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Old 11-02-2019, 10:21 AM   #1
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A year in a 2020 Caravel 16

Hey everyone, new member here!

I'm a remote working software dev who can effectively live anywhere and am thinking about doing a year on the road in the new Caravel 16.

Reason why I'm thinking about this one in particular is

- I plan to frequently be on the move (at most stay in one spot 2 weeks or so, but probably mostly be moving every 3-5 days). So something that is easier to manuever, can fit in more places, and allows me to use a smaller tow vehicle is ideal
- I love the amount of window on both ends - because the interior is so compact w/ so much window, I feel like it would give me a better sense of being integrated w/ the outdoors.
- I need minimal accomodations regarding kitchen, bath, and storage. I'm only 5'5" 130lbs and will be solo

I'll probably be at places w/ hookups in cities or towns about 2/3 of the time, campsites the other times. While parked in a city, intend to spend my days in town (usually working out of cafes) and evenings checking out local music acts and meet people.

Part of the reason for doing this is I spent my entire life in southern California and want to see the rest of the country.

With all that said... am I crazy for thinking this is reasonable? Also any gotchas for the new Caravels to watch out for?

I read one review of the 16ft unit that said the fridge draws down the battery so much, that even with the solar package, it could only last 2 days. Was there a possible issue w/ the reviewer's system? I talked to an Airstream dealer who thought that didn't seem right, but said they don't have enough feedback on the new system to know how long it should last.

Ultimately I'd hope I could get at least 3 days off-grid comfortably, preferably 5, and am fine buying a used generator to get there but after a few months of ownership would prefer modifying the unit with a bigger battery/aftermarket solar panel.

Also a question regarding negotiating a price... if I were to buy in March when my current lease is up, would it be a problem negotiating the ~20% discount from MSRP I've seen mentioned a few places on this forum? I assume that discount varies a bit seasonally and where in the model year refresh. I'm fine road-tripping to wherever to pick up my Caravel, esp. if it means I save a thousand dollars, and ultimately would like to 'relocate' to Texas to save on paying state income tax.
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:32 AM   #2
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A year in a 2020 Caravel 16

I did a little research on the new non-propane refrigerators and two days with the standard batteries that come with the trailer seems right. You’ll need more solar or more battery to go 5 days. Problem with solar in is you need the sun (duh!). That can rule out lots of campsites or entire campgrounds. If it was me I’d look into how difficult it would be to switch to fridge that can run on propane.
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:49 AM   #3
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The fridge draws 2.1 amps. That’s only when the compressor is running so battery use is highly dependent on ambient temperature and door openings.
I have left mine on for several days at the storage yard where I get partial sun. With a 180 watts of solar my two AGM batteries were always at or near 100 percent each time I checked on it.
I haven’t actually tested it but I would bet that this uses not much more power on cooler days then a similar sized Dometic propane unit would use just for the 12 volt circuit board.
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Old 11-02-2019, 11:51 AM   #4
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Overall I wouldn’t have a problem spending a year solo in my 16.
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Old 11-02-2019, 12:17 PM   #5
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My only advice is...don't get target fixation on the Caravelle. Take several hours or days and sit for awhile in different models. Simulate sitting, preparing a meal, eating a meal, using the bathroom, taking a shower, going to bed. You will get a feel that this trailer, or that one, is the "perfect" size for your individual needs.
I definitely wanted a Globetrotter, but ended with something else, once I took the time to really "experience" them.
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Old 11-02-2019, 12:31 PM   #6
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If you end up doing this, I would get a portable solar panel that you can plug in to the inlet by the battery box. Then, when you park in the shade, you can place the portable panel in full sun to help keep the batteries from discharging as much.
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Old 11-02-2019, 07:11 PM   #7
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The fridge draws 2.1 amps. That’s only when the compressor is running so battery use is highly dependent on ambient temperature and door openings.
I have left mine on for several days at the storage yard where I get partial sun. With a 180 watts of solar my two AGM batteries were always at or near 100 percent each time I checked on it.
If the stock battery is rated at 80 amps (about 40 effective) then that means 20 hours for that full bore. So I take it with light use in temperate weather 2 days off grid stock is doable?

