I’m sipping craft vodka from a stainless steel mug high on a hill in rural Pennsylvania, overlooking a gorgeous valley. In front of me, a fire crackles. Behind me, the new Airstream Basecamp compact trailer sits waiting for me to reach my limit and stagger into its warm metallic shroud for the night.
I’m chatting with a couple I bumped into randomly while out testing the Airstream on a solo mission. Matt from Stateside Vodka in Philadelphia and his girlfriend Sammie were out shooting pictures of bottles for a marketing campaign in the same spot, near Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, that I had targeted for some photos myself, and came over to ask about the trailer. Within minutes: Fire, vodka, laughter, and boozy proclamations that this was the greatest night in the history of random photoshoot encounters.
Airstreams will do that — as will great vodka, of course. They’re icebreakers, skid-greasers, social lubricants. Everyone digs a gorgeous Airstream; everyone wants to see it, peek inside and fantasize about the life of adventure that seems so much a part of the Airstream culture. After all, have you ever truly envied someone rolling around in a white-box RV? No, you haven’t. Sure enough, when I arrived at the scenic overlook in the little Basecamp — Airstream’s brand-new compact trailer — it was an immediate hit with the small crowd that had gathered to check out the sunset, including the vodka duo and the owner of the property, Canyon Rim Estates, who spontaneously let us camp out there overnight.
Seating/Sleeping Capacity: 2/4
L/W/H: 16x7x8.5 ft
Curb Weight: 2,585 lbs
Carrying Capacity: 915 lbs
After the crowd left, all the product photos were taken, and we’d downed a generous sampling of drink by the fire, we retired to our respective shelters, I in the Airstream and they in their tent. I don’t know how warm and comfortable that tent was, but the Airstream felt like a warm, cozy cabin against the night chill. Of course it was a relatively tiny cabin, at least compared to the conventional Airstream that most of us are familiar with. The 16-foot-long Basecamp sleeps two comfortably — three in a pinch — on cushy mattresses that double as couch cushions. There are two tables that can pivot on pedestals to be used as desks or a single dining space, or they can be removed entirely to make room for bicycles or kayaks. You can enter through a rear door or the proper full-height side door. The bathroom/shower combo sits opposite the main entryway, there’s a kitchenette with a sink, two-burner propane stove, and a small refrigerator. Panoramic wraparound tinted windows produce amazing views from the front, if you park it in the right spot. And it just so happens I did, in anticipation of an incredible sunrise.
The next morning, with a bit of a hangover and a seriously sweet view, I was pretty well ready to crack open the checkbook and throw down for this gleaming, silver adventure-seeker. Later, with a clearer head, I pondered the price. The Basecamp would set me back about $34,000, making it both the most affordable Airstream in the lineup yet the most expensive product in its class. You can find micro-trailers with bathrooms, sleeping for two or three, and with kitchenettes for anywhere under $10,000 to $20,000 from any number of manufacturers. But then, this is an Airstream; it’ll last 50 years, minimum, while a white-box trailer will be lucky to outlast its monthly payments.
I confirmed this just by walking around the trailer. The steel body panels are welded battleship-tight. There’s no play anywhere to be found, no “give” when you touch any surface. Though some of the interior hardware seemed like it would wear out or fail sooner or later, it was clear that easy maintenance and replacement of the more fungible parts is part of the whole equation. The Basecamp is built for the long haul.