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Old 04-29-2018, 12:35 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Foiled Again View Post
Actually, if you have been thinking about it that long, you might have "alumanitis" which is a near chronic condition.... but can just wear itself out. A 4K panel replacement after a hit and run accident (I was parked!) dampened my enthusiasm... fiberglass repair about 1/10th the cost.

Look at every brand of "egg trailer" starting with Casita and Scamp, and the Oliver, and Happier Camper and... Fiberglass is lower maintenance and much cheaper to repair a ding. Paint it silver if you want. Truly these little pods lose almost no value and sell in a day or two AND are a much safer way to test the waters before paying the Airstream premium.
Scamps are SUPER affordable, and there is a 13' layout with a wet bath that is pretty nice, but there are a lot of quality issues with that brand. If I'm going to be living long term in a trailer I am willing to pay for something that is going to last.

I'll take what you said to heart though and keep looking.
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Old 04-29-2018, 01:13 PM   #22
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If Quality is extremely important to you, then please keep reading. Airstreams have lots of issues.
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Old 04-29-2018, 01:15 PM   #23
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Living out of a small space is preferable to living in my family home indefinitely, or renting a room in a house with a dozen strangers (which is what I could afford if I wanted to stay close to the city) or moving to a less populated area with a lower cost of living

all I really need out of a "home" is a place to sleep, cook meals, shower, and safely store my personal belongings, and I'm a minimalist so I don't have much.
Aside from actually moving to Nebraska, you might consider why you cannot do either the family home living, or the multiple roommate living, if you are (in theory) not much interested in much more than shelter.

I say this as a "devil's advocate", wondering if really you are seeking more of a sense of permanence and place that is truly your own, vs just a place to sleep, shower, and eat.

Only mentioning this because solving the "wrong problem" will not lead to the satisfaction you seek.

Life is full of a multitude of choices, all with real costs, and the opportunity cost of not taking advantage of a different choice.

I do agree that stealth city camping is next to impossible as a long-term way of life. Begging the question what long-term you aspire to.
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Old 04-29-2018, 01:43 PM   #24
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Here is a link http://airstreamlife.com/
They had an article where smaller vehicles were pulling 16’ Airsteam’s. I would contact them maybe you can get a copy of it online. This would be excellent information for you.
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Old 04-29-2018, 02:20 PM   #25
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Towing a 16' Bambi with a smaller vehicle is totally doable. We tow our Sport with a 2015, manual transmission, 2 door Wrangler and it does just fine. Definitely invest in a good weight distribution hitch and keep the speed down. We are never in a hurry on the road and don't tow in bad weather, so it works for us. As you can imagine, a small Jeep does great off road and is easy around town.

There's no debate that a big tow vehicle tows better, but be prepared to live with that big vehicle as your primary transportation. We really are minimalists, so for us smaller and lighter is better and less is more.

With a little consideration, we concluded our number one negative to long-term in the Sport is storage. Ultimately, everything has a trade-off. Don't let that dissuade you.
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Old 04-29-2018, 02:47 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Piggy Bank View Post
Aside from actually moving to Nebraska, you might consider why you cannot do either the family home living, or the multiple roommate living, if you are (in theory) not much interested in much more than shelter.

I say this as a "devil's advocate", wondering if really you are seeking more of a sense of permanence and place that is truly your own, vs just a place to sleep, shower, and eat.
I do want a private space I can call mine, yes. And since paying a mortgage is out of the question, I need to be flexible on how much space I need.

Living with family is harmful to my mental and physical health, and I have had bad experiences living with roommates before so I do not want to live with a bunch of strangers either.

As for what I aspire to, I just want to be able to survive, be self-sufficient, and be comfortable. I'd like to think that's what most people want.
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Old 04-29-2018, 03:15 PM   #27
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Everyone's different, but for us the 16' Bambi is the just right size. We started with a Roadtrek van, stepped-down to a teardrop trailer, and now an AS Sport. With a Jeep, it's a perfect balance for us. We spend a lot of time on the road and in The Bay Area, with extended stays at Candlestick and SF RV Resort (by Pacifica), and never once felt like "the walls were closing in". The wet bath is fine, but we try to use the park's facilities as much as possible and we don't spend much time actually "living in" the trailer. We are almost always out doing things, not lounging and watching TV - but to each his own.

