Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Wednesday, August 4, 2021

RV Review: Airstream Bambi 16RB Travel Trailer

By Tony Barthel
In the past I’ve looked at Airstream’s smallest trailer, the Base Camp. I really like that model just because it’s so different than anything else on the market. But what if you want a small trailer that has that typical Airstream look? Then you might want an Airstream Bambi. 

The Airstream Bambi comes in four different flavors, essentially, and today we’re going to look at the littlest of the Bambi models, the 16RB. 

A long history

One of the most unique things about buying an Airstream trailer is that there is a long history associated with these. The basic style and design of a 2021 Airstream is very much like one of the earlier models – which is part of their appeal. If I say “Airstream” you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 

The Bambi line is Airstream’s smallest traditional travel trailer line. They are all single-axle trailers but there is also quite a difference from one Bambi to the next. The line ranges from the 16RB that we’re looking at today to the 22FB. 

While it was more common that trailer companies offered single-axle trailers in the past, I see fewer and fewer of these – and it’s a shame. This is my favorite type of travel trailer for my own towing and traveling style. 

Airstream Bambi 16RB

Being such a small trailer you’d think there wasn’t much going on inside. But there is actually a full-featured interior in this Airstream with the style you’d very much expect of the brand. That means if you like this aluminum exterior, which is great for durability, and the aluminum walls on the interior, that’s what you’ll get here. 

Part of the appeal of Airstreams, by my thinking, is the wrap-around front windows with the rock guard on the main flat windshield. That’s also present in the Bambi. The company also puts rock guards on the two side wrap-around windows, which are also deeply tinted. 

While some of the larger trailers have separate rock guards on the front, the Bambi features a clear protective film coating instead. That will prevent some damage, but I can’t see it preventing rocks from making little dents. But, honestly, I haven’t seen rock damage on my own trailer in some 20,000 miles of towing it – so maybe I’m overthinking this. 

At the back there’s a pretty sizable storage compartment that essentially gives you space under the bed. Airstream includes plastic lidded totes that fit in the space, so packing and unpacking should be pretty easy. 

A Bambi is very lightweight

Airstream points out that these little trailers are very lightweight and thus provides only a manual tongue jack. To me this doesn’t make sense, especially in a $51,400 trailer. I am a strong advocate for a weight distribution hitch with sway functionality. One of the ways to hook that type of hitch up is to lift the back of the tow vehicle with the power tongue jack to take the weight off the bars. In the Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK trailer, for example, it also features a manual tongue jack but one that you could operate with an electric drill. Since I bring one anyway to operate the stabilizer jacks, this is a brilliant solution. 

Airstream now includes a tankless water heater in all Bambi models. This is a big upgrade and something well worth having. This simply means an endless supply of hot water, essentially. 

The company also offers wiring for three solar panels on the roof and one portable solar panel on the ground. You can get an Airstream equipped with a solar panel, which then includes a charge controller as well as two AGM batteries. There is also a lithium battery upgrade. 

What’s inside

As you walk in, the dinette occupies the entire front of the trailer and sits inside that wrap-around front window. To me this makes such a difference. Lots of windows is such a wonderful thing, and here they took absolute advantage of it. 

You can, of course, fold the dinette down to make a bed or just leave it down to make a day bed. What better place to chill than here where you can look out and enjoy the scenery? 

The galley

The galley is on the road side and consists of a two-burner propane cooktop and small sink. The cooktop sits above a very small microwave. There are drawers under the sink, including an insert that is partitioned for silverware. There’s a bar-sized refrigerator under the two-burner cooktop that incorporates a freezer. Airstream has moved to 12vdc compressor-based refrigerators in the Bambi for 2021. 

Beyond the galley there’s a hanging closet on the road side. 

Opposite that is the wet bath and, in a 16’ travel trailer, I almost can’t imagine how else they’d pull off a bathroom other than a wet bath. But this trailer is about the same size as some Class B vans who use creative door designs to make the bathroom feel larger. 

