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Renovating an Airstream while traveling full time: Part 2

Renovating an Airstream while traveling full time: Part 2

Renovating an Airstream while traveling full time – Part 2

In Part 1 of our Renovation on the Road series, we showed you why we wanted to renovate our Airstream, and our new kitchen galley and standing workspace. In this part we’ll go over our new dinette and some of the benefits of the renovation. It’s another long one, but it’s mostly pictures.

Please check out our Youtube video for more details and some footage of the renovation!

Wrap Around Dinette

We’ve seen a lot of other Airstreams with a dinette up front. Instead of it having 2 benches on opposite sides of the table, there are 3, so the bench is continuous and forms a “U” shape. This makes a lot more room for company when we have it, or just lounging on a regular day. This also gives us a bit more room at the front of the trailer since the couch used to have a lot of dead space behind it. Now we can better enjoy the panoramic windows. Plus, the table drops down and forms a bed if we have guests visiting.

Our old dinette was super well built by Airstream to begin with. It was also very light. To throw it away would be a waste, so we reused it up front after some heavy modification.

We cut off the back-rests of the dinette, since the wall would now act as a back rest. The backs were then used to span the distance between the 2 benches to create a third bench against the front wall. The benches against the side walls of the trailer had enough support to stand on their own, so they just needed to be screwed to the floor.

The new bench against the front wall needed supports and bracing added to be able to sit on it. This was done by using 1”x1” aluminum supports riveted to the Airstream walls with L-brackets. We built a wooden box to protect the electrical components stored under the dinette which also served as an additional bench support. 2”x2” studs were placed vertically along the curve of the Airstream to support the bench as well.

This whole part of the construction was very unplanned and involved a lot of creative adaptation to make things work. It was a semi-stressful but fun part of the project that let us explore a lot of different bracing options

Once the benches were built, we cut out bench tops out of 11/32” fir plywood. To do this we made templates out of cardboard to match the curves of the Airstream. These bench tops can be lifted up to access storage under the dinette.

Building anything like this in an Airstream is very tricky due to all the curves and angles. It’s a lot like building something in a crooked house. You have to adapt to the surroundings as you build.

We painted the benches with a minty white Valspar furniture paint. It seems to hold up pretty well, but we already have a few chips. It’s something we’re keeping with us to do touch ups in the future.

The table top is made from the same 3/4” maple we used for the galley top. It’s been white washed and sealed in the same way as well. The dinette top is mounted to a Springfield 3-Stage Pedestal. This allows it to be easily lowered to match the height of the benches. Then the pillows can be reconfigured to create a sleeping area for guests, or a place to lounge around for movie night.

The last major part of the dinette is the cushions we had made. We drove from Oregon all the way to Las Vegas and straight to Galaxy Foam. We took measurements on the spot and had foam cut that morning.

Then we took the foam pieces directly over to Oscar’s Upholstery and had covers made for them. He also added dacron wrapping to the foam. All of this was very rushed and barely planned, but it still turned out great!

During the renovation we also removed our TV, which we rarely used, and replaced it with a plant shelf. This is way nicer to look at than the black box that almost never turned on.

Benefits of Renovating

Now that we’re done with this renovation we’re super stoked that we actually did it! We’ve found even more benefits than we expected! Here are just a few:

1. More storage space overall. The under-bench storage is great for larger items and stuff we don’t need to access as often. The cabinet storage has given us a better spot to keep our dishes, pots and pans, tin foil and other wraps, Cooper stuff, extra hygienic stuff, water bottles, and we even have a semi-junk drawer.
2. Our shoes have a storage space right when you enter the Airstream, so they no longer need to take up space by the entry mat
3. The trash can has a dedicated space so it takes up less of the usable floor space.
4. Cooper’s food container is no longer taking up floor space.
5. The galley top gives us way more room for food prep and a place to serve dinner. It also doubles as a stand up desk.
6. We have more room for guests to sit around our dinette.
7. The cushions are way more comfortable, making it easier to sit for longer periods and work.
8. It’s easier to access the internet gear and battery monitor than it was in the past. We often need to manually reboot the router after a move if it’s not working properly.
9. We have more power outlets that are easier to access than we did in the past.
10. The open space in the center of the trailer is great for yoga, stretching, or foam rolling after a bike ride.

All of these benefits make our daily life so much better in the Airstream! We’re so grateful we had a friends’ driveway and access to their tools for a few weeks!

Have any questions about our renovation?? 

Below are more pics and links to some of the gear we used for the renovation!

