Camping For People Who Don’t Camp: My Airstream Adventure

As much as I love the beauty of nature, I have no love of roughing it in the great outdoors. As a child my mother would jokingly mention the idea of sending me on a “wilderness adventure” in order to toughen me up and help get me over my irrational fear of insects. One year in college, my roommates gifted me with a t-shirt that read: My idea of camping is when room service is late. Despite what I like to think is my relatively laid back, down-to-earth personality, when it comes to travel and vacationing I can be very much the princess and the pea. Fly me to a tropical resort and I’ll be a happy camper. Since I did it once as a Girl Scout, I know that sleeping on the ground in a tent does not take me to my happy place so the passion many I know have for it bewilders me. *cough* BlogHer Executive Editor, Julie Ross Godar. *cough*

I have always admired the style of Airstream travel trailers. Their sleek, modern lines appeal to my love of mid-century design from long before hipsters everywhere realized that their parents actually had great taste. It was no surprise then that when I was offered the chance to tour an airstream trailer that would be in my area for a week, I immediately said yes. The weird part came when the PR Rep for Airstream then inquired as to if I wanted to take it out for a camping spin and asked if I have a vehicle with a trailer hitch in order to tow it and then I said, “why yes, I would be very interested in camping with the Airstream!” Unfortunately, though, I don’t have a truck, just my hippy hybrid sedan, so I started scheming. But, the PR Rep quickly wrote back and offered to have it towed to a campsite so I could spend a night or two camping with the trailer. Challenge accepted!

And so it was that I found myself on a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon heading up to and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge (kicking myself for not leaving time to stop, pull over into the vista point and take pictures) on my way to the KOA campgrounds in Petaluma for my camping adventure.

I arrived at KOA a little earlier than the trailer so I took advantage of the extra time to drive the four short miles to Whole Foods to pick up some lunch and food for the rest of my stay. Suddenly, camping became much more appealing. I returned to meet my delightful new friend, Abe, the driver who delivered my Airstream (see how proprietary I quickly became?) in order to get a tour and introduction to the features of the trailer.

Abe

It was a 22-foot Sport Edition equipped with a kitchen (sink, stovetop, oven and fridge), bedroom, television, sitting area with a table, and a bathroom including a shower. My campsite came with Wi-Fi plus hookups to running water, sewage, power, propane, and, much to my amusement, cable television, though the trailer also has a built in antenna that you can raise and lower with a hand-crank. On the other side of the site there was a grassy area with leafy, mature trees, a picnic table, a bench swing and a fire pit. If I had known how to light the firewood, and had I been prepared with the right equipment, I could have reached out to Julie for some camping cooking recipes. Sadly, even though there were long skewers in the trailer, and I could have easily picked up the supplies either at a nearby grocery or at the KOA store, S’mores were not to happen on this trip.

Trailer full

Nevertheless I immediately fell in love with hanging out in the Airstream and told friends on social media that I wanted one to put in my backyard and use as my office. That afternoon and evening I toured around the KOA campgrounds, met some of my “neighbors,” checked out the petting farm, watched horses, mules and cows on nearby farms, saw a large peacock casually stroll across the road, sat on the bench swing for a spell as the sun set and I watched kids play and roaring fires come to life. My TV wasn’t hooked up to the cable system and I couldn’t get any reception even with the antenna raised (one neighbor I saw ingeniously set up a large satellite dish on a tripod outside his RV), so I took advantage of the nighttime quiet to read a book and go to bed at an early-for-me hour.

I slept long and hard and woke up the next morning saddened that I couldn’t stay another night. Suddenly the joy of camping made much more sense, especially when it was comprised of essentially staying in a hotel suite with a park outside your door. The beauty of it though was that I was in the great outdoors, even if not as ruggedly beautiful as spaces that require hiking deep into the back country. It was a wonderful, relaxing and restful change of pace from life in the city. I read a book, swung on a swing, slept soundly and could have had, with a tiny bit more preparation and know-how, S’mores with marshmallows roasted over an open fire.

Swing

Nothing is perfect however, and the Airstream is no exception. I had a couple of small quibbles such as the configuration of the toilet on a raised platform made it awkward to use and I think a tall person would have a hard, if not impossible time using it or the shower or fitting in the bed. At any height, the bed could likely be described as “cozy” for two if one were feeling charitable. I can’t imagine spending any extended time in the trailer with another person but then I’m not used to sharing my space.

The other considerations would be the need for both a vehicle to tow the trailer and a space to store it when you’re not on the road again. Right now, even if my car could tow the trailer (driver Abe thought perhaps it could handle the smaller 16 foot model), I live in a townhouse and don’t have a backyard, thus my fantasy office idea is moot for now. Another camping-for-the-non-camper option would be to rent an RV instead. However, either with an RV or trailer, heading to a campsite without a complete set of hookups would mean engaging in more of a true camping experience than I would want to contemplate.

Quibbles and personal logistics aside, I’d go on an Airstream adventure again any day. And even though purists (or most people, even) might not consider it the real thing, I’m thrilled I not only survived but thrived while camping. If you can, give it a try. I’ll bet you’ll love it, too.

Disclosure: I was provided use of an Airstream trailer and a KOA campsite for one night to facilitate this review. I was not compensated for my post. All opinions are my own.

BlogHer Contributing Editor Maria Niles camps out on her blog PopConsumer

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