Why I chose an Airstream Basecamp as my full-time RV home.

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Airstream Basecamp – Tails of Wanderlust

My RV search began after I had already spent eight months living on the road.  I initially travelled with everything I owned in my Toyota 4Runner, and would either camp on the mattress in the back or stay at AirBnBs to work.  After several entertaining experiences, such as getting up at 4:30am for work and heading into the AirBnB kitchen just to find my host spritzing his sprouts in his pajamas (yes sprouts, which I then agreed to eat later in the day) or having to go out and dig a cat hole in below freezing weather, I decided it was time to get my own home.

Since I was already traveling, I had a good idea of what I needed and wanted.  I started my search by attending a large RV show in Austin, TX.  I checked out everything from large Class As to tiny teardrops.  This gave me a good idea of what was out there, the different options available, and rough price ranges.

I spent about another month traveling to really pay attention to my travel style, how I wanted to live, and what I truly needed.  This was a great way to come up with a final RV wish list that I knew would work for me.  I took this list to several dealers and looked at a variety small RVs.  None of them fit everything that I wanted.

One day while I was sitting in the basement of an AirBnB in Boise, Idaho, waiting for my host to get out of the bathroom so I could shower, the Airstream Basecamp just randomly popped into my head.  It was one of the RVs I had seen at the Austin RV show, but at the time thought it was way too bare and bland for living.  But suddenly, I realized it may just be what I was looking for.

The next day we drove an hour to the nearest Airstream dealer.  With measuring tape and wish list in hand, and Jasper by my side, we jumped into a Basecamp and started checking things off the list.  After about a half hour of opening every cabinet, awkwardly sitting in the bathroom for five minutes while the salesman waited, and going over my list multiple times, I had found everything I was looking for.  I ended up calling dealers all over the country for the best deal, and put a deposit on a Basecamp the next day.

RV Wish List:

1. GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) of less than 5,000 lbs.

IMG_4065My 4Runner was only a year old, and after taking it on some off-road adventures, I just couldn’t part with it!  That left me with two options.  Either buy an RV large enough to tow it, or a trailer light enough to tow behind it.  I had previously made the decision that a separate RV and tow vehicle would work best with the animals, so that kicked off the search for a tiny RV!

The Basecamp comes in at 2,585 lbs empty, with a GVW of 3,500 lbs.  That leaves just under 1,000 lbs of stuff that I could load it with.  Although a 1,000 lbs is not much when you are talking about everything you own, this was still a lot more storage capability than many other trailers in this size range.

2. Off-road capable

Spending the weekends camping in the back of the 4Runner was the beginning of our boondocking experiences.  I honestly felt weird staying at campgrounds and sleeping in a truck, so we usually went off to find some BLM land.  The beauty grows on you, so I knew my RV had to make it to these remote places as well.

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The Basecamp offers full size tires and an improved rear departure angle.  The tiny tires found on most small RV honestly just scare me.  With a tire that small and thin, plus on a single axle, can I really trust towing it thousands of miles and through all sorts of conditions?  The regular size tires relieved a lot of this worry.

You will also read and hear the salesmen tell you a lot about the rear departure angle.  At the time, I just took this as a good thing to have, so why not.  Now that I’ve had the Basecamp for over a year, I am thankful for this design feature, both on and off the pavement.  Talking with other RVers, they have to be extra careful leaving steep driveways or gas stations.  Although I still take these at an angle to avoid hitting my jack, I’ve never even come close to hitting the back of the RV on the ground.  I’ve seen plenty of other RVs scraping their rear bumper all over!

3. A large kitchen

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Yes, I wanted a tiny RV and a large kitchen.  Telling a RV salesman this is sure to bring you some odd glances, and then they’ll start showing you 30′ RVs and telling you to buy a new truck. 

But, the Basecamp has a kitchen bigger than many mid-size RVs out there!  The entire front is counter space, with a small sink and a two burner gas stove.  The right hand side provides plenty of room to prep food, or to put a kitchen appliances such as a crockpot or instapot.  I also use this area for my laptop stand, which creates a standing desk perfect for taking meetings and enjoying the view.

4. Four season-ish

7DF7DB17-1EA9-46A9-BB85-DBE4CE6FF3BBA true four season trailer will limit your choices substantially, especially in the small RV market.  Therefore, I never was looking for a true four season trailer.  But I did want something that would handle the elements and have some ability to survive the cold.

