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RV Review: Airstream International 25FB – Aerodynamics plus desk and rear hatch door

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. 

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. 

Boondocking

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. 

Brilliant

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. 

Options

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. 

In summary

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.

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

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Aerodynamics
Optional desk
Optional hatchback
No slide

SUMMARY

Airstream announced that they tested the 25' model recently and reported that they had a more slippery trailer than most.

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Ron Yanuszewski
5 days ago

I keep saying that I’m going to buy an airstream then I sit down and think, wait a minute, I can buy a brand new 3,500 super duty and a different brand RV for the same price? It really is absurd. But I do love them.

Bob p
9 days ago

I saw my first inside view of Airstream in 1978 and didn’t care for the loss of cabinet space due to the exterior styling. I’ll admit they are more aerodynamic than the average box trailer, but how much more is lacking. I bought a Mesa Ridge 23’ trailer that’s almost as long, has a queen size bed in the front dinette slide and weighs 5400lbs empty. I pull it with a 2018 Nissan Frontier and get 9.4 mpg at 63 mph, it cost $23,000, and the interior looks better than the Airstream. At $115,900 I can buy several gallons of gas before I reach that level of cost, my truck and trailer will wear out by the time I die so I don’t worry about it. Companies like Airstream are like Harley Davidson, they are selling an status symbol believed by some but not me, I’ve got better things to spend my money on.

Roger Spalding.
9 days ago

Tony, I live in a state along the I 95 corridor. Here, we have a usurious 6% sales tax on personal goods. This includes automobiles, motorhomes and RVs. The sales tax on your sample Airstream is close to $8,000; almost the same as the price for the garage door. Delaware has no sales tax which is very attractive. You can do the math to calculate the out the door price for your Airstream. A few more options, and you’re getting close to $150K. That’s quite an investment you’ve got there.

Donald N Wright
10 days ago

I purchased a pre-owned 2020, 25′ International with the front twin beds.I wish I had won the Lotto so I could of bought the one you described. You are right, they only have about 6’7″ of headroom, the shower is cramped, I have a bigger sleeping bag than the twin mattress, and the slanted counter in the bathroom is a space waster. However, the looks I get when I tow the only Airstream into a campground full of big boxes, it’s like the shark in Jaws. When folks walk by at night. looking at their reflection. Just remember, Airstream owners tend to keep them 15 to 20 years. When they buy a new one, they keep the old one. Rich, go ahead and visit a rally or two…

Bob M
10 days ago

I always like the Airstream campers, But they also have quality issues. Some new owners had issues with leaks. Being familiar with metalwork, I’d like to see how they seal the seams from water. I don’t care for some of the interior colors they use and I’ve previously mentioned to the Airstream company representative about it. I hear they’re not a good three season camper. The tank capacity is smaller than I like. The bathroom mirror in most of them are a lousy setup. For the money they want and what you get I find it hard to buy one.

CCFields
8 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

I worked at an Airstream dealer over the summer of 2019. At that time (3+ months) I did not hear of one complaint for leaks. Before delivery they literally dump 30,000 gallons of water over the shell. I do no recall if that is 3 10,000 gallon dumps or 3 30,000 dumps.

Their construction of aluminum ribs for the structure is incomparable in the industry. This was the stand out feature and a large part of their astronomical cost. I do totally agree they are EXPENSIVE. Literally 3 times the cost of most trailers.

A typical trailer has less than a 15 year life span. The parts other Mfgs. use —even in sister companies— Airstream has a patent co. —are laughable. They switch parts for key components mid build year, most are absolute junk, lowest cost available at that time. This creates long term ownership problems.

I literally had a customer pull up in an 80’s Airstream 345 (bus). He needed mechanical window trim pieces. Asked if I’d inquire to service if he could order it. We both laughed thinking, probably not a chance. Airstream retains the build sheet on every unit. Being the 80s I think it required a call to Ohio. They not only knew the specs on his unit but had the part. They build into the cost replacement stock (not free post warranty) and I believe that was based on 25 years of general wearable parts they use in MFG. To be clear this not holding 25 years of stock for a gas valve or similar item that may be easily replaced with a newer more efficient piece or items that may become obsolete.

I’ll leave you with this. Most owners I dealt with were older, retired long time RVrs who were into their 3-4th trailer. They had a good knowledge of what it takes to own and maintain an RV. They were tired of the build quality of other brands and wanted the simplicity of the towable Airstream. Many were downsizing from big 5th wheels and a surprising number were leaving pusher buses (again astronomical costs) for “park units” or long term stays. A lot were planning to give the units to a family member. I met with the adult children of a lot of buyers.

The other biggest segment were middle aged, typically affluent, couples with wanderlust. They didn’t have a clue about owning a trailer or even camping.

My final verdict is if I could afford a towable it would be an Airstream without a doubt.

27ft FB International with hatch! I could give you a myriad of reasons.

