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Old 11-01-2012, 09:29 PM   #1
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New and Full of Questions!

Hi Everyone.
I hope this is posted in the appropriate thread and will get positive response. I've just signed on and have a great many questions that I hope to have clarified. First, I've never owned an RV of any type so am as much of a novice as one can be. Over the past couple of months, however, I have browsed and read enough information to feel that the Airstream lifestyle is what I am seeking.
My goals and plans are to 'semi-retire' in an attempt to complete a couple of novels that I have in the works. I just can't seem to find time to work on them in my current routine of OTR truck driving, a career move that I made about 6 years ago after over a decade of nursing. I would like to 'work camp' or take on 'temp' positions to supplement my savings. I have learned from trucking that a frugal lifestyle can be fun and rewarding when the right attitude is applied. An occasional change of scenery will help in my writings, and I will try to travel to the most accommodating environments to help with the economy of living. My 'homebase' is Florida, but I would like to spend time in the desert and mountain west. I would also like to maintain as much 'off grid' capacity as possible so have questions as to models that might not come complete with all holding tanks.
In my browsing of RV's and especially Airstreams, other questions have come to mind as well. I have read that Airstreams are not the best cold weather trailers, so invite any suggestions or comments to help with matters such as efficiency of LP and electricity. I do have a 550/850 peak troy built gas generator that I would like to incorporate in my journey where needed. Also, if anyone has experience with solar systems, their set-up and use and battery set-up designs, I would love to hear about that.
Another issue is of the length options of trailers. I have read that many parks restrict length to 25 foot and was wondering if that should be of great concern. I would like a unit a little larger, but if that is going to severely hamper my ability to move about, the compromise in length will be acceptable. The length issue has also been raised in the topic of towing. I have read that the longer the unit, the more difficult they are to maneuver in poor terrain areas. I don't think I'll be doing a lot of 'off-roading', but there might be occasions where a few trails are followed. I will be using my low milage '03 GMC 2wd 2500 HD to tow, so, 'four wheeling' isn't in the plans. And tying in length and energy/environment, I have read that longer trailers are more difficult to heat and cool.
My hopes are to find a good used unit to conserve the sparse savings that I will be using. Possibly a much older unit that has been remodeled and retrofitted with newer technology insulation and systems. I don't plan on doing any extensive remodel work myself, so would like to find a trailer that is ready to roll. Any information about inspection of prospective units, frame fatigue or other potential issues would be great.
Any suggestions of length, year, model, amenities or anything else that comes to mind will be graciously accepted. With that, I will close and await a few responses. I appreciate the information that this forum has already provided and look forward to becoming part of the Airstream family. Thank you all for the help past and future, Paul
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:48 PM   #2
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Welcome the the Forums Paul.
Do your best to learn the 'Search' button's tricks...

There is a fairly recent thread on the 25' max myth. (we travel in a 34' and must not have gotten the memo that we couldn't have visited all of the places that we did).

Solar on a 'Stream is tricky just because of the limited roof space but lots of folks have done really nice jobs of documenting how they did it.

Cold Weather camping...I recall a member posting a very well written account of how he did it (in spite of folks saying we have 3 season trailers)

We camp 12 months a year and have covered 1/2 of the USA, in a big trailer, and I just received my solar panel kit today...

Keep us posted!
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Old 11-02-2012, 09:45 AM   #3
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The 25' max length is not a myth, especially out here, but not to worry as there are many more campgrounds without this restriction. However, here in the west we even have some scenic roads that have length restrictions.
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Old 11-02-2012, 10:18 AM   #4
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Trailer length is only part of the consideration of accessibility. Tow vehicle wheelbase is a greater restriction when maneuvering the rig than trailer length. For greatest access to city and out-of-the way routes and camping spots keep the trailer to medium length (20' to 25') or smaller, and the tow vehicle wheelbase around 120".

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Old 11-02-2012, 10:23 AM   #5
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Hi Paul, We are very new at this airstream stuff too, but we plan to live in our airstream also, we are excited. I guess all We can say is, keep reading this forum, and invest in some wool clothing. You can do it!