Also doing digging I see you have options from doubling the stock battery all the way up to installing Battleborn lithium ions which will effectively quadruple (for about $2k), or a more reasonable $300 for about 2.5x stock.

Didn't realize you can get 180 watts on top of a 16 footer. Did that require any custom work? Doing some digging, I see that AM Power is recommended for this type of work as there are issues with the stock inverter.

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If you end up doing this, I would get a portable solar panel that you can plug in to the inlet by the battery box. Then, when you park in the shade, you can place the portable panel in full sun to help keep the batteries from discharging as much.
I like that idea a lot. I take it this is a real issue being in an aluminum can in warmer weather?

Looks like Renogy has a 200W unit for just $640 on Amazon... w/ 2 6v golf-cart batteries and this, I probably could get more like 4-5 days off grid?

https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Monocr...99640605&psc=1
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Old 11-02-2019, 07:30 PM   #8
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The fridge draws 2.1 amps. That’s only when the compressor is running so battery use is highly dependent on ambient temperature and door openings.
I have left mine on for several days at the storage yard where I get partial sun. With a 180 watts of solar my two AGM batteries were always at or near 100 percent each time I checked on it.
I haven’t actually tested it but I would bet that this uses not much more power on cooler days then a similar sized Dometic propane unit would use just for the 12 volt circuit board.
Yeah, that is quite reasonable... 2.1 amps full bore would be about 19 hours on an 80 amp battery.

Looking around a bit I see you can easily add a second battery and go all the way up to lithium ions for about $2k total that would effectively quadruple your storage.

How did get 180watt panels on top of a 16 footer? Did it require any modifications?

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If you end up doing this, I would get a portable solar panel that you can plug in to the inlet by the battery box. Then, when you park in the shade, you can place the portable panel in full sun to help keep the batteries from discharging as much.
I like this idea quite a bit - it makes sense that parking an aluminum can in the sun could be problematic.

What do you think about this Renogy 200w unit for $640? https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Monocr...99640605&psc=1

I think w/ that and a couple 6v golf cart batteries, for $1000 total and minimal work I could probably do 5 days off grid w/ fairly light usage?
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Old 11-03-2019, 11:00 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Beau10 View Post
Hey everyone, new member here!

Also a question regarding negotiating a price... if I were to buy in March when my current lease is up, would it be a problem negotiating the ~20% discount from MSRP I've seen mentioned a few places on this forum? I assume that discount varies a bit seasonally and where in the model year refresh. I'm fine road-tripping to wherever to pick up my Caravel, esp. if it means I save a thousand dollars, and ultimately would like to 'relocate' to Texas to save on paying state income tax.
The easiest way to negotiate a deal i the 20% + range is to get bids with dealers over the phone to order your unit from the factory, equipped the way you want it.
If you just show up in March and have to buy something RIGHT NOW, that could be more hit and miss. March-June is peak buying season. Right now would be perfect timing as it takes 3 months or so to get your special order.

If you are working remote you are likely to want things like a cell booster, solar, etc. I, personally, would would want a fridge with a propane option as well.
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Old 11-03-2019, 11:06 AM   #10
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The easiest way to negotiate a deal i the 20% + range is to get bids with dealers over the phone to order your unit from the factory, equipped the way you want it.
If you just show up in March and have to buy something RIGHT NOW, that could be more hit and miss. March-June is peak buying season. Right now would be perfect timing as it takes 3 months or so to get your special order.

