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Old 10-19-2019, 04:59 AM   #1
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Honest Airstream Questions

All, Iím in the market for a travel trailer and I think the Basecamp fits my needs best. My research on Airstream indicates there are problems with Airstream so, my questions are related to Airstream with an eye on the Basecamp.

Iím not look for excuses or deflections.

The reviews and articles Iíve read read more like paid advertisements than real reviews. The forums Iíve read highlight real problems not addressed in the articles. This is a problem.

Please correct me where I am wrong.

My question is: is Airstream a quality product or is it status?

These are my concerns based on this- Airstream touts 70 years of business and demand a price premium over others but:

- people have cited the 2017 Basecamp as a new model and the reasons for design and quality control problems. If Airstream has been in business for 70 years manufacturing quality products, how are there any complaints with this? The Basecamp has truly been in production since 2007 and this is not Airstreams first rodeo with trailers. Is QC and design problems in 2020 an honest black mark against Airstream?

- it is not four season capable. How is this acceptable in 2020?

- it cannot be pulled in the winter without risking damage to its exterior.

- itís heating system is marginal and meets minimal requirements for only fall/ spring use. Unusable in the winter?

- itís insulation is insufficient for winter. Before you say I need to toughen up, I operated Bradley fighting vehicles in the winter and was a paratrooper for over a decade so I can operate with the top hatches and rear ramp open to the elements and live in the dirt with an Optimus Hiker in my ruck.

- itís refrigerator is substandard for spring to fall use. Unusable in the summer?

- itís microwave must be connected to shore power to use. Why do they offer one? Itís advertised to be able to boondock, can it for 72-96 hrs?

- itís air conditioner requires a stout generator to operate. Itís advertised to be able to boondock, can it for 72-96 hrs?

- itís batteries are insufficient to truly use and must be immediately upgraded. Itís advertised to be able to boondock, can it for 72-96 hrs?

- itís flooring can rot. Isnít there a better solution in 2020 than plywood flooring?

- the air conditioner can eject at highway speeds.

- windows can eject at highway speeds.

- combined grey and black water tanks? This seems unacceptable for boondocking, the thing Airstream says it can do.

- shoddy interior construction.

- shoddy exterior construction.

Iím trying to justify Airstream being a quality product and not just status, but itís hard. Please help.
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Old 10-19-2019, 06:43 AM   #2
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I think there are a couple of categories of owners or prospective owners. One category is people who just enjoy getting out and using their camper. They are tolerant of of inadequacies, could probably live with any camper, but really like the iconic nature of the Airstream and the friendship of other Airstream owners.
A second category is people who are really detailed in their knowledge of intricacies and faults of the Airstream. Some live with that, some move on. I think you are in this category. The Airstream is an inferior product at a premium price. It may not be inferior to other camper alternatives, but it is inferior to what it should be for the price paid. With your understanding of the faults, you should walk away. I must admit that if I knew when I bought mine, what I know now, I would never have bought one. I thought my eyes were wide open, I had monitored this forum for some months, and I got a great deal on a very lightly used model. But, I know too much and it irks me that Airstream has this great business and reputation for what they deliver. Problem is, if I want to continue to camp and socialize with my Airstream friends, there is no alternative.
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Old 10-19-2019, 06:44 AM   #3
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My recommendation would be to most certainly take your list of questions and purchase the rv that meets those criteria.
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Old 10-19-2019, 07:07 AM   #4
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Reply to Devil

Devil -
It sounds like you've made your mind up that this product is not for you, which is great - go buy or build the product that meets your requirements.
When you purchase an Airstream you become a member of a special family, one which values the history of the brand and the quality of the product. I recently had a conversation at the Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion, NC with the owner of a new RV box trailer. He shared they were on their way back to the dealer to resolve a long list of broken and malfunctioning equipment. He was interested in my 2019 25' Flying Cloud and ask about the initial quality and I shared that everything was functioning as designed, I had no issues for repair at the dealer. He was rather open, and shared his regret on not spending the money to purchase an Airstream.
Go in peace brother.
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Old 10-19-2019, 07:28 AM   #5
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My recommendation would be to most certainly take your list of questions and purchase the rv that meets those criteria.


Excellent advice from majorairhead here.

In the immortal words of my mom (RIP), ďNever settle for broccoli when you want a pumpkin pie.Ē

You will never be satisfied with a trailer of any brand that doesnít do the basic things you want it to do - no matter the level of quality (which, IMO, isnít bad overall, itís just too varied and inconsistent - some get nightmares, most get a very good product that needs a few tweaks, and some get something bulletproof). Other brands also have inconsistent quality but, in my opinion, a higher index on the nightmare side. Still - if I wanted a 4-season trailer, I wouldnít buy an AS no matter how iconic and higher quality it may be.

