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Old 10-17-2016, 09:40 PM   #1
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Montgomery , Alabama
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Looking for Suggestions on a Full-Time Airstream

Looking for suggestions for a full-time Airstream for 1 person, but will have the capacity to sleep 4 - 5 comfortably. I'm in my 30's, a military member and will be split from my family for about 3 years. I'm trying to make the best of the situation by not paying rent on a place I will never own.

I spent most of my summers as a kid with my Great-Grandparents who had a 72 or 74 international 31' ( i think) . They lived in it nearly year round and it handled us just fine. However, in the last 40+ years I know lots of things have changed with Airstream and I am curious if any of the full-timers had any particular AS or options that they feel are necessary for the full-time lifestyle. I have no problem with the smaller spaces, or the maintenance. Just trying to gather as much information before I pull the trigger on something.

Constructive suggestions and opinions are appreciated. Thanks for the help and I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say.

Ricky Bobby

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Old 10-21-2016, 06:12 PM   #2
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Hi Ricky, retired Coast Guard here and I wish I would have been aware of how to be a full timer back when I was on active duty plus able to afford an Airstream!

If you already have a truck or good tow vehicle, keep searching for a trailer that might be for sale from an estate. If you have a vehicle thats capable of being towed, like almost any Jeep, consider a motorhome. Bought mine from estate of a doctor in NC 2 years ago and love it, pulling a Jeep GC behind. No slideouts but has washer dryer and everything else. Queen bed with a sofa sleeper so 4 can live on it for short periods.

Whatever type AS you buy, check it over for leaks. This causes the most damage and it never gets better once it starts. Its one thing to spend money on upgrades to the appliances or repairs to a diesel motor, but leaks cause mold which cause even worse issues. Good luck with your search and keep us posted on what you end up buying and using during your military career.

BTW....FamCamps on the military bases are excellent!. Never stayed in a bad one but sometimes the neighbors can be an issue

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Old 10-21-2016, 06:26 PM   #3
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Again, if you have the right size tow vehicle..... For the money you can't beat a late 80's- late 90's 34 footer! The trend in Airstreams seems to be ANY year that runs between 18 and 28 feet. ( Lighter weight, more maneuverability, and doesn't require a 3/4 ton truck to haul.) Because of this the prices on these size trailers is at a premium. If you find one that seems like a really great deal, it likely needs a bunch of work before full timing in.
Good luck in your search. Where about will you be stationed? ( North, south. ?? )
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Old 10-21-2016, 07:13 PM   #4
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Ricky, you're on the right track. Without knowing the specifics of your work, I'm guessing that you will be staying in one place for a few months or so and then moving on. Correct? If so, I'd avoid a motorhome and stick with a towable. A fifth wheel is most like an apartment on wheels, but almost all of them have slides, and those can be troublesome. Those that are suitable for full-time use tend to be heavy, requiring an F350-class truck at a minimum, and some of the larger ones will need an F550-class. An Airstream is much lighter, so it can be towed with an F250-class or less.

The catch (and there always is a catch) is that an Airstream has very little exterior storage compared to a fifth-wheel. That means that either you keep stuff in the tow vehicle or inside the trailer (and then move it out at the campground).

Another thing to consider is where you will park. I've never been in the military, but I understand that some bases have campgrounds. I've heard that some of those campgrounds do not want base employees living there, while others don't mind. Might be something to check out.
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Old 10-21-2016, 07:59 PM   #5
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Hello from Colorado rickybobby. Welcome to AirForums where all the advice given if completely free of charge. I'm known to confuse people.

We have a 86 Classic Limited 34 foot Airstream with 3 axles. I agree these older "biggies" are good buys for the space. I think a very good one can be had for less than $25k. We like traveling in ours a lot, but they really don't have that much more than a 31 footer other than 3 feet of length between the kitchen and the couch. The newer Airstreams, say since 2000, have improvements worthy of consideration, like more interior room, better exterior skins, plumbing and the like.

Now for some negatives.

Airstreams are designed for easy towing, they are aerodynamic and well balanced. They are not spacious. Kinda like camping in a business jet. They are well built and can last a long time, but they are rather small for the money.

They are made of aluminum, which is an excellent conductor of heat and cold. If you get the short end of the straw and end up stationed in North Dakota during the winter, living in an Airstream would be a real challenge. I measured 130F on the roof once while camping in the Colorado sun. The AC could not keep up. Dang hot.

Living in a RV park isn't the most glamorous thing in the world. You are close to neighbors and have limited amenities. I've noticed many "extended stay" folks in the parks we have visited. I think these hard working people build highways and buildings judging from the signage on the tow vehicles. You have to tolerate good folks walking dogs that bark (like me), evening campfires good times (party), and diesel trucks idling away at 6 am for whatever good that does.

Airstreams, and RVs in general, are designed for traveling, not full timing in most cases. Appliances are "light duty" including furnaces, AC, water heaters, and the like. Expect more maintenance on these items.

I see more full timers in fifth wheels than anything else. Some of these rigs are specifically built for full timing, as are some big motorhomes. There is more room, more insulation, and better water freeze protection. Many are towed by one ton diesel pickups.

Full timing is fun, but not necessarily the cheapest way to live. You would be wise to carefully consider all of your monthly expenses. As these Forums have discussed, full time budgets can run over $3000 a month if you own the vehicle and trailer. Costs can be less if you aren't towing much.

Just some "free advice" for your consideration as you make your decisions.