Here are a few of the things we used for this build:

Recessed Power Strip with USB –

Magnadyne USB and 12v Outlet –

Trond 4 Outlet USB Power Strip –

3M Sanding Blocks –

Bosch Router –

Bosch Sander –

Milwaukee Impact Driver –

Milwaukee 6.5″ Circular Saw –

Diablo 6.5″ Finishing Blade –

Varathane White Wash Stain –

Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane –

Purdy Brush –

3M Blue Tape –

Small Paint Rollers –

Aluminum 1″x1″ Tubing –

RV Door Latches –

Nitrile Gloves –

IKEA cabinets –

Springfield 3 Stage Pedestal –

Rivets –

Cheap Rivet Gun –

Galaxy Foam –

Oscar’s Upholstery –

Some of these links are affiliate links, following one and purchasing an item helps support us and does not affect the cost of the item. Thank you for making a purchase via these links if you do.

Renovating an Airstream while traveling full time: Part 1

Renovating an Airstream while traveling full time: Part 1

Renovating an Airstream while traveling full time – Part 1

Renovating an Airstream on the road while travelling full time is a major challenge. We learned that recently. We just finished some serious changes to the layout of our Airstream and we wanted to share them with you!

This was originally meant to be one post, but we got a little out of hand with words and photos! Don’t worry, it’s a long post, but it’s mostly pictures! So, this is the first part which covers why we made these changes, and how we built our new galley kitchen. When you’re ready, you can find post 2 here.

Please check out our Youtube video for more footage and discussion of this renovation!

Before we first hit the road back in August of 2018, we spent over 6 weeks working on our Airstream. We added solar, put in a new floor, redid the kitchen, resealed the roof, added antennas for better cell reception, repainted the entire interior…even the cushions, and more. During this time we had all the “furniture” out of our Airstream and were impressed by all the room we had.

Reasons for Renovating

We realized that the current layout of the couch and dinette was not ideal for a few reasons:
1. The dinette was positioned so it cut into the “hallway” between the front and back of the trailer, making it feel cramped when you walked by.
2. The couch was located up in the front of the trailer and faced into the trailer. So you could not enjoy the panoramic windows when sitting on it. There was also empty space behind it, which increased the amount of floor space it took up.
3. If a lot of people were visiting and some were sitting at the dinette, their backs would be facing people who were sitting at the couch. This ended up in some awkward neck craning, or just lame conversations with the back of peoples heads.
4. The dinette was not very comfortable. Think floral foam, but not as pleasing to squeeze.
5. The couch was not very comfortable, so we did not sit at it often.
6. Since we did not sit at the couch very often, it tended to collect a lot of clutter.
7. The layout of the dinette and couch together created an empty space that wasn’t very useful to hang out in and also collected clutter.

We envisioned a different layout that would solve a lot of these problems, but we were up against a hard launch date. We had to get to Idaho to meet some friends by early September. Starting an additional renovation project that involved furniture building would certainly make us late for that!

In addition to pushing back our launch date, we were also very fearful of creating something that had way less space than the original design and was much weaker. Each time you move the trailer, you are subjecting everything inside to a small earthquake, so things need to be built well to not fall apart.

Plus, we weren’t sure how much we’d like this lifestyle, and we already committed a lot of time and money into it.

So we hit the road on schedule and endured our Airstream’s “sleep six” layout for over a year. Truth be told, we were excited to be on the road and enjoying things outside of the trailer. We were making the best of what we had and not letting it hold us back in any way. 

A Place to Renovate

We still knew that a better layout was possible, and we took notes from fellow Airstreamers over the last year. We saved posts from Instagram and Pinterest of designs that inspired us. All of these were to be used someday when we could make this change for ourselves.

One struggle of living on the road is not having a lot of space to work on your trailer. You can do small things like fix a water pump or add a plant shelf, but doing something that requires ripping furniture out of the trailer for days or weeks is frowned upon at RV parks and could be considered littering on BLM land. So, even though we had a plan to renovate the trailer, we did not have a place to do so.

That is until we visited our friends, Keeley and Vegard, in Oregon. They were great friends from Ithaca who moved out West recently. One of their prerequisites to buying a house was it needed a driveway that could fit our Airstream, so we could visit! Thanks for thinking of us friends!

Vegard is also a creative carpenter and handyman who has an enviable array of tools, including a planer. If we were to do our renovation, this would have to be the place!

Constraints and Fears

Again, we had a limited amount of time to renovate our Airstream. We had dentist appointments in Nevada in early November and had friends visiting for Jay’s birthday in Sedona. We had to be there in time to meet them.