Iím sure others will have brand recommendations you can consider - Oliver gets tossed around a bit sometimes....good luck!
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Old 10-19-2019, 07:28 AM   #6
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Airstreams are not for everyone and truth be told neither can Airstream meet the demand for its Trailers, note: expansions of its facilities. Have you researched SOB as carefully as Airstream?
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Old 10-19-2019, 07:35 AM   #7
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Back when I was into motorcycles, I remember having similar questions regarding Harley Davidson. There were others so much more advanced, higher quality and lower price. I've owned two Harleys, loved every minute.
Loving my Airstream now.
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:10 AM   #8
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Larry, thanks for the response. I don’t think that Airstream is inferior but, I do expect a level of quality. Does the price reflect this or not? Thanks for sharing what Airstream means to you though.

I am in your shoes regarding a premium machine and lexus vs praxis. If I had bought Italian, it would have broken me but, I am tired of applying the “art” of repair to something that was designed and manufactured using passion and the best intentions.

So, knowing what I know, I’m having a hard time determining if Airstream is a quality product that justifies its price.
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:22 AM   #9
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Honest answer. I think you ought not to buy a Basecamp. I do not think I would. They are also designed to be towed with a very small tow vehicle which does not interest me in the least. Trying to make it small and light is a tough part of the design issue, I think.

I do not really care how you evaluate Airstreams as a quality product. I am pretty happy with the 2 old ones I have. 30 years continuous use for each gives some measure of quality. I really could not afford a new one so it is not a real issue with me.

Additional comment: It takes a huge amount of power to power a microwave and a furnace while boon docking. Please let us know what stock configuration trailers you have found that will do that for 72 to 96 hours. No trailer that I know of will run the AC without shore power. I have heard on the forum of people that added a bunch of lithium batteries that can get maybe 1 hour with the AC but then need a long time to recharge. Maybe an $8000 modification?

The reason the microwave and the AC are offered on the Basecamp is that they work while on shore power or while running the generator. So they do work boon docking if your boon docking includes a generator.
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Devil6x View Post
All, Iím in the market for a travel trailer and I think the Basecamp fits my needs best. <<snip>>

Iím trying to justify Airstream being a quality product and not just status, but itís hard. Please help.
The posts above are good advice.

Airstream status is a useless, though costly, part of ownership, IMO. I'm amazed sometimes how people react to my old trailers. To me it is a worthless hindrance, except when it is time to re-sell.

Looking over your lists of issues with the trailer you want, maybe it would help to take each issue individually and ask yourself "in comparison to what other brand of trailer?". I'm sure that you can find other trailers that will be better in one way or another. Maybe this will help you see the big picture.

I think the real issue is that you have selected one of the base model Airstream trailers, with expectations that are above reality. Take time to look at the different models on the dealer's lot. Look how quality of finish and cost change between different types of trailers. Then ask yourself "why is the Basecamp priced lower than the other models Airstream makes. (IMO, the answer is, you get what you pay for)

I'm not trying too steer you either way! I hope you make the right choice for you. I hope you find whatever trailer makes you happy.
Good luck!
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:42 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Devil6x View Post
Larry, thanks for the response. I donít think that Airstream is inferior but, I do expect a level of quality. Does the price reflect this or not? Thanks for sharing what Airstream means to you though.

I am in your shoes regarding a premium machine and lexus vs praxis. If I had bought Italian, it would have broken me but, I am tired of applying the ďartĒ of repair to something that was designed and manufactured using passion and the best intentions.

So, knowing what I know, Iím having a hard time determining if Airstream is a quality product that justifies its price.
No matter about anything else, the price is NOT justified! However, if you want the Airstream life, you pay the price. Now my comparisons are cars and boats and what you get for your money. I have no first hand experience or knowledge with other brands of campers. Like many, I moved from sailing to camping.
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:47 AM   #12
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I think a lot has to do with the model. The Basecamp and the Nest have well documented flaws and neither are all season campers.
When I purchased my Classic almost 3 years ago I was a complete rookie and admittedly clueless but since then I’ve learned to fix most things myself and after I got a few bugs worked out I enjoy my AS immensely and would not want SOB but I don’t plan to boondock, I live in Florida so having to worry about winter camping isn’t an issue for me. I did look at other brands but kept coming back to Airstream because the quality of the other options were horrible. Way too many were already falling apart sitting on the dealers lot. Cardboard and stables wasn’t going to work for me.
The much touted AS “family” is a bit overrated imo but I really wasn’t looking to belong to a group, I bought it to go explore places I haven’t seen yet and be able to bring my 2 little dogs along with me and travel for months at a time in relative comfort. With 14,000 miles down I have no problems with my Airstream.
My brother just bought a SOB and he absolutely hates it. It’s leaking and already falling apart and he’s only had it for a year.
As another poster mentioned, you might want to look at Oliver.
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:53 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Devil6x View Post
All, I’m in the market for a travel trailer and I think the Basecamp fits my needs best. My research on Airstream indicates there are problems with Airstream so, my questions are related to Airstream with an eye on the Basecamp.

