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Old 01-31-2017, 11:05 AM   #1
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Family of four in a Sport 16: efficient or insane?

My wife and I have caught the AS bug big-time, and although we have tent camped plenty and once stayed in a 5th wheel of a family member, we have not owned our own trailer. After having gone to an RV show for the first time (eye opening in oh so many ways), we quickly came to see the overwhelming appeal of AS (I doubt I need to delve into our opinions of the build quality and style of "conventional" trailers with this crowd).

My question is whether we are at all reasonable to think we could enjoy taking our family of four in a trailer as small as the Sport 16. There are certainly plenty of varying opinions I have seen on these forums as to the pros/cons to various sizes and layouts in general, but even the Sport 16 advocates have seemed to largely be couples (or even singles).

Is there anyone who has had a comparable situation (our daughter and son are 6 and 8 now, but I hear those numbers go up with time) and who has come away feeling the smallest non-basecamp AS worked just fine for them? We definitely are looking to do long weekend and week-long trips, but at least once a year would like to do a longer multi-week trip.

The way we see it, the pros of the 16 are the lower cost for getting started, the less demanding need for a serious TV (we are thinking of getting a 2017 Honda Pilot with the tow package that would rate it to 5000 pounds), the easier transition in terms of learning what the hell we are doing, and perhaps a bit more flexibility in campsites we could use.

The negatives seem to be fairly clear: it is adorable but seemingly VERY cozy. There is very little storage, whether talking about the fridge, room for stuff, or any of the various water tanks. We are perfectly willing to use the back of the Pilot as supplemental storage of food and clothes, and it would seem like this would be fairly necessary (things like a big Yeti cold chest could supplement the small fridge), but none of those actions make the actual living space any bigger. On bad weather days, how probable is it that we would go crazy?

I suppose a secondary question is the merit of treating your first AS as a stepping stone. Are who purposefully (or due to finances) tried smaller before bigger happy that you did so, or did you have regret that you didn't transition straight to what it is that would provide the comfort you desire? Not only does that mean trading in or selling the small trailer, but in this case we should be buying something bigger like an Expedition/Tahoe/Armada rather than shooting our wad on the Pilot. How does one make your first decision without trying the trailers, as this seems like marriage without the dating?

Many thanks for your thoughts. Perplexed on the Palouse,

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Old 01-31-2017, 11:23 AM   #2
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Well we camped in a 16' 1965 Shasta with up to three grandkids and a dog before moving up to our 23D. When we started looking at Aistreams we were thinking the 16' or 19' was what we wanted but decided on the 23D because of the sparse storage of the smaller trailers. This may not be a deal killer but it was something we considered. The Shasta didn't have a bathroom so that space was living and storage area. The 23D also has the bed under the dinette as well as one pull out from the lounge so that as your kids get older they have some more space to sleep.

We've seen families in the 19 but only couples in the 16. The 16', 19' or 20' can be pulled by something like the Explorer and other mid-size SUVs. We had to sell our Edge and move to a F-150 to pull the 23D which was a hard pill to swallow but we really like the super crew truck.

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Old 01-31-2017, 12:28 PM   #3
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We have friends who tour the country with their 12 year old boy in a VW Vanagon. They got the Vanagon at about the same time we got our AS, and I wouldn't be surprised if they haven't put more miles on theirs than we have on ours. So it definitely can be done, if that's what you want. The difference between them and you is that they had absolutely no doubts that they wanted a Vanagon. I read a lot of doubts from your post, and when I've heard that in the past, my experience is that people don't stay very long with their first trailer and TV, which can get expensive. It sure would be nice if you could rent something for a while, even if it's not an AS, until your doubts get resolved.
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Old 01-31-2017, 01:24 PM   #4
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You might try going to a dealership with all 4 of you and see how you can move around.

When all 4 are seated it's great but how about the movements of daily chores or tasks.

Who gets dressed where. If your sleeping is there a place to sit or perch. If the weather is bad can you all be inside if you need to be or will you hook up and move on. Will the kids sleep in a tent sometimes. Will you cook inside or on a camp stove outside.

There is a sequence or dance that couples do to maneuver around each other in tight spaces.

You should get some great replys to this and lots of references to what can be done when there is a will.

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Old 01-31-2017, 01:26 PM   #5
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We toured the country for 35 years and a series of four VW Camper pop top vans, all pre-owned. They could sleep four (two kids in the overhead bed) comfortably enough for young people, and could go places travel trailer combos could not.