We were also still fearful about not having enough space to fit all of our stuff after we made these changes.

With all this in mind, we set off to IKEA in Portland to look at some cabinets and see if we could use them to simplify our build out…and also to get some Swedish meatballs! We left IKEA overwhelmed by Hygge and in possession of some cabinets, or “Sektion” in their terms. Guess we were doing this renovation after all!

Enjoy this random picture of the Oregon coast.

Over the next 20 days, we ripped the Airstream apart, cut up our dinette, gave away our couch, took a lot of trips to the hardware store, sanded, painted, screwed, wired and rewired, learned too much about foam, hired an upholsterer, and ended up with a layout that we absolutely love.

Here is a breakdown of what we did to accomplish this for our kitchen galley! Check out Post #2 to see our new dinette and the benefits of our new set up!

Our Kitchen Galley

The dinette used to live in the center of the trailer…awkwardly taking up space and not being very helpful. We wanted more space to prepare food and an area that could be used for a standing work space. Opening up the center of the trailer would be a bonus too. So we built a galley style combo of cabinets and countertop to meet our needs.

We used a combination of 2 IKEA cabinets and some 3/4” maple plywood to create a street-side galley parallel to our existing kitchen. The IKEA cabinets made the build so much faster and simpler than building cabinets ourselves.

The wheel well and wiring conduit provided some restrictions when it came to positioning the cabinets, but we actually used this to our advantage.

The wheel well juts out beyond our fridge wall, so we had to place the first cabinet away from the wall. This enabled us to extend the counter top to the wall and create a storage space under it for our garbage can, dog food, water, and whatever else we’d like to stick here. It’s also where we moved our internet gear, battery monitor and some electrical outlets. The wheel well itself was boxed in with plywood to hide its unsightliness.

The wiring conduit runs behind the cabinets and prevents them from being mounted right next to the Airstream’s outer wall. This is fine since it’s a curved wall and would be difficult to mount anything too. By positioning the cabinets away from the wall, we created a small storage space for flexible items like backpacks and yoga mats. When living in an Airstream, take any extra storage space you can get!

The cabinets themselves were mounted on 2”x2”s to raise them off the floor without making them so tall they would block the window.

We used RV latches on the cabinet doors in the way you’d typically see it done in any RV. For those not familiar with RV latches, they keep your doors from flying open when driving down the road.

For the drawers, we needed to make something a little different. We built a T-shaped frame behind them and centered the latch on the back of the drawer. If we didn’t do this there really wasn’t anything positive to mount them to on the front of the drawers. It hides the latch nicely and works better than if they were mounted up front.

The counter top is made of A-grade 3/4” maple plywood that’s been sanded and slightly routed. The color, or lack of, is from Varathane White Wash wood stain. For durability, we used Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane to top it off. This gives us a durable and easy to clean surface that brightens up the trailer.

This new space really makes the trailer feel larger, the large counter gives us plenty of room when making food. It’s a great spot for plants, and can easily hold other things that used to clutter up our dinette and couch. Most importantly, it provides 5x the area we used to have to prep and serve food.

That about covers why we made these changes and our new galley kitchen. For the rest of the renovation and to see the benefits, check out Part 2 of Renovating an Airstream on the road series!

Here are a few of the things we used for this build:

Recessed Power Strip with USB –

Magnadyne USB and 12v Outlet –

Trond 4 Outlet USB Power Strip –

3M Sanding Blocks –

Bosch Router –

Bosch Sander –

Milwaukee Impact Driver –

Milwaukee 6.5″ Circular Saw –

Diablo 6.5″ Finishing Blade –

Varathane White Wash Stain –

Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane –

Purdy Brush –

3M Blue Tape –

Small Paint Rollers –

Aluminum 1″x1″ Tubing –

RV Door Latches –

Nitrile Gloves –

IKEA cabinets –

Springfield 3 Stage Pedestal –

Rivets –

Cheap Rivet Gun –

Galaxy Foam –

Oscar’s Upholstery –

Some of these links are affiliate links, following one and purchasing an item helps support us and does not affect the cost of the item. Thank you for making a purchase via these links if you do.

Installing an Airhead composting toilet in our Airstream

Installing an Airhead composting toilet in our Airstream

Is a composting toilet really better for full time RV living?

The idea of not having a toilet magically sweep your poo poo and pee pee away into the mysterious void that is the public sewer system was a foreign concept to us for a long time. Years ago, we’d look at potential cabins to stay in on Airbnb. Look at those windows! It’s close to the bike trails! Oooh, look, a hot tub!! Wait, it’s got a COMPOSTING TOILET!!!??? Yuck! I don’t want to poop into a 5 gallon bucket and smell it all weekend. No thanks! Next listing!

