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RV Review: Airstream Basecamp REI Special Edition

Today’s review is of the 2023 Airstream Basecamp REI Special Edition. Airstream has partnered with outdoor retailer REI to create a special edition of their Basecamp trailer. The intent here is to have a more sustainable edition that offers additional functionality. 

REI Special Edition features

A number of features come with the REI model to make it stand out from the normal Basecamp. 

There is a UV water filtration system that passes water through said filter through a special tap in the kitchen sink. Pretty cool, though I’m still a big fan of my Clear 2O water filter. 

This model also features different countertop and cabinetry material that is meant to be more sustainable. On the subject of cabinets, there is a unique one right at the front edge of the seats that incorporates a USB port inside it and a locking lid. Nice place to keep your phones, for example, and they could stay topped up. 

One more water-related item. This does come with a recirculating valve so you can use that to send fresh water back into the tank while waiting for the water in the shower to heat up. I have this in my own trailer and it’s a great feature. 

Composting toilet

One of the biggest surprises is the option of a composting toilet. There are more than a few RVers who have replaced the toilets in their own rigs with composting models. In fact, we’re looking at adding a bathroom with a composting toilet to our new house. 

What these do is use a natural material to create compost with the, um, solids that we all create (usually just a few minutes after our first cup of coffee in the morning). There’s a huge advantage to this type of toilet in that it uses no water. However, the liquids that we create can’t go into this same area so there is usually a portable tank for this. 

Your personal liquids, in this case, still go into the combined gray and black tank in this unit. 

This is an optional feature, but it’s good to see it here from a more mainstream manufacturer. 

Solar

This trailer is available with 360 watts of flexible solar panels installed on the roof. You are able to order in two 100 amp-hour batteries, as well. This should be plenty for most uses. 

Airstream Basecamp

The Basecamp is Airstream’s single-axle trailer that has been marketed to the 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 you could see everybody out there waiting for whatever you’re cooking. 

I also liked the back door, which enabled you to stuff bicycles or kayaks or others things into the trailer and bring them along with you. 

The Basecamp has grown quite a bit, with 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 additional headroom inside and also 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. 

Additional tank capacity in the Airstream Basecamp REI Special Edition

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 the 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 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 call the space above the fridge its home. 

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

Airstream Basecamp REI Special Edition has a Truma Combi eco plus system

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 warm, as well, when you’re inside the trailer. 

Multi-purpose back door

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. There’s a screen that goes over the space to keep you and the annoying bugs separated. The REI version also has an additional cargo mount rack on the inside that lets you incorporate things like a bicycle holder. 

I also think its brilliant that there’s a white board on the door as you can write down where you are while at camp so you have a point of reference in an emergency. Or you can 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.

I haven’t slept in one of these but the cushions look pretty thin, so I can imagine you’d want to do something with them so you wake up ready for the day instead of 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.

Bathroom in the Airstream Basecamp REI Special Edition

Rounding out the interior is the bathroom, which 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, and this is 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 which 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.

I was surprised in a trailer from a company that makes premium products to find a manual tongue jack. Come on, seriously? Do you have a crank starter on your Mercedes? Not since the 1920s. Let’s get with the program, Airstream. 

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 like the upgrades to this trailer, and you also get a bunch of outdoor stuff that comes with it. Those include chairs, a cover for a picnic table, soft-sided totes and a soft-sided cooler and a few other goodies. 

*****

More from Tony

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

If you’re RV shopping here are some tips on RV shopping from a former RV salesperson—me!

Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. He also works closely with a number of RV manufacturers to get an inside look at how things are done and is a brand ambassador for Rockwood Mini Lite with his wife, Peggy.

You can also check out his RV podcast with his wife, Peggy. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. 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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Roger Spalding
1 month ago

In theory, I always kinda like Airstreams. But then, the closer I look the more faults I find. The freshwater capacity is always a sensitive issue for me. Regardless of the rig’s size, I like a large freshwater tank. I dislike hauling extra in my tow vehicle. The Truma water heater-space heater is similar to what you find on super Class A motorhomes and top rung Airstreams. Very nice, but reliability is an unknown. A wet bath is unavoidable, I suppose, but I still feel dirty after using one. An RV is contrary to “roughing it,” but a wet bath adds to that bucolic, outdoorsy feeling. Lastly, I always recoil in horror when I see the msrp of any Airstream, and no discounts on anything ever. Adds to the owner’s pride that one can boast about how much was paid; much like artwork bought at auction. I’d rather buy a Jayco, Keystone or (gulp) Grand Design and get twice as much RV for about the same price, or less money and pocket the difference.

Fred
1 month ago

As an “outdoor adventure folk” I would fall into the target audience for this trailer. It is intriguing, but personally I find it a little too fancy, a little too heavy, and a little too expensive. The UK based Swift Basecamp does this same concept a bit better IMO, alas it is not available in the US. As someone who always camps with mountain bikes and/or kayaks, I think this rear door/haul them inside the camper is a great concept. I wish more RV manufacturers would take note as I think this is an underserved market.

Bob p
1 month ago

If you’ve got a black water tank what’s the benefit of the compost toilet? Just something else add to the cost! This may appeal to the younger set but for this old timer no thanks, and the cost, Wow!

Warren G
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

The composting toilet is an option. The article explains that and how one waste tank is then used.

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