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Old 07-29-2013, 07:57 PM   #1
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1999 Toyota Land Cruiser + TBD

Hello, I'm just starting to do the research to help me make educated decisions about an Airstream model. Thank you all, and advance for your wisdom, experience, and patience!

I have a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser (V8) as the TV and am looking for something for a family of 3.5 - two adults, a rambunctious 2-year old, and a lovable border collie/husky mutt. We live in the SF Bay Area so travel would include some passes to get to the ocean or inland to see family.

I'm not looking for anything larger than a 22' Airstream, but am leaning toward the 19'. This size seems about right for our dream of weekend trips, camping, and the occasional week at the grandparents. I'd also love to use it for longer trips back to Michigan and generally to explore. It will also be a spare bedroom for guests who come to visit.

Features I'm looking for:

* Not too large - We want a relatively easy pull and I have only about 25' of onsite parking at home.
* Roomy enough for a trip up to a couple of weeks
* Good sized kitchen/food storage - Due to dietary restraints we must cook a lot.
* Full Shower (seems like 19' is the smallest for these without having been modified)
* Good sized bed* Sleeps 3-4 - Prefer not to do the bunk bed option
* A/C - Some family lives in the CA high desert

(I'm sure this list will grow with your help)

What are the questions I don't yet know I should be asking? What information can I provide to help you with better advice?

Thank you for helping us move this dream closer to a reality!
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Old 07-29-2013, 08:24 PM   #2
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It all really depends. Are you done having kids or are you planning on a larger family?

We've got three young kids, a three year old and one year old twins. When we started looking we started with the smaller models but quickly realized that they just didn't offer the space we needed for longer trips or even just to spend quality time on a rainy day - or dinner as a family, for that matter.

We cook a lot, at home and when camping, and wanted a proper galley, with the storage space needed to make the experience fun. We initially looked at a 25' model, then decided that 27' was the way to go and in the end picked up a - wait for it - 34' triple axle 1984 International.

Yes, it's a bit of a beast, but it's lighter than a modern 25' trailer and easier to tow - and we got a great deal on it. Our TV is a Honda Odyssey with a custom hitch setup and added transmission cooler. Not ideal for bookdocking in out of the way places, but not a problem for camping in Ontario's Provincial Parks, which is 90% of our use.

Our setup is like this: the kids share the back bedroom. We had custom bunks built, it's a lovely cosy room where they can also spend time and play when it's raining. One big attraction of the 34' model was the dinette, which makes it easy to feed the hungry mob.

My wife and I sleep on a re-engineered gaucho in the front, enlarged to be a full queen size. That btw was one of the issues with the smaller trailers - I love my wife, but the days when we could have happily spent weeks sharing a 48" bed are over - if indeed these ever existed. Those are some small beds and we are both tall people.

I realize that this setup is complete overkill for your stated needs, but unless you're planning on using the trailer for little more than sleeping a 22' would be a tight squeeze with a kid, even more so should you decide to have more. Add a dog and things will get really cozy. If you want to travel in comfort, cook and have space for dog and kid, I'd suggest going for a 25' model.

Now, there are many members here who love their smaller trailers and who will no doubt have very different opinions so feel free to disregard everything I've said. Only you can decide what size works for you.
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Old 07-29-2013, 11:27 PM   #3
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Good info!

Thanks for the input!

We're done having kids so should be just the three of us + dog. I'm happy to consider the 25's but should I be concerned about the weight given my TV? I'm not looking to buy anything too new, likely early/mid-2000's would be the newest, but honestly I almost expect an AS to pick us out.

You raise a good point with the size of the galley. We have a 10'x10' kitchen at home currently and my bride thinks it's too small. (Admittedly, it's not well outfitted as far as counter and cabinet space.)

I think we would also need a queen bed because when sleeping, she prefers to be closer to the door, but I do not like to be against a wall so the walk-around bed is a nice option.

We expect most of the time to be in parks as well.

At what point should one consider a transmission cooler? What other features or modifications have you found useful?

Thanks, eh?
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Old 07-30-2013, 06:16 AM   #4
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I'm not looking for anything larger than a 22' Airstream, but am leaning toward the 19'.
In my opinion after owning a 19' Bambi...it's almost too small for one person and a dog.

The rear bed is not big enough for two adults and the front dinette/bed was the most painful thing I ever slept on in my life.....Worst of all the 19' is very limited on storage space.

I have all the gear I had in my 19' Bambi in my 25' and I have 5 storage bins under the bed and 3 under front couch still empty plus lot's of empty over head and closet space.

And my dual axle 25' pulls better than the single axle 19'.
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Old 07-30-2013, 06:33 AM   #5
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At what point should one consider a transmission cooler?
Your Toyota might have a factory transmission cooler...if it doesn't I'd get one.

And read your owners manual most are going to tell you not to tow in overdrive....reason being with a load the transmission will not cool properly in overdrive no matter the speed or lack of up shifting.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:19 AM   #6
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Airstream has published a document listing the weight of trailers from 1954 onwards: http://www.airstream.com/files/libra...c5c1005fbf.pdf

You can see that older trailers tend to be lighter than the newer models, which makes sense given the capabilities of tow vehicles of the time. You might also be interested in looking at Argosy trailers (I personally love them), many of them are very lightweight.

