Sunday, June 27, 2021

How Is the Airstream Basecamp Living Space During a Storm?

Working on a small Chromebook makes online tasks easy
Today is a great day for exploring what kind of living space the Airstream Basecamp provides. It was a dark, overcast morning when I awoke, but not raining yet. The weather radar showed a goodly storm approaching, so I knew that I wouldn't be bike riding until possibly the afternoon when the worst of the storm had passed. This was a perfect time to experience a day inside the trailer, discovering how it was different than our first "standy" teardrop, the Green Goddess.

5 x 10 Rustic Trail Teardrop Camper, Polar Bear
Front cabinets, walk space, then the dinette/bed conversion area
Our first travel trailer, an RTTC Polar Bear, was a 5 x 10 foot tiny trailer that was tall enough to stand up in but had only about two feet of free space between the bed/dinette and the front cabinets. I had spent some pleasant rainy days in the Green Goddess, gazing outside as a rain storm passed over, even cooking some with an induction burner, toaster oven, or an Instant Pot. After three seasons of camping with a tiny trailer, the Basecamp 16-footer, Airstream's smallest trailer, seemed like a palace, its kitchen, bathroom, and seating area separate spaces, each with a function, rather than just one space converted to whatever purpose necessary.

I want to make it very clear, though, that the greater space of the "little" Basecamp rather than the "tiny" space of the Polar Bear standy in no way makes the Basecamp better than the Polar Bear. It's just different. In many ways, the two trailers share attributes. The Polar Bear is the largest (tallest) of the RTTC line, and the Basecamp is the smallest of the Airstream line; space it tight in both, but space in both is sufficient for comfortably waiting out a storm. My wife and I decided on the slightly larger but still "little" trailer to make it easier for her to work online while we were camping--especially if the weather were inclement, hot or cold, windy or buggy. We also just wanted to extend our generosity to ourselves, if that makes sense. We've helped out friends and especially family, and what's wrong with a special treat for ourselves? Nothing, we decided!

In the empty campground, a little extra space
I was alone in the campground, the only other campers having pulled out in their Winnebago the day before. There's something special about being the only camper in a campground. It's almost as if all the animals and trees breathe a sigh of relief along with me, the sounds and silences of nature predominating. Prior to the arrival of rain, I swept my outside camp mat and then did asanas outdoors, occasionally brushing away a few curious timber ants. I have adapted the stretching postures for the smaller space inside, but it was nice to have the extra space. Because the morning was warm and a little buggy, I lit two citronella candles and placed them upwind of the asana mat, keeping the gnats and tiny flies at bay, almost feeling like I was glamping! I did my morning Transcendental Meditation inside, though, and during my meditation, the storm arrived. Luckily, it was mild mannered, just a steady rain with thunder and gentle winds. That was good because I had left up the Basecamp's "visor" awning to provide some protection from the rain so that I could leave the front door open for fresh air. The screen door allowed the sounds and smells of the storm inside the trailer yet kept out the insects, while the visor awning kept the rain out--helped by the fact that the storm approached from the opposite side of the trailer. I did have to slip outside during meditation, though, once I realized I had not set the two awning poles at different heights and the awning was collecting a big puddle of water. I dropped a pole, dumped the water, almost had a shower, and generally had a splishy/splashy good time.

A morning of inside cooking and writing was my solution for rainy day activities--and maybe some reading or a movie if it came to be a long day of steady rain. I have rain gear for bicycling, but steady rain and muddy backroads would perhaps be a bit much, although you never know! Funnily enough, I've camped here at Indian Lake Campground for three nights now and haven't yet used the Basecamp's cookstove--no, wait, I did turn a burner on briefly to warm a tortilla by holding it over the flame. I decided today I'd have a more elaborate lunch, or perhaps a lunch/brunch because I'm having scrambled egges, home fries, and steamed vegetables for lunch. Bake the potatoes in the toaster oven; cook the potatoes and eggs with a few onions and some salsa in our cast iron skillet, and steam the veggies in the Instant Pot. I'll be using three appliances, but I think the clean-up will be minimal. I will also get a chance to use the sink to wash the dishes. Up to today, I've been using campground water and washing up outside to keep the filling of the blackwater tank to a minimum. Old tiny trailer habits, but today I live dangerously, or at least extravagantly!

