Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Airstream Camper Tips

Airstream, home much of the year

Airstream camper, home much of the year

©Bert Gildart: I’ve been trying to shift gears, still reveling in my experiences from climbing Mount Rainier. This morning I received just what I needed, an e-mail note asking for advice about Airstream travel trailers, boon-docking, photography–and any other Airstream Camper Tips I might have. The note was what I needed, for these are, of course, some of my favorite subjects as those who follow this blog realize. With the help of the man’s note, I was able to leap the bridge from the beauty of Rainier to what we’ve come to take for granted as our home away from home. Obviously, that’s a compliment to the reliability of our Airstream.

The note came from Bob Mariano, a coach with the SF Giants, and I was flattered that his questions were generated as a result of a story of mine that appeared in this last issue of Airstream Life—and from my blog. The story pertained to Airstreaming through the Sonoran Desert, and Bob’s questions made me realize just how much we’ve enjoyed our trailer and how we’ve made this lifestyle work for us over periods that have spanned as much as nine full months. The thoughts that follow are essentially in response to the questions posed by this Minor League Hitting Coordinator.

First, this is the second Airstream we’ve owned, so obviously we like the brand. Our first model was a 25-foot Safari, which we traded in several years later for a 2005 28-foot Safari—with slideout. Unfortunately, Airstream no longer makes this combination. Because of our extended trips, we enjoy the extra room provided by the slideout. Today, we’d have to go to the Classic 30-foot trailer, with slideout. That wouldn’t be a bad option, though it would be a much more expensive option.

Other than the abandonment of the Safari 28 with slideout, my only other complaint is that front panels are susceptible to rock dings, something we learned on Airstream number 1. To prevent dings on Airstream number 2, we installed on our hitch a Rock Solid Rock Guard. The guard consists of a series of segmented rubber flaps that span the distance between the two rear tires and that almost touch the ground. Installing the guard seemed to eliminate our problem for last year, we drove from Montana to Nova Scotia, to the Florida Everglades, to New Orleans, to the Sonoran Desert, and then home—with many stop, of course, in between. In those nine months, we logged more than 20,000 miles and during that entire time, sustained but one tiny ding just above the left front panel. One day we’ll have that covered with a rivet.

We pull our trailer with a Dodge 2500 equipped with the Cummins Diesel engine. When not towing, we sometimes average close to 18 mpg; when towing, and with kayaks mounted on the roof of our pickup, our average drops to about 14.5 mpg. We drive conservatively, and we think that if you are environmentally conscientious, this setup works well. In fact, a case could be made for Airstreams as being the most environmentally friendly of all RVs, because it has such a low coefficient of drag. However, the case is well made by any RVer whose lifestyle is such that they base themselves for long periods of time, relying for entertainment on bikes, kayaks, canoes and time spent fishing (this for Bob) along rivers and streams.

The Sonoran Desert is a wonderful place to make use of solar panels, and our Airstream has two. With them, we can fully recharge our batteries, even if we watched TV off our batteries the previous night. Solar panels don’t work as well when we camp, for instance, in Glacier, as we’re often in heavily forested areas. During such times, we augment our energy needs with our Honda 2000 generator (very quiet), which provides enough power to operate a microwave, but not enough to operate an air conditioner.

Last summer, for a brief period in Theodore Roosevelt National Park—when temperatures exceeded 100°—we wished for a second Honda generator to hook in series with first. Honda makes a special kit that sells for about $200 and that enables such a combination. With that combination, we could have operated our air. Instead, we sought out a commercial campground, something that went against our grain as we so thoroughly enjoy “boon docking.” With our setup, generally we can camp free of commercial settings for as long as we want. All we need is access to water and a dump. We re-supply water ever 3-4 days, and empty grey and black water about once a week, using our “Blue-boy.”

One of the coach’s final questions concerned my camera preference. I have always used Nikons, first in the film format, but now in the digital format. Currently, I own a D-200 and use a complement of lenses acquired over 30 years ranging from an 18mm wide angle to a 600mm telephoto for wildlife. Today, all my images are edited using PhotoShop CS2 and then stored on external hard dives, which we carry with us as we travel. In this way, I can sell images as we travel, something we did often last year as we traveled, extracting in some cases from images taken years ago. My files now number over 100,000.