When we started full-timing, we heard of people getting rid of their RV toilet in exchange for a composting toilet. What is wrong with these folks? How does letting your poop sit around in a bucket make RV life better? How do they live with all those odors wafting around their rig? These are the kind of questions we had. We didn’t dig too deep into them, because we were certain a composting toilet was NOT for us!

It wasn’t until we were on the road a while that we ran into a couple with a composting toilet. And they wouldn’t stop talking about it! Like it was the best upgrade they made to their RV, something that had truly changed their lives. We were all for the conversation of course, we love bathroom humor.

We continued to meet other couples who absolutely loved their composting toilets, as we made friends on the road. There had to be something more to this. We were truly intriged. We would pepper them with questions on how these things worked and listen intently to their answers. We would go into their bathrooms at stare at the odd shaped plastic commodes…at a distance of course. We would wonder what it would be like to not have a smell in our bathroom, or not have to dump that blackwater every week or so.

Fast forward a few months, our traditional RV toilet needed a new seal, we were looking at ways to boondock longer, and we would have access to some more tools since we’d be moochdocking at our friends’ house in Victor, Idaho. This would be the perfect time to swap out our toilet!

How these composting toilets work:
Modern composting toilets are not just a bucket you defecate into and sprinkle sawdust to cover it. They have been designed to separate the liquids and the solids. It’s not until #1 and #2 gets combined that things get really nasty. Urine is directed to the front of the unit and is collected in a detachable bottle that gets emptied every few days. The brown stuff gets deposited through a trap door in the bowl into a chamber filled with coco coir. You rotate a handle on the side of the unit and chops the logs and mixes them with the coco coir. There is a fan that draws air from the solids to help dry out and break down the mixture. The solids tank is supposed to last for a month with 2 people using it full time. You can read more about it here on Airhead’s site.

What we hope to gain:
It would be nice to save on some water when boondocking. Our toilet was supposed to use a pint of water when flushing, but that is an ideal scenario “quick flush”. We all know it literally “doesn’t go down like this”.

No black tank smell. Even though we use Bio Paks, we can still develop a wretched stank in our bathroom, especially in hot weather. We’ve been told the smell isn’t bad with a composting toilet, nothing more that a hint of “rich fertile soil”…time will tell.

We only need to deal with the grey water when we head to the dump station, no need to blast out poop residue on our hose after dumping.

Stay in one spot for a longer time. Maybe even indefinitely if we purchase some land in the future. Dealing with the disposal of greywater far from a dump station is way easier than getting rid of black water. You don’t have to run things through a mastication pump in order to chew up the nastiness. Our Airstream was parked in our driveway for 3 years before we hit the road. We would sleep in it when we’d Airbnb our house, or have friends stay in it, BUT we wouldn’t dare use the toilet! If we had a composting toilet installed at this point, we could have been utilizing the trailer even more.

Why Airhead?
There are a number of popular composting toilet makers out there. We considered Nature’s Head and C-head before we settled on Airhead. All of these manufacturers seem to get great reviews, have good customer support, and use “head” in their product name. They all have similar features, but a few things stood out for us with Airhead.

First off, the Airhead uses a regular shaped toilet seat. Our rumps are familiar with the curve of such a seat, and prefer it when we make our “deposits”. This seat also has rubber gaskets to keep any odors that might creep up down below.

You can empty the liquids jugs without opening the solids container. This is something that needs to happen every few days, so not having to stare into the brown depths each time is a welcome relief.

The fit and finish of Airhead is great. The plastic is nicely molded and the hardware is top notch. The build quality should hold up to years of abuse on the road. It even looks a lot like a regular toilet, if that counts for anything.

Installing the composting toilet in an Airstream:
Installing one of these is pretty simple on the surface. You take out the old toilet. Plug the hole. Add some new brackets to hold it down. Run wire for a fan. Vent that fan. Nice and simple.

This becomes much more difficult when you try to install a composting toilet in an Airstream you’re currently living in. There were no easily accessible wires to tap into, so we had to fish some wires in from another location.

It was not possible to run a vent downward due to the black tank, and we’d have to remove some walls in order to run the fan vent to the roof (unless we just wanted a hose dangling from the ceiling in the bathroom). We ended up running the fan into the black tank vent, which was really close by. This required building a custom fan housing, since the one included was bulky and would have to be reduced to 1.5″ in a very short distance.