The bed is in a pretty tight space in the Airstream Bambi

Lastly, the bed is across the entire rear of this trailer and measures just 48” X 78”. It’s a pretty tight space by my thinking. You know whoever is sleeping against the back wall is the person who’s going to have to get up the most frequently in the middle of the night. Perhaps it might be more ideal to have one person sleeping on the dinette and one on the bed in this case. 

Airstream does make mention of the bed being a better mattress with a memory foam topper. This is probably what most readers of this website have already done with their own RVs. I’ve mentioned before trying to give away RV mattresses still in plastic to a homeless shelter and being turned down. 

In summary

I might be a big ol’ cheapskate, but I could buy a Rockwood Geo Pro 20FBS and an Intech Sol Dawn trailer and still have a few bucks left over. One of the things Airstream brags about is that the door takes eight person hours of time to build. But car companies can build entire car doors in less time with power window lifts and locks and switches and more. They do this through a process Henry Ford used which is called automation. 

I’m not so sure bragging about manufacturing inefficiencies appeals to me, personally. 

Not much cargo carrying capacity

Also, only 500 pounds of cargo carrying capacity seems really small to me. I have a single-axle travel trailer that also features a Dexter TorFlex axle. With that I have almost 1,000 pounds of cargo carrying capacity. They build these axles in all sorts of capacities. Twenty-three gallons of water alone weighs 184 pounds. If the combined gray/black tank is full, that’s 240 pounds. 

But what you do get in an Airstream is solid resale value and an iconic style that certainly does appeal to enough buyers that there’s over a year’s waiting list to get one. So, while you’re not likely to find one in my driveway, that probably doesn’t matter to the thousands of people on Airstream’s current waiting list. 

*****

 

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.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Airstream style/recognition
Tankless water heater
Cargo carrying capacity
Manual tongue jack

SUMMARY

Airstream's Bambi 16RB is the smallest traditional Airstream you can buy and offers more than you might think in a trailer this size.

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Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Something else I learned from the Escapees club was that RV owners get the seven year itch in about five years, and start looking for another RV. How long do Airstream owners usually own their trailer? Maybe those folks do not itch to buy a new one like the less expensive boxy trailer owners do.

squeakytiki
2 months ago

Since Airstream is now owned by Thor if I buy one at all it will be a used older one.

Scott R. Ellis
2 months ago

I’d rather have them brag about eight hours to build a door than watch another video from Elkhart of people literally *running* to slam together another crappy trailer–they can probably build a door in twenty minutes!

And, off topic, but . . . you’ve towed a trailer 20k miles without a rock ding? Then 1) You got extremely lucky with vehicle geometry, and/or 2) you mudflapped/rockguarded the hell out of it, or 3) you’ve never been on a gravel road.

Sink Jaxon
2 months ago

Tony, I’m with you…a couple years ago my DW and I gave serious consideration to buying an Airstream. The model was around $110,000 (their top of the line around 177K). After all the research we found Airstream can have just as many problems with QC as any other line of travel trailer and after viewing, we felt they were a bit cramped and lacked storage space to boot. Although we could afford it, we just couldn’t stomach the price when we could buy a well made camper for less than half the price. I think they need to reconsider who their target buyers are. That’s an awfully small space for over 50k!

Bob M
2 months ago

While I like the outside looks of an Airstream. They are too expensive and not as nice inside as many lower priced travel trailers. I don’t think air stream is very innovative anymore. They had nicer looking motor homes years ago. With modern CNC machines they can manufacture their doors and parts quicker and more accurate. They need to make more luxurious interiors. They need to hire better interior designers. They are in the same arena as Harley Davidson. It’s only a matter of time before sales start sliding like Harley Davidson.

SANDIE BOCK
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob M

Airstream USED to be the creme de la creme but not longer. They have a classic look but now are made by THOR RV and they do not have the quality that used to be associated with Airstream. Today I would not buy but I would not buy anything made by THOR RV and they own numerous companies including Jayco, Keystone, Crossroads and about 10 or so other companies. RV integrity of manufacturer quality is a real SHAME!!!

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