Extra Rear Storage In The Airstream Interstate - Part One

Updated: Dec 17, 2018

NOTE: Our slide-out support bracket was removed before this project. If you choose to keep your support bracket in place, you can cut a notch in the shelf. The shelf will rest on the support bracket and you can ignore the extra T-Channel piece that I mention in these installation notes.


The rear storage area of the Interstate Grand Tour is amazingly roomy but can fill up quickly with tools, supplies, camping gear, etc. It’s my garage and it’s my domain. We were using a pair of zero gravity recliner chairs as our camp chairs and just loved them. But they were bulky and needed to be the last thing put in place every time we packed up to travel. For seven months we traveled almost every day which meant a lot of unpacking to get a grasp of many things. Everything was stacked and nested like a demented game of Tetris meets Jenga.

BEFORE: Tetris Meets Jenga

We found that on most days we did not use the chairs and I had been wishing I didn’t have to deal with their awkward bulk. They had to find a new home in order to make way for some improvements. I was not looking forward to replacing them with standard camp chairs as most of them are terribly uncomfortable after a few minutes. We finally settled on Strongback™ chairs because they specialize in creating a good posture solution. They are a bit pricey, but I think they are worth every penny after using them a few times.

Now that we had new chairs my mind was working on a better way of storing them as well as other items back there. I like to have quick access to the things I need everyday. The less frequently I use something, the more buried it can be. It’s half art and half science to get things organized and I had experimented with lots of arrangements. Installing a shelf would help me get some things up and off of other things.

I came up with a way to make a shelf that required no drilling of holes and could be removed easily. It had to be sturdy, look nice and be very functional. It also needed to be relatively safe in the case of a collision or hard braking. I calculated that a 60” shelf could sit on an existing surface and be wide enough that it would be highly unlikely it could become dislodged and get launched past the other furnishings around it.

Using a standard shelf from a big box store I covered it with a vinyl product from Lowes that looks like fabric and has a texture to it. I faced the edges with C-channel so that the vinyl would fit underneath the aluminum lip and I used spray adhesive to hold the material down flat. I installed some sleek cabinet pulls and their mounting screws hold it all together. Bungee cords can be hooked onto these to secure cargo.

In the very back of this Interstate Grand Tour model, there are bed extension “wings” that fold down to make the bed length longer for taller people. We don’t use these but I wanted the shelf design to serve as a platform for those that do use them. I submerged the shelf to that level by attaching a piece of 1/8” thick Z-bar from McMaster-Carr at each end of the shelf.

The shelf is 5/8” thick particle board covered in melamine. I cut the length down to 60” for this project. I figure it will sag, especially with some weight on it. You could use ¾” plywood but I’ve seen that sag too. The C-channel adds some needed stiffness but I wanted it stiffer so I ordered a 4ft length of T-bar from McMaster-Carr and attached it in the middle of the shelf underneath. The T-bar I used is 1/8” thick aluminum that stands ½” tall. It does a good job, but next time I’d go with a taller piece to make it stiffer. An alternative to a T-bar could be another piece of common 1/16” thick C-channel, about ¾” or 1” high, but I didn’t want to be scraping my knuckles on those edges while reaching underneath to pack and unpack things.

I’m pretty happy with it but I would not recommend piling a lot of weight onto it as it is resting on a couple of ledges that are not designed to carry a load.

In the last picture you see our new Strongback™ camp chairs tucked away nicely. They are the only camp chairs I’ve been able to find that are comfortable.

Link: https://amzn.to/2DYMuIG

Next up: Grand Tour Storage Shelf - Part Two

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