Advice that was given to me was to look for trailers built in the 1980's. According to the guy I was talking to, Airstream tried to cut back too much on weight during the 1970's, but fixed things in the next decade. Whether or not that's an opinion shared by others I am not sure, but I do know that our 1984 is built extremely well.

Even with the cost of renovating the interior completely, it came in under $30k which included the hitch setup for our car.
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Old 07-30-2013, 11:15 AM   #7
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We have had a 20' and 25' Airstream, both have good storage but the space for people are worlds apart. The 25' is the smallest of the large Airstreams and much more comfortable sitting and sleeping, and that's the direction I would go.

Except that it won't fit into your parking space and would be a difficult tow for the LC.

We traveled for 35 years in VW camper vans; they were extremely easy to travel with and inexpensive to operate. You ought to consider camper vans among your choices as well for a few years until you get your travel/camping needs sorted out.

Otherwise, the 19' looks like your trailer for now. Do your research and know what you want before shopping to avoid the "your Airstream finding you" method.

doug k
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Old 07-30-2013, 03:19 PM   #8
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A note on storage

I can always keep it offsite when not in use at home, and then park in front of the house if someone is hoteling there.

So far it really sounds like the 25's are the minimum way to go as far as living space.

Do the double axles have any sort of assisted braking?
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Old 07-30-2013, 04:26 PM   #9
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They all have electric brakes.
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Old 07-30-2013, 04:57 PM   #10
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Bed in the front or back?

What are your opinions about where the bed is located - Front or back? Does it change the weight distribution much? What makes for a better view generally when camping?

I like how in some of the more recent models both the front and back of the AS have the panoramic windows when the bed is in either the front or back.

Advantages or disadvantages (or preferences) to this?

Also, what type of gear or extras have you found super useful?
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Old 07-30-2013, 06:03 PM   #11
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Personally I like the bed being in the front. That way the view from the trailer is unobstructed by the hitch.
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Old 07-30-2013, 07:41 PM   #12
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Having just spent 3 months in a 19' traveling in the West with my husband, here are my observations.

1. Think like a backpacker. Go light and make everything you take have multiple uses. Take only what you need and you will have room to spare. I look at this as a fun challenge and continually look to streamline.

2. The galley is only workable if you plan ahead and extend the workspace. We have a cut-to-fit countertop on the back of the galley side dinette back cushions to extend the space. The portable countertop rides on the bed when in transit. I use collapsible, stackable, space saving cooking and eating gear. We most always prepared meals instead of eating out. We barbequed outside many, many times. You can use the dinette table as well, but if it is down for a bed, then you have to have an alternative plan. We moved the television and added a small microwave which was a great addition.

3. We got a custom mattress to replace the RV mattress for the corner bed. It made a tremendous difference because that bed is small and cozy. I think this is the biggest drawback if you require a lot of space to sleep. We have learned how to make it work, but it took a while and a new mattress.

4. We could always get a spot at the last minute in a campground because we are small and can fit any where. I started the trip thinking that I want to move up to a larger unit, but after living in a 19' for 3 months, I am not so sure. We were nimble, and could go and stay just about anywhere.

5. We were able to go 4 nights and 5 days without emptying our tanks by using the campground sink for dishes and being careful with water while showering. (and we stayed clean and neat.) This could be harder for three.

6. The dog sleeps happily under the dinette even if it is in the down position.

7. We use the TV to extend storage space.

8. We can park it in the driveway and our TV, a Honda Ridgeline, fits in our small garage. Thus no storage fees and we get to look at it every day.

9. We like having one axle and one set of tires. Makes life simpler.

My daughter-in-law and two young grandsons spent 10 days on the road last summer and did well. We were outside most of the time and two of us slept on therm-a-rest pads on the floor because we didn't want to be taking the dinette up and down daily. I was on the floor with my oldest grandkid and was quite comfortable. We used campground showers.

You will be able to camp with three in the 19', but you will need the right mind set and planning, otherwise you will be on top of each other. A Bambi isn't for everyone, but there are trade offs for every unit. You just have to figure out which ones you are willing to trade.

All the best,

Caryl
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Old 07-30-2013, 11:38 PM   #13
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Wow! Lots of plusses to the 19', Caryl!

I was also thinking that a good alternative to the smaller fridge for 19's (or even larger models) is to get a really good cooler like a Yeti Tundra. We can then freeze most of our premade meals (soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) and they should keep pretty well for a week or so with a little added ice.

I also like the idea of keeping it in the driveway. 19's only have the back corner beds though? These are the 48" ones? I guess we'll have to give it a try. Maybe I can convince my bride to take the wall side...

Am thinking of renting one for a weekend to see how we like it.

Good stuff about campgrounds too.

We would definitely swap out the TV for a microwave. Not really planning to have a TV as we barely watch the one at home.

Best,
James
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Old 07-31-2013, 05:59 AM   #14
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I was also thinking that a good alternative to the smaller fridge for 19's (or even larger models) is to get a really good cooler like a Yeti Tundra.
I've got two Yeti coolers (a 45 and an 85 qt) and they won't keep ice any longer than a 30 dollar cooler from Walmart.

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19's only have the back corner beds though? These are the 48" ones? I guess we'll have to give it a try. Maybe I can convince my bride to take the wall side...
Only one problem with that idea...there's walls on both sides.
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