I’m not look for excuses or deflections.

The reviews and articles I’ve read read more like paid advertisements than real reviews. The forums I’ve read highlight real problems not addressed in the articles. This is a problem.

Please correct me where I am wrong.

My question is: is Airstream a quality product or is it status?

These are my concerns based on this- Airstream touts 70 years of business and demand a price premium over others but:

- people have cited the 2017 Basecamp as a new model and the reasons for design and quality control problems. If Airstream has been in business for 70 years manufacturing quality products, how are there any complaints with this? The Basecamp has truly been in production since 2007 and this is not Airstreams first rodeo with trailers. Is QC and design problems in 2020 an honest black mark against Airstream?

- it is not four season capable. How is this acceptable in 2020?

- it cannot be pulled in the winter without risking damage to its exterior.

- it’s heating system is marginal and meets minimal requirements for only fall/ spring use. Unusable in the winter?

- it’s insulation is insufficient for winter. Before you say I need to toughen up, I operated Bradley fighting vehicles in the winter and was a paratrooper for over a decade so I can operate with the top hatches and rear ramp open to the elements and live in the dirt with an Optimus Hiker in my ruck.

- it’s refrigerator is substandard for spring to fall use. Unusable in the summer?

- it’s microwave must be connected to shore power to use. Why do they offer one? It’s advertised to be able to boondock, can it for 72-96 hrs?

- it’s air conditioner requires a stout generator to operate. It’s advertised to be able to boondock, can it for 72-96 hrs?

- it’s batteries are insufficient to truly use and must be immediately upgraded. It’s advertised to be able to boondock, can it for 72-96 hrs?

- it’s flooring can rot. Isn’t there a better solution in 2020 than plywood flooring?

- the air conditioner can eject at highway speeds.

- windows can eject at highway speeds.

- combined grey and black water tanks? This seems unacceptable for boondocking, the thing Airstream says it can do.

- shoddy interior construction.

- shoddy exterior construction.

I’m trying to justify Airstream being a quality product and not just status, but it’s hard. Please help.
Based on your statements and questions, I can assure you an Airstream is not for you. In fact, almost no RV can do what you want it to. Possibly a huge motor home with massive fuel and holding tank reserves will meet just those two criteria of 96 hours unplugged, and then you will be using the onboard generator. And those will almost certainly have build quality issues for you.
Good luck in your search, though I think that search will be an eternal one.
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Old 10-19-2019, 09:02 AM   #14
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1. You won't find a RV trailer that can run AC and/or Microwave on batteries unless you have a lot of batteries. If you want to run those items then you will need a generator.
2. If you want a 4 season travel trailer I suggest looking at the fiberglass Oliver. It touts itself as a 4 season camper. They are just too small for many Airstreamers. But they are bigger than a basecamp.
3. Remember if you are buying a small RV you can't expect to get features that are in a larger RV (like separate grey and black water tanks.).
4. If you want to boondock then don't expect AC and a microwave. Boondocking is for those who want to "rough" it a bit. My suggestion is you invest in a good solar system, upgraded batteries, and a good quiet generator for winter camping.

Finally you will have trouble with any RV you buy, just like you have trouble with any car you buy. I have seldom bought a new car that didn't have recalls or warranty repairs. I bought my new Airstream and I've had a few minor issues. Nothing I couldn't fix myself. Remember you pulling a trailer down the highway at 65mph. Stuff happens.
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Old 10-19-2019, 09:55 AM   #15
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I think a four season Arctic Fox is a much better match for your personality.
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Old 10-19-2019, 09:57 AM   #16
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When I was shopping, I only wanted an Airstream. I could have bought a box trailer for half of what I paid. I never get tired of seeing it, or another Airstream on the road.

