What size Airstream trailer?

One of the biggest decisions a new Airstream trailer buyer has to make is the length.

Short trailers are cute, easy to tow, fit into more campsites, can be towed by a wider range of vehicles, and cost less.

Long trailers are roomier, can carry more stuff (including kids and pets), and tend to offer the most luxurious options.

So how do you decide?

First off, for this discussion let’s assume you’re looking at only new Airstreams. If you’re budget-constrained, you might be able to find a 5-10 year old Airstream at a significant discount, which means you can afford a bigger trailer for the same money. But these days the used market is pretty hot and it’s hard to find a gently-used and relatively young Airstream at a good price.

New Airstreams are in short supply too, thanks to the rush of RV buying that started in April 2020. Airstream is still struggling to keep up with orders and you’re likely to have to wait months to get the Airstream you want. The good news is that this gives you time to think carefully about which model and length will suit you best.


In the new market as of this writing, Airstreams start at about $40k and top out around $177k for the top-of-the-line Classic 33FB. The Interstate and Atlas motorhomes are more. (All of these prices are before any negotiated discount from the dealer. I wouldn’t count on much discounting right now.)

Price may be the dominant factor that determines your choice. Remember, all Airstreams have the same essentials: bed, kitchen, bath, heat, air conditioning, door, windows. A small trailer has just about everything a big one has, except space. So your first decision should be how much you’re willing to spend. More money means more space and the opportunity to add in some luxe options. For a quick price comparison, check Airstream’s official site.

Even the least expensive Airstream, the Basecamp, comes in two lengths, so you always have some decision to make about size.

Tow vehicles

Another major consideration is your tow vehicle. If you like big trucks you can tow any Airstream. If you want to tow with something smaller you’ll have to look to the smaller, lighter end of the trailer spectrum. If your tow vehicle is limited to a 5,000 pound tow rating you’ll be limited to Basecamp, and Bambi or Caravel from 16 to 22 feet long.

Where will you camp?

Assuming you’ve still got room to consider longer models, you should next consider your “camping style”. (If you’re going to be a first-time buyer you may not be sure about it, but give it a shot anyway.) Ask yourself what sort of camping or traveling appeals to you most, and the kind of places you would like to go. The goal here is to figure out if you’re going to need a nimble trailer—or if you value interior space more.

Many state parks and some national parks have length restrictions, so sticking with something 25 feet or shorter opens up more options in those places. National Forest sites are often even shorter or have access roads that limit trailers to 20 feet or less.

If you enjoy backroads or boondocking, shorter is generally easier. A longer trailer is more likely to bottom out on uneven surfaces. The “X” variation of the Basecamp 16 and Basecamp 20 has more ground clearance, so those trailers are great options. Lift kits that increase ground clearance by 2-5/8″ can be purchased for other Airstream trailers if towing off-road is your jam. (They’re also pretty useful for steep driveway entrances and other spots where the tail end might drag.) Keep in mind that a lift kit will require you to make adjustments to your hitch ball height.

If you are always going to seek out full-hookup campgrounds like RV resorts, you don’t need to worry about this consideration. Nearly all RV parks can handle any length of Airstream.

Gear hauling

You might be surprised to learn that the biggest trailers aren’t always the best for carrying large gear like bicycles and kayaks. The 27-foot Tommy Bahama with rear hatch (previously sold as the Eddie Bauer and Pendleton 27FB) was the sweet spot for gear like that. That trailer was dropped for 2021 but you can still find the rear hatch as an option on the 25FB and 27FB Flying Cloud and International models—and the Basecamp, which is a very decent option even though it only comes in 16 and 20-foot lengths.

Back in 2006, there was also an enormous 34-foot Airstream “toy hauler” called the PanAmerica, which would even carry motorcycles. They’re hard to find now because they were produced in low numbers.

Otherwise, your best option for large items is a rack on a pickup truck. We talked about options for carrying bicycles in an earlier post. The good part about going this route is that it doesn’t matter what size trailer you have.

Longer trailers also tend to have more and larger exterior storage compartments. If this is important to you, consider the option of Twin beds. Twin bed floorplans often have more exterior storage than Queen bed floorplans of equivalent size.


Bigger trailers generally have bigger fresh water tanks and bigger waste holding tanks. This means you can boondock for longer times, or be a bit less thrifty with water. A 2021 Bambi 19CB has a 23-gallon fresh water tank and a “combo” black/gray tank that holds 30 gallons of wastewater. It’s pretty good for a weekend of boondocking.

At the other end, the Classic 33FB holds a whopping 54 gallons of fresh water, 37 gallons of gray water (from the shower and sink) and 39 gallons of black water. That’s lot of you-know-what.

Interestingly, going to a larger trailer doesn’t always translate to more electrical capacity. All of the trailers have approximately the same battery storage. People with longer trailers are at a slight disadvantage in this regard because their trailers have more lights, more power-hungry furnaces, and more powered accessories. If you’re a frequent boondocker, you’ll probably want to look into adding battery capacity, switching to Lithium batteries (which have more usable capacity) and/or solar panels, regardless of the size of your trailer.