The Basecamp has 12V tank heaters, as well as a heated underbelly.  There is a vent from the Truma heater that goes directly down to the tanks to keep them warm.  I’ve boondocked several times into the teens and low 20s and never had a problem with any of the pipes.  Even visiting family in Central New York when it was -15 degrees out, the Truma was able to keep the Basecamp nice and warm (I didn’t use the plumbing in these extreme colds, but didn’t winterize the lines either).

5. Something that doesn’t look like an RV

98682153-64EF-4DF9-A175-C30F4E3DE9E9Sounds crazy right?  But I had camped in an RV as a kid, and the dark wood, unattractive fabrics and outdated design really was uncomfortable to me.  In my search, I was hoping that 20 years later, the RV industry would offer more modern designs out there.  Sadly, for the most part, this was not the case.  In the end, the NuCamp T@B and Basecamp were the only small RVs that didn’t give me the “RV feel”.

The Basecamp is mostly aluminum on the inside, with some lighter wood accents and black glass cabinets.  The bathroom walls are also gray and my model has the red bars on the cargo hammocks.  All together, it gives it a very modern feel.  I also added peel and stick distressed wood stickers to the one shower wall to add to the cozy feel.

6. A front window

IMG_2028I absolutely love natural light.  Even when I’m inside, it energizes me and keeps me in a better mood.  The original requirement on my wish list was to have a front window.  In a standard RV, small windows are common and many smaller trailers do not have front or rear windows.  This was a very limiting factor for a lot of models, and really narrowed my options.  Lance trailers were one of the few in the size range I was looking at with a front window.

Then when I re-looked at the Basecamp, the amount of natural light just hit me.  It literally has windows or doors on about 75% of the walls.  The amount of natural light is incredible.  Also, with having a side and rear door, both equipped with a screen, I can leave them open for a great cross breeze.  This helps to keep the dog smell down!

7. Enough room for Jasper & Napoleon

IMG_3735Jasper is an 80lb German Shepherd/Husky mix.  So he’s a big dog with a huge fluffy tail that has a surprising amount of strength behind it when he’s happy.  Napoleon is a cat, which means he thinks he needs as much room as an 80lb dog.

Jasper joined me on all of our RV searches to ensure he could comfortably fit.  Once I started looking at Airstreams, we checked out the Bambi as well.  When he got in the Bambi, he literally could not turn around.  He had to jump on the bed, turn, and then leave the RV.  I knew this would not be comfortable, so the Bambi was immediately out of the running.IMG_0846

Although the Basecamp is very small, the kitchen actually has enough room for him to move around.  When the bed is completely down, it creates a larger play area, where we play tug of war and wrestle.  The bed is also large enough that all three of us can sleep on it comfortably.  Both animals are used to sleeping by me, so this was a must-have for us.

8. A place to hide the cat litter

18F9106B-C356-4B5E-8022-A273A8D5CA1BOh the litter box.  Traveling in the 4Runner, the litter was tucked up front by the passenger seat.  That means anytime Napoleon would use it, there would be litter everywhere.  I couldn’t wait to find someplace to hide this away and not worry about it!

When I originally looked at the Basecamp, the plan was to put the litter in the storage bench.  The front area is large enough for a litter box, and I was going to cut a cat door in the side.  In the end, this did not happen as I needed that extra storage space.  Cutting into a brand new Airstream also scared me.  So the litter ended up under the bed (you can find the full setup here)

9. A shower that I could stand up in and have enough room to wash my hair.

A useable bathroom and shower in a small RV is hard to come by.  The second runner up in my search was a T@B teardrop trailer.  Unfortunately, the bathroom is what ended up convincing me not to buy it.  The shower was too short for me, so I couldn’t fully stand up, thereby making it very hard to wash my hair.  Many RVers end up using gyms or truck stops for showers, but I knew I wanted to be able to take a shower at home, whenever I wanted.

When I visited the Airstream dealer in Idaho, I knew I had to make sure the bathroom would work.  I explained this to the salesman, and then proceeded to go into the wet bath, shut the door and pretend like I was taking a shower.  From the outside, this seemed like I just went in and sat there for five minutes.  Probably the most awkward part of RV shopping!  But I highly recommend it if you are looking at small RVs or wet baths.  It was enough to convince me it would work, and with some minor adjustments I can take quite luxurious RV showers in there.

10. Solar power

IMG_0713Back when I was buying an RV, I knew nothing about solar, other than it charged the batteries and would allow me to camp without electrical hookups.  So at the time, I didn’t know what specs to look at.

