We all carry lots of stuff in our Airstreams, and over time it seems to accumulate. People who want to take care of little repairs and maintenance themselves especially are prone to the problem of stuff accumulating, because there’s always another tool or spare part you might need someday, and could carry around “just in case”.
That’s why I’m always hesitant to recommend that Airstreamers carry specific things. What you “need” in your Airstream depends mostly on your personal inclinations. I know some people who go camping with concrete blocks and wood saws, for example, and I would personally never use up our weight and space allowance with those things. It’s a personal choice.
The two things I tend to emphasize that everyone should add to their Airstream are tools for changing a tire, and a First Aid kit, since neither is supplied by Airstream. After that, it’s up to you.
My favorite non-tool things to carry are those items that are (a) small and lightweight; (b) hard to find on the road; (c) can solve common and annoying problems quickly. I’ve got a whole tackle box full of various spare bits and bobs, most of which I never have used, so yesterday I went through the box in search of the items that are needed the most.
I came up with just ten things, most of which are pictured at left.
- Silicone spray. Not WD-40—that’s not lube! Real silicone spray leaves a lasting film that provides excellent light, non-greasy lubrication on all kinds of things. It’s perfect for squeaky hinges, sticky window and vent seals, locks, window latches, the coupler latch, and other “light duty” items.
It’s not a replacement for grease, however, so don’t use it for lubricating your hitch or hitch ball. Use it to sweeten your life by stopping squeaks and things that stick.
- A spare water heater drain plug. You can buy this for pennies at a hardware store. If you ever have to do an on-the-road winterization, or drain the water heater for a repair, you’ll be glad you have a spare plug handy. They are made of nylon and break easily.
- Soapy water solution in a spray bottle. Perfect for chasing down propane leaks. If you smell gas near the regulator or propane “pigtails”, a few spritzes of this stuff and some careful observation will help you find the leak quickly.
- Teflon “plumber’s” tape. Any type will do for fixing leaky threaded plumbing fittings (including those worn-out campground spigots that won’t stop dripping!) but if you get a type that is also rated for petroleum contact, it can be used to seal threaded gas fittings too. So it solves two kinds of problems: gas leaks, and water leaks. Indispensable.
- Automotive-type blade fuses. Get a multi-pack of all the different amperage ratings (red, blue, yellow) that are found on your Airstream’s fuse panel. Why? Because fuses generally blow late at night when you are camped 20 miles from a hardware store.
- Clearance light bulbs. If you have a trailer with incandescent clearance lights (not LED) you should carry a few spare bulbs. They are usually type 67, and they can be hard to find in stores. Replacing a clearance light bulb is dead easy: one screw to remove the cover, and then just swap out the bulb with a simple twist, but you can only do it if you already have the bulb handy! You might also consider some 1157 or 1141 bulbs if your Airstream uses those in the overhead lights or taillights.
- Vinyl disposable gloves or mechanic’s gloves. Not absolutely necessary but if you’ve ever had to do a dirty repair by the side of the road you’ll appreciate these. Also very useful when you have to deal with nasty sewer hoses, toxic chemicals, or car repairs.
- This one is for owners of Hensley hitches only. This spring-loaded grease fitting is only available from Hensley. If one wears out, you’ll know because the weight transfer bars will fall down to the ground when you unhitch. Order a spare now because the only way to get one is to mail order it.
- A dumb ol’ cotter pin. Because I can’t hitch up without it. Imagine how frustrated you’d be when trying to hitch up to leave camp and the cotter pin is missing.
- (Not pictured) Spare Airstream keys in a safe, accessible place. I hate hearing stories about people being locked out, and it happens all the time.
There’s actually one more little thing that I recommend: a spare propane pigtail or two. They don’t last forever. I seem to replace one every year or so, always during a trip, so I always carry two spares.
Of course, I haven’t listed tools here. You should always have a few basic tools in your Airstream, like a Phillips-head screwdriver, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog entry. Right now I’m just talking about parts and stuff.
I’m sure you can come up with lots of “little things” to carry. The point is that having a few bits like these (and knowing how to use them) can easily mean the difference between a happy day and a day lost trying to fix a problem. All of these things solve problems in seconds or minutes, whereas not having them can leave you with a major inconvenience.
Even if you add in all the other little things I carry, they can easily fit in a gallon-sized resealable bag and all together I doubt there’s more than $30 worth of stuff there. (Except the Hensley grease fitting, it’s moderately expensive.) A few well-chosen items can be cheap insurance against common problems.