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Old 10-21-2016, 08:37 PM   #6
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Hi and welcome!
When I was your age and it wasn't that long ago I was in the Army, (also southern Alabama) had 2 small girls and a wife, I got my first Airstream. We spent 30 nights in it the 1st 6 months. It was a 76 Sovereign. We slept 4 comfortably and one of the kids often brought a friend. All I'm saying is it is very doable
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Old 10-22-2016, 11:12 AM   #7
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That's a big decision and a big purchase. Maybe you could look into seeing if you can "try before you buy" where you may be able to rent an A/S for a weekend and see what works for you and what doesn't. Also see if you can catch up with your local WBCCI chapter and get some real life input from the members. A rally (rallies are slowing down now due to season) would be a great place to see how A/S trailers are used by real people in real life instead of the slick marketing material you can easily find and/or walking through an empty, clean, and polished trailer on a sales lot.

All the posts above are true. I've met full timers that live in a Scamp, a Bambi, and all the way up to a Classic. And I've met people that own the biggest and best of A/S or a motorhome and they only spend 1-2 weeks (or even weekends) out a year. It's all personal preference. Your sleeping requirements will help you with making a decision on length and floor plan. Like anything the universal law of expansion applies - your belongings will expand to the space available to store them which basically means you can live in any size box that can roll or is fixed to the earth as long as you manage your "stuff". Nothing new here - just one person's opinion. Our trailer was used for 4-5 week long trips with a family of 6 - my parents and my 3 brothers. We each got 1 bin to put our clothes in and one of us slept on the floor. Maybe not perfect but it worked for us in 23'. And we had a tent along in case someone wanted to sleep out under the stars. That said our 23' would not work for full timing and the reason is there is no dedicated bed. My input to you, focus less on length and more on day to day use and utility - putting up a bed each morning and getting it out each evening would be a real pain in a full time mode - just my personal input
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Old 10-22-2016, 11:22 AM   #8
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It's a SUPER personal decision, and only you will know what's best. My advice: step inside as many as you can, narrow it down to 2 or 3 models, then start researching those models exclusively. Best of luck!
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Old 10-22-2016, 12:11 PM   #9
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Another view

We have been full timing in a 2015 23' FB FC for 10 months rather comfortably. Two adults & two small dogs however for your situation a 25' trailer might be preferable. As indicated previously, each of us must define the requirements of a chosen lifestyle. I truly believe that quality should always prevail over quantity and budgets play a very important part in every decision. A reliable tow vehicle should be your first decision. Our best in this very important decision.
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Old 10-22-2016, 07:08 PM   #10
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we love our 23 foot

We have a 23ft and have spent about 3 years practically living in it, because our work needed us on site and it was too far to commute. The original plan was to use it 3-4 days a week but then the project demands grew and we essentially lived in it full time with rare trips home to our real home. This was in the mid-west, where the climate is quite extreme. We had it outside in summer but in winter we hauled it into a large barn type building that was heated to about 45 F. I would not have liked to have had it outside in winter temps, as there are plumbing and condensation issues to contend with. Having it in the barn made it bearable and when the doors were closed it was cozy and we imagined ourselves in a park.

In terms of camping we have spent 8 weeks straight in it, and could have kept going indefinitely. When you look at size and layout look at how much "useful" space is in each. When we were looking for a AS we wanted 2 axels as it makes towing easier, and if you blow a tyre you can pull it up on a ramp to change it. In our opinion some of the larger 25 and 28 foot trailers, the extra length went into hallway space, bathroom space plus a little closet space and did not add that much value.

Again other people may feel differently. You will use up as much space as you have. We keep labeled plastic tubs in the pickup full of less used clothes and gear. The tubs make it easy to slide them around and get access. Ours would easily sleep 2 adults in the bed and 3 kids in sleeping bags on the cushioned couches, this would work for a couple of weeks fun but might get tedious for longer periods.

We love national parks and the smaller the trailer the bigger the choice of nice camp sites.This is especially true in older parks where the campsites were designed decades ago.

We find the awnings really help keep the unit cool especially when boondocking - and we usually boondock because that is what most NPs offer. We also use the ceiling extractor fans.

In cooler weather if power is available we love our heated mattress pad. I took a silver windscreen sun visor and made a bumper for the corner bed (like a baby crib bumper) as no one likes to roll over into chilly metal in the middle of the night.

At around the freezing mark keeping condensation at bay and the unit reasonably warm is a real issue, especially without shore power. The furnace is virtually unusable due to the amount of power draw, and generators are noisy and rarely welcome in NP sites.

We use the area under the awning quite a bit, and we really enjoy the outdoors, often cooking on a portable gas grill as I don't want to add smells or moisture to the interior space. When it is cool we will bake a cake, enjoy the cake and the extra heat from the oven.
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Old 10-22-2016, 07:42 PM   #11
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If not mentioned earlier, bigger is better. Easier. I'd avoid the few models that had slide outs.

At about the fifteen year mark one had two intersecting curves of benefit. One, most depreciation gone. Two, most systems plus interior should be in good shape.

Past this one is looking at trailers that may be on owner number three. Bought it cheap and treated it that way. Trailer may have sat for years. Greater likelihood of interior water or pest damage. Etc.

Wide-body AS shows up about 1996 (investigate). That'd be my old age limit, AND it's of benefit.

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Old 10-22-2016, 10:27 PM   #12
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"I'd avoid the few models that had slide outs" - a common opinion among non-slide owners.

Whether it is because they have heard horror stories from SOB slide owners or just personal preference is never fully explained. I've had my slide for almost a decade without issue and have spoken to about 20 others (of the ~85 made) with the same pleasant ownership experience. I wouldn't rule it out as the interior space feels much less confining and Airstream over-engineered their design compared to other manufacturers.
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Old 10-23-2016, 05:39 PM   #13
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Toasterlife, good essay on the realities of full timing in a smaller Airstream. Your description is well balanced with pros and cons. It's helpful to anyone giving full timing serious thought.


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