Airstream Basecamp X Review: The Perfect Wilderness Weekend Camper
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As I snaked 313 miles north from Los Angeles through the Sierra National Forest to the floor of Yosemite Valley with the Basecamp X hanging from the back of my test car, I had plenty of time to think about my ideal camping trailer. I passed 33-foot Jayco fifth-wheels with big-screen TVs, homey Winnebago Minnies with porcelain toilets, and 19-foot Lances with slide-out sides — and even all the ones I saw represent just a fraction of the options in the segment.
Yet after all that driving, my take is almost stupidly simple: I’d want the trailer that gets me off the highway and into the outdoors as efficiently as possible. Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but for a quick weekend dash to the wilderness, I’d want the Airstream Basecamp X.
Airstream, and especially the Basecamp X, represents outdoor product design at its smoothest. Like an Eames chair or a Neutra house, it’s welcoming to all — easy and approachable, but built with a level of intention that rewards even the most discerning user. The Basecamp is the smallest, lightest towable made by Airstream, but it still felt fully equipped for my 48 hours of off-grid camping in below-freezing temperatures in Yosemite. The 16-feet-3-inch trailer packs an astonishing amount into its riveted aluminum shell. There’s a convertible bench seating area that makes way for two twin beds, a telephone-booth sized bathroom/shower combo, a two-burner stove and sink (each with a tempered glass cover) and a bevy of other clever storage nooks both on the floor and overhead.
The downside of this, of course, means that it can feel tight inside. But, if you’re willing to put up with less elbow room and you prefer spending most of your camping experience outside, the benefits of the Basecamp X are plentiful.
Everything Has Its Place in This Airstream
Unpacking and unwinding into the Basecamp X after the long drive was borderline euphoric. I arrived into my Yosemite Valley campsite around 2pm, hoping to squeeze in a six-mile hike in the waning daylight. While those at neighboring sites fiddled with tent poles and bear bins, I quickly and gracefully made my home in the trailer.
Cooking supplies found a convenient spot in the cargo net above the stove, while snack items lived in the opposite one above the sink. Day packs and dirty boots could lay flat in a plastic tray, situated smartly under the lower kitchen cabinets near the door. My stock of water was easily housed under the bench cushions, while the mini-fridge chilled the post-hike beer. And I’m not sure if this was Airstream’s intent, but there was even a tiny nook by the back door where the adjacent heater piped through fresh, warm air, perfect for keeping my camp shoes toasty.
Within about 10 minutes of unhitching, I was walking out of my campsite and off towards Mirror Lake.
The Basecamp X Has the Juice
During 48 hours of boondocking at my campsite, I never ran into issues with power, despite liberally running the fridge, water pump and heater (including at night). The standard Basecamp X uses the slow-drip fuel of two 9.4-gallon propane tanks, along with two deep-cycle batteries, to fuel the electronics and appliances. My tester included the optional (but much recommended) solar panels, which re-charged the batteries even in spotty, cloudy weather underneath a tree canopy. The microwave is the only device that requires shore power to run, but that wasn’t a factor on this quick expedition.
For reference, I tested the Airstream Nest off-grid for 48 hours two years ago and barely lasted the weekend on a 4.7-gallon tank of propane even without using the heat. It was a relief to have more than quadruple that capacity in the Basecamp. This extensive amount of onboard power — plus a three-inch lift kit and all-terrain Goodyear tires — make the Basecamp X an ideal trailer for a remote, rugged campground.
Towing Expertise Not Required
At 2,635 pounds — roughly the weight of a pair of hitched-up Ski-Doos — it’s remarkably light to tow. Plus, its compact proportions make navigation through tight spaces easy; it was a relief to have no superfluous length behind my car while angling for parking at a roadside stop or maneuvering in reverse to my campsite. Conversely, the short length means the trailer is extremely responsive to inputs while reversing; the rig is so manageable, however, that it shouldn’t be a problem for any driver with a bit of practice.
The drive to Yosemite took me through wind advisories and icy conditions, not to mention camping in freezing temperatures, but I never once felt underprepared. I was glad to have such a slim, willing trailer behind me while I watched other towing drivers struggle through the road conditions.
The ideal audience for the Basecamp X likely splits into two main categories: crossover-driving, weekend warrior with deep pockets, or an off-grid camping fiend with little tolerance for the overbearing, cluttered design that seems to have infiltrated the trailer industry. Either way, they’ll be making a good choice.