By Tony Barthel
For obvious, beautiful reasons, Airstreams have a huge fan club. Their iconic style has been the hallmark of the brand to this day. When you see an Airstream, you know it’s an Airstream. So what makes these trailers so special besides that iconic style?
Let’s face it – Airstreams have no slide rooms. A lot of what’s inside is the same as what you’d see on just about every other trailer, such as a Furrion three-burner stove (although with the larger 22” oven), Norcold gas-electric RV refrigerator, and Coleman Mach air conditioners. So why are these trailers so expensive?
A good part of the cost comes from the aluminum construction. Airstreams are still built the way they’ve been built for decades with that riveted aluminum structure that holds up year after year. This also means that the seals are less of a maintenance item on them so they also hold up, as does their resale value. There is both an inner and outer layer of aluminum along with an air gap between those with insulation.
And let’s not ignore the fact that if you bring an Airstream into the campground everybody there also knows you spent a lot of money. It’s a status symbol, plain and simple.
I took a look at the 2021 Airstream International 27FB to see how the company has updated things. While a lot of what makes an Airstream an Airstream doesn’t change much, they do upgrade their models and update interiors.
Of course, the interior has been updated for 2021 with new colors and materials that give the trailer a coastal feel, hence why the design is called “Coastal Cove.” There is also Seashell Ultraleather. It’s not leather but it feels nice just the same.
There have been two other trailers that we’ve reviewed recently that have a very similar floor plan – where one end of the trailer is the living space and the other is the bedroom. In the middle, the bathroom dissects the trailer with a shower on one side and lavatory on the other. That’s how this trailer is arranged and it works well.
Airstream’s interpretation is unique in that there’s a huge rear lounge that has a long sofa/lounge on the road-side and a dinette booth seat on the camp-side. One of the new features for 2021 is the availability of a hatchback type of door at the rear of this trailer. Airstream has made this option more widely available in 2021 and it allows for this trailer to be more useful at potentially hauling the active adventure stuff we might want to bring along like bicycles, kayaks, tents or whatever.
There are various “grades” of Airstream trailers with trim levels, features and price reflecting those various stages of fanciness. The International is sort of in the middle of the pack trim-wise but comes with the power awning on the camp-side that is optional in other Airstreams. You can also opt for an awning at the back of the trailer over that hatchback door and on the road-side of the trailer as well.
While I mentioned that Airstream uses a lot of the same components you’ll find in other, far less expensive travel trailers, one of the ways they’ve added value is by routing their air conditioner through a welded aluminum ducting system which really quiets it down but also, more uniformly, cools the whole interior. Airstream’s AC units also have the heat strip functionality so if you’re at a campground with full hookups you can use their electrical power to heat the coach. This is a nice touch and means you’re not using your propane since you paid for their electricity.
One caveat about this, however, is that if you’re in a place that does get close to or below freezing you will want to use the trailer’s propane furnace since it heats the underbelly and plumbing, which keeps them from freezing. Or, since it has wheels, you could just take it somewhere where it doesn’t freeze. This would be my choice.
As with other RV companies, Airstream has recognized the popularity of solar and off-grid camping, so solar is available as an option. One of those option packages includes two roof-mounted 90-watt solar panels, a Victron charge controller and two AGM batteries.
There is also a 1,000-watt inverter which can power the main TV and a few outlets. This is a standard feature.
If I got this I would want larger panels. I’ve been off-grid camping for some time and like that I can use a solar suitcase to aim at the sun. Honestly, I think you’d be better served with even 180-watt panels that are portable that you can aim at the sun, though the challenges of roof-top solar are absolutely not exclusive to Airstream.
I also like that they use windows of their own design and have those “Vista View” windows above the main windows like in a vintage cruise bus. But those windows, as well as the skylight, also have privacy shades. They are a nice part of this trailer’s design and are in both the front and back – affording a great view and open feeling.
On the subject of lighting, almost all the lighting inside this trailer is dimmable, which would make my wife happy. In fact, even the awning light is dimmable. The shower has a place to sit or put your foot if you’re shaving your legs. There are curtains to bisect the trailer so you have either the entire front or the entire back as part of the restroom. Or, you can close both curtains and isolate just the bathroom.
One of the things I worry about with these is that they seem to ride really close to the ground. It would seem that they would have a propensity to come into contact with that ground – but that lower ride height also translates into a lower overall height. Pick your battles.
So, basically, that sums up this whole trailer. Does Airstream basically do what other travel trailers do? Essentially, yes. But they take a look at how things are done and step things up a bit. Whether that’s worth about double what any other trailer costs is up to you. The fact that they’re as flooded with orders as other travel trailer builders show that, yes, there are a lot of folks for whom the Airstream brand means something.
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.