Are Airstreams Insulated? (Best R Value Insulation)


Airstreams are a classic and iconic travel trailer with a distinct look. However, that distinct aluminum-look may have you wondering what the interior feels like in more extreme climates.

Keeping yourself warm in the winter and cool in the summer will make for a more enjoyable experience with your Airstream, so let’s figure out how it holds up in these temperatures.

Are airstreams insulated? Yes, airstreams are insulated when manufactured. During the building process, insulation is added on the inner side of the outer aluminum wall. The piping and wiring are also laid in this step and then followed by attaching the inner wall.

The inner wall is made of the same aircraft-grade aluminum and is attached to the chassis, sealing the insulation between the two walls.

While airstreams are insulated during the manufacturing process, most owners say that additional measures will have to be taken to keep the interior comfortable.

To get a better understanding of the real-life situations people have experienced with their airstreams, as well as what you can do to improve your own, read on.

Are Airstreams Insulated?

Airstreams are a classic travel trailer with a design that has stood the test of time since the ’30s.

However, perhaps because of this old school manufacturing process, an Airstream can leave the desire for improvement when it comes to the insulation offered in its stock form.

Airstreams insulation
Airstreams Insulation

During the building process, Airstreams have their exterior aircraft-grade aluminum put into place to form the shell, the wiring and piping are put into place, and then insulation in place throughout the interior of the outer wall before getting sandwiched by the interior wall.

While the Airstream does have this insulation built-in, many owners have spoken about the need for extra insulation or having trouble in more extreme climates.

A common issue during colder weather is that the cold can travel through to the inner aluminum wall.

This means that if you are sleeping and happen to roll and touch the inner wall, you will feel the cold metal.

This same concept applies to the inner metal being warm to the touch during hotter weather.

However, there are several options for insulation and modifications you can make to get that classic Airstream look with more modern living perks.

Best RV Insulation

The best kind of insulation for Airstreams is debated amongst owners, and the best kind for you specifically might be different than someone else’s based on budget, time, and where you will be traveling.

There are many options for what materials you can use for your insulation. Still, the most common ones are spray foam, Reflectix/Fiberglass/some other batt material, and rigid foam panels.

However, before we get into the pros and cons of each of these, there are a few factors to consider to help inform your decision.

1. Spray Foam

Spray foam is a ubiquitous option because it can be spread everywhere and gets into even the tightest to reach places. This adds a sort of seal, as well as additional structure to the vehicle, minimal as it may be.

However, the sprayers that are used to spread the foam around produce heat and can cause warping on the exterior wall of your Airstream, potentially resulting in lumpy looking aluminum.

Additionally, it makes it more challenging to access wiring in the future.

Lastly, when putting your inner wall back on, you may need to grind down some of the foam to make it flat for the aluminum to sit correctly and reattach. It will keep your trailer well-insulated, though.

2. Reflectix/Prodex

While these two materials are often associated, they are, in reality, quite different.

Reflectix is kind of like bubble wrap and is supposed to reflect heat away. However, the outside of your Airstream is already reflective aluminum, so the Reflectix does not do much for insulation.

It is relatively cheap and readily available, but it is not the best option otherwise. Prodex, on the other hand, is not readily available and can be pretty expensive.

It is marketed as having a very high R-value, and it is easy to install, but it can be pricey. Make sure to look into suppliers and alternatives if you decide to go this route.

3. Fiberglass/Rockwool/Batt Material

The nice thing about these materials is that they are relatively cheap, sometimes cheaper even than spray foam, and they are not as permanent as spray foam.

This means that if you need to do repairs or access wiring in the future, you will be able to do so more efficiently. However, this material is similar to the original material that comes in your Airstream.

Any issues you may have had to begin with may happen with this material, too. Some owners have complained about moisture retention building up into mold.

Each one of the materials will be slightly different, though, so do your research, and you may find that this is the perfect fit for you.

