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Old 02-24-2021, 06:47 AM   #1
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2020 16' Caravel
PERRY , UT
Join Date: Feb 2021
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New here and looking to buy a Caravel (16 probably)

I am new to the forum, my first post here. I don't own a trailer, but am getting close to committing to a new 16 ft Caravel, and am open for any advice I can get.

The reason for the 16 ft is my Honda Ridgeline has a towing capacity of just 5,000 lbs. I'd probably like the 19 footer better, but for long drives that would seem to push my capacity more than I am comfortable with. It would just be for 2 of us, and sometimes just me, I have done lots of tent and camper shell camping so even 16 ft would be an upgrade. I am recently retired and contemplating a long cross country trip.

So any advice on set up or options would be appreciated.

A couple of big ones I am thinking about are the lithium batteries and solar. Good ideas, or not?

I have heard that even with solar the batteries tend to run out over a weekend, would a good generator be the better choice?

How much improvement do the lithium batteries give you? Are they worth the cost? Or again would a generator be a better investment?

Any other suggestions or ideas would be appreciated, and I am sure I will be back with more questions.

Thanks for your time,

Rob
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Old 02-24-2021, 07:22 AM   #2
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Enjoy the hunt!

Solar is a great idea, whether you choose to go with AGM batteries or upgrade to Lithium. Lithium will give you more capacity when you're boondocking, and they're lighter than lead acid batteries. That said, they're expensive, and they have some other limitations. You'll need to decide how you camp to determine if this is a good upgrade for you.

I think that a generator is a nice way to go, but they're heavy and you have to haul gasoline to power it. This may or may not be a good option for you.

The advice that many people will give you is to buy the trailer that you want, and then buy the right tow vehicle. If you limit your Airstream purchase to a smaller unit than you want or need because of your tow vehicle's limitations, then you may find yourself trading it in and buying a new one in a relatively short period of time. I think you should try to get inside a 16 footer and see if that will work for you before you commit to it. For perspective, my wife and I camp with our dog in a 23 footer, and I find that to be pretty tight sometimes. It works well for us, but I don't think we could go too much smaller based on the way we like to camp.

My last bit of advice is to really think about how you want to camp, how much gear you want to bring, etc. before making your final decision. You may find that you run out of space or cargo capacity and it will limit your style. Many people are fine with 16 footers; you may find that it works really well for you.

Good luck!
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Old 02-24-2021, 09:54 AM   #3
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I realized later that I didn't necessarily answer your question on solar usage over a weekend trip. I've got two 90W Zamp panels on my roof, with AGM batteries. I've camped for 4 nights before, relying on nothing but solar. I've camped several weekends without issue. Doing this requires you to be frugal with your energy usage, and if you're parked in shade or if it's really cloudy, you could have a problem. I bought a 4500W generator for longer trips. I haven't had an opportunity to do so yet, but it's in my plans for 2021. For a 16 footer, you can get away with a smaller generator, especially if you don't want to run the air conditioner. You can also add a soft start unit to the air conditioning system, which will allow for a smaller generator. Honda and Champion make nice unit in the 2,000W - 2,500W range that would work well.
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Old 02-24-2021, 03:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
You can also add a soft start unit to the air conditioning system, which will allow for a smaller generator. Honda and Champion make nice unit in the 2,000W - 2,500W range that would work well.
Thanks Dennis, great info. Is the soft start unit something I can get added to a new purchase or is it strictly aftermarket? The Honda 2200 is a generator I can lift by hand, not possible for a 4000 watt unit.
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Old 02-25-2021, 10:29 AM   #5
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Hey Gator Rob-
Get a gasoline generator.For a small trailer, the 15 Running AMPS ( Like a Honda or Champion 2,200 Starting Watts) will power you up at 2am, when it's cold.
I always say, solar is like hitching a horse to a new Corvette.Sure, you'll get around the track with one horsepower, eventually....And that's if the sun's shining.Good luck in northern tier States or PNW, etc etc.
If you want to go with super expensive Lithium batteries, that you have to put a heating pad under and a blankey on top, when it's chilly, and take their temperature every few hours, hey , go for it!
Other wise, go to Walmart, buy a big deep cycle boat battery.$99 each, and take a real beating.Zero temps not a problem.
Hook a Harbor Freight 100 Watt panel to them! Instant solar! When you're running generator, hook up a $29 Harbor Freight car battery charger to the deep cycles!
But when push comes to shove, and you need some real / sustained instant power, fire up the fossil fuel generator!Bigger the better!
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Old 02-25-2021, 10:45 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by alligatorob View Post
Thanks Dennis, great info. Is the soft start unit something I can get added to a new purchase or is it strictly aftermarket? The Honda 2200 is a generator I can lift by hand, not possible for a 4000 watt unit.
The Micro-Air Easy Start is an aftermarket part that can be added to your air conditioning system. Many people here have done it. I've heard that there could be warranty issues with Airstream, but I don't know that for a fact.