Cooking inside, using stove, appliances, and sink--a small but usable space
I've just remembered I also have a ripe avocado to slice for the meal, so it's going to be a pretty big meal. Ranchos huevos, avocado, vegetables, and maybe a slice of homemade bread for dessert--toast with locally made rose jam. It looks like part of my inside rainy day routine may be to take a nap. It doesn't look like I'll be getting much exercise today, nor will I locate the elusive White Oak Campground in Shimek Forest, but rest today and a trek tomorrow isn't all bad. And to conserve water, I can always just stand outside in the rain for a shower! 

The storm did intensify, though, and while my intention was to focus on cooking, I found that I was continually distracted by the storm, having to deal with the wind and rain. Here is a loose timeline of my extra duties while cooking lunch.

  • 11:00 Finally closed the front door because of wind and rain. Wiped down the door after closing it.
  • 11:15 Because of the rising and falling gusts of wind, the awning poles fell down. Even with the poles down, the wind beneath the visor kept the it horizontal to the ground.
  • 11:20 I replaced the visor's adjustable poles with my Cabela's poles, which are more sturdy. Those poles also kept falling down as the rising and falling wind lifted the visor, the tent pole tips slipping from the visor grommets. I've decided to let the visor flap; the wind is too strong to take the awning down.
  • 11:25 The weather radar shows the campground to be at the edge of this thunderstorm. I'm glad we're not in the strongest storm area! If there's a lull in the wind, I'll drop the visor; otherwise, it's going to flap!
  • 11:30 I just noticed that I hadn't opened any of the front window curtains. Duh! After opening the curtains and watching the rain and wind whipping the lake, I thought, "Wow, this trailer has a great view!"
  • 11:45 The wind had dropped a bit, and the rain is just sprinkles whipped by gusts. I dropped the visor and made sure it wouldn't blow away, taking out the pole tent stiffener. I'm still worried about limbs hitting the trailer roof. Just heard another thunk.

All this took place while I was prepping my ranchos huevos, steamed kale, and pesto. Lunch went well, though. Everything cooked easily, and all the pots cleaned up with just a wipe. One thing I learned, though. From now on I'll open up the Instant Pot pressure cooker outside. It steamed up the window when releasing pressure, even with the ceiling vent fully open and the fan on high. I enjoyed washing up in the sink, but washing dishes inside raised the blackwater tank four percent. I think continuing our old practice of washing dishes outside and using the campground's water will significantly increase the time between blackwater dumps. There's nothing wrong when using the camper's sink when necessary, though. Having a self-contained camper really makes a difference when it's storming outside.

I've also found out from last night's and this morning's experiences that I really like it when I can open the front door and use the screen. The ceiling fan (and the air conditioner) are noisy, and the side hinged windows don't widely open. Therefore, it can feel stuffy in the camper if the door is closed. I have a couple of quieter fans I can use to move the air--a small nine-inch fan and a four-inch USB powered computer fan. They help keep the camper air fresh when the camper is closed up.

The branch which hit the roof, now broken into two sections
I've used my camp broom and my folding step stool to sweep the debris off the roof. Although I can't closely inspect the roof out here in the field, I think the roof is okay, maybe a small dent. I'll have to check  when I get home and have access to a taller ladder. The Airstream Basecamp definitely has lots of space for one person, and I think my wife and I could have handled the storm comfortably in the camper. One of us could have been cooking, and the other could have been in the bench area. With the front table up and the bed area down in the back, there is definitely room for one person to work at the table and for another person to relax in the bed area.

A paved country road that skirts the river
The weather forecast indicates no rain for the rest of the afternoon. I'm going for a bike ride, but I'm just exploring the paved streets of Farmington. Walking to the garbage bin after lunch, I found that the Iowa gravel/gumbo mix of road was more of a mess than I want to deal with. Exploring the local town will be fun, though, and I'm close to my cozy home if the weather develops some muscle. I'm coming up on my fourth night here at Indian Lake and my liquid gauges show that I have seventy percent fresh water and twenty-nine percent blackwater. If I were to continue with this usage, I could stay here nine nights before needing to dump the blackwater and replenish the fresh water. Not bad! Those numbers also include sponge baths in the trailer or utilizing the campground's showers. (By the way, the showers require four quarters for a go.)