If you are working remote you are likely to want things like a cell booster, solar, etc. I, personally, would would want a fridge with a propane option as well.
All good advice except on the fridge. If you plan is to buy a 16 and spend significant time in a hot climate then avoid the absorption refrigerators.
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Old 11-03-2019, 01:50 PM   #11
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Rooftop solar 150w, portable solar 150w, and 300-400 ah lithium. A dual fuel generator that can power the a/c. Meets the requirements you outlined, and the caravel is a very nicely equipped unit. Pull the trigger and see the country!
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Old 11-03-2019, 03:30 PM   #12
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I am a remote software engineer, already working 100% from our 2018 Classic 30 Twin, of which 8+ months are outside our current domicile state. I'll let everyone else chime in on Airstream models but feel free to hit me up about the work part.
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Old 11-03-2019, 06:16 PM   #13
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If you plan is to buy a 16 and spend significant time in a hot climate then avoid the absorption refrigerators.
My information on the fridge in this unit may be out of date. The electric fridges I know about take at least 30-40 amp hours a day of battery. That’s no big deal if you are staying in campsites with electricity but a real pain if you are off grid (at least without a vastly upgraded electrical system) because you’d be running the generator frequently.

I’ve not had problems with my AC/propane refrigerator in temperatures comfortable for humans. 90 degrees outside seems fine. If it’s hotter than that maybe that’s a good time to move on!
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Old 11-03-2019, 06:39 PM   #14
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I appreciate the design of the caravel 16’ with panoramic windows on both sides (wish Airstream offered that on other smaller designs!), but the wet bath wouldn’t work for anything longer than short trips (IMHO). For full-time living, I’d consider a 19/23’ CB design - which gives you quite a bit more living space, an enclosed shower/commode separate from the wash-basin, larger tanks, and more area up-top for solar.

The difference between a 16’ RB caravel and a 19’ CB is $3k. For full-time living, the 19 is a no-brainer because it gets you so much more. Check out the comparison here: https://www.airstream.com/travel-tra...lans=16rb,19cb
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Old 11-03-2019, 06:55 PM   #15
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My information on the fridge in this unit may be out of date. The electric fridges I know about take at least 30-40 amp hours a day of battery. That’s no big deal if you are staying in campsites with electricity but a real pain if you are off grid (at least without a vastly upgraded electrical system) because you’d be running the generator frequently.

I’ve not had problems with my AC/propane refrigerator in temperatures comfortable for humans. 90 degrees outside seems fine. If it’s hotter than that maybe that’s a good time to move on!
I’m not familiar with the installation on the 25. Does it vent through the roof? On the 16 the propane fridges are troublesome. Not the fault of the fridge itself but the installation.
It’s a mute point anyway because the Caravell only comes with the electric fridge.
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Old 11-03-2019, 11:51 PM   #16
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I’m not familiar with the installation on the 25. Does it vent through the roof? On the 16 the propane fridges are troublesome. Not the fault of the fridge itself but the installation.
It’s a mute point anyway because the Caravell only comes with the electric fridge.
Yes on the 25FB the fridge vents passively through a roof vent so maybe that’s the difference.
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Old 11-04-2019, 12:24 AM   #17
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Rooftop solar 150w, portable solar 150w, and 300-400 ah lithium. A dual fuel generator that can power the a/c. Meets the requirements you outlined, and the caravel is a very nicely equipped unit. Pull the trigger and see the country!
How would one get over 200ah on a 16ft? As they are lion they would need to be relocated inside, where do people put a 4 battery array? I see the standard solar package switches off when using a portable, there are aftermarket solutions that work for a dual setup?

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I am a remote software engineer, already working 100% from our 2018 Classic 30 Twin, of which 8+ months are outside our current domicile state. I'll let everyone else chime in on Airstream models but feel free to hit me up about the work part.
Thank you, will do!

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The difference between a 16’ RB caravel and a 19’ CB is $3k. For full-time living, the 19 is a no-brainer because it gets you so much more. Check out the comparison here: https://www.airstream.com/travel-tra...lans=16rb,19cb
If bathroom and storage space meant much to me I would consider them, but I dislike the 19 ft layout w/ the corner bed as I would prefer the sensation of having a 'room'. And looking at the 20, the dinette and bed area are the same as the 16, but now right next to each other w/ the bathroom/closet at the other end, which seems like it would be awkward when friends stayed over for the night. And then giving up extra maneuverability, dual panoramic windows, possibly having to get a larger tow vehicle... if Airstream had more compelling (to me) floorplans up to 20' I'd certainly consider it. Unfortunately I don't start liking the layouts again until the 25ft FC, and that I *really* like, but that's an awfully big trailer.

