Airstream Basecamp Relaunched!

First introduced 10 years ago, the Airstream Basecamp trailer was a collaborative effort by Airstream’s product development team and Nissan Design America (NDA) designers Bryan Thompson and Steve Moneypenny in San Diego, who “envisioned a travel trailer that was a springboard for outdoors adventures rather than a living room on wheels.”  Bryan says, “The relationship with Airstream has been the exchange of ideas. Essentially, two very different companies coming together with two very distinct identities to come up with a new aesthetic.” (See the Nissan & Airstream YouTube video)*  Bryan explains that Airstream wanted to create a trailer that would appeal to the younger market that was not buying their larger trailers, “So we came up with this idea, let’s infuse the [Nissan] Xterra DNA into some of the classic heritage icons of Airstream.”  (See Bryan Thompson on Airstream Basecamp Project)*

According to “The Shape of Things Past: Airstream’s New BaseCamp Enters The Market,” article in the Fall 2005 issue of Airstream Life, page 16, “Airstream called on Nissan Design America to translate a dusty old photo of a 1930s Torpedo into something 20- and 30-something buyers would love.” The article shows a photo of Dr. Norman Holman, Sr., standing next to his 1935 Airstream Torpedo that he built from a set of Wally Byam’s $5.00 plans.  His son, Norman Holman, Jr., MD, inherited this trailer and gave an interview and tour seen in the video, “Oldest Airstream Trailer in the World.”*


Airstream commemorated the retro style, along with its 75th anniversary by releasing 75 Commemorative Edition Travel Trailers designed by David Winick and the first Airstream Basecamp (model year 2007).  See Colonial Airstream‘s Patrick Botticelli give a detailed walk-through of his 2007 Basecamp,* the ninth one made.  The original Basecamp had large clamshell rear doors that provided access for loading in a motorcycle, quad, or bike. See Patrick come into his Basecamp out of a cold, snowy New Jersey night and load his mountain bike,* light a Mr. Heater Buddy and proceed to cook a meal.  Unfortunately, the end of 2007 also marked the beginning of the Great Recession in the United States and Airstream had difficulty attracting buyers for the next two years, selling only about 220 Basecamp units, says Patrick, and Basecamp production stopped with the 2009 model.

Bolstered by the improving U.S. economy and increasing consumer confidence, Airstream is now growing and coming out with new models such as the Nest Caravan in Summer 2017 and the greatly improved 2017 Airstream Basecamp, being relaunched now.  See Airstream’s exciting video, “Introducing the new Basecamp,”* and a “Walk-Through 2017 Airstream Basecamp“* by Patrick Botticelli.  Patrick says, “Airstream found out that only a small percentage of their [original Basecamp] owners were actually using the back cargo for motorcycles or quads… you had to open up the rear door and drop the steps every time you wanted to come inside [and pull up the steps every time you wanted to close the door].”  For the new Basecamp, Airstream added a side entrance door for easy entering and exiting the trailer, while keeping a rear utility hatch for loading gear such as backpacks, mountain bikes, and kayaks.

Patrick says this all-new Basecamp is more robust with its buck-riveted aluminum structure on an A-frame, like regular Airstream trailers (original Basecamp had aluminum plating on a fiberglass shell on a center beam), and the many new features such as the Truma Combi heater for water and room heating, SeeLevel II Battery and Tank Monitoring System, optional Zamp Solar System (with two 80-watt solar panels, AGM battery and a Zamp Solar Disconnect Port by the streetside front A-frame for connecting additional portable solar panels), optional Coleman-Mach air conditioner (9200 BTU) and a Fan-Tastic Vent Fan (or 2 Fan-Tastic Vent Fans without the optional air conditioner), bathroom with shower and a China toilet bowl, interior and exterior LED lights, 3 cu. ft. 2-way Dometic refrigerator, folding galley water faucet over a stainless steel sink with folding lid (provides additional counter space), 2-burner recessed cooktop, optional Contoure microwave, pop-up electrical sockets with USB port on galley counter, and  2 movable pedestal tables in a lounge and eating area that converts into a large 76″ by 76″ bed!