Rosie and the Fam
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Old 11-02-2012, 10:25 AM   #6
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Having owned a 23' a 27' and two 31' Airstreams, my direct experience suggests that 27' is the best, all around length based on what you describe.
As for your key points:
1. "Airstreams are not the best cold weather travel trailer": True
The aluminum monocot, sandwich construction (Aluminum outside skin, aluminum skeleton, and aluminum inside skin) and generous windows combine to make Airstreams a less comfortable winter trailer than some four-season travel trailers. Artic Fox comes to mind as a very good four-season travel trailer. That said, I prefer Airstreams.
2. "Many" parks restrict length: False
"Some" parks do restrict lengths, but we haven't found that many. Having towed all over the southeast and southwest, we only found one that we could not get our 27' in and out of, Fenton Lake State Park in NM.
3. Longer trailers are harder to heat: False
So many other factors come into play trying to stay warm in winter that length just isn't very important. Our coziest Airstream is our current 31'
4. "Any information about inspection..."
You will find a list of volunteer inspectors in the right-hand panel of the Portal. Find a knowledgeable inspector in your area to help you go item by item through a pre-purchase checklist so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.
Which brings us to your last point.
No trailer is "ready to roll." They all need careful pre-flight inspections and constant maintenance. As you read these fora, you will find tales by dozens of bright-eyed, enthusiastic, first-time Airstreamers who jump in and go screaming down the highway with dry batteries, stinky holding tanks, worn out tires, improperly adjusted WD hitches, and other deficiencies and hazards.
Welcome and good luck.
We will be here for you.
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Old 11-02-2012, 06:24 PM   #7
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You have a great Airstream adventure ahead of you...nothing in your intro or list of questions says "don't do it" to me... and none of the questions you have asked are deal-breakers in doing what you want to do with an Airstream.

True, Airstreams, are are not the best winter campers because of all the aluminum and windows, but if you intend to follow milder weather, that's not so much of an issue. While we have never camped in extreme winter conditions, we have camped with nights in the 20s and low 30s without any insurmountable problems. Sustained below-freezing weather is another story ... but then any RV is going to have some trouble in those conditions. Hot weather can be as much of a challenge as cold weather, especially when there is no shade. Awnings are a huge help to manage the heat.

Solar is totally do-able. Our Bambi came with a solar panel in fact, and we love having that feature. Between that and our generators we are ready for any type of camping. And if you are seriously into being off-grid, that, too can be accomplished. Solar can be added to virtually any Airstream...smaller rigs have limited real estate up to for solar panels, of course, but it can be done.

We have seen some national forest campgrounds where having a smaller rig is definitely to one's advantage, because many NF campground were built with tents in mind. At the same time we have seen everything from tents to huge Class As in the same campground and everyone seems to find a place. We have never seen anyone turned away because their rig is too big, though we have wondered where the longer ones wandering in at the end of the day when a campground is relatively busy are going to find a place. We figure any campground that can accommodate 5th wheels is OK for even the longest Airstreams. Sometimes it's not the actual site that is the problem, but maneuvering into the site that is the problem...narrow twisty roads in some campgrounds can make that difficult sometimes. That having been said, I would not base the size of the rig I need/want on that factor. Get what you need...you'll find places to park it.

Good luck, enjoy the search for your Airstream, and welcome to the Forums!
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Old 11-02-2012, 06:39 PM   #8
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Good for you!

Nothing important to add, just God bless for wanting to get out there. Good luck.
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Old 11-02-2012, 08:46 PM   #9
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"My hopes are to find a good used unit to conserve the sparse savings that I will be using. Possibly a much older unit that has been remodeled and retrofitted with newer technology insulation and systems."

I don't think "sparse savings" and "remodeled and retrofitted with newer technology insulation and systems" go together in the same sentence.

There are more than a few folks here on the forums that took an older trailer and made it work, fixing it as needed. That said, you can probably pick up somebody's project for way less than a new one and it would be pretty nice.

I bought mine when it was 5 years old. It was functional, I did a bunch on it but looking back there were only a few gotta haves, the brakes, tires, and the heater motor going out. What about a good used one 10 or so years old? They'd be pretty modern and plenty depreciated. Your truck is plenty for any trailer ever made my AS.

