What criteria do you use to choose your next RV? As RV shows start to come back, I’ve noticed a lot of people spend a lot of time looking at interior decor and cabinet space. At least, the ones I’ve eavesdropped on at the RV shows. Then comes pricing, and after that it’s a shot in the dark.
I’ve talked about the fact that my wife and I are looking for a new travel trailer that’s a bit larger than the one we have now, just because I want office space while we’re on the road. We like boondocking as well as stealth docking – where we camp in public places and at the homes of friends. I’d like to bring at least one e-bike. And I have zero interest in slide rooms – I’ve handled way too many warranty claims on them.
So one of the most fun things about this job is when I find a rig that might fit what we’re looking for, or at least comes closer to those criteria. And I was surprised when I recently looked at the Airstream International 25FB. It almost fits every criteria I’ve been looking at. But what got me on their site was a study on aerodynamics by Airstream.
But first know that I’m going to focus on the differences between this and the Airstream Flying Cloud 25FB that we looked at not too long ago. And about that study by Airstream on aerodynamics.
I have said over and over how RV companies are going to have to spend some time studying their RVs for aerodynamics. While electric pickups and other more energy-efficient tow vehicles aren’t common at all nowadays, the writing’s on the wall.
Even if you don’t embrace electric trucks, you still have to acknowledge that both Ford and Toyota now primarily sell half-ton pickups with turbocharged gasoline V6 engines instead of the traditional V8 (Ford does still offer one V8). These engines can be more efficient when not under load but still offer the performance pickup buyers demand through turbocharging. But the advantage is, the less demand on the engine, the less fuel it consumes.
Reading the tea leaves, Airstream went to the Auto Research Center in Indiana (you’d think it would be in Detroit) and worked with them to evaluate the aerodynamic properties of a 25-foot Airstream trailer.
The design of the Airstream is more aerodynamic than comparable travel trailers
What the company found was that the design of the Airstream is, in fact, better than a comparable theoretical travel trailer. There are a lot of factors that can contribute to this. But the curvy shape of the Airstream plus the fact that they’re not as tall are significant. While the company did find that there were areas that they could improve the design, and plan to, the results were pretty significant.
I’ve been told for years how well an Airstream tows. Now there’s hard data to confirm why this is the case.
The amount of energy your vehicle consumes at “freeway speeds” is significantly affected by how much energy is needed to push it through the air. At a constant speed, the shape of the vehicle is almost more important than the weight.
This is why modern passenger vehicles essentially all look the same. A certain shape works well to accommodate human occupants and cut through the wind (and meet all the safety requirements). There’s not a tremendous amount of variation available in that shape. So there’s not as much room to make your car look radically different from the other cars at the stoplight.
What’s inside the Airstream International 25FB
Airstream offers several floor plans that are the same, but offers them in varying trim levels. Today we’re looking at an Airstream International 25FB, which is the 25-foot body with the bedroom in the front.
This exact same floor plan can be had in the less expensive Flying Cloud and also in the more expensive Globetrotter. While the floor plan remains the same, the appointments and materials change. In fact, we looked at this same floor plan not long ago in the Flying Cloud 25FB when Airstream indicated that you could get a desk in this model.
A desk is one of my criteria
So, there is one of my criteria. While you can get today’s Airstream International 25FB with a long bench along the road side and a short bench on the camp side by the door, you can also configure this trailer with a desk on the camp side. That desk actually offers a power mechanism that transforms it from a standing desk to a seated desk.
I have a similar arrangement at home, and my watch tells me when to stand up.
My wife tells me when to stop saying ridiculous things. But neither Airstream nor my watch has a function like that.
Furthermore, the desk is by the television, and the TV offers HDMI inputs and operates on 12-volt power. So you could use that as a second monitor for your confuser. For example, my notebook confuser has an HDMI port, so I could use that in conjunction with the laptop display and have a lot of screen real estate.
Best of all, I could be off grid and just use battery power to operate the TV and the notebook’s own internal battery to operate it.
There’s a hatchback in the International 25FB
But then there’s another option that has me all excited – a hatchback.
Since there is a bench seat on either side of the middle of the trailer, you can get this floor plan with a large rear hatchback. That would let you load your bikes or kayaks or whatnot into the back for travel. You can also camp with this flip-up door open, and Airstream provides a screen that covers the opening. So you could sit at the table and have a really nice way to check out a stream or forest or whatever.