The 2017 Airstream Basecamp is a multi-purpose hybrid tent-trailer that comes with two optional PahaQue Wilderness tents and visor (arch wing awning) that attach to Basecamp’s roof/gutter track rail, seen in PahaQue’s September  8 announcement on Facebook and Twitter.  The large side tent could be used as a screened patio for an additional lounging and sleeping area, and the smaller rear tent could provide cover for gear items such as mountain bikes (See Patrick’s walk-through tent tour).*

The Unit Base Weight (UBW) without options is 2585 lbs.,* Hitch Weight is 410 lbs. (dry, no options), and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 3500 lbs., which means this trailer is easily towed by mid-size SUVs.  The new Basecamp comes with a 22-gallon fresh water tank, a 29-gallon black/gray water tank, two 20-lb. propane tanks, and a Propane Quick Disconnect port just under the curbside front A-frame for connecting a hose to a low pressure portable gas BBQ grill.   See Airstream’s Basecamp webpage for their Overview, Design, Features, Floorplan and Brochure.  See Airstream’s 2017 Basecamp Owner’s Manual (PDF) for additional information.

This Airstream Basecamp “is built for the extreme camper in mind… it’s made for the guys that go up in the mountains backpacking, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking… it’s made to go off the grid,” says Brent Rudd, Airstream Regional Director of Sales, Central Region, during his walk-through at the 2016 Southwest RV Supershow in Dallas, Texas.*

Basecamp has a MSRP of $34,900 and is being shipped to Airstream dealers beginning in October, says Outside Interests‘ article, “Basecamp,” in their September 26, 2016, newsletter.

Whether you’re a fan of mountain biking (such as Patrick),* kayaking,* or just living riveted,* you can be one of the Fans of the Airstream Basecamp and see more information, news, updates and videos of the Airstream Basecamp.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.


Happiness in the cool mountains

California desert temperatures are now routinely in the nineties and above, so we and our Airstream Safari chilled out in the oak, pine, and cedar forests in William Heise County Park, 4200 feet above sea level, in the Laguna Mountains that intercept clouds and rain that would otherwise reach the desert areas.

DSC_0009 Wm. Heise Co

Daytime mountain temperatures were in the seventies and we made a point of closing the windows well before sundown to keep the trailer cozy during the evenings, but each morning, we woke to trailer temperatures in the fifties.  Since we were doing non-hookup camping here, we routinely turned on our Mr. Heater Portable Buddy at 5:45am and ran it for two hours, which brought the temperature up to 68-70 degrees.  By then, sun was streaming into the trailer as I savored hot coffee, NPR’s Morning Edition,* and summer reading.

DSC_0028 Coffee and summer reading

By the afternoon, sun was illuminating our homegrown Alstroemeria flowers on the other side of the trailer and had restored our Lifeline AGM batteries back to 100% via our two factory installed solar panels by mid-morning.

DSC_0057 Vista view & Alstroemeria

Mule deer and wild turkeys reside here, along with a plethora of wildlife, which quickly accepted us as part of the local milieu to the extent that at times we felt like we were in a Bambi movie.*

DSC_0153 "Luna Gobblegood" turkey

DSC_0054 Spotted towhee

DSC_0147-2 Acorn woodpecker

Spotted towhee (left),  Acorn woodpecker (right),  Merriam’s chipmunk (lower left) and Steller’s Jay (lower right)

DSC_0253 Merriam's chipmunkDSC_0043 Steller's jay

The goldspotted oak borer* continues to kill trees, which are cut down and its chips provide a natural mulch.

DSC_0075 Larry, Mac & Tasha on chips

As long as dogs are on 6′ leashes, they are permitted on trails here and our corgis love hiking on the Cedar Trail with its lovely oak and cedar trees and benches.

DSC_0081 Bench on Cedar Trail

During our 5-day stay, we had time to work on projects. Larry is seen below making one of four mid-19th century shirts (based on Saundra Ros Altman’s: Past Patterns, #10) for my work at a historic house museum.

DSC_0194 Larry making period shirt

DSC_0197 Larry's sewing (close-up)

DSC_0172 Larry's outfit for Howdy Doody


DSC_0404 Wm dressed for Whaley House

Three years ago, Larry made a new outfit for my Howdy Doody doll that I had as a child.  (The Howdy Doody show started the year I was born, 1947.)

Just before our trip here, I learned that Robert Y. Allen was the creator of the famed Howdy Doody face, was known as “Grandpa Bob” in the nearby town of Julian, died at the age of 99, and is buried in Julian’s Pioneer Cemetery.  So I brought Howdy Doody to pay his respects to Robert Allen on May 19, the anniversary of his death.  His grave marker is just a few steps away from Marshal South’s grave.

