If you’re an Airstreamer, high five — that means you’re also a member of the growing “small house movement”, the architectural and lifestyle trend that advocates simple living in smaller spaces.
Those who tow the tiniest coaches enjoy fuel economy and almost unlimited campsite flexibility, but they also sacrifice advantages (like wall space for decor and lounging comfort) that owners of longer models don’t have to.
But no matter what size rig you own—whether it’s a teeny-weeny 16-footer or a Long, Long Trailer—you’ll want to save space and cut down on weight. The Achilles heel of every Airstream is storage, and the “sloping wall problem” that cuts into cabinet space and makes stacking awkward.
Foldable is your friend.
Just Google “collapsible, virtually anything” and you’ll find one: coffee mugs, picnic totes, buckets, trash cans, bowls, funnels — even traffic cones. You can barbecue outdoors on a lightweight “notebook” style grill, and charge your electronic devices with a solar panel that folds to the size of a sheet of paper.
All that sporting gear you tote from campsite to campsite can be found in a small footprint version as well. Foldable bikes (like Bike Friday’s Tikit) eliminate the need for a bike rack and can be transported on the Airstream bed or on the backseat of your tow vehicle.
Sturdy inflatable pontoons and fishing boats can be stowable, too. The Sea Eagle boat weighs forty pounds and requires only a few minutes to inflate, affix the oars, and put in.
Standup paddleboarding — the passtime from Hawaii that continues to build in popularity as the fad moves east — was once an unwieldy sport. Now, the bulky, heavy boards are being replaced by inflatables that deflate for storage and transport.
In your Airstream galley, opt for multiuse, nesting, and/or “squishy” gear made from rubbery, flexible silicone.
Popular items include a multitasking collapsible salad spinner, squashable tea kettle, and pop-up silica colanders. DeMarle (and similar brand) flexipans — made of food-grade silicone and woven glass — don’t require prepping (so no need to pollute your Airstream interior with greasy Pam spray), barely need cleaning (just rinse and wipe), and can be rolled, folded or otherwise crammed into the nooks and crannies of the cupboard. That’s a plus for single-axle models, as they prevent other pots and pans from clanking around during transit.
Kill your darlings.
Eliminate anything that’s not working, including the spendy gadgets, games, tools and decor you once bought for the trailer but find that you never use. They consume precious real estate. (A related sin? Using the Airstream as a final resting place for items you’ve retired from your home.)
Put everything you possibly can into a smart phone or iPad. One tiny device can eliminate a camera, DVD player, tools (like flashlight, compass, and bubble level), games, art supplies, lists, travel guides, maps, novels, cookbooks, musical instruments, and magazines. (Did you know you can travel with every issue of Airstream Life Magazine on your iPad?)
More tips for small space living on the road
- Treat life in the Airstream like living on a boat (and search for sturdy, everyday items at boat shows and in marine supply stores).
- Employ Ben Franklin’s motto—there’s a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. Stow all items when not in use.
- Buy items intended for backpacking.
- Store soft items (like down jackets and towels) in pillow cases on the bed, and find ways to decorate with blankets, hats and clothing.
- Eliminate plastic containers and packaging; keep leftovers and supplies in Ziploc bags, free-form style in cupboards and fridge. Limit jars and boxes—decant and unpack foods before stocking them in your Airstream.
Look for items that do double duty, (like this towel holder-charging station).
- Buy disposable towelettes and scrubbers pre-infused with soap or cleaning fluids to eliminate bottles and spray products.
- Prepare food in advance, and use pans that make square muffins, square cookies, and square casserole servings that pack tightly into rectangular fridge containers. (Round items waste space.)
- Consider modifying your trailer for maximum space organization—especially the closet and underbed storage—but go on a few road trips to assess what your practical needs are before taking power tools to your Airstream.
- Utilize the storage opportunities in your tow vehicle: keep electronics, pet supplies or other items in a back seat or behind-the-passenger-seat organizer.
- Shop online! Find unique items and ideas at Clever Container; buy travel sized food, bath and household items at Minimus; try TravelSmith for lightweight, scrunchable, and wrinkle free clothing; and get ideas from the “Foldable Favorite” posts on Google.