Granted, our trailer is practically new, but there haven't been any quality issues to speak of. AS seems to build a pretty good product compared to a lot of other stuff on the market.
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Old 04-29-2018, 03:21 PM   #28
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Another resource

Check out the Airstream Bambi 16 page on Facebook. Not only is there a lot of discussion on tow vehicles, but many of those posting are full timers. I agree that storage is limited, but we seem to have plenty of room and use the TV for overflow. Good luck!
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Old 04-29-2018, 04:21 PM   #29
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I tow my 16í International Signature Bambi with a 2017 VW Touareg. It is six cylinder, so donít expect great gas mileage. Tops 23mpg without the trailer, 12-15mpg with trailer. My Bambi is 3500 fully loaded. Touareg s rated for 7200. I have towed the trailer over mountains with no prob. And it is a reasonable city and urban car without the trailer. I have found it to be a perfect TV allowing me to maintain only one vehicle for towing and regular driving.
This is a good example (or bad example) of how economy can be elusive. I get better fuel mileage with my Chevy Silverado 2500HD DIesel PU. 25 mpg empty and 15 mpg towing a 25ft Airstream. I don't think that a 3/4 ton PU is necessary to tow a 16 ft Bambi, but it is instructive to notice that smaller engines that are loaded very heavily get worse fuel milage than a larger engine that is not working so hard.

To the original question of 'how small can I go" I say that is the wrong approach to tow vehicles. Some overkill is desirable in tow vehicles, just to give some margin of safety in difficult situations. Even with the best Weight Distributing Hitch, an overloaded tow vehicle is an accident looking for a place to happen.

And full time living in a travel trailer is not the most economical way to live. The price of a safe and suitable tow vehicle is going to by higher than an economy car and even a late model used Airstream will cost something to maintain. And an older model can be a real money pit. Follow this forum and see how much.

Don't get me wrong; I love my Airstream and my 3/4 ton truck tow vehicle. But they come at a price. And I have lived full time in three different Airstreams from 25 ft to 31 ft, and it a challenge, even for a minimalist.

You may find an economy car and extended stay motels cheaper, and roomier, if price is the name of the game.
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Old 04-29-2018, 04:50 PM   #30
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Why?

If you choose wrong you're going to have a vehicle that isn't safe to tow the trailer. Get a tow vehicle that can tow the weight, not because it's small.
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Old 04-29-2018, 06:59 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by ASDreamSF View Post
I do want a private space I can call mine, yes. And since paying a mortgage is out of the question, I need to be flexible on how much space I need.

Living with family is harmful to my mental and physical health, and I have had bad experiences living with roommates before so I do not want to live with a bunch of strangers either.

As for what I aspire to, I just want to be able to survive, be self-sufficient, and be comfortable. I'd like to think that's what most people want.
Thanks, this is helpful to understanding your situation.

Given that you are going to be on your own in this undertaking, it is probably even more essential for you to have a thorough plan and resources in place if you do this. You may already have done some of these things, but this is what came to mind:

I would suggest you research the zoning restrictions for places you are considering to make sure you won't be in any type of problem situation along those lines. I would suggest finding free/low cost places to drain your tank. I would suggest a gym membership close to where you work so that you could shower there and use their water, electric, and space for grooming. I would have some back up places to park if you needed to store your trailer for a period of time (like an out of town trip or family emergency). I would look at online forums for van life, tiny house, and boondocks camping for ideas and people to ask about specific problems.

Another consideration might be a small rental apartment with roommates as a base, and a less expensive trailer housed outside of town more or less permanently as an escape on weekends.

I empathize with your situation, but urban areas are often not supportive of these arrangements. Not knowing your financial situation, I can only caution that Airstreams are not inexpensive, and they depreciate, and need repairs. As do vehicles.

It's one thing to do this as a hobby, fully knowing it's being done with the discretionary part of the budget. The stakes are much higher if this is not your situation. Please ask all the questions you need to ask so we can be of assistance.

Wishing you all the best.
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Old 04-29-2018, 07:59 PM   #32
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Get a Smart car.
Engine‎: ‎1.0L 3-Cylinder
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Old 04-29-2018, 11:34 PM   #33
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We never felt that our 16' Bambi was too small for camping, in the sense of not enough room. We spent 6-8 weeks at a pop camping in it. This is with two ample adults and a mid-sized dog.

But this wasn't full-timing. We spent a lot of time outside.