Greg Burns
10 days ago

(also continued from the previous post) our local police did not seem to care that my license plates were “technically stolen”, and although the bank “promised to send” me a copy of their repossession letter, it never arrived. Eventually, my car was impounded and auctioned off for failure to pay that measly $100 tax bill… 😮 😱

Greg Burns
10 days ago

(continued from previous post…) $75,000. Boy, was I wrong!!! It was closer to $90,000 for the slightly less deluxe “Parkway” model. I put $5,000 “down”, and would be paying $809.43 per month for the next 20 years!!! Even though I lost my job, I continued to pay the monthly loan by doing “0% INTEREST for 6 months…” credit card advances. As soon as my maximum limit was reached, the “repo guy” was at my door. So besides the down payment, I paid 3 years on the loan, and for nothing. It had less than 1,400 miles on the odometer, 700 of which was them driving it from the Ohio factory to the Waterbury, Connecticut dealership. To add insult to injury, the “repo guy” never turned in my license plates to the DMV, so 2 years later, I received a town property tax bill of $2,400 for the long gone Airstream, and $100 for my little 2001 Mitsubishi “Mirage”. Unfortunately, the tax bureau would only allow me to pay the $100 for my car IF I paid the $2,400 for the motorhome FIRST! Needless to say,

Greg Burns
10 days ago

In 2006 I bought an Airstream 22′ CCD, with front bed, center kitchen with 4 oval portholes, curbside center dinette, and rear desk with orange plastic chair, plus streetside rear wet bath. It listed for around $47,000, and I got it at the January RV Show price of $40,000. I had it delivered to my home, and although I spent many 😉 hours entertaining friends and family, only really camped in it one weekend at our local airport, during a World War ll tribute event. Several vehicles I would have considered buying weren’t strong enough to tow it (aka the Dodge Magnum wagon, the Chevy SSR retro retractable pickup truck, and the Infiniti FX35 SUV…), so in October of that same year, I discovered Airstream manufactured 2 small class B motorhomes on the “Freightliner (aka “Mercedes”) Sprinter” chassis. And because the turbo diesel engine was EPA-rated for like 20+ MPGs, I decided to trade my travel trailer in for the motorhome. I was under the impression that it retailed for around

HappyCamper7424
10 days ago

The aerodynamics are better but the question that should be answered is how does that translate into mpg. If it’s only 1 mpg better, who cares?

Roger Spalding.
10 days ago

Tony, for alot of us, the length of the time payments are not much of an issue. Probably, like you, I am alot closer to the end of the race than the start. Most folks over 65 are in decent physical condition. While I certainly hope to live another 20 years, I also hope that I don’t live too long (as my dear departed father would often say). In my case, the length of the contract is irrelevant. When I pass on, I think there will be sufficient funds to pay any outstanding debts. No Airstream bill. That will be my executor’s problem, not mine. That’s what he/she gets paid for. With God’s grace, I will be visiting with my dad once again. I don’t care for Airstreams. They are more camp queen than anything else. The puny tank capacities ensure any attempts at boondocking are woefully short. Their owners will get lots of opportunities to show off the garage doors at restricted RV resorts or camp grounds. Glad you, Tony, didn’t get sucked in by Airstream’s thin veneer of exclusivity.

Roger V
10 days ago

Always seems a bit odd when someone brags about Airstream aerodynamics and pulls it with a big azz truck shaped like brick. Have seen some Airstream ads where they have a sedan pulling one of the smaller trailers. Aerodynamically at least, that case is sound. Might not be able to stop the thing, but that’s just another annoying fly in the salesman’s ointment. And yes, it’ll do better with that big truck than the typical boxy trailer – on the margins. I honestly think people buy them mainly for the “cool” factor and the Airstream community. At the sky high prices you pay for Airstreams, it’s hard to believe buyers are all that concerned about what they pay for gas.

Last edited 10 days ago by Roger V
Charles Allen
10 days ago

I have always been a fan of Airstream and follow the airstream forums on facebook. With price in mind, and reading of the multitude of problems that buyers face out the door, I would not consider purchasing one. With that said, there is something that says “I need one of those:”..hahaha.

Tommy Molnar
10 days ago

If you keep your speed around 60, that helps a lot with fuel mileage. The front of our trailer is sort of aerodynamic. Sort of. I get my 10 mpg most times, depending on headwinds or mountain driving. Now, that hatchback option really doesn’t make sense to me. If you toss in your kayak(s), how do you get around that stuff if you’re making a quick one-night stay someplace where you don’t want to put everything outside? And for $7,500? Whoa! I also don’t much care for the bench seats. Just sayin’. Where am I going to put our La-Z-Boy chairs???

Steve
10 days ago

That price is more than we paid for our Winnebago Navion (View) motorhome that is 2′ longer, has twin beds plus a full-size bed in the cabover, theater seats beside the swiveling driver and passenger seats, and a convection microwave. It also came with 200w of solar, a 2000w inverter/charger, and two lithium, not AGM, batteries for that price! Plus our’s includes a motor that gets 14-15 mpg. I would bet that’s better mileage than most pickups, even a half-ton, turbo V-6, would get towing the Airsteam, despite its aerodynamics.

All those reasons are behind last year’s sale of our fifth wheel and purchase of a Sprinter motorhome. But everyone has to discover what works best for him or her based on actual RV experience. Only a relative few of us likely bought our “dream RV” with our first RV purchase.