Wednesday, March 10, 2021

2nd Time Out with Our Airstream Basecamp

Lake Darling, SE Iowa

Although we had been packing and preparing for a second outing with our Airstream Basecamp, we hadn't planned on going last weekend. On Thursday I had received my first COVID-19 vaccination shot, we had grandkid plans on Sunday, and Tuesday was a scheduled dental check-up. However, I weathered the first shot with just a bit of a sore arm, the grandkid time fell through, and at least the weekend was free. 

Sandy and I decided to hit Lake Darling State Park again. It was close, and a couple of days off the cellphone/internet grid was not a bad thing--a bit of a break, in fact. Since our stay would just be Saturday and Sunday nights, and since I had been packing for a trip sometime soon, all we had to do was pack refrigerator food and clothes for Sandy, easily done. By 1:30 we were rolling, having hitched up and double-checked everything. 

We parked right along the water--or I should say right next to the ice, for the lake was still frozen over. Camp was a quick set-up because the site was level and didn't require leveling or unhitching. After cooking a quick one-pot meal, we walked along the lake, not far because we were tired, but long enough to soak up the silence and the warmth of the afternoon sun. We had cooked lunch slowly, enjoying the process of remembering where we had stored everything, and the Instant Pot made the cooking and clean-up about as easy as it can get. Dishwashing was outside, using the old system of pan, rinse pot, and drainer, the same system we used when we camped with our tiny trailer. Yes, the Basecamp has indoor plumbing, but we haven't de-winterized yet because Iowa is still experiencing freezing temperatures. Besides, March and April can still get unexpected cold snaps. 

Sun reflecting from the icy lake

We had chosen Lake Darling because it has a good cement path walking trail, which meant we didn't have to hike through mud. There were still patches of snow across the path, though, necessitating treks through slush and puddles. No mud, though! It's a good thing that our plans for the weekend were to take it easy and rest because we even stopped for a sit on a bench for a while on our return. 

That night we decided to sleep utilizing the full bed configuration, with our feet to the front. With a soft, old Coleman flannel sleeping bag open beneath us for our bottom bedding, and summer down bags unzipped and a cotton thermal blanket on top, we found sleep easy. We were ready to learn more about the mattress pads, though, and the heating system. What we found was that with lows a little under freezing, setting the Truma thermostat at fifty-five degrees was too warm. I turned it down a couple of times during the night, two degrees lower each time. Also, Sandy found the bed a bit hard for sleeping on her hips. We decided to try on Sunday night our old hiking Thermarest mattress, but then forgot; Sandy found the second night easier, but we're still going to try the Thermarest on our next trip. On the second night of our stay, I turned the heater thermostat down to fifty degrees, which provided a good level of coolness, although I wore a warmer top to keep my shoulders warm. Our early conclusion regarding sleeping is that we won't have to buy a topper to soften the bed. We'll see!

We had fun trying out our clothes packing arrangement this trip, keeping our sleepwear in the overhead netting and a change of clothes inside the seat hatch compartment, close to the front and easily accessible. Our plan is to have a change of clothes and underwear above so that we only need to access the hatch storage infrequently. Having the hatch cover split for two openings really helps, though, and we wonder if Airstream will ever split those long bottom pads, too, so that access to the front hatch lid is even easier.

Our biggest pleasant surprise was that stocking the camper's interior really enables getting away with less work, fuss, and bother. It was mostly refrigerated food and drinking water that was our last-minute packing. We found using the bag system with our inside toilet made the night experience easier, and we're looking forward to using our trailer to its full capacity soon. I could de-winterize now (I'll have a later blog post about that), but we don't mind learning about our trailer's systems a bit at a time. I've really learned a lot about the Truma heating system, and when it comes time to utilize the plumbing, I'll have the Truma mostly figured out.

We did learn a few new things from our second trip.
  • When it's windy, open the door with two hands, one opening the latch, the other keeping the door secure. The wind really wants to whip the door open and slam it against the trailer.
  • We're glad we have a thermometer for the refrigerator. We found the inside temps to vary with the outside temperature, so we had to adjust the cooling gauge.
  • I still really dislike the fact that the electric trailer jack mast blocks the SUV hatch so that I can't open it when hitched up. I probably wouldn't have accepted the electric jack as a free add-on if I had known the car hatch would be blocked.
  • The Truma heat is great! Even though I've read about the Truma panel and condensation issues, the basic unit heats the trailer really well.
  • We found it best to crack the ceiling vent and turn on the fan for a bit when heating water for tea in the morning. The steaming induction kettle puts moisture in the air really fast. We also feel the fan's motor is loud, even on the low setting. 
Sunday was a longer walk in the morning with less wind and more heat--a beautiful day. We came home for the afternoon to read and relax with a light dinner, more reading, and early to bed. Our weekend experiences included being a high point on the locals' drive-through procession. We even had one woman and her son stop to ask about the Basecamp. After snapping a photo, she said, "That would be just perfect for us!" I certainly couldn't argue with her opinion. 

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  1. Looking forward to seeing how you make the inside of the Basecamp uniquely yours.

    1. I'll definitely have some posts when camping picks up. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I've bicycle camped at Lake Darling. The campground does have a few tent sites that are non-electric. However, there are some fine electric sites that would also work well for tents.