The more I think about your OP proposition, however, I see the real problems as (a) storage, and (b) where you will park it. Have you costed out RV parks in the SF area, or seriously located specific free or low-cost places to stay for more than stealth camping? I think this is where your financial crunch will happen, unless you also have a good income stream. ($40 per night times 30 days= $1200 per month, which I think would be a low estimate.)

We're pretty minimalist, as well, but there is very little space for clothes storage in the 16-footer. The closet is maybe 18" wide, and then it isn't full-length. It can get pretty demoralizing living with all your belongings strewn around with no place to put them.

I don't think your type of small dwelling is the issue so much as land prices. Whatever you choose, you have to plunk it down somewhere.

Alternatively, if you're not wedded to a job in the Bay area, what about a second choice location that is more affordable? (Actually, I once lived in Lincoln, NE for a few years, and thought it was a great place. As the state capitol and university town, it had a lot going on. OK, OK-- that still leaves a dozen western states.)
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Old 04-30-2018, 06:17 AM   #34
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ASDreamSF,
While you give careful consideration to you potential to full timers in a 16' foot Bambi and perfectly matched tow vehicle, consider our option....2014 Airstream 20' Bambi towed with Touareg Sport (sport has tow pkg.). Tows like a dream, 17 mpg towing, lots of storage space and most excellent kitchen in the Airstream family (IMO). Don't forget to look into monthly/seasonal camping rates and work camping in exchange for free campsite. We don't fulltime but travel with our Bambi 4-6 months per year and are quite comfortable in ours. Best of luck in your search for your new adventure!
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Old 04-30-2018, 08:21 AM   #35
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Since you asked...









All the best in your search!
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Old 04-30-2018, 10:42 AM   #36
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Smallest Possible Tow Vehicle

The smallest possible tow vehicle is smaller than you think, and it's also too small.

I tow a Bambi 16' Sport, and I towed it with a BMX X3 2.5i. In terms of raw numbers, I was towing 3500 pounds, with a 4200 pounds of tow vehicle, on an engine and transmission that rated to pull 9000 pounds. It all seems very possible in theory, and in fact I did tow that rig -with my family and gear in it- accross country.

Imagine a BMW X3 and a Bambi 16' travelling from Toronto to Banff and Jasper National park. At eight hours a day of travel, we made it there in a week, and with several beautiful and easy stops along the way. You have to also imagine as a driver, and as the one who calculated this trip, I overlooked a few key facts.

The most important thing I forgot to do was to consider 8h per day of towing. I had my radiator system serviced and inspected ahead of time, knowing that cooling was going to be a big deal. I had my transmission checked and serviced because that was a big deal too. On my X3, the transmission cooler has a heat exchanger element that moves transmission heat into the one engine radiator. That all seemed very innovative to me, and so I believed it, and in fact it all did work. My new tow vehicle now has it's own transmission cooler. That radiator on the X3 was just totally maxed out. I literally calculated that I would be towing at the maximum, and I was, and it did work, 8h per day. The whole thing just seemed to run way too hot for me. Heat was a big problem for me and my tiny tow vehicle, even though nothing acutally failed.

The next thing I overlooked was fuel. I had anticipated that I would probably be dropping down a gear several times during my trip. I expected that I may need that extra torque of the lower gear. Ahead of my trip, I drove around in "sport mode" with lower gears and more torque. That experience gave me an expected fuel economy for driving in a lower gear. Fantastic. The thing I overlooked was that the gas tank holds "less kilometers" if the fuel consumption increases. The gas tank itself was a normal commuter gas tank, and there were two times that I was running on fumes to get to the next gas station. I have to say that with a tiny engine revving high for eight hours a day, "the next fuel station" was an all too often topic. My next tow vehicle now has a bigger tank, and I switched to diesel, because not all gas stations had premium unleaded, on the highway sells diesel is everywhere, and if I put regular gas in my X3 it STINKS of sulphur, because my X3 had no mechanism to process the sulphur. Small commuter tank and premium gas are a bad combination for long-haul.