DSC_0208 Howdy visits Robert Allen's gravesite

With happiness in our hearts, we returned to camp with one of Julian’s famous apple pies* and celebrated life in the cool mountains and time with Howdy Doody.*

DSC_0246 Bill, Howdy & Julian apple pie

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream Safari trip notes

I start by making checklists and notes on a 8.5″ x 13″ yellow pad days before our Airstream Safari camping trips and specific tasks are assigned to specific prep days depending on the weather.  For example, Friday’s weather was clear, two days before departure on our first trip of the season, so I completed one of the scheduled tasks by attaching my PressurePro tire pressure sensors to the tires of the truck and Safari and adjusting the pressures toward the recommended cold tire pressures (50 psi for my 14″ trailer tires, 60 psi for the front truck tires, and 75 psi for the rear truck tires).

Starting a trip with the right tire pressures is important because an under-inflated tire could get too hot, stressed, and fail.  The tricky part is that tire pressures fluctuate with the outside air temperatures by as much as 1 psi per every 10° F change in temperature.*  The temperature was 80° that Friday afternoon when I attached the sensors.  I knew that the pressures would be lower the next morning and even lower at our mountain camping destination, predicted to get the first cold storm of the season by midweek.  My task was facilitated by the PressurePro monitor, which shows the pressures at a touch of a button and then I recorded the pressures, along with the date, time, outside temperature, and weather conditions.  So when we departed, I was confident the tires had the optimal pressures for our 5 days of camping.

DSC_0017 Solar & Tire pressure notes

My note taking continued when we arrived at our non-hookup campsite as I kept track of weather conditions and how well our Lifeline AGM batteries were being recharged by our two Airstream factory installed solar panels (See my Columnar Pad notes in above photo).  These notes are saved and assist me in determining when it’s time to replace the batteries (I replaced our first set after 5 years).

I continued to write notes on my yellow pad throughout our camping trip, which are also saved for future reference.  At home, Larry maintains a running camping log on a Word document on our aluminum iMac* of trip mileages, menus, plants, birds and people seen.  I also make concise entries in “The Airstream Travel Journal”.

DSC_0003 Journal hardcovers

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal“, designed by Bryan Burkhart/MODERNHOUSE, was published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2002.  (Bryan Burkhart is also the designer and coauthor of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht, Chronicle Books LLC, 2000.)  The spiral-bound journal with aluminum* front and back covers and featuring lined pages along with vintage Airstream spot art and photos, originally sold for $16.95 and I bought two of them in 2006.  This journal is now out of print and is no longer available from Chronicle Books*, but it can be found online for prices ranging from $79.99 to $600!  (For now, I think I will not place notes in my second copy and will just keep it in pristine condition for future possibilities!)

DSC_0002 Lined pages with notes

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal

Another journal, “Airstream Prism Journal Book“, is currently available online for $16.95 from Airstream, Inc..  Per Airstream’s website, this journal has a silver anodized aluminum front cover and a black leather back with an elastic pen loop and includes a black Airstream pen.

Our aluminum Airstream (75th anniversary)* Safari trip notes also find their way into our aluminum MacBook Pro*, which transforms them into a blog post, documenting those riveting experiences.*

HPIM2381_2 MacBook Pro & Safari

I prefer writing my trip notes with a pen and paper, but perhaps I should consider a simpler tool, the pencil, or a more powerful tool, the iPad Air*, or perhaps the typewriter (with its classic, iconic image and sound)* would be more appropriate!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Summertime illuminations in the Cuyamacas

After cooling off at the beach, and rinsing off the salt deposits, our Airstream Safari was ready to get high again in the Cuyamaca Mountain Range that we visited just two months ago.  Last April, after a three year absence, we were curious to see how William Heise County Park fared after trees were damaged by wind and wet snow, and oak trees were killed by the Goldspotted Oak Borer.  We were pleased to see that there were plenty of oak trees still surviving and many improvements have been made, including new picnic tables, beautiful cabins, and the surprise that dogs are now allowed on park trails.  So on the eve of summer before temperatures peak, we returned for five days of camping in this beautiful forest setting surrounded by pine, oak, and cedar trees.