Welcome and good luck.
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Old 11-04-2012, 12:32 AM   #10
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WOW! I haven't logged on since tossing my post out and I have to say ...I am amazed at the responses! Thanks everyone! From the most detailed and technical to the short and simple greetings and wishes, all gave me a sense of community and belonging. For that, again, thank you. I will continue working and saving for a while longer and in that time try to 'fine tune' my knowledge and narrow my search. I'm certain other questions will arise and I'll throw them out as they come. When purchase time draws near, I will keep everyone posted. Safe travels and pleasant camping to all. Paul
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Old 11-04-2012, 04:49 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by thehats00 View Post
WOW! I haven't logged on since tossing my post out and I have to say ...I am amazed at the responses! Thanks everyone! From the most detailed and technical to the short and simple greetings and wishes, all gave me a sense of community and belonging. For that, again, thank you. I will continue working and saving for a while longer and in that time try to 'fine tune' my knowledge and narrow my search. I'm certain other questions will arise and I'll throw them out as they come. When purchase time draws near, I will keep everyone posted. Safe travels and pleasant camping to all. Paul

Hi Paul, welcome to the forums!
If you are in Panama City, you are really close to a huge Airstream Rally the "Canopener" http://www.airforums.com/forums/f288...6-a-87328.html that will be going on January 4-7 at Topsail Hill State Park in Santa Rosa. If you want to come spend the weekend with us, rent you a MH or travel trailer (doesn't have to be an Airstream) and come on over. You can also rent a cabin if they are availible. Last I counted, there will be 65 Airstreams of all shapes and sizes attending. Open house will be sometime Saturday afternoon so you can take a look at any you wish that are open. It is a great way to see newer and used Airstreams and compare layouts.
If you want to come for the day, that is fine also. Either way, just go to the sign up page and let us know when you are coming in the comment section. Greg will make name tags for you so we know you are part of the Rally. Airstream Forums - Canopener 2013
Good luck with your search and hope to see you. Check in often.

Joe
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:05 AM   #12
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Thanks for the heads up Joe. I'm out on the road right now, but hopefully will be home then for the holidays and will be able to attend. My schedule is erratic at best, so I have to play it day by day. But, if I'm home, I'll be there! Thanks again. Paul
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:48 AM   #13
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Paul,
Linda and I know exactly how you feel. We felt the same things, had the same questions about this time in 2010. We started our research much as you are doing. We found our perfect Airstream on rvtrader.com in the Spring 2011. We've pulled her nearly 40,000 miles; 39 states and 2 provinces so far. Cold can be handled when you're prepared. As Joe said above, the BEST rally and one of the BEST parks we've seen on our travels is The Canopener. Stop by any day and just walk around and visit with all of us, since it's so close to home for you. You'll find Linda and me in site 144. We'll take you around for introductions.
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Old 12-13-2012, 01:51 PM   #14
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The 25' max length is not a myth, especially out here, but not to worry as there are many more campgrounds without this restriction. However, here in the west we even have some scenic roads that have length restrictions.
That is my experience as well, although I find the restrictions are generally on specific sites, not on entire campgrounds. I have always been able to find a slot that would accommodate my 25'. A 27' would probably be OK as well but much over that will result in restrictions. Mind you, I boon dock almost exclusively (except Christmas in SF Bay area) and do go off road to get into some of these places, but the overwhelming majority of the rustic campsites I visit have no restrictions, or accommodations nearby without restrictions. Get the length you want and just keep in mind that the longer lengths might entail driving around a bit more to find a suitable site on occasion. And ditto on the restrictions on some scenic roads, although these are generally gravel. I never been on a length restricted paved road (not to imply that they don't exist, just not common).

If you ever encounter a campsite or road that is restricted, believe it with all your heart. Do not listen to the locals who say it is fine to ignore the warnings. They may be right 90% of the time, but that one instance when they are wrong will prove disastrous (i.e. White Rim Trail near Moab, UT, personal experience, still nursing broken ribs).
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