Airstream design hasn’t changed much in the 80 years since the company was founded. That’s part of the reason the iconic camping trailers have such a cult following. The simple design and aluminum construction is as much about retro-modern aesthetics as it is functional trailering.
Now Airstream is attempting to put its stamp on a new kind of trailer: its latest model, the Nest ($45,900 and up), is made out of fiberglass. The 16-foot two-person pod looks nothing like the Airstreams of yore. For starters, its two-tone white and gray exterior is sleek in a more subdued way, a noticeable departure from the aluminum panels that make traditional Airstreams look like shiny silver train cars. It’s also slightly boxier.
The move to fiberglass isn’t an entirely new thing for Airstream. Founder Wally Byam played around with fiberglass shells as early as the 1950s, though they never made it to market. In 2016, Airstream acquired the young Bend, Oregon, company Nest, which had just started prototyping a small fiberglass trailer. In a statement at the time, Airstream founder Bob Wheeler said the company had been looking to make a fiberglass trailer for some time, was impressed by the Nest’s design, and wanted to “bring this design to market.”
According to an Airstream spokesperson, the appeal of fiberglass is as much about appearance as it is about performance. Its lighter weight means that the Nest can be towed by a large SUV—no pickup truck required. But fiberglass is also an opportunity to take Airstream’s design stamp and cult following into a new market. “We saw an opportunity to push the fiberglass trailer industry into good design,” the spokesperson said. In other words: Airstream wants to make fiberglass trailers chic.
To that end, it turned to auto designer Bryan Thompson, who was the creative mind behind Airstream’s other small modern-looking (but still aluminum) trailer, the Basecamp ($35,900 and up). In what Airstream calls “highly-aesthetic, automotive-like design and styling,” the Nest features a large front windshield (supposedly inspired by ski goggles) and a row of three square side windows on each size. Shape-wise, the Nest is vaguely reminiscent of an old-school VW bus: square-ish, with rounded corners and a gently sloping front.
Inside, the Nest looks similar to Airstream’s classic smaller model, the Sport ($45,900 and up). It has a queen-size bed, a counter with sink and stove, a full bathroom and shower, and a closet. Clearly designed for the modern traveler, it also has built-in outlets and USB ports throughout.
As more and more young people opt to buy trailers and vans instead of houses, it makes sense that Airstream would choose this moment to revisit fibgerglass. Though more expensive than aluminum, it’s also more durable, less susceptible to denting, and cheaper to maintain—a gel coating means that scratches buff out easily. In 30 years, when today’s Nests become collectors items, they’ll still (hopefully) look as good as new.