A weekend away with the Airstream Basecamp X

Airstream calls it the tool for extreme adventures. I call it a nice cozy place to spend a weekend that’s quite a bit fancier than plopping a tent on the ground. What it’s actually called is the Airstream Basecamp X, and it’s a fine way to get away for the weekend if you want to splurge on a blingy eye-catching trailer.

First and foremost, you should know this thing is fairly lightweight. The base weight, per Airstream, is just 2,635 pounds and the GVWR is 3,500 pounds. That means you can lug this behind a great many number of vehicles. For my trip, Infiniti loaned me a QX80 and that works out well for two reasons. First, the cozy brute of a cruiser has a 400-horsepower V8 and a tow rating of up to 8,500 pounds. Second, both the Basecamp and this Infiniti share design DNA since the Basecamp was actually designed by Nissan in a collaboration with Airstream. It retains the familiar aluminum look but with a sleeker, more modern shape.

On the inside, it’s standard Airstream. This means a nice interior layout complete with quality materials, a full-size bathroom space, a workable kitchen area, and smart storage spots. Still, I recommend a sleeping pad on top of the bed space as the cushions themselves aren’t exactly going to feel like your bed at home. A nice camping mattress tossed on top would sort that all out.

Our specific Basecamp is the 20-foot X model. The X signifies pseudo-off-road wheels, decent Goodyear Wrangler tires, and a 3″ lift for better ground clearance. You can see a quality departure angle on the back of this thing as well. I’m not hitting the trails with it, but if you’re camping spot has a few whoops along the way you should be fine getting there.

For this trip, my family stopped at the beautiful El Capitan camping area north of Santa Barbara. There’s no shore power here though, which means we would put the solar system and battery package to the test. And this leads me to the part of what feels like every Airstream review, where I tell you about something that didn’t work. You see, Airstreams always feel like the Bentley or Aston Martin of a given campground. They’re beautiful to look at and have gorgeous interior spaces. And yet something always breaks or just doesn’t work. For this trip, it was the solar system which I don’t believe was actually hooked up at all. So with no shore power and a fridge we wanted to remain refrigerating, I would occasionally connect the 7-pin on the back of the QX80 back into the Airstream and run the car for 30 minutes. This served as a generator to juice the system back up for a bit and keep everything cold and working. It was frustrating, but I also had my Pelican cooler with me as well. If we needed to move anything from the onboard fridge to the cooler, it wasn’t an issue there. Still, if you’re spending this much on a small trailer it all needs to work and work well. And here it did not.

But every other part of the trailer? It’s great. Towing it is no issue at all. Having a full-size bathroom is a huge bonus. And my family and I were able to sleep well enough on just the one side of the trailer. That would be me, my wife, and our six-year-old camera ham who wouldn’t stop jumping in front of my camera when I wanted to take a pic of the setup. There’s actually another spot towards the front of the Basecamp which can be a smaller sleeping space as well.

So what is the price of one of these? It’s an Airstream so don’t be shocked here, but as far as Airstreams go this really isn’t that crazy. A Basecamp, the smallest trailer in the Airstream family, starts at $43,100. That’s for the non-X 16-footer though. Jumping to the Basecamp 20 pushes you to $50,700. The solar package (when it works and is equipped) adds $2,400. Air conditioning is another $1,200. The microwave option is $250. And finally, the upgrade to the X version is another $3,000. Ours had all of these options so the MSRP is around $57,550. That’s a ton of coin with respect to a large part of the competition. You can find other 20-footers brand new in the high $20k range up to the mid $30k range. They don’t look anywhere as nice as the Airstream nor are they as nice inside, but they’re just as if not more functional. An Airstream, at any length, is a campground flex and thus is priced accordingly.

Did I enjoy my weekend with this one? Absolutely. It’s a great retreat for me and my family, the location was beautiful, and we had a wonderful weekend away. Would I spend my own money on one? I think the larger ones are pretty cool, but I’d be more interested in something like the Taxa Mantis Overland. Granted, it’s just as expensive as the Basecamp X but functionally seems far more interesting and unique. On a less expensive level, I’m also interested in the Opus OP4. But do I stare at an Airstream anytime I see one? Absolutely. They remain classically cool with extremely well-sorted interior spaces. They are the billion-dollar blue jeans of the trailer space, and I can appreciate that.

[Disclaimer: Infiniti tossed me the keys to the QX80 with a full tank of gas. Airstream let hitch up the Basecamp to the back of it.]

4 Comments

  1. 1. My experience with RV refrigeration involves a gas absorption fridge 12v/110/LP. On propane, the 8 cubic foot Dometic would keep the ice cream cold for about a month without refueling. Solar is a nice feature, but is it enough to keep perishables edible on a cloudy day?
    2. I like the appearance of the glass on that airstream, but if you were to camp someplace off-grid with real summer, is there enough flow-through ventilation? Does the front glass have a protective cover, or do you have to just pray that the tow vehicle doesn’t throw any rocks rearward?
    3. The reviews always state that [manufacturer] provided [vehicle] with a full tank of gas. Curious to know if you return campers with an empty black water tank, or if someone else has the task of cleaning out journalist poo. I’m talking about actual fecal matter, not the drek they publish at [redacted].

  2. 1) Yeah, a real-deal Dometic would kick serious ass over the dorm fridge in this thing.
    2) The glass does look great. It can get hot though, there is a van to pull air up and out. I think the glass is fairly heavily laminated/tinted, but that’s a good concern re: the rocks.
    3) If I were at a place with proper facilities for draining the black water, I would’ve – but Airstream said I could just bring it back. I picked it up and dropped it off at their location in San Gabriel, CA which I believe has the capability to handle waste water. So yes, someone emptied the tank …but we had a no pooping rule on the Airstream. So it was just numero unos.

    1. That is an excellent rule and no doubt was greatly appreciated upon its return. Similarly, though, also not “in” the Airstream, right?

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