So there you have it: That’s how we travel and how we work as we travel. The lifestyle is not for everyone, but we thoroughly enjoy what we do and meeting so many interesting people along the way. Perhaps we’ll meet our new reader, and we’d be flattered if he’d then spend a bit of time telling us about his work as a Hitting Coordinator for the SF Giants.

4 Responses to “Airstream Camper Tips”

  1. Bob Mariano Says:

    Hello Bert,

    I can’t thank-you enough for answering all my questions regarding my e-mail I sent yesterday and yes you can use my name as you want on your weblog. Your insight and experience are so valuble to the many readers of AS and individuals such as myself that would eventually like to roam the many corners of this great country to explore it’s many National Parks.
    I’ve traveled this country for over 20 years as a Minor League Coach, Manager or Hitting Coordinator from coast to coast and seen some beautiful and wonderful sites that America has to offer, however, I truely believe the best way to see it and experience it, is just like you and your wife are doing so. Again I thank you and wish you and your wife safe travels wherever they may take you and if I do have any more questions I’ll be sure to know who to ask !!!
    Be safe and take care.
    Bob and Anne Mariano

  2. The Fox's Says:

    Dear Bert and Jane,
    We love your blog and enjoy reading about your adventures. Will you please give us some guidance?
    We are considering our first Airstream. We found a 2006, 28′ Safari w/slide-out.
    Your thoughts on what the price should be and also interested to know of any positive or negative comments that you may have from your own experience regarding this model.

    Thank you,

  3. Bert Says:

    Dear Foxes, Thanks for the comment. As you may know we have the same Airstream you described as being interested in, only ours is two years older – a 2004 model. We bought it new, and Janie and I have used it extensively. It is our second Airstream, our first being a 25-foot model.

    We upgraded essentially because we found the RV life style so desirable that we wanted to do more, but had to have something large enough out of which to work. The 28-foot Airstream with slideout serves that purpose – and I have no idea why Airstream stopped making them. (They only incorporate – I believe – the slideout with their Classic – and that weighs a whole lot more!) We’ve bumped into several who own “ours” and all love them for essentially the same reasons: space, and a little more maneuverability in national park managed areas where we camp often. For instance, a 30-foot Airstream would not have worked this past winter in Chiricahua National Monument. In fact, our 28 foot-trailer fit in only two or three spots.

    Regarding more space, I need an “office” and the Safari enables me to have one. Near the front window there is a flip-up table and I use it to support my laptop — and work on it often while sitting on the sofa. The only problem is that I have used the sofa so much that the foam sunk down horribly. To remedy, last week I took the sofa out and took it to a local upholstery shop where they replaced the material. Cost: $59, which others say was reasonable. We’ve also had to have brakes replaced – but that may have been my fault.

    While on the subject of computers, let me say that above the sofa where the CD changer is located, I tapped into the 12V system and added a pure sine wave inverter so that I can operate my computer when we have no AC current, which is quite often.

    Our Safari is an SL model, and it came with two 55-watt solar panels. This past winter, while at the Slabs (use my Google Custom search located in the upper right hand corner, just under Home and Contact and type in “slabs”) we had “Solar Mike” link in a portable panel with a long extension enabling us to move it around as the direction of the sun changes. We love it! And with the three panels can supply all our energy needs when in the desert.

    As far as cost is concerned, I can only tell you (with a little research) what a new one might cost, but suggest you go online and then make lots of price comparisons. Once you know the range, you’ll know what your negotiating room might be.

    Hope this helps, and if you have any other question, let me know.

  4. Trudiee Troost Says:

    Hi Bert,
    We bought a used 10 ft. Bambi and love it. One problem is at night the light from the propane alarm reflects on the ceiling and I have a hard time sleeping. It looks like electric worms going across the ceiling. HELP. Thanks, Trudiee