Friday, January 22, 2021

The Airstream Basecamp Is a Little Camper--and We're Glad

An easy park and plenty of space

"Look at all the room we have!" my wife exclaimed when we first stood inside an Airstream Basecamp, and I absolutely agreed with her. The interior of the Basecamp was huge compared to our RTTC Polar Bear 5 x 10 tiny trailer. 

I now own a new 2021 Airstream Basecamp 16-footer, and I'm still reveling in the larger space but also coming to realize that the Basecamp is a little travel trailer. Space is a precious commodity: storage is limited and transformation of available space from activity to activity is still the daily routine. Cooking space becomes office space, benches and tables transform to bedroom, and the bathroom/shower . . . well, watch your elbows and head! This isn't a bad thing, though, and that's what I want to talk about today. 

The cooking space inside the Basecamp is a big change

In the first article I wrote for this blog--"Why Such a Tiny Trailer?"--I articulated the reasons why my wife and I chose to buy a tiny trailer, tiny even though the RTTC Polar Bear was a "standy," the largest of the company's line. Here's what I wrote:
  • We wanted a trailer small enough to fit those campground sites that aren't linked to the sewer system, sites that fit into the natural landscape, rather than bulldozed, "tract home" sites.
  • We wanted a trailer we could pull with the vehicle we owned. 
  • We wanted a small trailer that I could tow and learn how to back more easily.
  • We wanted a trailer that put us outside more often, where even with our "safe haven" tiny room, the outdoors campsite was still our main living space.
These reasons for camping in the tiny trailer lifestyle still are important to us, and now that my wife and I own an AS Basecamp, it's a good feeling to realize that we can still honor our initial impetus for camping as we go out with our new trailer. We can still maintain our lighter environmental footprint when we camp, and we can still travel light and easy. Those four principles for tiny trailer camping still apply to the Basecamp. Let's take a look.

We wanted a trailer small enough to fit those campground sites that aren't linked to the sewer system, sites that fit into the natural landscape, rather than bulldozed, "tract home" sites.

Airstream built the Basecamp to be agile and more capable to travel to those harder to reach destinations. The online company pitch is as follows: "The Basecamp Travel Trailer was made for those who want to see the world. Built for adventure, it’s a small camping trailer that’s tough enough to go anywhere your wanderlust takes you, and comfortable enough to help you really enjoy the time you spend there." 

I'm somewhat reluctant to completely buy any company's sales pitch, but the fact is the Basecamp is built for more rugged travel, especially the "X" package, although even the original model was designed with rougher roads in mind. For my wife and me, though, we're mostly interested in staying off "Sewer Row" when we camp, and the Basecamp allows us to do that. At sixteen feet in length, the unit will fit just about anywhere that we would consider taking our original tiny trailer. We can set up camp where the larger rigs will just drive by. "Nope, too small. Not for us!" We don't have to say or think that.

Our Nissan Pathfinder pulls both tiny and little trailers

We wanted a trailer we could pull with the vehicle we owned.

We tow the Basecamp with our Nissan Pathfinder. I've found the Basecamp pulls easily, but whereas with the tiny trailer I wasn't even aware that I was towing, with the Basecamp, I do notice the weight. That's not to say that the Pathfinder is overmatched; it's rated to tow 6,000 pounds. However, the BC is about two-thirds heavier than our tiny trailer, and the extra weight is noticeable.

We like the idea of not having to buy a special vehicle just to tow our trailer--or buying a special RV that we drive just when we camp. The SUV does double duty; it's both a family car and a tow vehicle. This saves us original investment dollars and also money on the road because we get better gas mileage than the large rigs.

We wanted a small trailer that I could tow and learn how to back more easily. 

The simple truth is that I wouldn't feel comfortable driving a large RV or pulling a large trailer or 5th-wheeler. For me, the comfort of traveling small supersedes whatever luxuries and comforts a larger unit provides. Having camped in the Midwest for a few years, what I've discovered is that there are very few boondocking opportunities available, if the definition of "boondocking" means off the grid on federal or wild land. However, I'm discovering more and more campsites that are labeled "primitive," meaning no electricity, modern showers and toilets, and sometimes even no drinking water access. These campgrounds are perfect tiny trailer territory, especially for those solar equipped. Some of these campsites are described as tent campgrounds but are still accessible to lightweight tiny campers, as long as the sites are not carry-in.

The Basecamp, especially with its solar capacity, is also accessible to these Midwest primitive sites. With water, propane, and solar, the Basecamp's small size allows it to be accessible to many of these primitive campsites--and you can still camp with some comfort. The Basecamp is small enough to fit, and just like tiny trailers; however, those design limitations also limit inside space for movement and storage. Bigger than our tiny trailer, the BC still provides my wife and me with head-scratching moments as we think, "Now, where are we going to put that?" Careful utilization of space is a necessary reality that allows for lightweight travel. That's the price of being able to camp off Sewer Row, a price we happily accept.

Exploring the inside space

We wanted a trailer that put us outside more often, where even with our "safe haven" tiny room, the outdoors campsite was still our main living space.

There is a rhythm to tiny trailer camping, a routine that allows for living well even though living small. Perhaps the easiest way to describe that rhythm is that you deal with tasks one at a time, and when done with a task, the next step is to put away everything associated with that task. It has to do with the reality of space allocation and transformation. Done with sleeping? The bed becomes the sofa and dinette. Done with cooking? The interior space becomes the office. Going for a hike or bicycle ride? Get out the appropriate clothes and shoes; put away the leisurewear. 

Our outside REI canvas chairs are more comfortable than the benches inside the trailer. Tight quarters inside lead to creative living solutions outside. Sleeping at night inside the trailer is a "safe haven" experience, not so much an issue of security (although I do feel more secure inside) but mostly a safe haven from insects and inclement weather. A tiny trailer allows my wife and me to extend our camping season; in fact, we've found now that our favorite seasons for camping are the "shoulder" seasons. The campgrounds are less busy, and the weather is often milder. We may have to bundle up, but that's a small price to pay for avoiding chafing from the heat . . . and chigger season!

The Airstream Basecamp is not a tiny trailer, but it is a little trailer. Most of the challenges and joys of tiny trailer camping still apply to camping in the larger (but still little!) Basecamp. Yes, it has an inside kitchen, bathroom, and more leg room, but the BC also requires careful consideration of space and a certain neat-freak regimen of housekeeping. The Basecamp allows my wife and me to store our unit in our driveway without offending our neighbors with its bulk. It allows us to get down the road and to find a campsite with a minimum of fanfare (and gas consumption), and it allows us to find those smaller campgrounds and campsites that are farther away from other campers, more secluded and private, more natural surroundings and less citified. Does the Airstream Basecamp provide the "golden mean" of camping, the middle way between the extremes of too small and too big? For my wife and me, it might just be. We find the Airstream Basecamp is a little trailer that gracefully leans toward tiny. Thank goodness!

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2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. We're really enjoying it. Now we're just waiting for the ice to melt. However, evidently another major storm is coming in . . .

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