25 inch to 34 inch sections. Subtract 30 to 50 years from your current age and play with these simulated Airstream trailers in the sand pit.

Once you can visualize the drastic differences that trailer lengths present... it is easier to understand what BoldAdventure means by "scouting" from a Base Camp. An experienced Off the Grid traveler cannot give YOU experience by telling you how they manage to travel safely. It is experience and advice ARE the condiments added to your cheeseburger.

I have never used our sway bar in the toughest cross winds of Wyoming. Our 23 and 25 footer had minimal effect from cross winds and 18 wheeler "wind braking". A wonderful advantage of towing a low profile Airstream.

Some might have some answer to kscherzi's idea. I would probably just purchase an Arctic Fox and save myself the trouble of "re-adapting" my current trailer.

I acknowledge to everyone that an Airstream is probably not the most appropriate Off the Grid traveling trailer. Even though that is the case... it is possible with tow driver's ability. We have been to places that few would be comfortable to travel. It is not any worse than driving rush hour in City traffic or flying an airplane. After flying a helicopter, my driving skills were much improved as I was aware that every direction was important... not just looking forward.

You must keep track of your place in "space". Up, Down, Left, Right, Ahead and Behind. If you cover your behind... your ahead will follow. If you understand what I mean.
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Old 11-07-2015, 10:38 AM   #6
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I agree with Ray. I have a 27' AS and where I go depends on more than the length of the trailer. If in doubt I get out and walk the road or unhitch from the trailer and drive it. I look to make sure there is a place to turn around, that the road is passable with my AS and for a good place to camp if needed.
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Old 11-07-2015, 12:24 PM   #7
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Not that I ever plan to do any of what you're talking about but perhaps an axel lift kit would help. http://www.dexteraxle.com/inc/sdetail/45177/45180
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Old 11-07-2015, 01:23 PM   #8
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Ray, we love camping in the back of beyond, but are reluctant to beat up our AS on rough roads. So we tend to sacrifice on the wild factor, and camp in something like a park or an out-of-the-way BLM campground, unhitch, and then have daytime adventures from there.

As you know, crossing a wash can be tricky if you end up on the far side and then it rains. We were in the Escalante area of southern Utah in October, and checked out the BLM Calf Creek CG. This one is actually unsuited for trailers (no turn around) and then some of the sites are on the other side of the creek, requiring a ford. No Problem during typical low-flow, but we were there during a rainy spell, and the creek was up considerably, stranding campers on the other side without a really high clearance vehicle. The dirt road to Bullfrog Marina washed out, and when we left it was under repair and no one knew whether there might be stranded campers below the washout or not.

Having said that, we do take some chances, typically walking ahead to check the road. But our first AS salesman recommended taking along a bicycle for dirt road reconnaissance. Probably a better idea.

We feel that smaller is better. The Utahns seem to love their monster 5th wheels, and one can usually find dispersed sites on public land in Utah big enough for an extended family reunion of a dozen 5th wheels. On the other hand, some of those small funky BLM campgrounds have maybe a couple of sites for bigger rigs, but most of them were designed back-when for smaller trailers & tent camping. With the Bambi, we have a lot of campsite options. We just do our best to conserve fresh & waste water, & the batteries. We bring a generator and jerry cans of water & sometimes gas.

On our October trip, we had a great time camping in the North San Rafael Swell (the part north of I-70 between Green River and Salina.) Not at all crowded, and we enjoyed our dispersed campsite a lot. (Buckhorn Draw, off the graded road.)
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Old 11-07-2015, 01:45 PM   #9
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Getting into and out of gas stations is enough to scare me dragging the rear let alone OtG. Even at developed campsites I have to watch the back end doesn't hit anything when raising the tongue to unhitch or level. I make sure my rear door step is retracted. My very first outing I backed up too close to a concrete bumper and I had to raise the front end a lot to level. My step was down and it started to get wedged between the trailer and concrete bumper when I raised the tongue to level. Luckily I caught it in time so no damage done to the step. First gotch ya experienced.

I haven't tried any OtG yet. I want to but would probably scout an area out solo with my tow vehicle. I'd probably switch to 16" rims on my 25fb before venturing and carry a trailer spare.