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The easiest way to negotiate a deal i the 20% + range is to get bids with dealers over the phone to order your unit from the factory, equipped the way you want it.
Good advice, will do! I just assumed ordering upfront would incur close to list price vs. taking advantage of something that was sitting on the lot for several months. There don't appear to be many factory installed options, think just the awnings, solar, and a selection between 2 color packages?
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Old 11-04-2019, 12:45 AM   #18
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Welcome to the forum.

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Hey everyone, new member here!



- I plan to frequently be on the move (at most stay in one spot 2 weeks or so, but probably mostly be moving every 3-5 days). So something that is easier to manuever, can fit in more places, and allows me to use a smaller tow vehicle is ideal

Hi, "easier to maneuver" except when backing up.
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Old 11-04-2019, 05:05 AM   #19
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Yes on the 25FB the fridge vents passively through a roof vent so maybe that’s the difference.
If you ever took a look at how it’s installed on a 16 you wouldn’t want it. The machines themselves are great. I’m sure any installed the way yours is will perform great with minor maintenance.
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:31 AM   #20
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How would one get over 200ah on a 16ft? As they are lion they would need to be relocated inside, where do people put a 4 battery array? I see the standard solar package switches off when using a portable, there are aftermarket solutions that work for a dual setup?



Thank you, will do!



If bathroom and storage space meant much to me I would consider them, but I dislike the 19 ft layout w/ the corner bed as I would prefer the sensation of having a 'room'. And looking at the 20, the dinette and bed area are the same as the 16, but now right next to each other w/ the bathroom/closet at the other end, which seems like it would be awkward when friends stayed over for the night. And then giving up extra maneuverability, dual panoramic windows, possibly having to get a larger tow vehicle... if Airstream had more compelling (to me) floorplans up to 20' I'd certainly consider it. Unfortunately I don't start liking the layouts again until the 25ft FC, and that I *really* like, but that's an awfully big trailer.



Good advice, will do! I just assumed ordering upfront would incur close to list price vs. taking advantage of something that was sitting on the lot for several months. There don't appear to be many factory installed options, think just the awnings, solar, and a selection between 2 color packages?
When looking at trailers also consider tank sizes if you are planning to be off grid for more than a day or two. On some of the small trailers the tanks are so small as to be a joke.

Some will scoff at our “excessive” water usage but without getting crazy we rate the time we can go without dumping in terms of showers. We assume 8 gallons per “shower” (which includes other incidental water use like dishes.) At that rate we always fill the grey tank well before we are even close on the black.

The problem with the Caravel’s combined 28 gal grey/black tank is you HAVE to dump at a dump station every few days. Having separate grey and black tanks means you can, should the need arise, pump your grey water into collapsable portable five gallon jugs and dump it without having to hitch up and move your trailer.

I see the Caravel as a great trailer if you are going to mainly stay in places with hookups or are only going off grid for a weekend. It doesn’t have the energy systems or water/waste capacity for extended boondocking.

The solar systems/battery systems Airstream installs are far from optimal. If you want to be more energy independent you’d be better off not ordering the solar option and then upgrading the trailer with a more advanced solar/lithium system. Airstream’s solar is way expensive for what you get.

I started out with a 16’ Camplite trailer before moving the the FC25. I was worried about towing the bigger 25’ but in reality I don’t find it a lot different. In some ways it’s easier to backup than the ‘16 because it’s less twitchy. I wouldn’t discount it out of hand, especially if you add a backup camera. It would be a LOT more livable as a full timer. It would also let you add 500w of solar and up to 500ah of lithium without issue (except the $$.)
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