The tools that are always in our Airstream

Over years of extensive Airstream travel, I’ve encountered a lot of situations that required on-the-road repairs. I’m talking about the type of bug that crops up and threatens to ruin your trip—but could be fixed in a few minutes if you just had the right tool handy.

When this happened to me (since I knew nothing about fixing Airstreams at first) I’d call my Airstream lifelines Brett, Super Terry and Colin for advice. Then I’d go buy whatever tool or small part they recommended, and I’d make the repair according to their instructions. In this way, my kit grew along with my skills.

For a while, it seemed like every repair needed a different tool, and the tool bag was in danger of becoming a tool chest. Eventually, I learned what tools got the most use, and pared down the kit to the essentials. It’s still a fairly heavy bag but it fits easily in one of the exterior side compartments of our Globetrotter.

Tothie and I sat down for 15 minutes to go over some of the stuff I carry. She learned a lot about what’s useful and how I use it—perhaps you will too. Check out the video:

If you want the short summary, here are the most frequently-used tools in my Airstream tool bag:

  • Screwdrivers (especially a #2 Philips)
  • Cordless drill
  • Headlamp (for hands-free work) & flashlight
  • Small adjustable wrench and a set of 5 assorted US-spec open-end wrenches
  • Cutters (clipper and/or kitchen shears)
  • Allen wrenches (US-spec)—useful for Hensley Hitch owners in particular
  • Rivet tool
  • Drill bits
  • Wire stripper/cutter
  • Voltmeter

This doesn’t count the specialized repair and maintenance kits I carry, which I developed myself and we sell in the Airstream Life Store:

And it doesn’t include the parts and supplies I carry, such as lubricants, glues, tapes, spares, fasteners (screws, rivets, bolts), electrical connectors, etc. I’ll do a separate blog (and possibly a video) on those later.

Your mileage may vary. If you don’t ever want to fiddle with the 12 volt electrical system, you won’t need a voltmeter or a wire stripper, for example. I have a full set of tools and spare parts for PEX plumbing, but since the plumbing rarely needs anything more than a bit of Teflon tape on a leaking thread, I leave the heavy PEX tools at home for future projects. Think about what you might encounter and decide how much you’re willing to tackle, and let your kit build up according to your own skills and needs.

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