So much for my exciting day of living in my Basecamp while it stormed outside. I'm looking forward to an easy bike ride this afternoon. Tomorrow sometime, my wife Sandy should be arriving. Looking around, the place is pretty neat and clean. I'll send her a list of a few items I forgot, and even if it rains, we should have a fun time. We have plenty of room if it storms, there's that big front window vista with a great view of the lake. Now it's time for a bike ride. See you later!

More Information 

Well, the last paragraph was going to be a nice ending for this article--a progress report on how all is going well on my first longer (week-long) camping trip with the Basecamp, one that utilized all of its features. However, time passes . . . and things change.

Thursday night was probably the wildest night I've ever spent camping. I had been busy enjoying the camping when the camp host dropped by in the late afternoon, saying that he had unlocked the old CCC  stone lodge in case the weather became too severe. Sure enough, when I checked the weather radar, there was a severe storm warning out for my area, forecasting high winds and possible hail up to one and a quarter inches in diameter. Yikes!

A wild night
Rain and more rain
I double-checked the camp area, making sure that everything was tucked away except the staked camp mat and my bicycle. I talked with my wife on the phone, and we decided to check on Friday morning to determine whether she would be coming out, whether I would finish off the camping trip myself, or whether I'd be heading home early. The storm hit just after midnight. The winds were very heavy, and I worried about tree limbs falling. There was no possibility of sleeping through the storm for me. I even got up and consolidated my clothes and wallet and checkbook in case I decided to bug out to the stone shelter. I made it through the whipping, howling winds whose force was periodically illuminated by flashes of lightning, those nearby lightning strikes making me glad I'd bought an expensive surge protector when we'd picked up the Basecamp at the dealership.

The next morning I texted Sandy, saying the weather looked like more of the same, rain and thunderstorms. Also, the trend had been for wet weather predicted to then intensify at the last minute. I decided I'd head for home early in the day during the break in the storms. As I was securing everything in the camper, I noticed some water along the cabinet base next to the bathroom. I wiped it up and wondered if the falling branch earlier in the week had broken the aluminum skin of the trailer and water had gotten inside during the storm. I wiped the water up, but it seeped out again. 

The red hot water pipe and a bin full of water
Looking inside the cabinet more closely, I discovered that the hot water pipe was leaking at the connection to the faucet. A plastic tub in the cabinet beneath the hose was completely full of yucky water. This was the fourth time taking the camper out, the second time using all the water functions after de-winterizing. The first time I'd been out after de-winterizing, evidently the trailer hadn't been up and running with the water pump on long enough for the leak to fill the plastic tub and then have it overflow. Water had been in the tub, though, because the contents were moldy and scummy. This trip I had used the water long enough to cause some flooding and to allow me to discover the leak that hadn't been caught at the factory or at the dealership. I switched off the thankfully provided shutoff valve, which stopped the immediate problem. Then I emptied the cabinet and removed the tub, throwing away the contents which included a brand new, never-used Cuisinart electric hand blender. Into the trash bin! 

Heading home, I crossed the Des Moines River at the Keosauqua bridge. I had noted how low the water was four days earlier when I had crossed the river on my way to Farmington. Now I noticed how high it was after the storm, the river's channel filled with surging water. I was sad to cut my trip short, but I'd spent my one day in the camper, enjoying its space and amenities. I had gone on some nice bike rides, and now I was glad I was heading home, especially since I had a camper to dry out and a leak to fix. 

Part of my after-camping routine this time was to set up the little dehumidifier in the camper to help dry out the floor from the leak. I'm going to loosen the sink hot water connection, add new Teflon tape, and then see if that fixes the leak. If not, then I'll have my son or son-in-law look at the ninety degree elbow, which might have to be replaced. I'm not familiar with the plastic hose connection system. 

I'm already looking forward to heading out again. I think the wife and I will skip camping on the 4th of July weekend, though. After that, then hopefully the weather will be mild enough for another camping trip. In the meantime, I'll tend my garden.

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  1. I always love reading your tales of adventures -- both big and small -- though a leak is an adventure I am sure you would have preferred to do without. On the bright side, though, what a glorious view you have through those kitchen windows! That would make anyone smile.

    1. Thanks for the comment. The leak was easily fixed, just a tightening of the connection. My son (who is handy) did it. It was difficult for him to get both arms into the space. He said the connection had been tightened but not enough. It may not have leaked at first, but because of the inadequate tightening may have loosened with travel. Not a plus for the manufacturer but an easy fix.