Less than a year after we looked at Oregon startup Nest Caravans, the company was purchased by iconic trailer brand Airstream in March 2016. In a bid to offer an alternative to its famed aluminum shelled campers, Airstream has fine-tuned the Nest design and is now releasing it unto the world. Looking about as timeless as every other Airstream riding behind bumpers, the all-new 16.6-ft (5-m) Nest packs all kinds of amenities and comforts into a compact, two-tone fiberglass shell.
With outdoor travel and recreation big business among the young and adventurous, Airstream is making a play to broaden its appeal. In 2016, it brought back the decade-old Basecamp as a small, adventurous towable, and now it's launching the Nest as a design-forward alternative for those that may not want to be blinded by midday sun shining off Airstream's legendary silver bullet skin.
Despite its aluminum-smooth reputation, experimentation with fiberglass design runs deep at Airstream. Founder Wally Byam built fiberglass prototypes back in the 1950s and 60s, when fiberglass construction was still in its infancy.
"Wally was a design pioneer, and he recognized the versatility of fiberglass," says Airstream president and CEO Bob Wheeler. "He was always innovating, always pushing the envelope, and we think Wally would be pleased to see Airstream continuing that tradition with Nest. Nest is modern, it's functional, and it's innovative in a way you rarely see in this industry."
Nest's founder Robert Johans came aboard Airstream during the acquisition, working as project manager overseeing the trailer's development. Johans' original designer Bryan Thompson also had Airstream ties, having worked on the original Nissan/Airstream Basecamp and the 2016 Basecamp redux.
Considering the deep family ties, and the fact that the Nest was always all about its shapely semi-monocoque fiberglass styling, it's not surprising to see that Airstream hasn't changed too much of the styling, going so far as to carry over the white/gray paint split for its debut model. It has sanded out a few rough edges, added more side windows, and stretched the rear door window into a taller, vertical pane, as compared to the Nest we saw in 2015. But the overall shape, ski goggle-inspired front windshield and full-size rear door look much the same as they did prior to Airstream's acquisition.
To see more substantive evidence of the Airstream evolution, you have to walk through the back door and into the two-person interior. Airstream has designed two floor plans – one with a wraparound convertible sofa-bed/dining area and a second with a fixed Tuft & Needle adaptive foam mattress in place of the convertible dinette and a small bench with adjustable table providing a place to sit, eat and relax. Gone is Nest's interesting but less refined combination of cooking/dining countertop and folding chairs.
The kitchen, too, has gotten a serious redesign. Airstream has combined the sink and gas dual-burner into a more traditional single block layout, rather than having them on opposite walls. A spacious worktop is located opposite the kitchen block on the convertible dinette floor plan, while the fixed bed floor plan appears to rely on its extendable table as a work space. With either plan, the kitchen includes a microwave and 91-liter two-way electric refrigerator as standard.
Airstream has moved the wet bath across the hall into the rear corner next to the kitchen. That bath includes a Thetford toilet, removable handheld shower, roof vent/fan, and storage for towels, sundries, etc. A wardrobe occupies the opposite corner, and cabinets run around the upper corner of the trailer.
Airstream doesn't skimp on amenities, offering a robust standard features package with air conditioning, a ducted furnace, a hot water heater, a powered patio awning with LEDs, an outdoor shower, Bluetooth-controlled interior LED lighting, blackout shades and curtains, a Maxxair fan, and LED reading lights.
The Nest carries fresh water in a 24-gal (91-L) tank while relying on a 30-gal (114-L) black/gray water tank to handle draining. A pair of deep-cycle batteries and a multi-stage converter supply electricity to the lights, appliances, and USB and 110-V outlets. The electrical system is also prewired for solar for those who want to get farther away from civilization without worrying about the lights going out.
The Nest rides on 16-in Goodyear Endurance tires wrapped around aluminum wheels bolted to a torsion suspension axle. It includes standard brakes, LED taillights, and a spare tire. Base weight lists at 3,400 lb (1,542 kg) – significantly more than the 2,000 lb (907 kg) Nest was quoting back in 2015 – and the trailer can carry an additional 600 lb (272 kg) to reach its 4,000 lb (1,814 lb) gross vehicle weight.
The Nest starts at US$45,900, and Airstream began shipping trailers to US dealers this month.
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