4. Rigid Panels

There are many types of rigid panels out there, and to break down each is beyond the scope of this article. However, many people consider rigid panels to be some of the best options.

There are options for water resistance, different thickness panels, and other customization options.

Additionally, many of the options are readily available at your local hardware store and possibly camping store as well.

However, since you are going to have to buy a lot of panels to cover the entirety of your Airstream, the price can be a little high for some people.

If the cost is something you are willing to pay, though, rigid panels offer pretty high r-value as well.

5. Windows

While insulation can be added to your walls, it is not an option for your windows. Luckily their things you can add to your windows to help keep the temperature where you want it in your Airstream.

The most common options are thermal curtains and a reflective coating on the outside of the windows.

This won’t be perfect, but it is a helpful step towards maintaining a comfortable environment inside your Airstream.

Read also: The 8 Travel Trailers with the Most Windows

What to Look for in Airstream Insulation

To start with, it is essential to note that you will need to access the inside of your Airstream’s walls to add insulation.

You can hire people to do this, but if you plan on doing it yourself, know that there will be a lot of work to do, and depending on how old your Airstream is, it could be very messy and nasty work.

While you may not have this issue, some people that have refurbished vintage Airstreams have mentioned having to clean out old rat nesting and droppings from the old original pink insulation.

Again, this may only be an issue with older models, but it is something to keep in mind because regardless of when your model was made, you will have to take the old insulation out.

With that out of the way, let’s cover the rest.

The first factor to consider is R-Value. R-value is the rating given to materials to measure how well or poorly it conducts heat. In other words, it is a rating of how well a material insulates.

The higher the r-value, the better insulated it is. Another factor to consider is the ease of installation. I will cover that more in the individual breakdowns.

You will also need to consider cost, availability, durability, and ease of access to wiring in the future.

Additionally, you will need to consider how well moisture can escape while maintaining heat inside.

This will be important to prevent mold as well as maintain the integrity of your chosen material.

Additional Factors to Consider

This is a slightly less important factor, but it is something to keep in mind.

Regardless of which option you end up choosing, there will be certain parts of your Airstream you will be unable to insulate.

These would be areas where both the outer and inner walls are bolted to the frame. This frame serves as a kind of bridge for the cold or heat to conduct more readily than through the insulation.

With all that in mind, let us get into the specifics of the most common options.

Read also: 5 Practical Ways To Unfreeze Water Lines In RVs (That Actually Work)

Does The Airstream Get Hot In The Summer?

Does Airstreams get hot in the summer? To put it pretty bluntly, yes the Airstream does get hot in the summer (especially if you are traveling around places like Arizona). However, there are things you can do to cool it down.

Luckily, most Airstream models are fitted with air conditioning.

Honestly, you probably knew this but it’s good to have a little reminder now and then. However, you should find a campsite with 30- or 50-amp power and set up camp.

We know this might not be what you wanted to hear since you’re more than likely trying to get away from the oppressive heat. But, AC is a real savior.

Secondly, you should try to park in the shade and stay away from the tarmac.

Asphalt becomes incredibly hot so park in a grassy area will work wonders for getting out of the heat.

Finally, you will want to eat out as much as possible. Turning the stove or oven on is going to bring a whole world of heat-related problems your way. So, avoid this as much as possible.

Are Airstreams Good In Winter or Cold Weather?

Are Airstreams good in winter or cold weather? Yep! Airstreams can be amazing when traveling in cold weather or during the winter months. You might have some difficult traversing icy roads but all Airstream models can handle adverse conditions if you prepare properly.

There are three components to think about when you’re preparing to venture out in the cold with your Airstream. These include:

  • Keeping the heat inside
  • Keeping the cold outside
  • Protecting the pipes

Damages caused by burst pipes in cold weather will cost you thousands of dollars. With that in mind, it is best to do everything you can to stop this from happening. You should:

  1. Remove water filters.
  2. Drain your holding tank.
  3. Drain the water heater.
  4. Open the faucets, including the toilet.
  5. Open the drain lines. You probably have one for hot and one for cold.
  6. Put antifreeze down each drain, including the toilet.
  7. Close the faucets.
  8. Have a look inside the owner’s manual for other ideas to help prepare your Airstream for the cold.