The Basecamp has the option to add 180 watts of Zamp solar on the roof.  It comes pre-installed with a solar controller, so it was an easy option for me to pick.  In the end, the solar was enough for me to last for about a day or two boondocking and working full-time. I have since upgraded the batteries, but the same solar panels are still enough to re-charge from my light use.

11. Lower depreciation

IMG_1580RV’s are a depreciating asset.  Some depreciate faster than others, but in the end, you will end up losing money on it.  RV sales also depend on how the overall market is doing, and tends to be one of the discretionary items whose sales slow down if the economy is bad.

So I looked at the full purchase price of the RV as what my potential “loss” would be.  I also thought about how long I would potentially travel for.  I had already been 8 months on the road and loved it.  It wasn’t unreasonable for me to think of being on the road for at least 2-3 years.

This brought me to do some basic math to determine my price range.  Before hitting the road, I lived in Austin TX and paid between $1100-$1450 per month on rent.  Rent is another way of just paying money and not having any asset in return.  So if I multiplied this out by 2-3 years of living, that was a reasonable amount I was willing to “lose” on an RV.  That way, in the end, if I couldn’t sell the RV, I wouldn’t be any worse off than renting for 3 years.

With the Basecamp being the cheapest Airstream on the market, it fell right into this price range.  In addition, Airstreams tend to hold their value better than most other RVs out there, so it seemed like a smart model to go with.

What did the Basecamp not have?

After going through my whole list, there was only 1 item that the Basecamp kind of had, but didn’t fully meet my requirements.  I work full-time on the road so need a IMG_1416comfortable place to work.  The Basecamp can either be a table and bench set-up or a bed.  This meant that every day I would need to re-organize the RV so I could work.  I swore to myself I would do the transition daily, as it takes less than 2 minutes.

That lasted a week.

Thankfully, by joining the Airstream Basecamp Facebook group, I learned about a modification where you can cut the boards and have a bed and one of the tables up at the same time.  Since doing this, I have purchased an actual mattress to go in the back portion.  Now I have a regular mattress which is just a tad smaller than a double.  There’s also a table that I can leave up, or take down to allow for a couple extra feet of space to move around in.  So with a slight mod, the Basecamp can have a full-time bed and table!

25 Comments

  1. Hope you’re feeling better thanks for sharing , the distressed wood stickers are amazing. Huge difference. Keep posting on IG .. really makes my day

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    1. I’m finally feeling better after about a month, thank you for asking! Yes I love those wood stickers, gives it some character. Really appreciate you following us on our journey!

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  2. I always enjoy your post. Seeing that you, Jasper and Napoleon travel so comfortably together is a plus. I am an older senior citizen who always loves your adventures and seeing the beautiful places that the three of you visit. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much for following along!! Really appreciate it!

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  3. Great tips! We are thinking about one of these at some point in the future. My 2020 goal is to learn more about solar!

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    1. Awesome! There is so much to know on solar, but also some great blogs out there. I’m working to write a post to reference other blogs with some great info, so hopefully have that out in the next few months. In the meantime, if you check out AdventurousWay.com, under their mods section there’s a 4 part series on DIY solar which has a lot of great info.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love your clear articulation of your ideas and your photos are beautiful, too…

    I’m sure you get asked this ALL the time as a solo female traveler- but–
    Were you at all nervous that if you ever wanted to bolt in the middle of the night because some questionable activity was happening outside, or someone was trying to tamper with your doors, etc. that you had no way to just drive away without first exiting your basecamp?
    I love your set-up but would be worried if a group of drunk guys pulled up near me and decided to start messing with me. I’d feel like a sitting duck.

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    1. That is absolutely an item to take into consideration when picking your ideal rig. However, I’ve never had any issues with the Basecamp where I regretted having a tow trailer. Biggest piece of advice is run a gut check when you pull into a spot. If it doesn’t feel safe move on.

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    2. Hi ElBee! The first time I boondocked I did have that exact fear. But nothing happened. Two years in, I have not had any scary experiences while boondocking and have never felt unsafe. There have been a few parking lots or campsites I’ve pulled into that didn’t feel safe, so I immediately left and moved onto the next spot. The point you bring up is a great factor to take into consideration when buying a trailer versus a Class B/C.

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  5. This is amazing! The last item is literally the only thing I’m concerned about. Is there a link you can share on how to do the bed/desk mod?

    Also, did you consider the Nest? I haven’t actually been inside either of them yet, but I like the idea of both of them!