So, now this trailer has met all the things I’ve been looking for in a trailer. But. And I’ll get to those “buts” momentarily.
Compared to the Flying Cloud, this model features solid surface countertops, a power awning, and generally a few fancier features.
No matter which grade you’re looking at, I have to give Airstream kudos for actually putting in seat cushions and a mattress, or mattresses if you choose the twin bed model, that are actually usable right out of the gate. It’s super-rare that you get an RV mattress and don’t do something about it after the first night.
One of the advantages of the Airstream design is that it isn’t as tall as some trailers. But this also hurts the brand in terms of outdoor storage and water storage. The Flying Cloud, International and Globetrotter are seemingly identical structurally. But somehow the Globetrotter features one more gallon of fresh water storage (at 40 gallons) but one fewer gallon of black water storage and two fewer of gray storage.
Airstream does offer some solar with an optional package that includes 180 watts of solar on the roof along with two AGM batteries. For $2,600. This also includes a 1,000-watt inverter and it’s integrated into the trailer – but wow. Although, admittedly, these are all MSRP prices and, under normal circumstances, you don’t pay MSRP unless you’re Hank Hill.
One of the things Airstream has started to do is put QR codes on their trailers in a few places. Essentially, these QR codes are a gateway to an owners’ center where you can find information on how to operate the various systems in the trailer. When I first heard about this I was just blown away because it just makes so much sense. You’re camping and you have a question and you just whip out your phone and scan the QR code.
It then takes you to an ownership center with answers and videos and such. This is literally one of the smartest things I’ve seen in the RV space, and you know it’s going to be a highlight of my Year in Reverse column for 2022.
I can’t imagine how much this is actually saving the company, as well. I see so many posts on social media with folks not remembering how to turn on their water heaters or whether or not to leave their gray tank gate valve open. Answering these types of questions via a QR code just means fewer calls to the dealer or the warranty department.
So, I virtually built the Airstream that I wanted and the company does have a nice web tool to let you do this, not unlike what a car company does. I can’t tell you how many pickup trucks I’ve built in the virtual world.
You can choose either twin beds or a single queen-sized bed in this floor plan. There are also two choices of interior color.
I would absolutely want their Rear Hatch Door, but that option alone is $7,500. You can also substitute in a convection microwave. It is below the three-burner stove – where you might expect to find a propane oven. But if you don’t choose this option, you get no microwave. I checked this box as well. $475.
So, all told, the model I specified carried an MSRP of $126,475. Yes, I did check the box on the solar panels just to see.
So, while this trailer fits so many of our wants and desires, including the aerodynamic properties along with the desk and the torsion axle suspension, no stickers on the outside and so much more, the price alone means that one of these won’t end up in my driveway any time soon.
Which is fine. It’s not like the folks at Airstream are crying because the dork who writes RV reviews at RVtravel.com just won’t part with that much scratch for a travel trailer, even though I do recognize many of the qualitative differences that come with the brand.
The hatchback is unique to Airstream
However, I’m also surprised that I haven’t found anybody else who does anything like this. I do see the occasional desk. But the hatchback is unique to Airstream. Now, I would be interested in a toy hauler, as well. And the flip-down door at the back would serve even more purposes if I got one that had that patio option.
When I did the configuration on this I could either pay the $126,475 all at once or finance it through Airstream financial. I was surprised at the monthly payment of $725 until I looked further and found that was for 20 years! ($174,000)
Oh, people. When I was selling RVs, lots of folks went for these very, very long loans. That alone is the subject of an article I need to write. I just don’t see the average travel trailer lasting even half as long as the terms of loan.
Lots to like about the Airstream International 25FB
Anyhow, there are a lot of things to like about this trailer. Those include the aluminum shell and the windows, the man-made flooring and the aerodynamics. Resale value, too, is a strong suit for Airstream trailers.
So, would I buy this trailer with my own hardly-earned money? No. While I usually buy things that tend to last longer and have higher quality, the things I read in the various Airstream forums about new owners and their experience tells me that spending three times what I would on a typical travel trailer won’t reward me with a dramatically lower number of frustrations.
But, clearly, Airstream isn’t having much difficulty finding folks for whom this does make sense. For them, they have a floor plan that absolutely knocks it out of the park. At least when you play the game by my rules.
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.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.
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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