By Tony Barthel
I had originally planned to do a review of the smallest and then the largest of Airstream’s Bambi line of travel trailers to sort of compare and contrast what you get in the larger body. But then I noticed that Airstream’s Caravel line of trailers is essentially the same configuration and capability as the Bambi (which I reviewed last week) but at a much, much higher price.
Like the Bambi, the 2021 Airstream Caravel is a line of four single-axle trailers that continue the traditional aluminum shape and style that was pioneered in 1931 and continues to this day. Some of the many advantages of the Airstream brand include probably a better resale value just because an Airstream looks like an Airstream and is unmistakably an Airstream.
How many times can I write “Airstream” in one sentence?
So what’s the difference between the Airstream Caravel and the Bambi?
If you take the similar floor plan in the Bambi model, there are actually some substantial differences between it and the Caravel equivalent.
One of those is the rock guard on the outside front of the trailer. It is part of the iconic look of an Airstream and protects the main shell. The Bambi, if you’ll recall, simply puts a protective film on the front of the main body shell.
There is also a better climate control system featuring what the company calls their “Quietstream™” ducting system. But even more, the system is based on a heat pump which can actually heat the interior using electricity. It is more of what you’ll find in a modern house. This type of technology also works as an air conditioner.
The Caravel also features an in-bumper storage tray which is a nifty feature I’ve liked in Airstream trailers I’ve seen.
The kitchen, too, gets upgrades in the form of a much higher quality feeling three-burner stove top with cast grates. You can also get this with a convection microwave, which I would recommend considering the lack of an oven of any sort.
The Caravel has a nicer interior appearance
One of the areas that will be immediately apparent is the upgraded interior appointments including different materials such as “Ultraleather®” upholstery and a wood grain look to the wall paneling. It is a nicer appearance, of course, but really should be for a $13,300 difference in price.
Another great feature is manual awnings over the road side of the trailer as well as over the rear of the trailer. These are a nice touch. I was surprised this weekend after not having an awning on my trailer how much of a difference just the camp-side awning made in keeping the trailer cool in the sun. So I can imagine one on the rear and road side would likewise be a nice benefit.
The on-demand water heater is a great feature
Some of the other things that really stand out as useful features that you don’t see very often include the on-demand water heater. These are nice because they can continually heat the water so you don’t run out, rather than providing a specific amount of hot water. Obviously you’re limited by tank sizes, but it’s still a plus feature.
The thing I might like the best, which the Airstream Caravel trailer shares with the lesser Bambi model, is the SeeLeveL™ tank monitor. Rather than having probes in the tank like most RVs use and providing only a few lights to indicate tank use, the SeeLeveL system has sensors outside the tank. They provide readings in 1 percent increments, and the sensors don’t get fouled by what’s in the tank. It’s a great system.
What’s inside the Airstream Caravel
As mentioned, initially I had intended to look at the differences just based on the size, and it’s still a valid evaluation. This trailer, being a good six feet longer, does offer more functionality than the shorter version.
Inside you’ll fine the entire rear of the trailer is the bathroom. Having a bathroom take the full width of the trailer is my favorite situation. As you would expect, you get a decent amount of room in the bathroom.
I also like that the bathroom window opens just as do the rest of the windows on this trailer. It operates by flipping up the glass. There are stops that allow you to raise the glass a little or a lot. It also has a very positive locking mechanism, as well.
The shower in this model also has a seat – which you rarely see in a trailer of this size. It is a really nice touch.
The galley occupies a good portion of the road side of the trailer with the dinette occupying the camp side.
There’s a bed across the entire front of the trailer. The bed is nestled in among those wonderful wraparound windows – which is such a nice feature of the Airstream brand. But it’s an east-west bed, so someone’s going to be sleeping along the front wall. Hopefully it’s not the person who has to use the bathroom the most.
I know there are a lot of folks I talk to that bemoan the fact that Airstream doesn’t offer slides at all in their trailers but, to me, this is good. I actually prefer RVs without slides for a lot of reasons, with the acknowledgment that they offer substantial increases in interior volume. But I specifically shop for rigs without slides.
There are also always derogatory comments about single-axle trailers and, again, I’ve towed mine all over the Western U.S. with literally zero issues. More than anything else, I think tire maintenance is something that all towable RV owners should be aware of.
Lack of cargo carrying capacity in the Caravel
However, I am surprised by the lack of cargo carrying capacity in this trailer. I would really like there to be a much heavier-duty axle used so you get at least 1,000 pounds of cargo carrying. You have 23 gallons of fresh water storage aboard, so there’s 184 pounds if you tow with a fresh tank full. Let’s say you have 20 gallons in the gray tank, as well (I’ve been there, done that). So there’s another 160 pounds. There’s over half your 800 pounds of cargo carrying capacity – and you haven’t put the beer in the 12-volt fridge yet.
These trailers tend to be well-made and there’s over a year’s waiting to get your hands on one – so they’re obviously popular. I like that Airstream has mostly stuck to their guns with design and style. That’s why people who have one usually say they have an Airstream rather than a travel trailer.
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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