Experienced campers may be all across this, but for the beginners here’s a chance to learn from our mistakes. Listed here are the things we wish we had known before we started to save us some heartache. From your choice of purchase to things to look out for once you are rolling, we’ve got you covered with these 11 helpful tips.
1. Towing weight
The first thing you should do before buying something you are going to tow is to find out what weight your vehicle is capable of towing. Before you get too excited and buy the biggest and best caravan out there, plan ahead. Try towing it behind a Barina...it just isn’t going to work. So either buy something that suits your current set up, or perhaps invest in a new car as well so you have all the bells and whistles. Also, factor in the total weight when the van is loaded as this could significantly affect your vehicles performance. This includes the water tank: every litre adds a kilo, so it is very easy for the kg’s to add up putting extra stress on your vehicle.
2. Try before you buy
Before you invest, go to some expos, trade shows, or even go camping in a rental and take a walk around the park to see what everyone else has. Looking out for accessories and common items is a sure fire way to ensure when it comes time to make your purchase you are only buying what you need.
3. The welcome mat
Depending on your location you may require different extras. If you are going somewhere hot and dry a basic thing like rubber matting outside your van will be very useful to stop dust and dirt coming inside.
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4. Optional extras
As an optional extra, install a tap on the exterior of the caravan. It may seem like a small thing, but being able to wash your feet off before entering is a nice luxury. It also enables you to rinse things off around the camp fire instead of having to constantly go in and out.
5. What comes standard?
Find out what is standard and what is not. Things like silage pipes, water hoses and power cables are all very useful items but not necessarily standard. Obviously as you spend more you get more, but many higher end models might have more luxuries, but no more necessities then the lower models. So be clear on your needs and destination plans to find the right model for you.
6. Sharing power
If you intend on visiting friends and plugging into their power system be aware you may need an adapter. Pins on the cords sold with some caravans have bigger prongs and can be problematic if the socket is not the same. So much could be said about these items, as they can be very complex, so the best advice we can give is ask at the time of purchase to avoid any issues down the road.
7. Be prepared and pack spares
Take spare hose connectors and washers as these can fall out when winding up your items. These items may also be hard to find on your trip, so best to stock up before you go. This also carries over to any other unique items.
8. Brass over plastic
Where possible by brass connectors onto the van. Plastic connectors will snap more easily then brass, leaving you high and dry.
9. The all important coldie
Get the fridge wired to feed off the car battery when travelling so by the time you get to your destination there’s a ‘coldie’ ready to go.
10. L plates
Practice driving with the caravan on the back of the car. Remember when you were 16 and you would go to the local shopping centre car park when it was deserted and practice parking? Well as strange as it may seem, doing this with the caravan attached will prove invaluable when you go away. The last thing you want is to have a queue forming behind you at a busy camp site, all eyes on you, while you struggle to pull into your camp spot. It can be very hard to judge distance, turning circle and positioning using only the mirrors. It’s also crucial to understand how long it will take to stop with the extra weight on the back, so consider this a must-do before heading away.
11. Your Mum's advice was right
Pack accordingly. This advice works on two fronts:
One – depending on where you are going, expect the nights to be colder than normal. This may require an extra pair of track pants or a thicker jacket, but even if you are travelling in summer, bring some provisions for colder weather.
Two – pack your caravan up when you are travelling. Don’t leave clothes, cutlery and other items loose in the cabin. It may seem common sense but having the inside of your caravan look the same at the start and end of your trip is important. It will also save you a lot of time at the end of your trip cleaning up loose items that have been bouncing around the cabin.
There are always new things to learn, but get these basics right and you are sure to have an enjoyable trip.