Similarly, most Airstreams come with a pair of 30-pound propane tanks, probably because that’s plenty for most people who don’t camp in the winter routinely. The largest Airstreams get an upgrade to 40-pound propane tanks because their furnaces are bigger.


Even the most basic Airstream is a pretty nice place to spend the night. But maybe you’re a fan of really nice surroundings and fancy amenities like a heated towel bar, solid-surface countertops, a large screen TV that tucks itself away, and all kinds of powered gizmos (adjustable bed, stabilizer jacks, awning, window shades). You can get all of these things in the more upscale trailers, and that generally means the longer trailers because they can afford the weight penalty.

The “entry level” for some of these perks is the Globetrotter 23FB, which retails at $99k, and goes up rapidly from there. (Super-luxe ain’t cheap.) If you like these niceties and your budget can handle it, you’ll be looking at the 23 to 33-foot trailers.


Some people just like small and cozy, while others like big and roomy. Honestly, this preference tends to trump all other logic. I’ve seen two people and two dogs cram into a 16-foot Airstream for a three-month tour because they preferred to live small. I’ve seen single guys tow a 34-footer because they wanted to have room for lots of toys.

If you have one of the smallest Airstreams, get ready for a lot of “that’s so cute!” comments. If you have a magnificent big one, you’ll hear “your Airstream is beautiful!” Either way, it’s going to get a lot of attention as you travel—and either way, you’re going to love it.

7 things to know about your Airstream’s federal certification label

What’s the recommended tire pressure psi for your trailer? Where can you find the maximum recommended towing weight?

The answers to these and other essential questions can be found on your Airstream’s federal certification label. This label has been mandated for RVs and trailers since the early 2000s and it contains some pretty useful information about your trailer.

Where to find the federal certification label

In modern Airstream trailers, the federal certification label is found on the forward left-hand external section of the trailer. Take a look and you’ll see that there are actually two labels in that spot.

Here’s an overview of the two labels’ most commonly needed pieces of information.

1. Model, year, and floorplan

Starting at the bottom of the lower label, you’ll find the model, year, and floorplan of your Airstream. Model changes, floorplan variances, and trailer lengths within a model can vary from year to year. Sometimes they can even vary within the same calendar year. So, knowing the model, year, and floorplan of your Airstream is important when purchasing replacement parts or products such as teak shower and floor mats or spare keys. Knowing the exact length of your Airstream is also useful when there are length limitations in a national park or campground.

Our trailer’s label shows 23FB Globetrotter 2020, which means:

  • 23FB is the floorplan
  • The trailer is 23 feet long, from the tip of the A-frame to the back bumper
  • It has a Front Bedroom
  • The model name is Globetrotter (keep in mind there are multiple models available for each floorplan)
  • The model year is 2020 – although it may not have been made in that same calendar year; we’ll get to that
Model, year, and floorplan, and VIN number

2. VIN

Just above the model and year is the vehicle information number (VIN), which all vehicle types are required to display. Like your car’s VIN, this number is unique to your Airstream and includes information about its features, specifications, and manufacturer. The VIN is needed for registration and an insurance policy and is used to track recalls, warranty claims, and theft.

3. Factory manufactured weight

This value indicates the empty weight of your trailer when it left the Airstream factory in Jackson Center. Ours, for example, weighs 5,460 lbs. This number is important for calculating the amount of stuff you can safely load into your Airstream and tow.

The weight of your Airstream when it left the factory is its “manufactured weight.” It’s important for calculating the weight of the stuff you can safely tow.

4. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The GVWR is the maximum amount the trailer can safely weigh when fully loaded with cargo. In our case, that’s 6,300 lbs. Subtract the factory manufactured weight of 5,460 and you’ve got the amount of weight we can load our trailer with: 840 lbs. (Which is also shown on the upper label, as a “not to exceed” weight amount.)

As you determine the amount of gear and goods to stock for a trip, remember to figure in more than just food, clothing, and kitchenware. You’ve also got to consider the weight of water and propane. The only way to know the weight of your Airstream with certainty is to weigh it, which you can do at most truck stops on their CAT scale. It’s easy and usually costs less than $15.

If you’re interested in complete details about this, Rich explains how to weigh your Airstream in the Newbie’s Guide and The (Nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance.

GVWR minus the factory weight = the pounds of stuff you can safely take with you on a trip. Don’t forget to add water and propane to the calculation.

5. Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

The GAWR is the maximum weight each axle is allowed to carry. Notice that our label indicates a maximum of 3,000 per axle, yet 3,000 + 3,000 = 6,000 and our GVWR is 6,300. So what gives? They’re also allowing 300 pounds of tongue weight (weight on the hitch) that is carried by the tow vehicle, and thus isn’t being carried by the axles. Our trailer’s actual tongue weight can be higher than 300 pounds as long as the total weight of the trailer doesn’t exceed the 6,300 pound GVWR.

