Airstream family-sizes its small Basecamp adventure camper
Striking while the market's hot, Airstream grows its small, shiny adventure trailer family with the new Basecamp 20 and 20X models. As their names give away, the new trailers stretch an even 20 feet (6-m) in length, growing 25 percent over the original Basecamp series, now the Basecamp 16. This takes the Basecamp from couples' trailer to family trailer, sleeping four people behind the expansive panoramic views afforded by the wraparound windows. It's not a bad way to live the Airstream life.
Airstream trailers have always been an American design icon, universally adored for that unmistakable "silver bullet" style. For some admirers, though, stretched, 5,000-lb (2,270-kg) towable fuselages rising into six-figure pricing territory will never amount to more than artwork enjoyed from afar. Some such admirers — youthful, adventurous souls — crave something smaller, simpler and more outdoorsy, trailers to negotiate tight, dusty switchbacks as effectively as six-lane highways.
Airstream found itself chasing that very type of potential buyer when it introduced the Basecamp in 2016. Something of an ace in the hole, the Basecamp was a decade-old design by that point, dating back to a collaborative 2005 concept project developed with Nissan. The original Basecamp enjoyed the rare distinction of growing more handsome in moving from concept to production model (in our opinion, at least) and went on to begin a short market run in the pre-recession days of 2007, before ultimately proving ahead of its time. It was sidelined until throngs of wanderlust-filled millennials driving small, efficient cars and crossovers began clamoring for something just like it years later. Its timeless style was as fresh in 2016 as in 2005, requiring but some modest updates.
Four years later, Airstream classifies the Basecamp a top seller and looks to keep sales growing by meeting the demand for a larger model. "This new Basecamp 20 was born out of feedback that owners wanted more space, more flexibility and the option to have separate spaces for eating and sleeping," explains Airstream CEO and president Bob Wheeler.
With the extra 4 feet (1.2 m), the new Basecamp 20 offers all that and more. Its four-person sleeping capacity makes it a capable family camper, perfect for adventurous parents looking to keep exploring while bestowing their love of the outdoors upon their children.
Airstream rearranges the Basecamp floor plan with a rainbow-shaped convertible sofa in the trailer nose to complement the convertible dinette "master bed" at the rear. The front sofa and table fold and tuck into a 43 x 78-in (109 x 198-cm) bed that can sleep two, while the dual benches of the dinette transform into an extra-roomy 82 x 78-in (208 x 198-cm) bed or, alternatively, a 41 x 78-in (104 x 198-cm) half bed with a bench left free for sitting.
We're not sure why Airstream didn't move the central bathroom and kitchen back a little farther to better apportion the bed dimensions. That 82 x 78-in area pushes the rear bed slightly larger than a residential king (76 x 80 in), while the 43-in width up front lands between a twin and full, making a comfortable single bed or snug double. So to sleep four, you'll either have the parents enjoying more bed than they need, two children squished together up front, or three people on the rear bed and one on the front. Either option seems a recipe for a vacation fraught with sibling arguments, especially as they grow older and larger. A bunk option seems something Basecamp 20 buyers might be asking for down the line.
Beyond growing things to family size, the new floor plan can also create a roomier, more functional layout for couples. When traveling as a twosome, campers can leave the rear bed set up full-time and use the front sofa/table for dining.
One downside of the new floor plan is that it drops the panoramic front kitchen in favor of a more no-frills side block with the same dual-burner LPG stove, stainless steel sink and available microwave, and a larger 122-L fridge. But the wraparound windows do at least extend past the kitchen so campers still get a view while cooking, just not that full 270 degrees.
Equipment upgrades on the larger trailer include a 16,000-BTU ducted furnace, tankless on-demand water heater, larger 102-L fresh water tank, and individual 106-L gray and 79-L black water tanks. The new trailer also gains more storage space inside.
The 20 series carries over Basecamp standards like the rear entry door designed for easy through-loading with the rear center tables removed, wet bathroom, electrical system with available solar charging, anti-freeze tank heating system and optional air conditioning. The trailer weighs in at 3,400 lb (1,542-kg), 750 lb (340 kg) more than the 16, and offers 900 lb (408 kg) of payload.
The 2021 Basecamp 20 starts at US$45,900, while the more off-road-capable Basecamp 20X starts at $48,900 and counts a 3-in (7.6-cm) lift for a full foot (30 in) of ground clearance, beefier Goodyear all-terrain tires and a stainless steel front stone guard among its upgrades. The 2021 Basecamp 16 starts at $38,400, the 16X at $41,100.