The Honda 2200 is a very popular choice for a small generator. It's relatively light weight at just over 50 lbs., it's quiet, and it's reliable. It's also expensive, especially if you convert it to run on low pressure propane. It's a very solid choice for a small trailer.

I ended up buying a Champion 4500W with remote start. It's 101 lbs, and there's no need for an Easy Start unit. It'slightly louder and a bit heavier than the Honda, but the price was great and it delivers plenty of power. I often camp at over 8,000 feet of elevation, and high altitudes reduce the power of internal combustion engines. It was a better choice for me.
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Old 02-25-2021, 10:46 AM   #7
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My advice: Get a 20' Caravel, and trade the Honda for something that can tow a 20'. 19' is fine, others are too, but I really like the 20' floorplan...

Welcome aboard and good luck!
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:23 AM   #8
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We bought our 16RB Caravel last June and have taken a number of 2-3 week trips with it. The 2 of us were backpackers for years and have been very comfortable in our 16ft Airstream. We pull with a Chevy Traverse which has the same towing capacity as your vehicle. Pulls beautifully with a good hitch. Our Airstream standard/installed solar rooftop panel has kept our standard deep draw batteries near 100% charge all winter. We cleared snow twice. With the recent warmth, the batteries are a full 100%. Perfect size and love it!
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:25 AM   #9
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"Buy your last trailer first"

I had never towed before, but knew the 27FB would work best for us, even though I considered getting a 25 ft for the same reason. Backing is actually easier with a longer wheelbase.

If you buy one and realize you shoulda got something else, that can be an expensive mistake.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:54 PM   #10
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Rob,
Have you by chance looked into the Bambi line? Ours is a 22FB Sport (2018) with a tongue weight between 350 & 450lbs and max tow weight of 4600 (roughly). It's a nice layout and your tv should have no problem pulling one of these.
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Old 02-25-2021, 01:12 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
Enjoy the hunt!

Solar is a great idea, whether you choose to go with AGM batteries or upgrade to Lithium. Lithium will give you more capacity when you're boondocking, and they're lighter than lead acid batteries. That said, they're expensive, and they have some other limitations. You'll need to decide how you camp to determine if this is a good upgrade for you.

I think that a generator is a nice way to go, but they're heavy and you have to haul gasoline to power it. This may or may not be a good option for you.

The advice that many people will give you is to buy the trailer that you want, and then buy the right tow vehicle. If you limit your Airstream purchase to a smaller unit than you want or need because of your tow vehicle's limitations, then you may find yourself trading it in and buying a new one in a relatively short period of time. I think you should try to get inside a 16 footer and see if that will work for you before you commit to it. For perspective, my wife and I camp with our dog in a 23 footer, and I find that to be pretty tight sometimes. It works well for us, but I don't think we could go too much smaller based on the way we like to camp.