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    1. Hi Addi! If you have Facebook, check out the Airstream Basecamp owner’s group. There’s step by step instructions posted in there on how to do the bed mod. Simply takes a saw and measuring tape, and it’s that easy! I never considered the Nest as I do not like rear entry doors. If you check out @iam.minimaxx on Instagram, it’s a couple living in a Nest. Thanks for reaching out!

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  6. Nash Gill

    What are your thoughts on the Basecamp 20? Would you choose it now knowing how you live and work?

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    1. Hi Nash! The 20X has a 535lb tongue weight rating which is too much for my Toyota 4Runner. I also love the front wrap around kitchen, which was one of the original selling points. Although I can’t wait to see a 20 in person, and it has some amazing new features, I would still stick with the 16.

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  7. I love your blog! Thank you for sharing. Did you ever consider the Caravel?

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    1. Thank you so much for checking the blog out! When I was purchasing it was the 16′ Bambi. Jasper couldn’t turn around in it comfortably, so we ended up with the Basecamp.

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  8. Colleen Umphlett

    I’ve been looking for something small with a decent bathroom, windows, kitchen. This video you made answers all my questions. We are older former 33 ‘ class A RV’ers but had once lived on a 26’ boat successfully together. We have a large home and would live a small tow behind. I’m so thankful you went into ALL the detail you did. I’m sold on airstream and this model as our next buy!

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    1. Hi Colleen! Thank you so much for reaching out on here and Facebook! So glad you found the video helpful!

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  9. Bhaswar Banerjee

    Extremely informative and useful. I have been sleeping around in my land rover for the last couple of years around most of the Pacific Northwest and Canada. I absolutely love the experience of traveling to places off the beaten path and the rover has lived up to its expectations more than what I had hoped for. There are a couple of reasons I am also considering getting a travel trailer. Firstly, spending multiple days sleeping inside a car is not always comfortable. I carry a lot of offroading gear in my vehicle and most days, I will just end up sleeping in the front passenger seat just to avoid re-doing the cargo area every night. Secondly and most importantly, I have 2 cats and I really miss them while I am traveling and I will love to have them with me all the time. As you said, I also don’t want a stand-alone RV as I want the liberty to explore an area in my car as not all places can be navigated in an RV, no matter how small it is. I am inclined towards the 2021 nuCamp TAB400 Boondock Lite but I am also considering the Basecamp X. I see you have mentioned that you did consider the TAB. What made you choose the Basecamp instead? I like the TAB more because its a little bit roomier than the Basecamp and also the price is significantly less than the Basecamp X. It’s my first time towing a trailer. If I ever feel going to a bigger size, I might upgrade to a 25′ Airstream Caravel but I don’t see that happening any time soon. My car can tow up to 8000 lbs. Maybe in another 3 to 5 years. Also, what is your experience in navigating national forest roads with the Basecamp? Most BLM lands are kind of open whereas national forest roads are more winding, narrow, and more difficult to navigate. PNW does not have a lot of BLM lands but plenty of national forest land. I am really excited to begin my new adventures with my cats. All your blogs are really helpful and thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. Hi Bhaswar! Thank you very much for checking out the article and reaching out. I looked at the T@B CS-S, which was much smaller than the Basecamp. I couldn’t stand up comfortably in the shower and felt the interior overall was more cramped. I never had the chance to look at the T@B 400 as it was just coming out back then.

      I’m not very good at keeping track of when it is National Forest or BLM land. I have found if I stick with listed campsites off sites such as Campendium, I can read the reviews and know how the roads will be. Then if I’m in an area for awhile will go and explore. There are a ton of non-listed sites but you never know how the roads will be in to those. Typically much rougher and tighter, and I know I can’t get the Bascamp to many of those types of sites.

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  10. That is very cool you are able to live on the road, and have a decent job! Helpful info you share, thanks! Question – since you now have a regular mattress, where do Jasper and Napoleon sleep? If not on the bed, did they adapt okay? Cheers!

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    1. Hi Tom! Thanks for commenting! Napoleon and Jasper still share the bed with me. Whichever bed configuration I go for, I always need to include those two in it!

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      1. Glad you three are comfortable on the small bed! And none were relegated to the floor.

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      2. Thank you! Jasper is very happy he doesn’t have to sleep on the floor. Napoleon says sleeping in the bed is not an option :). Appreciate the comment!

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  11. Did you choose the upgraded “X” basecamp model? And did you try both lengths (16 / 20)?

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    1. When I purchased in 2018, only the 16 version was available. I would love to see a 20 in person, but haven’t had the chance to yet. I also purchased the base model, but ended up adding the front window guards, lift and tires from the “X” package on at a later date.

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