Where Should I Store My Airstream During the Summertime?

The best place to store your Airstream during the summer months is somewhere with a roof over it.

Not only will it protect it from the extreme heat and dazzling sun, but it will also keep it safe if there is a harsh turn of weather events.

Usually, this will be somewhere other than your house. But people are cautious of storage facilities (and to tell you the truth, for a good reason too).

If you can find one with A* star security, then this is your best choice.

One thing you definitely shouldn’t do is cover your Airstream with a tarp. Why? Because it traps in moisture (causing damp), creates rub marks, and promotes deterioration.

However, if you do feel like keeping it on your driveway, then buy a cover made for the job.

These tend to be coated with UV protection, they’re breathable, and they are waterproof. Just remember that they are pretty expensive!

Read also: How to Choose the Perfect Cover for Your Travel Trailer [Read This First]

What Is The Best R-Value Insulation For an Airstream?

Researching the best R-value insulation for an Airstream can quickly become overwhelming. There aren’t too many options, but there are lots of opinions about it!

Our advice is to go with Prodex. It offers the best R-value per inch of thickness. Not to mention that it is far cheaper than opting for spray foam or something similar.

However, if you don’t want to use this closed-cell polyethylene foam, then you could try wool batting. This offers an almost identical R-value!

Bear in mind that this option is pretty hard to install when compared with Prodex.

Other ideas include using fiberglass or cotton. If you do go with this option, we suggest you add a Prodex layer underneath the fiberglass for extra insulation.

How Much Does It Cost to Refurbish an Airstream?

Airstreams are beautiful. There’s no argument to be had; but the question is, should you refurbish a vintage or bite the bullet and buy a brand new one?

Let’s take a look.

How much does it cost to refurbish an airstream? Actually, refurbishing an airstream can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on your budget. Buying a new Airstream can cost you anything from $47,900 for Sport to $164,400 for the high-end models. 

On the flip side, you have the option to buy a shell of a vintage model and refurbish it. We’ve found that a shell in good condition can be over $10,000.

As you can tell, this is a lot cheaper than the new ones.

Refurbishing isn’t just about aesthetics. You also need to consider the quality of the shell.

Otherwise, your trailer may well fall apart, and we really don’t want that to happen to you (hint: it’s not fun!).

On top of this, you will have to ensure you save for additional costs that spring up along your refurb journey.

Vintage models may have been stagnant for a while, causing pieces to disintegrate when touched. 

What Is The Most Popular Airstream Model?

What is the most popular airstream? The most popular Airstream model is the Flying Cloud. It is incredibly versatile and suited to families of all shapes and sizes. As the name suggests, it is light, airy, and always ready for adventure.

Airstream Flying Cloud
Airstream Flying Cloud

When you decide to purchase the Flying Cloud model, you get to pick from 14 different floor plans.

Yep, it’s that versatile. You can customize everything from the bed style to the length to the number of sofas and bathroom composition.

Airstream Flying Cloud Interior
Airstream Flying Cloud Interior

Whatever you want, Airstream lets you have with their Flying Cloud.

Let’s take a look at some of the features, shall we?

The Rear Hatch

Airstream typically saves their rear hatches for the special edition travel trailers.

But they are surprising (and delighting) customers with this amazing capability on the Flying Cloud.

Modern Is Key

The kitchen and bathroom are fitted with sleek, modern appliances that are bound to make you say “wow!”.

There’s nothing like cooking on a four-burner gas stove and washing up in a huge, aluminum sink, is there?

Final Thoughts

Airstreams are insulated during production. But, many Airstream owners opt to go the extra mile, adding more insulation.

This is especially true of those that use their Airstream all year long or in colder climates.


Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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