Friday, December 8, 2023


RV Review: 2021 Airstream Basecamp 20

By Tony Barthel
When I was first looking for a trailer, one of my considerations was the Airstream Basecamp. The Basecamp is the most popular Airstream trailer and is a major departure from what Airstream normally offers. 

Airstream Basecamp

The Basecamp is Airstream’s single-axle trailer that is marketed to outdoor adventure folks. What attracted me to the trailer was the flexible space in the back and the large windows in the front. You could stand in the kitchen and, with the huge wraparound window on the front, see everybody out there waiting for whatever you’re cooking. 

I also like the back door, which enables you to keep stuff like bicycles or kayaks in the trailer. Years later and I’m still trying to figure out where to best put our bicycles in our trailer. I’m not happy with any solution I’ve come up with, so the bicycles stay home more than they travel. 

The Basecamp has grown quite a bit with a new Basecamp 20 and 20XL models now available. Not only are these versions longer than the inaugural Basecamp trailers, but they’re also taller and wider. That means there’s additional headroom inside and additional liquid capacity.

For example, the first Basecamp, which is now called the Basecamp 16, featured a fresh water tank and a combination gray and black tank. This larger model features three tanks, fresh, gray and black, and additional capacity. 

More water tank capacity in the Airstream Basecamp 20

Fresh water capacity increases from 21 gallons to 27. The former 24-gallon combo tank now becomes a 28-gallon gray water tank and a 21-gallon black water tank. I’ve found that what brings me in from boondocking isn’t power at all, but water. When I run out of fresh water or have filled either gray or black tank (usually it’s gray), then it’s time to come back to the civilized world and be sad. 

With the additional space there’s not just more liquid aboard but much more seating and/or sleeping area. In place of the front kitchen, which was in the rounded nose of the trailer and the thing I loved most about the original Basecamp, is now seating, which can be converted to sleeping. 

The galley has been moved to the side of the trailer and continues with a small sink and two-burner stove. On the opposite wall is a 12-volt compressor refrigerator. There is the option of a microwave, which would be at home in the space above the fridge. 

The microwave is an option, though, as is an air conditioner. If you do check the box next to air conditioner in the option sheet, that air conditioner would be a 13,500btu model with a heat strip. 

This trailer features a Truma Combi eco plus heater and water heater combo system. The heater runs in gas mode for self-sufficient use, in electrical mode at the camp site, and in mixed mode when outside temperatures are low. Combi eco plus uses very little electricity. In summer, Combi eco plus heats just the water without running the furnace.

There are also 12-volt tank heaters so you can keep your liquids in liquid state when shuttling down the road. The cabin heater is also ducted to the water tanks so they’re kept warm as well.

Like its little brother … unlike its little brother

What hasn’t changed is that this model features a back door that lets you load bicycles or kayaks or whatever adventure gear you like. The door, in the center of the back of the body, can also be left open for ventilation when the weather suits you. And there’s a screen that goes over the space to keep you and the annoying bugs separated. 

I think its brilliant that there’s a white board on the door. That way you can write down where you are while at camp so you have a point of reference in an emergency. Or you can also share where you went for the day with whomever you’re camping. On the door, too, are several pockets with bungee nets.

Along either side of the back of this trailer are benches that can either be two single beds or, by lowering the tables that go between them, one large bed. Under the camp side bench is storage and under the road side bench is that water heater. 

Bed and bath in the Airstream Basecamp 20

I haven’t slept in one of these but the cushions look pretty thin so I can imagine you’d want to do something so you wake up ready for the day instead of waking up ready for a chiropractor. This sleeping system is one of the things that took the Basecamp off our list. Well, my wife told me the sleeping setup was a hard no. 

Rounding out the interior is a wet bath. Being an Airstream, much of the interior of the bath is made of the same sheet aluminum as the rest of the interior and exterior, so it’s pretty waterproof. 

That interior is something you either love or don’t. I’m in the “don’t” category just because bare metal in an interior doesn’t appeal to me. But there are plenty of people on the other side of the fence. It’s subjective, of course. 

The exterior, too, is exactly what you’d expect of an Airstream – being sheet aluminum riveted to the frame underneath. 

Airstream claims the shape is conducive to reducing aerodynamic drag, and I have no reason to doubt them. 

In summary

There is a lot I really liked about the original Basecamp that carries over to the newer, larger model. The back door, cargo carrying space and rugged build were high on our “good” list. But the thin sleeping cushions and wet bath were on our “bad” list.

It’s important to note that there are two versions of the Basecamp 20: the regular and the “X.” Adding an “X” to the name gives you more aspects of the trailer designed for off-road function. This follows the lead set by the 16, which is still available in both standard and “X” models. 

Another thing I like is that there’s a large, optional, outdoor tent that essentially doubles the “interior” space of the trailer. This tent slides into a rail at the top of the trailer – and I just like it. 

I can see why this trailer is so popular, though. Combining the flexibility of the interior design and overall styling, plus Airstream’s reputation, is a good combination of factors to make this a popular choice. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!

Tony Barthel has been a life-long RV enthusiast and travels part-time with his wife where they also produce a podcast, write about RVs and love the RV lifestyle.



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Kris (@guest_120530)
2 years ago

So you reviewed this camper but you didn’t sleep in it…… hmmmm.

Roger V (@guest_120003)
2 years ago

This is a beautiful, innovative trailer. Was very impressed when we went through the smaller one at the Tampa show. I’m sure the 20′ is even nicer and more capable. At half the price, I’d be interested, but it’s got that Airstream label on it that’s apparently worth an extra 30K to many people.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_119971)
2 years ago

So, you buy the tent for room, and they throw in a small trailer to help haul the tent.

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