I've seen late model pre-owned travel vans at a fraction of the cost of an Airstream combo, it's good method for a young family to see the country. Don't get caught up in the gadgets in these, stick to basics. Outdoor cooking works best.

We also had to watch our spending. In our world it's not about what's best, it's what do we need for our traveling and camping experiences. A rule we still live by.
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Old 01-31-2017, 02:38 PM   #6
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It's way too small for 4. Remember you're all going to be eating, sleeping, showering, using the bathroom etc., etc. (!!!) within 4 feet of each other.

We love our 19 but we're empty nesters and really enjoy time together. I can't imagine sharing it with two pre-teens. Just being honest.
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Old 01-31-2017, 04:03 PM   #7
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I agree that it is too small. It doesn't have room for people up moving about. It lacks enough storage for belongings of four. I am sure the holding tanks capacity would be a challenge.
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Old 01-31-2017, 04:31 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Countryboy59 View Post
Remember you're all going to be eating, sleeping, showering, using the bathroom etc., etc. (!!!) within 4 feet of each other.

As a matter of decorum, you can't accomplish that second "etc." in a 16 with children about :-)

We have two children, tweens, and I wanted the smallest possible airstream that we could get. To me that was a 25 footer. It leaves just enough room for etc.!!!


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Old 01-31-2017, 04:48 PM   #9
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We started with a 2008 16' International and loved it for the three years we kept it. It was mostly for the two of us and the large dog. We also would sometimes take 1 or 2 grandchildren with us but not often or long.

If you are coming from tent camping you guys will be in heaven.

The single 20 gal grey/black holding tank was very limiting on the 16' so we went to a 2012 25' FC.

If I had to do it again I would want to do it the same way. But only because we weren't buying new and didn't have to take the price hit when we were ready to move up. We sold the 16 in two hours for about the same price we paid for it.

Good luck to you guys with your decision.
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Old 01-31-2017, 04:54 PM   #10
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I grew up walking into the woods with a Bowie knife and making a shelter. The Boss grew up with her parents getting a beachfront room at the Hilton. An RV was a compromise. I started with an Airstream Excella 31'. A nice trailer, but it had many structural problems so I sold it. Wound up with an Avion 34' triple axle. We love this trailer. OK, so our longest vacation has been two weeks. We loved it. We had several "Rain Days" where we were stuck in the trailer and we managed to not kill each other. I have gotten flamed on here severely for my comments about Airstreams not having any room....and one from a guy who had nine kids in a 28 footer. To me, that is torture, not vacation. You need to give some thought as to what you'll do on days when you get stuck in the trailer. A lot of that depends upon your attitude toward camping in the first place. From my point of view, a lean-to shack made of Bowie-knife hacked sticks and leaves wasn't too bad. From my wife's point of view, the Hilton is the standard and no Grizzly Adams for her. So if you are cool with tent camping and sleeping in rain and mosquitoes chewing on you, a 16' Airstream will be like a God-Send. But if you prefer staying in a nice hotel with multiple rooms for the kiddies, then I think you'll find it tight. Truthfully, I don't think you'd see much difference in towing a 23' as compared to a 16'. And if your tow vehicle is up to it, the longer the better. An old 31' like I had is lighter than a current 25'. The 31' has plenty of room for a family of four. Bottom line is that it depends on what you call "camping." We are more into "glamping." I have no desire whatsoever to suffer in a tent with 4" of water in the bottom of it and the sides shaking during a windstorm. I like my king size plush top bed that I installed. They're all better than a tent. It's just how much better do you wish to go? If you're looking vintage, I'd say look at a 26' or greater. Wally Byam pulled 26 footers through jungles, swamps, and everywhere else. I also like dual axles over singles. If you want a newer one, they are heavier, but I'd look at 25 footers and 27 footers. It was great advice given above to go to a dealership that has multiple lengths and layouts and see how you like them. Give them a good hard look and go from there. As for me, I really like the 31 footers from the late 60's through the 80's. I think they offer a nice balance of light weight, lots of room, and are just a nice sized trailer. But that's have to figure out what's best for you. Best of luck with whichever you choose. I'll see you on the road!
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Old 02-01-2017, 12:35 PM   #11
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we traveled with 6 in our 23' (in my profile picture). Admittedly our family was four boys plus mom & dad. To be honest, I am not sure how it would have gone with one or more sisters. We made it work and we took long 4-5 week trips and stayed in the trailer all the time unless we were visiting friends along the way in which case my parents took a private bedroom if offered. We also took a small pup-tent along in case one of us boys wanted to sleep under the stars - but I don't think we ever did. We pretty much only slept in the trailer but on rainy days or if we had to be inside we made it work and my parents had games and other things to keep young kids busy.
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Old 02-01-2017, 12:39 PM   #12
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Efficient or insane

For a one word direct answer.......