If you want a four season trailer, I suggest 'Arctic Fox'. However, I don't want to camp in snow, so for me it's not important.
As LoLoHo opined, "My trailer came equipped with wheels, so when it gets too cold, I move."
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Old 10-19-2019, 10:08 AM   #17
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The Basecamp, like many small introductory campers, is a step above tent camping, but for a premium price.

Airstream markets their trailers as three season campers. With single pane windows and minimal wall insulation I would avoid snow camping. The furnace is strong but it uses a lot of battery power and propane.

I've never had or known anybody who's trailer ejected their AC or windows at highway speeds. The fridge in our trailer keeps things cold, and ice cubes frozen, even when outside temps get above 105.

Airstreams cost too much today. Back when I purchased the alternatives were mostly cheesy. If I were new to the market I'd look harder at some other SOB's as close equivalents can been found for a lower price point.
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Old 10-19-2019, 10:17 AM   #18
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Larry, thanks for the response. I donít think that Airstream is inferior but, I do expect a level of quality. Does the price reflect this or not? ...

Disappointment occurs when expectations don't meet reality. Buyers remorse is a nasty thing. That said, you probably need to look for a different trailer. I am wondering if your expectations as listed in your OP can ever be met. Please let us know when you find what you are looking for.


We purchased our trailer used. It was 3 years old and lightly used and we did get a pretty good deal which made if affordable for us. I have had other trailers and I was looking for higher quality. Is mine perfect? Hardly, but all the doors and drawers and basic systems still function. Nothing has rattled loose or fallen off. I am happy with the results. That said, we did pay more than what was reasonable in many people's eyes. I knew that the cost did involve the status factor. I paid for that but my main concern was paying extra for the dependability. Since my expectations have been met, I am happy. I think many have unrealistic expectations hence, they will never be happy.
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Old 10-19-2019, 11:19 AM   #19
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Excellent advice from majorairhead here.

In the immortal words of my mom (RIP), ďNever settle for broccoli when you want a pumpkin pie.Ē

You will never be satisfied with a trailer of any brand that doesnít do the basic things you want it to do - no matter the level of quality (which, IMO, isnít bad overall, itís just too varied and inconsistent - some get nightmares, most get a very good product that needs a few tweaks, and some get something bulletproof). Other brands also have inconsistent quality but, in my opinion, a higher index on the nightmare side. Still - if I wanted a 4-season trailer, I wouldnít buy an AS no matter how iconic and higher quality it may be.

Iím sure others will have brand recommendations you can consider - Oliver gets tossed around a bit sometimes....good luck!
Are you serious, Major Air Heads comments were garbage. Itís the equivalent to ďYou get what you get.Ē Think about this response if your doctor tells it to you. It may be an acceptable response if you are a car salesman and just need to sell something to any victim that walks through the door.

Thanks for your comment on Oliver, I have looked at Them but ruled it out for the same reason I did the Nest.
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Old 10-19-2019, 11:26 AM   #20
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Let me try to address each concern:

The traditional Airstream trailer lasts longer than SOBs on average, but the BaseCamp is an entirely new animal, still in Beta, IMHO and they have not got the kinks worked out yet, of which there are many, But the price/quality equation is nowhere near the equivalent in the Auto industry, regardless of the trailer model, but most especially for the BaseCamp.

Nissan actually designed the original BaseCamp, you can research the internet for the differences and history.

The aluminum construction means making AS 4-season is problematic at best. AL is extremely thermal conductive, plus the large, single pane windows make it not feasible for extended use in below freezing temps, although some do on occasion for short stints.

Winter towing is risky no matter the trailer. All trailers use lightweight material for mileage and towing capacities, meaning they are fairly fragile.

The refrigerator issue in the BaseCamp is notorious and a result of incredibly poor design on the part of AS, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Energy use whilst boondocking is a challenge. The technology isn't there yet for full electric, which is why propane appliances are still in use. LI battery and solar are coming along, but for a hefty price.

There exists other more durable flooring than plywood: Aluminum and Coosa Board to name two that are water proof, critter and varmint proof, mold resistant and lighter than plywood, but Thor builds these as cheap as feasible.

There are numerous threads here regarding the production quality issues on the line, along with suggestions that AS implement Six Sigma, TPS, lean production methodologies used in the Auto industry, but AS has not implemented them and likely will not unless the market forces them too, which, currently it is no where near that point.

The BaseCamp trailer in theory is a great concept, but it's design and execution so far are not likely to result in satisfied customers.

It might be worth a long sit-down meeting with a dealer to hammer out a legally binding contract to see what they will agree to deliver for you. It might also do some good to contact the brass at Thor with your questions to see what response they give a potential customer put off by the QC and design issues.
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