Airstream Basecamp travel trailer. Credit: Lauren Braden
Trying out the camping trailer
Editor's note: This article lists campgrounds that are in various states of reopening. Some are open now and some are accepting future reservations. Check carefully before heading out on your road trip and please stay safe recreating outdoors.
To camp in the woods is to experience the great outdoors in every way… the cold rain that drips on your nose as it squeezes through your tent’s seams, or feeling your way to the outhouse at midnight and hoping that shrub you stumbled into wasn’t poison oak. After all, "roughing it" is what makes camping so fun! Isn’t it?
Well, not necessarily, as I learned a few weekends back when my family borrowed an Airstream Basecamp travel trailer for a two-night camping trip to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island, a natural playground of deep forests, driftwood beaches and the possibility of spotting a whale. In other words, plenty to engage our only child, Isaac (age 9) who sometimes shunned the great outdoors in favor of his Nintendo DS. My husband and I love to camp, so we’d batted around the idea of purchasing our own small travel trailer to ease the “roughing it” part for our reluctant kiddo. The first step was to try one on for size.
When we pulled our silver toaster-on-wheels into the RV campground loop dotted with sleek teardrops, kitschy vintage trailers and mammoth motor homes, our hearts sunk a little. Would this feel like real camping? Upon finding our reserved campsite we found ourselves unable to back in the trailer without the aid of a camper next door named Jack who quickly stepped in to share his expertise. Pro tip: If you want the trailer to go left, turn your steering wheel to the right.
Camping in style
The Basecamp is Airstream’s entry-level camper, compact and lightweight enough to be towed by many mid-sized SUVs. But retains all the throwback charm and modern features that make Airstreams so beloved. Two banquette couches with storage convert to a comfy king-sized bed that fit all three of us. There’s a tiny bathroom with a shower, plus a kitchen with sink, microwave, fridge and two-burner stove. Hot water, heat and air conditioning, modern LED lighting, USB ports and Bluetooth speakers complete the package, all efficiently packed into the space of a walk-in closet on wheels. The Basecamp screams retro cool, but the price tag hurts: A new one will set you back $36,000.
Our new friend Jack would return a few more times as we noviced our way through leveling our camper and hooking up the water and electricity cables. Once those setup tasks were out of the way, though, the fire was soon crackling and marshmallows were toasting. After a few games of ring toss, we cooked up some quesadillas and snacked on s’mores. There was no tent in sight, but we were camping.
The biggest draw to trailer camping? Hitch up and hit the road anytime, with minimal prep. If you’ll want a campsite with electrical and water hookups, not to mention a nearby RV dump station, reservations are a must in summer. For “dry camping” (sans hookups) spontaneity is more within reach.
Ready to give it a try?
Got a trailer or a camper van or want to rent one and give it a crack? We've laid out three trailer-friendly camping road trips from Seattle to jump-start your RV adventures. Plus, on the last page, find local outlets that rent camping trailers so get going.