For whatever it's worth....
Old age is coming at a really bad time!

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Old 02-01-2017, 12:56 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Larry C View Post
For a one word direct answer.......


For whatever it's worth....
Yeah, I haven't done it, but if I were to vote, I'd check the box for "insane".

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Old 02-01-2017, 12:58 PM   #14
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Old 02-01-2017, 01:03 PM   #15
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Not comfortably.

I have the FC19, my kids are 12 and 8. They are getting too big to share the dinette bed already. I can't imagine on a 16.
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Old 02-01-2017, 01:12 PM   #16
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Best advice I can give - as was offered: Go to a AS dealer and try a 16' Sport. Don't buy in haste! I've owned a 2008 22' Sport. I was barely enjoyable for a couple!! The 2009 design changes made the 22' model enterior more easily used, due to a new banquet style, street-side, eating area. I can't see much long term use for a 16' - 22' model (kids grow too fast!). It's actually coming to the point that the 22' unit is our adult "decompression" space! We don't take others with us. Don't buy until you look at EVERY facet of YOUR needs/desires. Once you've bought, it's expensive to trade up; they lose value like boats! Fast!!
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Old 02-01-2017, 01:41 PM   #17
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go for it

We have a 16 16footer and have taken our 2 grand daughters on a couple of trips and yes it would be tight on a rainy day but other than that it is no problem. The black/gray tank would be a challenge on longer trips if you do not have access to camp ground facilities. I must say that we enjoy the family time and closeness with them so I hope you go for it. BTW I forgot we also take Sam our 60 lb Goldendoodle where ever we go and he thinks it's just fine as well. He told me so
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Old 02-01-2017, 01:56 PM   #18
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Here's what a 28' Airstream looks like when our daughter, husband and their four kids invited us along for two weeks between Washington DC and New York City. They gave us the bed, mom and her daughter were on the lounge, dad on the dinette, two sons on the floor and yes, that's the youngest son in a hammock suspended under the forward overhead.

You can make anything work and even though the grandkids were troopers, their patience with the crowded conditions were wearing on their nerves.
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Old 02-01-2017, 02:04 PM   #19
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Of course you COULD do it. But as the kids get older you are going to have severe sibling issues in a space that small. We have a 19' Bambi and it's fine for us two and Abbey our Standard Schnauzer, but add 2 more people and it's pretty cozy .. even if they are just stopping by to say "Hey"... I can't imagine 4 people staying in it. And the 16' would be even worse for more than 2 people and a pet. The common black/gray water tank alone would be inadequate. Go to a dealer and get inside them to see what you think...ultimately it's up to you!
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Old 02-01-2017, 02:17 PM   #20
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Believe 16 is too tight for a family

We camp as a couple in a FC20 - which for us is perfect and meets all of our needs. It has plenty of storage for both our clothes & stuff and a complete kitchen. However, I wouldn't even want to add a dog for a day.
Four in a 16 is too tight. I wouldn't put a family in anything smaller than a 23, and I think that would be tight.

Most important:
There is not enough storage. Everyone needs space for clothes/shoes. You need space for food & utensils. If you think that can be accomplished with duffel bags or bins - figure out where these are going to go, especially when you are stuck inside for a half day during a rain or wind storm.

Second most important:
We were trailer newbies when we purchased our 20FC. If were purchasing now, we would go to a 23 model because of the larger tanks. We boondock a lot and 2 people can only make 4-5 days with FRUGAL usage in our FC20. Week long trips off the grid require a couple of work-arounds.

I appreciate your love of Airstream. This is our first trailer, and was purchased after decades of tent camping. (Airstream was the only brand we wanted). We have had it four years and love everything about it. Maybe you can rent or borrow one, or something of a similar size, for a camping trip and see how it works out before you commit.

Best of luck!


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