Janet lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and one neurotic Border Collie.View all articles by Janet H
What length is right for you?
Airstream measurements are generally stated to include the full length of the trailer, bumper to ball, and so the actual living space of the trailer can be on average 4 - 5 feet less than the stated length.
Some things to consider when choosing trailer length:
A trailer is a long term purchase. Chances are good that you will own your trailer for many years. Choose your trailer based on projected use, not the current capacity of your tow vehicle. Vehicles come and go, Airstreams last a looong time.
New vs. Used. Over the years the shape and width of Airstreams has changed. Older Airstreams are narrower and have a more rounded shape, thus reducing interior volume. In 1981 Airstream began to produce wider bodied trailers, increasing widths from 96" to 102" wide. In general, older Airstreams are also lighter weight, although beginning in 2008 the new Sport Editions are designed with an eye towards weight reduction.
How many axles? Most Airstreams under 22 feet have a single axle. Many believe that single axle trailers are slightly less stable to tow because there is less contact area (tire to pavement) and are a little more difficult to back. When being backed, a single axle trailer reacts more aggressively to small changes in vehicle direction. This said, the towing stability to a single axle Airstream still exceeds the tow feel of a double axle box-style trailer. Airstreams between 22 and 31 feet have 2 axles and 34' trailers have three axles.
Where will you take your Airstream? Almost all modern campgrounds can accommodate very long trailers, but some national forest camp grounds have length restrictions that will exclude all but the smallest (under 22 feet) trailers. These campgrounds were originally built with tent campers in mind and larger trailers simply don’t fit on narrow access roads or into short campsites.
How much time will you spend in your Airstream? The leap from tent camping to luxury camping in an Airstream is an eye opening change. For those used to packing only the bare necessities, the prospect of packing even the smallest Airstream is astonishing. “Look at all that storage space" is a common reaction for campers leaving behind sawed off toothbrushes and one pot meals. But for those planning for longer stays in an aluminum beauty, storage space is a substantial consideration. Think about what you want to take with you and where you will pack it.
Look before you buy. Visit with other Airstreamers at an Airstream rally and ask about their experiences. It’s not uncommon to see first time purchasers rethink their decisions after a year of use and be on the market again for the ‘new’ perfect length. Choosing a trailer that’s too small or too large is easy to do in the absence of trailering experience.
As a general guideline, trailers under 25 feet are best for an individual or a couple taking occasional short duration trips. Many with families opt for a trailer in the 24 - 28 foot range and couples camping for longer periods of time also often prefer this length range. For those spending extended periods of time on the road or ‘fulltiming’ the 28+ lengths many be a good option. No matter the length you choose, you should expect years of camping pleasure in your Airstream.
See you down the road.