The last most important factor I had not considered was to intentionally over-engineer. My background makes me engineer solutions to problems. My experience is that if a probem is under-engineered, it would tend to fail. When over-engineered, money is spent unnecessarily. The trip was precicely engineered, I towed 9000 pound rig with a 9000 pound machine. From the title of this thread, I assume this is about precicely engineering for a smallest cheapest possible solution. On the surface that is all well and good, and I must remind you that it will work, because I know, and I've done that, and it does work. The thing I forgot to consider was that the engineers that rated my 9000 pound machine rated at the base line of flat, 100km/h, and sea level. Going across the praries is not a problem. Northern Ontario's hills took me down to 70km/h, and I remember this one hill I did it at 60km/h in second gear, on the highway. Everybody passed me, and I passed nobody. I remember through the praries there was an 18 wheeler, and he was going about 105 or 110, so I drafted him, and I could actually go over the speed limit. The air in the Rockies gets thinner as you go up, and that subtracted from my power output, although the altitude did help cooling. That all said, every day of travel took about 20% longer, because the car just did not have any "extra" power.

Just like you, I went for the "smallest tow vehicle". My X3 has 180 foot-pounds of torque, and that is not a lot, and that Bambi is also not heavy. Pretty much any medium SUV will tow it. Check the ratings on the machine under the hood, and what it is capable of pulling. If you have learned anything from my rant above, add a little more. Add more cooling, make sure that fuel tank is big or regular or diesel, and give yourself a little more power to go up a hill or pass a car or high altitude.

My new tow vehicle is an X5 three litre turbo diesel, rated to pull 7700 pounds, it has it's own transmission cooler, and I get 800 km (500 miles) per tank. I over engineered those problems. The new rig rides about the same, I feel the extra weight of the X5 just feels a bit better. No temperature issues ever. I rarely stop to refuel. I can pass cars if I want to.

My first tow vehicle was engineered to be "possible" and my second tow vehicle was engineered to be "easily". Considering a car is one of the most expensive things you will ever spend money on, I'd say factor in you personal preferences heavily. I went for what was possible, and I much prefer what is possible, easily.

I think the best closing line to this is actually a question. What problems are you willing to tolerate? The more tolerant you are with problems, the smaller your tow vehicle can be.
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Old 04-30-2018, 04:43 PM   #37
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adamkalins, thank you for the very detailed post.

On the advice of Foiled Again and other posters, I've been comparing the Sport 16' to cheaper fiberglass trailers with similar layouts. The R Pod 171 is growing on me. I would have to do a lot of modifications to really make it work for me, but it's encouraging to see that the R Pod owner community is very active and they seem enthusiastic about the brand.

Because I don't plan to travel extensively, I don't need to tow very often or for very long. Based on what some posters have written, I think if I got a good hitch from Can-Am RV for a Ford Escape, I could tow my trailer in an emergency (as long as I drove very slowly, with my flashers on) but it's also possible to just rent a truck, or even hire someone to tow it for me. So, I do have more options that I am aware of now, thanks to everyone in this thread.
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Old 04-30-2018, 06:23 PM   #38
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One thing to consider, not related to the tow vehicle, is where your "waste" goes. This is a really critical piece to consider, especially in an urban environment where it is more difficult to get to a dump station. Every drop of water you use has to go _somehwere_. In the case of the 16' Bambi, it has a single 21 gallon tank for all of the waste...and it holds 23 gallons of fresh water.

Lets say you are super careful with water consumption while showering and you only use 5 gallons, and then you use 2-gallons a day to use the bathroom and wash your hands, and then 1 or 2 gallons in the galley. Thats only 10 gallons a day, which is a drop in the bucket (pun intended?) when you consider you use more than 10-gallons a day flushing a toilet. That gets you 2 days without having to dump the tank. Maybe you believe you can skip showering to every other day, so then you can get 4 days.

When the tank is full, the trailer has to be hooked up to a dump station. So please do not overlook this part, it isn't like you can just park and live. You need water coming in, sewage going out.
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Old 04-30-2018, 07:21 PM   #39
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One thing to consider, not related to the tow vehicle, is where your "waste" goes. This is a really critical piece to consider, especially in an urban environment where it is more difficult to get to a dump station.

When the tank is full, the trailer has to be hooked up to a dump station. So please do not overlook this part, it isn't like you can just park and live. You need water coming in, sewage going out.
If I was "driveway surfing" I could hook up to my host's sewer clean-out.
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Old 04-30-2018, 07:28 PM   #40
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I also tow my 16' Bambi with a Toyota 4-Runner, 6 cylinder. I am able to tow the trailer up Hwy 120, Tioga Road out of Lee Vining. A pretty long climb of about 6000 Ft. elevation gain. I can manage at about 3000rpm, 30-40mph...all the curves can handle.
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