Tips & Guides

The Complete Airstream Towing Guide

Airstream-Towing-Guide-Desktop-Feature

Airstream life is all about outdoor adventure. And the first rule of outdoor adventure is: Be Safe. The second rule is to understand common acronyms in the RV world.

Whether dry camping in deep wilderness or enjoying full hook-ups at a campground, safety is key to a great experience. 

This is especially true when towing and loading. Having the right tow vehicle (knowing the load limits of your touring coach) is critical to a safe and comfortable driving experience.

Airstream-Travel-Trailer-Hitching-to-Tow-Vehicle

So, how do you choose wisely when it comes to selecting a vehicle to tow your Airstream? While numbers like Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and Hitch Weight play a vital role in determining a tow vehicle’s suitability, those stats simply narrow your choices. To make your best selection from those options, you need to ask yourself some important questions. 

Here are some questions to ask when selecting the best tow car/van/truck for your Airstream.

How many people typically come along? 

This will help determine both how many seats you need in your tow vehicle and how much storage space you require, especially for longer outings. A family of five, for example, will be much happier in a passenger van than a pick-up truck, especially if there’s a dog in the mix. A solo adventurer or couple with a lighter Airstream might be comfortable in a tow-capable hybrid.

 

What do we usually take with us?

How much room do you need for items like outdoor sports equipment (skis, bikes, climbing gear, SUPs)? What about kid stuff (the pack-and-play, toys and trikes)? Do you routinely bring along a generator, gas grill, or firewood? Consider both the volume and nature of your kit when determining if your tow vehicle has the capacity to haul your gear and personal belongings.

 

Where do we spend our outdoor time?

Be sure that your tow vehicle can handle your preferred environments. If you love to answer the mountains’ call, a tow package is important. You may even want to consider diesel vehicles, which often do well pulling heavy loads up steep climbs. If boondocking is your thing, four-wheel drive might come in handy. A standard SUV or hybrid that can easily navigate urban streets could be perfect for Airstreamers with lighter models who frequently visit cities, towns, and tourist attractions.

 

What other purposes will this vehicle serve?  

Rarely is a car, truck, or van dedicated solely to towing. Think carefully about additional roles you might need it to play so you don’t ask too much of one vehicle. For example, will your tow vehicle double as your everyday drive? If so, you need to consider the demands of both tasks and look for something that comes closest to fulfilling both purposes. If you have a long commute, you may not be satisfied with the gas mileage you get from a truck capable of comfortably towing your Airstream. Do you want to carry kids or business associates in a van or SUV that’s habitually full of wood chips or smells like gasoline because you haul a generator in the way-back a couple of weekends a month?

Variations of these questions are equally important to address when considering a motorized unit. Developing a clear vision of your outdoor uses helps ensure that your Airstream Atlas or Interstate touring coach will facilitate those adventures.

For more insight on all these questions and issues, talk to your nearest Airstream dealer. They have almost certainly tapped their experience and knowledge to help a customer with similar needs find the right tow vehicle.

Airstream-Travel-Trailer-Towed-Experience

 

Back to the Numbers and Acronyms

Once you’ve settled on the best type of vehicle – hybrid, van, truck – for your needs, it is essential to understand and heed the following weight considerations and limits. As you assess your choices, remember that excess towing capacity is better than barely enough. Running your car, van or truck near its towing redline will take a toll on the vehicle and create white-knuckle moments on mountain roads and desolate desert highways. Your Airstream dealer and vehicle dealership can address all the nuances of these numbers for the Airstream units and tow vehicles you are considering. The car guys can fill-you-in on how various configurations – tow package, diesel engine, four wheel drive – will impact both your towing capacity and overall driving experience.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) - The combined weight of your Airstream itself (its “dry weight”), plus all on-board liquids, propane, passengers, and cargo. This is the weight you would see if you weighed your fully-loaded Airstream on a truck scale.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) - This is the maximum allowable loaded weight of your tow vehicle or Airstream, as set by the manufacturer. GVWR includes the weight of passengers, cargo, and the vehicle itself. Exceeding the GVWR poses significant risks as it makes the vehicle difficult to control, slow, or stop. 

Tow Rating - The vehicle manufacturer’s rating of the maximum weight that can safely be towed by a vehicle. The weight of your RV plus the weight of your vehicle (plus any cargo and liquids in the tanks) should not exceed this rating. 

Net Carrying Capacity (NCC) - The total weight that your Airstream can carry, including cargo and passengers. NCC does not include the weight of the unit itself. Never overload your Airstream. That excess weight can create a dangerous amount of inertia, making it difficult to stop. And, over time, those added pounds will take a toll on your tow vehicle’s brakes, suspension, frame, and engine.

Unit Base Weight (UBW) - Sometimes called “dry weight,” this is how much your Airstream weighed when it rolled off the assembly line – before you started putting stuff in it. 

Hitch Weight (HW) - Also known as Tongue Weight, this is the amount of weight a trailer's tongue places on the tow vehicle’s hitch. Because the hitch is attached to the tow vehicle’s frame, exceeding your tow vehicle’s tongue weight rating will push down the rear of the tow vehicle, causing not enough weight to be on the front axle. The result is difficulty steering, possible loss of traction, and trouble stopping. Hitch Weight can be affected by the distribution of weight inside your Airstream. Stow as much heavy gear as possible towards the rear of your unit. If you are bumping against your tow vehicle’s Hitch Weight limit, consider a distribution hitch, which can help level out your Airstream and tow vehicle.

Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (OCCC) - This standard is applied to motorized RVs. The Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity is the maximum allowable weight for everything onboard the unit – people, pets, food, tools, full water, and LP tanks plus personal belongings.

Airstream-Travel-Trailer-Towing-Hitched

Use the following table as a guide when exploring different Airstream Travel Trailers and potential compatibility with different tow vehicles. 

 

Airstream Travel Trailers

Airstream Travel Trailer GVWR NCC UBW Hitch Weight
Classic 30RB 10,000 2,212 7,788 866
Classic 30RB Twin 10,000 2,212 7,788 866
Classic 33FB 10,000 1,739 8,261 1,175
Classic 33FB Twin 10,000 1,739 8,261 1,175
Globetrotter® 23FB 6,300 1,003 5,297 591
Globetrotter® 23FB Twin 6,300 1,003 5,297 591
Globetrotter® 25FB 7,300 1,226 6,074 882
Globetrotter® 25FB Twin 7,300 1,226 6,074 882
Globetrotter® 27FB 7,600 1,342 6,258 871
Globetrotter® 27FB Twin 7,600 1,342 6,258 871
Globetrotter® 30RB 8,800 1,810 6,990 1,045
Globetrotter® 30RB Twin 8,800 1,810 6,990 1,045
International Serenity 23CB 6,000 1,239 4,761 664
International Serenity 23FB 6,000 1,194 4,806 439
International Serenity 25FB 7,300 1,797 5,503 837
International Serenity 25RB 7,300 1,700 5,600 835
International Serenity 25RB Twin 7,300 1,700 5,600 835
International Serenity 27FB 7,600 1,732 5,868 791
International Serenity 27FB Twin 7,600 1,732 5,868 791
International Serenity 28RB 7,600 1,621 5,979 897
International Serenity 28RB Twin 7,600 1,621 5,979 897
International Serenity 30RB 8,800 2,283 6,517 898
International Serenity 30RB Twin 8,800 2,283 6,517 898
Flying Cloud 23CB 6,000 1,239 4,761 654
Flying Cloud 23CB Bunk 6,000 1,179 4,821 654
Flying Cloud 23FB 6,000 1,194 4,806 467
Flying Cloud 25FB 7,300 1,797 5,503 837
Flying Cloud 25FB Twin 7,300 1,797 5,503 837
Flying Cloud 25RB 7,300 1,700 5,600 835
Flying Cloud 25RB Twin 7,300 1,700 5,600 835
Flying Cloud 26RB 7,600 1,627 5,973 903
Flying Cloud 26RB Twin 7,600 1,627 5,973 903
Flying Cloud 27FB 7,600 1,732 5,868 5,868
Flying Cloud 27FB Twin 7,600 1,732 5,868 5,868
Flying Cloud 28RB 7,600 1,621 5,979 899
Flying Cloud 28RB Twin 7,600 1,621 5,979 899
Flying Cloud 30FB Bunk 8,800 2,243 6,557 903
Flying Cloud 30RB 8,800 2,283 6,517 899
Flying Cloud 30RB Twin 8,800 2,283 6,517 899
Caravel 16RB 4,300 800 3,500 490
Caravel 19CB 5,000 1,000 4,000 550
Caravel 20FB 5,000 700 4,300 565
Caravel 22FB 5,000 800 4,200 525
Bambi 16RB 3,500 500 3,000 430
Bambi 19CB 5,000 1,350 3,650 525
Bambi 20FB 5,000 1,000 4,000 540
Bambi 22FB 5,000 1,100 3,900 500
Nest by Airstream™ 16FB 4,000 700 3,300 375
Nest by Airstream™ 16U 4,000 700 3,300 375
Basecamp® 3,500 915 2,585 410
Basecamp® X 3,500 865 2,635 435

Airstream-Towing-Experience-Tips-and-Terms

 

Touring Coaches

Touring Coach Model GVWR OCCC UBW Hitch Weight
Atlas 11,030 lbs/15,250 lbs 985 lbs 10,045 lbs Up to 5,000 lbs
Interstate Lounge EXT 11,030 lbs/15,250 lbs 1,730 lbs 2WD/1,455 4WD
(deduct 90 lbs for air suspension
and 240 lbs leveling jacks)
9,300 lbs 2WD/9,575 4WD
(add 90 lbs for air suspension
and 240 lbs leveling jacks)
Up to 5,000 lbs
Interstate Grand Tour EXT 11,030 lbs/15,250 lbs 1,980 lbs 2WD/1,705 4WD
(deduct 90 lbs for air suspension
and 240 lbs leveling jacks)
9,050 lbs 2WD/9,325 lbs
4WD (add 90 lbs for Air
Susp/275 lbs for Jacks)
Up to 5,000 lbs
Tommy Bahama Interstate 11,030 lbs/15,250 lbs 1,980 lbs 2WD/1,705 lbs 4WD
(deduct 90 lbs for air suspension/
deduct 240 lbs for leveling jacks)
9,050 lbs. 2WD/9,325 lbs. 4WD (add 90 lbs.
for air suspension/add 240 lbs for leveling jacks)
Up to 5,000 lbs
Interstate Nineteen 9,050 lbs/ 13,930 lbs 1,663 lbs 7,426 lbs Up to 5,000 lbs