After several months living in our Airstream we’ve discovered a number of not-so-niceties about living small in a trailer manufactured for occasional use. Airstream is touted for it’s high end hand crafted construction, but amazingly much of the internals are not so great. Airstream is not alone in this, it seems to be industry wide.
Our original stove, an Amana which is no longer produced, suffered a number of problems. The most prevalent problem is that the cooktops are supported by little rubber grommets. These grommets have a life expectancy worse than a fruit fly. Give it one good pot full of water to boil and chances are your cooktop will end up sitting on top of the burners. There are numerous work arounds to address this design flaw, but who wants to be constantly working around problems? Next up, the piezo ignitor gave out after a few months of use. I suppose it would last years if you used your trailer a couple weeks a year. The stove door had insulation creeping out the edges which had a good 1/8th inch gap between the inside metal and the outside cover. In general, the Amana felt like it belonged in a doll house, not my house.
So I began the search for better…
First up, I went “RV Shopping” to see what the current state of art is. On the internet, there are several nice looking RV stoves, I hoped that one of these would work well for us. As I discovered, all RV stoves have the same basic (craptastic) construction that the Amana did. I was left despondent.
The marine industry saves the day…
Reading up in numerous forums I discovered marine stoves. They appeared to have a few idiosyncrasies that might be annoying, and it was hard to really see what the construction was like. In the midst of yet another grill top collapse, it was time to take action. I went to a marine store, Steveston Marine to be exact, and got a good hands on look at a couple brands of marine stoves. They had two brands on display, a Force10 3 burner and a Dickinson Mediterranean.
I was in heaven…
Both these stoves are constructed to a much higher quality than any of the typical RV stoves on the market. They are also quite a bit pricier than your typical RV stove. Being marine stoves, they are also gimbaled (they swing with the motion of the boat), but both offer built-in options. They also both have an inset grill top with arms that hold pots and pans in place. That is great for a boat, seemingly meaningless for an RV. We of course don’t have use for the arms, but the inset cooktop has been a bit of an issue. Depending on the size of your pots and pans, it can be hard to cook more than one thing at a time. They also weigh about twice what RV stoves weigh, but another project I had in mind would offset the additional weight. I’m also skimping as much as possible on weight, but cooking is a daily activity, we really wanted quality. At first it was hard to make a decision on which would be better, then we noticed a sale price on the Dickinson and that clinched it for us.
On the upside, no more manual lighting of the stove or clicking the piezo, these things are done merely by pushing in the burner controls. The construction is simply awesome, I almost feel like I’m cooking on a normal stove.
Here’s the end result;
That’s a pretty tight fit for the pots and pans, and in that configuration they don’t actually center over the burners. This is not ideal, but it is a far step above what we were living with before. Unfortunately the installer was not at all keen on my being around during the work, and I had a really limited time span for getting a couple things done, so the install also ended up not being as desirable as I would like. You can see the corners of the counter top sticking out about 3/4 of an inch. The installer actually cut that space out the backside of the counter top. They did this to make the front flush, but I would rather have had it stick out, I think it would have looked better. I suppose if we ever replace the counter top I’ll make sure to micro manage!
Overall, we’re very happy with the upgrade even though it isn’t 100% what we want. Since purchasing this stove, I learned about the new Dometic stove that Airstream is putting into some of the higher end trailers (read more about it on airforums.com). That would have been a consideration, but I have yet to see one to know whether it’s construction is up to par with the Dickinson.