When thinking of American heritage brands that capture the rugged, wanderlust-embracing spirit of the National Park Service, Airstream and Pendleton Woolen Mills immediately come to mind. And why wouldn’t they?
The former, manufacturer of bullet-shaped retro-futuristic aluminum travel trailers that look particularly striking when set against wide-open spaces, has been a constant in national parks for over 80 years. And Pendleton, the venerable Pacific Northwest textile brand, has been in the business of keeping campers, adventurers and assorted wanderers warm and snug with its Indian blankets since 1863.
But not until now have these two American icons officially joined forces.
It’s about time.
The occasion, of course, is the centennial of the National Park System. This is a touch confusing since national parks date well past the 100-year mark. After all, Yellowstone National Park was established and signed into law by president and noted bear sympathizer Theodore Roosevelt in 1872. However, it wasn’t until 1916, nearly 44 years later, that Woodrow Wilson oversaw the creation of an official agency, the National Park Service, to oversee Yellowstone and the over 30 other national parks that had been subsequently established including Yosemite and Mount Rainer.
But back to Airstream and Pendleton.
In celebration of the 100th birthday of the NPS, the two companies have come together to tip their hat to the organization — without a doubt the most beloved bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior — in a most appropriate fashion: the introduction of an Airstream trailer designed in collaboration with Pendleton.
"Airstream founder Wally Byam was an innovator and a lover of the outdoors, who believed in an enduring promise of adventure, new experiences and faraway lands," says Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler in a press release. "That same spirit is a cornerstone of the Pendleton brand, and together we are celebrating our national parks."
The Limited Edition Pendleton National Park Foundation Airstream Travel Trailer — or the Pendleton, for short — is indeed limited: only 100 models are being produced with a starting sticker price of $114,600. And for each 28-foot-long Pendleton trailer sold, Airstream has pledged to donate $1,000 to NPS nonprofit partner, the National Park Foundation, to “help protect and preserve the landscapes and historic and cultural sites we all care about so much.”
These funds, potentially totaling $100,000 if all units sell, will be earmarked for preservation projects at Grand Canyon National Park and Glacier National Park.
Each trailer, which sleeps six and was “built to celebrate the wild lands of the great outdoors and those who preserve and protect them,” also comes with an America the Beautiful: The National Parks and Federal Recreation Land Pass, which pretty much covers entrance, amenity and day-use fees at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Good for one-year, the pass normally goes for $80.
This all said, those interested in forking over $100,000 for a sweet new Airstream trailer should probably like Pendleton. A lot.
As you can see, the trailer's interior is essentially a Pendleton catalog shoot come to life. Nearly everything, from the bedding to the coffee mugs, is stamped with a Pendleton design. A Pendleton teddy bear and scented candle are also included as is, not surprisingly, a Glacier Stripe National Park blanket. Introduced for guest use at the lodges of Glacier National Park, the blanket has been in production since 1916 and remains one of Pendleton’s most enduring and popular designs.
Exuding what Airstream calls “rustic cabin charm,” the Pendleton-ness of the Pendleton extends beyond textiles and accessories. Even the awning, cabinetry and polyurethane — excuse, Ultraleather™ — upholstered seating is custom embroidered with a signature Pendleton design, “which evokes the forests, rivers, and mountains protected by the National Park Service, while geometric patterns honor the Native Americans who have cared for our lands for centuries.”
The wallpaper in the fully-equipped galley kitchen is a giant map of Yellowstone, which is handy, I suppose, for occasions when you’re traveling through the park and your GPS system bites the dust.
Non-Pendleton features of the Pendleton Airstream include Corian countertops, a state-of-the-art climate control system, Samsung electronics and 16-inch Michelin tires. There's also an extra-wide rear sport hatch that provides for better views and easier loading and unloading of oversized gear like bikes and kayaks. A solar package is optional.
This is all lovely stuff — again, if you really love Pendleton. And it's also not necessarily geared toward Airstream’s traditional target market of retirees and boomer hobbyists. Based on the marketing, it's obvious that the company is reaching out to the Urban Outfitters-shopping, tiny house-loving demographic — a hipper, younger generation of national park visitors.
While many vagabond Millennials may find it more “authentic” (and cheaper) to rehab a well-loved vintage Airstream and outfit it with grandpa’s slightly mildew-y Pendleton hand-me-downs instead, these national park-honoring mobile digs are a pretty sweet alternative for those with ample cash to spare.