The last bit of fabrication involved building a little platform so the composting toilet could sit flush above the black tank toilet mount. Check out our video to see some more details on the installation.

While we had the toilet out and bathroom apart, Jess updated the wallpaper to something more modern. This really made the tiny space feel like it fit in with the rest of our Airstream.

Once the composting toilet was installed and the fan was running, we soaked the coco coir in water for a few hours. The coco brick swelled up after absorbing it and then we broke it up and added it to the solids tank. This gave us some exciting stuff to churn around.

See the pics below for install shots:

Why not remove the black tank completely?? Not having one could save some weight, or make room for another fresh or grey tank, we could eliminate the toilet pedestal to make the bathroom feel roomier, and not having the black tank sewer lines would give us a bunch more ground clearance. All great things! So we definitely considered this, and still might do it in the future.

We were a little concerned that we might not like the composting toilet, so having the black tank in place would let us retreat to a normal RV toilet. Also, not having a black tank might hurt resale if we ever decide to sell the Airstream in the future. And removing it would require us to rebuild the floor in the bathroom, not an easy task considering we don’t have many power tools on the road.

We traded our old toilet to someone on Facebook Marketplace for some IPAs, so we’re committed to using the Airhead toilet from here on out. We’re excited to see if it improves our lives in the way it did to our boondocking friends. Stay tuned for an update on this thing in the next month or two!

What kind of questions do you have regarding our decision to go with a composting toilet?

Here are some of the things we used for our install!

This is to plug up the black tank –

rubber reducer –

PVC fitting to join to existing vent –

PVC to adapt hose to reducer –

PVC cement and primer –

Wallpaper –

Ryobi Impact Driver and Drill –

Ryobi Jigsaw –

These links are affiliate links, following one and purchasing an item helps support us and does not affect the cost of the item. Thank you for making a purchase via these links if you do.

Airstream upgrades for full time living

Airstream upgrades for full time living

Airstream Upgrades for Full Time Living

A few years ago, we purchased Jowanda, our 2005 25ft Airstream from a guy who lived in Florida. He and his wife wanted to purchase a newer Airstream and so put this one up for sale on Airstream Classifieds. We’re happy to answer any questions when it comes to how to find a used Airstream!

Anyhoo- Jowanda was in GREAT shape. She was only 10 years old when we purchased her, and was very well taken care of. So why make upgrades?

We wanted to make upgrades to our Airstream for 3 reasons

1) To make it easier to boondock (boondocking just means that we’re camping off the grid without any hookups)
2) To make it more suitable for full-time living
3) To make it feel like home

Here’s our VERY FIRST YouTube video where we talk about the upgrades and include some pretty fun footage back from our reno.

List of upgrades we talk about in the video:

1. Solar power installed
2. Painted all cabinets/doors/walls white that were faux wood
3. Painted couch + dinette upholstery
4. Removed fabric and painted dinette frame
4. New floating floors throughout
5. New countertop, sink, faucet and magnetic knife holder (all from Ikea)
6. Removed Microwave for more storage

List of upgrades we totally forgot to talk about in the video:

1. Antenna
2. Inverter Installed
3. More USB plugs so we could charge more things while boondocking and not have to rely on our inverter so much
4. Removed the stock divider that separates the bedroom from the rest of the Airstream and added tension rod w/ curtain instead

List of upgrades we may do in the future:

1. Revamp the bathroom with some wallpaper so it doesn’t look so dingy
2. Lift Airstream for more off-road travel

Items discussed in our video

(Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links. This does not cost you anything at all, and we would make a tiny percentage if you were to purchase the item. Thanks!)


Couch Paint: Graphite by Annie Sloan

Dinette Paint: Provence by Annie Sloan

(Annie Sloan paints are only provided by select stockists – you can find your closest stockist by visiting:

Cabinet Primer: Extreme Bond Primer (Sherwin Williams)

Cabinet Paint: Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in Origami White (Sherwin Williams)

Shelf Paint: Old Ochre by Annie Sloan (design on buckets done with white spray paint and Primer Red)


Countertop: Ikea Countertop

Kitchen Sink: Ikea Norrsjon Sink

Kitchen Faucet: Ikea Almaren Faucet

Knife block: Ikea Knife Block


Sander: Bosch Random Orbit 5 inch Sander/Polisher

Sanding Pads: Sanding Pads


Vinyl Plank Flooring: Lifeproof Walton Oak (We needed about 6 cases)


Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/30 Charge Controller with Bluetooth

Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor with Battery Temperature Sensor

1000W Inverter

Inverter fuse holder and 150A fuses