The combined GAWR weight of the axles is less than the GVWR in order to factor in the weight of the tongue (often referred to as the Airstream’s A-frame) on the tow vehicle.

6. Recommended tire pressure

The tire pressure rating (in psi, or pounds per square inch) indicates the maximum recommended cold tire inflation pressures for the tires that originally came with your Airstream. Cold refers to the fact that the psi is measured prior to getting on the road, and while the tires are not facing into direct hot sunlight. In addition to being aware of your Airstream’s tire pressure requirement, you should always monitor tire pressure as you travel using a tire pressure monitoring system. Because you can’t feel a slow leak from the driver’s seat, a monitoring system is an essential piece of safety equipment when traveling.

Inflate your tires to the psi ratings shown on the certification label. Psi is also printed on the wall of each tire.

7. Date manufactured

I mentioned earlier that the year shown in your model/year/date may not actually be the calendar year in which your Airstream was made. That’s because Airstream’s model year spans June through June. Case in point, our 23FB Globetrotter 2020 was manufactured in October 2019. In addition to this date being an interesting factoid about your trailer, it’s an important piece of information when it comes to factory recalls.

The date in your model/year may not be the year in which the Airstream was manufactured. This factoid is important in the case of a factory recall.



The 30-Day Thank You Challenge

During our trip to Borrego Springs, CA last week, Rich and I talked about the many things we are thankful for. Big things—like how much we love our new 2020 Globetrotter and how excited we are to be creating a five year ‘life plan’ together.

And little things—like the enjoyment we got out of a historic photography exhibit at the town hall in Julian, CA, and the fun and convenience of pulling over and making lunch in our Airstream while traveling.

As challenging as 2020 has been, we try every day to remind ourselves how truly good our lives really are. If we regularly remind ourselves about the things and people we’re thankful for, unpleasant things don’t seem quite as bleak. In fact, multiple studies have shown that expressing gratitude can increase happiness and emotional health, improve psychological well-being, and make us more resilient against envy and other negative feelings because of the positive emotions it creates.

When I feel frustrated or when things aren’t going well, I remind myself how blessed I am to have access to clean water and hot showers, which so many people in the world don’t. How thankful I am that my good health enables me to run. And how much joy I get from waking up in our cozy Airstream bedroom to watch the sunrise.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving we’ve decided to codify, if you will, our attitude of thankfulness, by logging the things we’re grateful for and thanking those who make our good life possible. Rich and I encourage you to join us for what we’re calling our 30-Day Thank You Challenge.

Every day from November 24 to December 24, do these two simple things:

  1. Write down at least one thing you are thankful for.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you feel grateful for it. It could be something big, like an easy sale of an elderly parent’s home, or a final chemo treatment. Or small, like discovering the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted, or playing a game of catch with your grandson.

I’ve found that writing down the things I’m thankful for, instead of just thinking or talking about them, gives them more power. They become “real” because you can see and reflect on them later.

So, grab a small notebook or journal. Next to each day’s date for the next 30 days, log one thing you are thankful for. If you prefer using an app for this, try Gratitude—which is free, private, and does not require an account. (I’m trying it out for the 30-Day Challenge.) You could also use a journal app like Day One.

  1. Say thanks to a person you appreciate or who has done something nice, big or small.

Think about how many people come in and out of your life on a daily basis. Friends and colleagues. Your house cleaner. The neighbors who walk their dogs at the same time you do each day. The service guy at the dealership. The outdoor line manager at Trader Joe’s. We have so many pleasant and positive interactions that go unacknowledged, every day.

So, for the next 30 days, acknowledge them. Either verbally or in writing.

When you begin recognizing and thanking people who’ve done nice things, or who do their job admirably and competently, it’s amazing how it lights them up—which will change both your perspective and theirs.

When I was a kid, my mom insisted that my brother and I write thank you cards to every person who gave us birthday, Christmas, graduation or other gifts. We hated it, but today I cherish the fact that writing thank you notes is so hardwired in me. These days, it’s rare that I don’t send a handwritten note after attending a dinner party, receiving a gift, or being the recipient of some other thoughtful act.

It’s up to you whether you express your appreciation verbally or in writing, or a combination of both. But I find that sitting down and handwriting a thank you note slows me down and gets me to focus on how much the person’s thoughtfulness meant to me.

If you decide to join me and Rich in this challenge, you will have a list of at least 30 things you are thankful for by Christmas Eve. And, you’ll have spread your positive, thankfulness magic to a bunch of people in your life, and there’s no telling how that will be paid forward in their lives.

So, get yourself a journal or download an app and create your first entry today. At the end of 30 days, you may just have created the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever been given.


Cheryl Toth (a.k.a., Tothie) is Director of Marketing, Airstream Life Store, and Co-Founder of the Globetrotter Gallery. She got her first Airstream (with Rich Luhr) in the summer of 2020 and has been digging the freedom of road travel ever since.