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Old 11-07-2015, 02:12 PM   #10
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I've really enjoyed this thread, as I have all of Mr. Eklund's posts. My wife and I enjoy this type of boondock camping and exploring. It was more worry free when we had our slide in, pop up truck camper and we could go about anywhere with the 4x4 option. I have read some of the travel logs by a couple on the forum who pull their trailer with a camper equipped truck. This seems like a good rig. Set up the trailer at a easy access campground and then do overnight exploration as desired. Of course then you lose the truck bed capacity. All the more reason we love our 16 footer, although I am curious about ways to increase ground clearance.
"Certainty on any matter is not one of the human attitudes the Gods admire or tolerate."
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Old 11-07-2015, 05:22 PM   #11
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Good News and some Bad News.

Walking or biking an unpaved road is the Good News.

The Bad News. Once you begin to pull your "aluminum gem" on this same road... it is no longer as nice as you thought. Been there, done that and you will discover that some day, yourself!

We all hate to put scratches or gravel dings on our Airstreams. I am not different and probably a bit more critical. The gravel guards on the left and right side and your first line of defense for your aluminum skin. The plastic window protection is your first line of defense for your windows.

For our 25 footer I have a "spare set" of gravel guards. These work very well. Some of the gravel that catches the TOP of your trailer, around the Airstream logo are most likely gravel dings tossed up from passing traffic and following traffic.

No matter the length of your Airstream, you can only use what equipment to avoid dings and watching brush and tree branches just waiting to blemish your perfect aluminum skin. Once you have had your... first ding, first light brush mark... the second or third are not as distressing. After forty years... nobody will notice, nor care.

Lucky for those with longer trailers. They are easier to back up a quarter of a mile!

Practice backing up with your riding lawn mower with the short trailer in tow. IF you can back this up for 100 feet... you can teach the rest of us how to back up a 16 to 28 foot Airstream!

Remember. Your Airstream is intended to be used and well used at that. They are built to handle OtG travel without structurally failures. Maybe a few screw backing out and adjusting of hinges are prone to all, you do the standard "upgrades" and get outside and enjoy your magnificent hotel with a $1,000,000 view!

If you are in Kansas, looking for that $999,999 view... get off I-70 in western Kansas and discover that the State is not FLAT, but has topography and rock outcrops. There are some areas in the Hays/Wakeeney, Kansas area, to the south, that are worth taking a look. The Cretaceous yellow Niobrara Chalk Beds have fossil reptiles and exposures to climb around for shark teeth, as well.
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Old 11-07-2015, 06:21 PM   #12
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I told the Airstream folks recently if they'd figure a way to put twin beds in a 23' trailer, it could easily become a top selling model...or put in a wider double bed. Those 48 inch beds, well, you'd better be both good pals and sound sleepers.

Sorry for this diversion -- now back to your regular programming.
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Old 11-07-2015, 09:52 PM   #13
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Is the 23 foot Airstream the best maximum OtG length?

Bob... a great diversion. If they could fit Twin Beds you would have to give up something you would not want to in the 23 footer. In my case, it would be my wife.

I had given the irregular bed consideration myself and the interior is well fitted for what was left for a bed. You still have the pull out table in front and use "memory foam" for the bed cushions. That is the only true option I could imagine possible. Someone who has made a bed change might want to come forward for the 21 to 23 footers. The factory supplied mattress is not worth the springs it is built.

The 23 foot bed was one of the motivating factors for us moving into a 25 foot. The first was the larger refrigerator. Then 15 inch wheels and D rated tire options. Obviously good for the Airstream sales of 25 footers from those stepping out of a 16 to 23 foot.

Once we replaced the 23 foot malformed curved mattress with a self cut to fit "memory foam" mattress, it improved the comfort level dramatically.

I consider the 23 foot Airstream a perfect fit for size and comfort for regular OtG users. My biggest gripe were the 14 inch C Rate tires. My wife's biggest need was the refrigerator size differences. My personal opinion for OtG camping is the 23 OR 25 foot Airstream or any other similar sized other brand of trailer with better clearances as standard axles and 15 inch tires. Our second choice for a trailer... Arctic Fox 25 foot, if the quality has been maintained.
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Old 11-07-2015, 10:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ray Eklund View Post
Bob... a great diversion. If they could fit Twin Beds you would have to give up something you would not want to in the 23 footer. In my case, it would be my wife.
We've got twin beds, and frequently find the lack of an auxiliary heating unit to be a big disadvantage. A couple of weeks ago, we were out when it got down to the low 30's. The dog did her best to help warm one of us at a time, but she's a bed hog, and often times smells funny, so I'd like to have a double bed, or maybe another dog.

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