My last bit of advice is to really think about how you want to camp, how much gear you want to bring, etc. before making your final decision. You may find that you run out of space or cargo capacity and it will limit your style. Many people are fine with 16 footers; you may find that it works really well for you.

Good luck!
First of all, welcome to the forum. There are already some great suggestions so I hesitate adding my own opinion. I will try not to be too duplicative.

If you're used to tent-camping, then even a 16' will be an absolute luxury. We just "upgraded from a 1966 12' canned ham," so our 22' is like the Taj Mahal.
I suggest doing a keyword search for "Honda Ridgeline" and as I am certain you will find detailed discussions about the capabilities of your vehicle. I own a 22' Sport which has a GVWR of 4,500# and the previous owners towed it successfully for 10 years from New England to Florida with a Ford Flex (also with a 5,000# tow capacity). As far as generators go, I have a Honda 2000 and have purchased an "Easy Start" from Micro-Air. I have not installed it yet but have been assured by the manufacturer (and from other forum members who have the combination) that a Honda 2000 is adequate. If I were "buying" one today, I'd get the Honda 2200 (and convert to propane) or the Champion Dual Fuel in the same size. Propane drops the generator output as does high elevations. As others have suggested, a new tow vehicle might be in order depending on how much you're in love with your "new to you airstream." I have a Nissan Frontier with a 6,100# which performs reasonably well, but when I do change, I will go up to a 1/2 ton truck.
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Old 02-25-2021, 01:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
The Micro-Air Easy Start is an aftermarket part that can be added to your air conditioning system. Many people here have done it. I've heard that there could be warranty issues with Airstream, but I don't know that for a fact.

The Honda 2200 is a very popular choice for a small generator. It's relatively light weight at just over 50 lbs., it's quiet, and it's reliable. It's also expensive, especially if you convert it to run on low pressure propane. It's a very solid choice for a small trailer.

I ended up buying a Champion 4500W with remote start. It's 101 lbs, and there's no need for an Easy Start unit. It'slightly louder and a bit heavier than the Honda, but the price was great and it delivers plenty of power. I often camp at over 8,000 feet of elevation, and high altitudes reduce the power of internal combustion engines. It was a better choice for me.
Agree on the Champion gasoline/ remote start.
I bought the Champion remote start 4,375/3,500 open frame last fall. You plug the 30 Amp Airstream cord right in.Real quiet, and it was $389 out the door at Tractor Supply.
Which is twice the power of the little 15 Amp Honda ( 2,200 Starting watts), and less than half the price.
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Old 02-25-2021, 02:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B. Cole View Post
Agree on the Champion gasoline/ remote start.
I bought the Champion remote start 4,375/3,500 open frame last fall. You plug the 30 Amp Airstream cord right in.Real quiet, and it was $389 out the door at Tractor Supply.
Which is twice the power of the little 15 Amp Honda ( 2,200 Starting watts), and less than half the price.
Great Price and good reviews on the Champions. An Easy Start costs around $300, although I bought for less. I already had the honda generator which has served me well.
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Old 02-25-2021, 05:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
The Micro-Air Easy Start is an aftermarket part that can be added to your air conditioning system. Many people here have done it. I've heard that there could be warranty issues with Airstream, but I don't know that for a fact.
Micro-Air guarantee's their Easy Start will not damage the AC and will cover any related damage attributed to the proper installation of the unit. It has it's limitations, namely it applies to later model airstreams. My airstream is 10 years old, so warranty does not apply and did not read the warranty provisions all that closely. It is on their website.
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Old 02-25-2021, 06:59 PM   #15
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16RB is great

We have a 2019 Bambi 16RB and similar past tent and small trailer camping experiences. I suggest getting in the 16ft and especially try getting in and out of the bed, both table seats, and bathroom. We love ours. It pulls like it is just part of our Tacoma. We do mostly small short duration trips.
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:36 PM   #16
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New 16RB

Rob,

I too am recently retired, planning long travels. Purchased a 2021 16RB, finishing five day maiden voyage tomorrow.

