Airstream compacts its sleek aluminum construction into Basecamp trailer (again)

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The return of the Airstream Basecamp

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With sport utility vehicles shrinking and shedding weight, smaller, lighter camping trailers have been following closely behind. The latest is the Airstream Basecamp trailer, which is actually a redesign and relaunch of a trailer that was deemed unfit for market a few years ago. The Basecamp revival gives campers a more lightweight and compact way of Airstreaming their way to multi-day outdoor adventures.

When we first saw Airstream's announcement, we thought the Basecamp was the fruits of its recent acquisition of Nest Caravans, a notion that was supported by the launch timeframe and by the fact that former Nissan designer Bryan Thompson had a hand in creating both the Nest and the Basecamp.

However, after digging deep into our annals, we realized that the Basecamp was actually created in collaboration with Nissan more than a decade ago. Airstream's PR team tells us that the first Basecamp was pulled after a few model years when Airstream decided that the market wasn't quite right. After extensive research and some redesigning, Airstream now feels the market is ripe for the small, sleek Basecamp, a model that is completely independent of the upcoming Nest-based Airstream.

Airstream's research undoubtedly ventured through the crossover utility vehicle market and took note of the small trailer/camper renaissance we've witnessed in the past few years. The new Basecamp becomes yet another option for adventurous young souls pulling overnighters in the wilderness, joining the likes of the Winnebago Concept Adventure Vehicle camper van, Taxa Woolly Bear trailer and Tepui White Lightning roof tent, all introduced over the past several months.

The targeted Basecamp buyer isn't driving a V8-powered pickup truck or full-size SUV, so they need a trailer small enough to shadow a more modest AWD crossover. The ensuing lack of interior space isn't a big deal because this buyer doesn't want to spend the entire trip auto-touring and sitting inside an aluminum shell watching TV, anyway. He or she wants to park at a campsite or trailhead ASAP, get out of the vehicle and spend the day outside, relying on the trailer as a place to have a meal and sleep off a day of hiking, surfing, biking, climbing or whatever.

Airstream's CEO and president Bob Wheeler puts it like this: "It's easy to get slowed down and overwhelmed by the detailed planning of and the packing for an adventure. We've all been there, and before you know it, you're overwhelmed and putting the trip on the back burner. With its lighter weight and easier towing experience, Basecamp is a fully loaded adventure waiting to happen. All you need to do is head out and decide whether to go right or left at the end of your driveway."

From the outside, the 16.3-ft (5-m) Basecamp looks much like it did a decade ago, with a clean, aluminum-clad shell with dark, wraparound glass. The shape is more box trailer, but the subtle curve of the roofline and angle of the rear lend a hint of teardrop. We'd say it's a damn good-looking trailer, as contemporary today as it was when we first saw it in 2005.

Some features that have been added since the Basecamp's last run are the full wet bath with removable handheld shower and china toilet and the standard Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth speaker. Weight has also been trimmed down to 2,585 lb (1,173 kg), a loss of nearly 200 lb (91 kg) when compared with the 2007 model's 2,750 lb (1,247 kg), as listed by Nada Guides.

The single rear hatch doesn't appear to offer quite as much loading room as the double doors on the first-gen Basecamp, but it does provide direct access to the 10.5 ft (3.2 m) of load floor length, helping to get bikes, boards and boats on board without having to maneuver them around the corner of the main door. Key to that spacious load area is the multifunctional living/sleeping/dining area just inside the hatch, which breaks down to create an open aisle during travel. With the addition of a few cushions, that area can also be used as a 76 x 76-in (193 x 193-cm) full-sized bed for two, a 76 x 38-in (193 x 97-cm) single bed, and a dining/living area with two adjustable tables and seating for five.

The aforementioned bathroom is centrally located. As with any wet bath, the entire interior of this bathroom is designed to function as a shower. But unlike other wet baths, this one is dressed in Airstream's iconic aluminum paneling, as are the walls around the entire cabin.

The kitchen area is located up front and includes a two-burner stove, refrigerator, stainless steel sink and laminate top. A microwave is available as an option, rounding off the versatile, well-equipped cooking space. The multiple front windows surrounding the kitchen area give whomever's frying eggs or washing dishes a nice, open view.

The Basecamp has a deep-cycle battery and comes prewired for an optional 160 W solar package. A Truma heater/hot water unit comes standard, as do two fans. The 22-gal (83-L) fresh water tank feeds the kitchen sink, bathroom and standard hot/cold exterior shower, and two 20-lb (9-kg) steel LP tanks provide fuel for the appliances. A standard slide-in awning creates some shade outside, and the optional patio and rear tents create extra fully enclosed shelter around the trailer. LED lighting comes standard, and air conditioning is available optionally.

The Basecamp will start appearing at Airstream dealerships in October, and reservations are being taken now. Time hasn't been so kind to the trailer's price, which now starts at US$34,900, which isa pretty steep rise from the $19,995 starting price from 10 years ago.

Source: Airstream

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