This package really is quite intriguing; built in the USA by Airstream and shipped to Jayco in Australia for some extras to be fitted for the Aussie market, this North American brand is iconic for its aeronautical look with a retro pop-riveted aluminium exterior. It was fun to check out this five-metre long caravan (or travel trailer as they are known), fully self-contained and ready for the road.

Proud to be Certified Green with an Emerald rating

In January 2018 the American Airstream company partnered with Jayco Australia to relaunch the Airstream brand into Australia. This Airstream Basecamp model came first not long after the launch, and two bigger models have been built for the Australian market in 2019.

From front to rear with the back door closed. Note the air conditioner in the roof; light switches on entry, storage area, two table choices, and shiny interior

This Base13 model is just five metres long, is fully self-contained, weighs under 1600kg for towing, has solar power, cool toilet/bathroom, plenty of storage, and is so aerodynamic it will be relatively economical to tow.

The kitchen in the nose has everything you need, microwave, fridge, two-burner gas hob, sink and storage areas

Construction

The Airstream is hand built, and it is quite interesting to read about them. Search online for ‘Basecamp Quality Guide – Airstream’ to download a good history lesson on the brand, with in-depth information and photographs on the build process – far too long to reproduce here but I will try to give you the basics along with a few interesting facts.

Behind the door is a utility drawer and shelf storage

Underbody construction consists of a corrosion-resistant welded, self-supporting steel ladder chassis. Water tanks are built into the underfloor, with 12V tank heating pads to prevent freezing. Then add wiring and plumbing. The frame is insulated – the bottom covered with aluminium sheeting, the top with WBP tongue-and-groove wood flooring and a seamless vinyl internal covering.

Nice lighting, zip-up window coverings, not blinds or curtains – a concertina blind on the side entry door. Overhead roof vent with fan and lights

The body is built with aluminium ribs bent around a framing structure that give a framework onto which the lightweight panels of aluminium sheets can be secured – over 2000 pop rivets in this model they say. A full-sized Airstream uses around 1200 square feet of aluminium panels, so this small one likely uses around 500, I would estimate.

Nifty kitchen bench, sink and two-burner gas hob for cooking, both stainless steel with covers for extra preparation space. Note the curved front windows, blinds unzip and roll down

All the aluminium used has been pre-treated to resist ultraviolet rays, mould, discoloration, cracking, flaking and oxidation. Essentially the body is a semi-monocoque aluminium superstructure with thermal barrier protection between the interior and exterior, similar to airplane construction. The windows are handcrafted welded and extruded aluminium frames fitted with tempered tinted glass front and rear. Interior is all aluminium walls and ceilings, with EcoBatt insulation.

Daytime living area. Two tables, one set up for use, the other neatly stored on the left side under the seating. The back door is open in this image

The insulation is interesting, as EcoBatt meets the tightest indoor air quality certification and performance standards in the industry – it is made primarily from sand and recycled glass. Once the body is finished it is lowered onto the chassis floor and attached. At this point a water test is run, firing 10,000 gallons of recycled water at hurricane-force pressure for half an hour directly onto the body. Someone is inside checking for leaks – imagine the noise.

Once this is ticked off, the interior fit-out starts. The handcrafted furniture and cabinetry goes in through one of the doors and is fitted piece by piece – all residential-quality fittings with solid wood assemblies; longevity being the key. The same applies to interior fabrics with a Simtex™ marine fabric used on bench cushions/bed. Its antibacterial, mildew – and stain-resistant, and flame-retardant properties mean that the cushions can also be used outside – get them dirty, just hose them off when you’re ready to bring them back inside, they will handle it. The heavy-duty blackout curtains are hand sewn and offer a low-maintenance easy-to-use window covering option, especially in this compact camper style.

The rear exit door has specially designed stairs for entry/exit

The kitchen is compact but has all the necessities, running water into a sink, gas hob for cooking, microwave when plugged into power, 85L 12V compressor fridge with small freezer . The bathroom is compact but has it all, in a pretty cool package, a bit like stepping into a bathroom on a yacht.

The rear door entry is an added benefit for such a small unit. It does give a lot of flexibility for loading the toys in for travel. The specifically designed concertina steps were a bit of a challenge initially but the designers got it sorted.

A great compact bathroom, pedestal 12V electric flush cassette toilet, shower with flexible height fitting, overhead vent, lighting, towel rail, clothes line and covered toilet roll holder, all packed into the stylish package

The concept of having two tables to use – or not – is clever and so is the storage for them. Under the left side seating are the heating, battery and other house items; the right side seating lifts for lots of storage.

All in all an interesting wee package. It will be interesting to see if Kiwis take to this style. It is pitched at a higher price point, but the company motto says something like ‘expensive to buy but not expensive to own’ – for a long, long time, such is the quality of the hand-built final product.

Electric rain sensor roof vent that can suck air in or blow it out

Tech Spec Airstream Jayco Base 13 $88,000

Chassis: Hand-painted chassis, torsion axle suspension, manual hitch jack, two manual stabiliser jacks, stylised aluminium wheels with R18 tyres, Nev-R-Lube Bearings and Nev-R-Adjust Brakes.

Dimensions:

Length 5000mm, width 2140mm, exterior height with AC 2600mm, interior height 1900mm
GVM 1500kg, tare 1170kg, payload 330kg

Sleeping:

Option for one berth, two single berths or a large combined bed

Living:

160W solar
2 x 100Ah batteries
80L fresh and grey water tanks
Truma Combi Eco Plus heat and hot water
Microwave
Two-burner gas hob, Smev cook top
85L 12V fridge freezer