Unique to the 16RB is the REAR WINDOW with the rear bed. This makes for an epic view and made the deal for us (just me and my wife). This is THE main reason for getting the 16.

Size is great. We purchased the solar option, but you can probably do better by purchasing 3rd party (more watts and lithium batteries). All new Caravels come pre-wired for solar so install should be simple. We are already considering getting lithium and all that goes with them. We bring a Honda generator too. We are really skimping on power usage to get through two days of dry camping, currently at 12.4V on second night. The frig should have enough to make it until morning when we depart.

The downside of the 16, is no sink in the wet bath. We are looking into adding one. I’m 6’1” and it’s a tight space to do your business, but possible. The other models would be more comfortable for sure. My wife, who is 5’3”, is fine (except the lack of a sink).

Storage is ample for our needs. Luxury compared to tent or camper life.

You should keep your towing to 80% of capacity of tow vehicle. Our F150 has an 8,000 lb tow cap, so we’re well under that even with a fully loaded/packed 16, 19, 20, or even 22. Switch tow vehicle if need be. I considered all the truck lines, before going with a Ford (everyone has an opinion, different needs).

If I had to do it again? I’d still get a 16RB, but without the $2,100 factory installed solar (add 3rd party, with lithium). Why the 16RB? The REAR WINDOW with rear bed.

- Bob
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Old 02-26-2021, 09:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeahBay View Post
The downside of the 16, is no sink in the wet bath. We are looking into adding one. I’m 6’1” and it’s a tight space to do your business, but possible. The other models would be more comfortable for sure. My wife, who is 5’3”, is fine (except the lack of a sink).

Given how tight the wetbath is already (which is why we didn't consider a 16')... isn't the sink that's just outside the door not close enough?
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Old 02-26-2021, 11:01 PM   #18
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When food is being prepared, or dishes being washed, it doesn’t matter if the galley sink is close. At home, do you leave the bathroom and go to the kitchen to wash your hands and face? Do you really want to take care of personal washing at the same sink as food prep? I thought it would be okay, but after four days, I’ve decided it isn’t. It would have been so easy for AS to put a small sink in the 16RB bathroom.

- Bob
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Old 02-27-2021, 08:11 PM   #19
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Well, I pulled the trigger. Ordered the 16RB, it is supposed to be ready by mid-May!

Included the stabilizer hitch, AGM batteries, AC Soft Start, and a bike rack and some d-rings to be installed for ties. I did not go with the solar or lithium batteries. I will get a smaller generator, something like the Honda 2200 and see how power management goes. I may be happy, or I may end up doing after market solar and/or lithium down the road, made that decision based on what I heard from y'all here. I know the dealer price is way too high for the AGMs, but I was able to negotiate that down, again the advice here helped.

We are used to tent camping, and believe the 16 ft will be fine for us. I like the semi-luxury of the airstream and compared to our tent it is huge and ultra luxurious. The smaller trailer will be lighter and easier to tow (except maybe for backing up). As suggested we tried the toilet, bed and seat and fit fine, I am 5' 7" and 150 lbs, my wife is close to the same, so fit.

Will keep our Honda Ridgeline, for now anyway. With a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs and a trailer GVW of 4,300 lbs when fully loaded we will be at 86% of capacity. A bit more than the suggested 80%, so as suggested I did some searching and found a number of people who use the Ridgeline to tow the 16 footer and found no complaints. I even found people towing heavier trailers long distances without problems. I think we will be ok, guess I will find out on that one.

I really appreciate all the good and well thought out advice, and I considered it all. I am sure I will be back with lots more questions, and maybe a few years up the learning curve perhaps with some useful advice. Thanks all!
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Old 02-27-2021, 10:06 PM   #20
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Congrats! Let the fun begin! Now it’s time to start planning your list of accessories, add-ones, and modifications. That list never seems to get smaller.
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