DSC_0041 Cedar fire damage to Cuyamacas

Ten years ago the devastating 2003 Cedar Fire* burned approximately 70% of William Heise Park, which is now a showcase of a forest in various stages of re-growth.  Chaparral is rapidly recovering, even though bleached white skeletons of black oaks and manzanitas are still seen on surrounding hillsides.  With rainfall just 65% of normal, San Diego County firefighters are preparing for yet another potentially dangerous wildfire season.

DSC_0032 Our Wm

We positioned our Safari in our favorite non-hookup campsite for optimal sunbathing, which enabled our two factory installed solar panels to recharge our two Lifeline AGM batteries to 100% by mid-morning each day.  We had full sun all five days and the solar panels delivered a total of 193 amp-hours by the fifth day.

Each day began by walking our Corgis, Mac and Tasha.  The ranger explained that the recent decision to allow dogs on trails in this park is based on the premise that it is better to have people enjoying hiking on trails with their dogs on a leash, than having dogs left alone at campsites.

DSC_0135 Larry walks Mac & Tasha

While our trailer soaked in the rays, we enjoyed relaxing in the shade of the nearby Coulter Pine and Canyon Live Oak trees as cool breezes flowed up the forest hillside.  This was an excellent location for reading, bird watching and listening to relaxing bird sounds.*  Our peace was only interrupted by biting flies that Tasha snapped at before retreating under the truck. (Larry killed 18 flies in one afternoon.)

DSC_0025 Relaxing in shade

DSC_0018 Bird watching at Heise

Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana

My summer reading included Illumination in the Flatwoods – A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey, by Joe Hutto. (Appropriate reading in a park known for its turkeys!)

DSC_0011 My summer reading

Our summer eve feasting included hamburgers, corn on the cob, and Mexican Zucchini steamed in a cast iron Japanese nabe.  It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy!*

DSC_0036 Summertime feasting

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Drift and the land yacht

Seagulls and pelicans sailed by on the continuous updraft of air over the bluff at South Carlsbad State Beach where our Safari land yacht was carefully positioned last week for a direct view of the ocean.  Relaxing sounds of the surf could be heard even at night with the windows closed.  Our land yacht, with its two factory installed solar panels that generate amperes from the sun’s energy even through the early morning marine layer, is a self-contained vessel that thrives at this non-hook-up location.

“Calling travel trailers ‘land yachts’ was an old industry tradition dating back to the 1930s,” wrote Fred Coldwell in his article, “Wally Byam’s Last Caravan,” which tells about the sea yacht Caravan built for a retiring Wally Byam by Scheepswerf Westhaven of Zaandam, Holland.  (See the article in the Summer 2012 issue of Airstream Life.)

Most days were sunny and we hoisted our main sail (the awning that was recently attacked by a dust devil and repaired) and hung festive banners (papel picado, Mexican paper cutout banners) and a sun screen curtain.

Larry had sewn a striped butterfly fish appliqué (that he had made) to an old sheet, which was clipped to the top edge of the awning valance.  Homegrown bamboo poles were inserted in each side casing.  This in progress project provided a pleasant, shaded reading area.  He also made removable noren curtains with the Chinese Double Happiness symbol and a removable dog gate, both held in place by adjustable tension curtain rods. These provided sun screening, privacy, easy access, and ventilation while keeping the main door and screen door open.

We easily went in and out of the Safari by stepping over the dog gate and holding onto the side handle and door frame.

The curtains could also be used inside to separate the galley and bedroom areas.

Sounds of crashing waves below became appropriate ambiance for my afternoon riveting readings of Rachel Maddow’s Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Crown Publishers, New York, 2012.  The dust jacket proclaims, “Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel Maddow’s Drift argues that we’ve drifted away from America’s original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails.”  Rachel talks about her book in this YouTube video: “Rachel Maddow’s ‘Drift’ … Premier Book Launch in NYC.”

Besides seagulls and pelicans, military helicopters also flew by occasionally, just as in the desert while we were camping.

Thoughts also drifted by, especially at sunset as I looked up the coast at the smokestack of the old Encina Power Plant.  A plan to build a new power plant nearby is opposed by the City of Carlsbad.  I had thoughts about the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant just 30 miles up the coast, which was shut down last January due to a tube leaking radioactive water and since then hundreds of other tubes were found to be wearing out more quickly than expected.

As the days grow longer and hotter, we will suspend our camping trips until the fall, and yet still enjoy day trips… and follow the sun, but not bake in it.