Running a small campsite I get to meet a range of guests each year from caravan beginners to very experienced caravanners. Our guests often tell me about tips and advice they have come across to make owning and living with a caravan that little be easier and more enjoyable. If fact, I now have hundreds of posts on our blog, with most at least partly inspired by these conversations with our guests. They include the best advice on how to clean a caravan to the best motor movers etc. When producing these posts I also watch a lot of caravan related YouTube videos produced by an ever-growing range of caravan vloggers. With this post, I want to highlight some of the best videos I’ve come across with general caravanning tips and expand on them with some of my own comments.
Now, if you are a caravan beginner or thinking of purchasing a caravan I would encourage you to watch each of the videos below. If you already own a caravan and have been caravanning for several years some of the information/tips in the videos below may seem ‘old hat’. However, I think some of the tips below may actually surprise you. There is a particularly good tip for instance on reversing a caravan with cars fitted with electric tilting wing mirrors which wasn’t something I had thought about before.
Therefore, if you have the time, even if you feel you are an experienced caravanner I would encourage you to watch both videos below. However, I will also be adding my own comments below each video. So you can quickly get the gist of the caravanning tips/topics being discussed.
5 Simple Caravan Tips – Carefree Caravanning
While browsing YouTube the other day I came across the video below by Keith and Michele of the YouTube channel Carefree Caravanning. I’ve referenced several of their videos in the past on how to clean caravan roof lights and also discussing the pros and cons of Alde wet heating. The video below however is one that I think every caravan beginner and experienced caravan should watch. Because I’m pretty sure there is at least one tip that everyone will pick up.
I’ll now run through the five top tips covered in the video above and add some of my own comments. I will also put links to my other applicable posts etc which explain and discuss these topics in more detail.
1: How To Uncouple After Reversing a Caravan
So the first tip that Keith and Michele discuss is how to uncouple the caravan after reversing onto a pitch. As Keith shows, after reversing the caravan the stabiliser hitch is compressed. The reason for this is due to how caravan brakes work. Initially, when the car starts to push against the caravan to reverse the caravan’s brakes are engaged. However, shortly thereafter the caravan brakes are disengaged by the reversing force of the car. Once you stop the caravan hitch is trying to expand from this compressed state. Hence once the jockey wheel is lowered and the hitch is uncoupled from the tow ball it will then expand. As a result, it may touch the rear bumper of the tow car as shown in the video.
For cars with a fixed tow bracket a protector plate can often be fitted to stop the caravan hitch touching the car. However, this is not an option for cars with retractable tow balls: Image – Amazon
As Keith states in the video, one means to correct this issue is to apply the caravan handbrake and then drive the car forward a couple of inches. This will allow the caravan hitch to expand back to its natural position. You can then uncouple the hitch from you tow car without it hitting the bumper. Another solution if the length of the pitch allows is to deliberately reverse past where you want the caravan axle to be. You can then pull forward and stop in your desired position. Therefore the caravan hitch is now uncompressed and you can uncouple without the hitch expanding into your cars rear bumper. Obviously, don’t forget to detach the breakaway cable before you drive your car away.
A quick note on tow bracket protector plates. If you can fit one to your car they can provide some protection when reversing up to the caravan hitch and uncoupling. However, don’t treat them as a bump stop. Some are made from pretty thin metal. Hence, if you reversed too quickly up to the caravan hitch they can easily bend and then impact your car’s bumper. They are designed to cope with low to mild impact force from a trailer hitch. I also have a post on how to reverse a caravan if you’re interested.
2: Securing Caravan Facility Covers With Rubber Bands
Here at Horton Common while we have amazing views we do also have higher than average wind speeds. Therefore this particular tip of securing the cover of the water inlet on the caravan with a rubber band is particularly applicable. The problem is as Keith shows in the video above, the external water inlet cover on most caravans is typically just a flimsy bit of hinged plastic. Hence, as its very light when in use it rests on the water pipe it can bounce up and down in the wind. Now, during the day this may be a little bit annoying. However, at night when you are trying to sleep this could drive you a little bit mad.
A typical example of a Truma Ultraflow inlet housing cover which during use if unsecured can bounce up and down in the wind making an annoying tapping noise: Image – Amazon
Now, I have seen some caravans (typically older models) that had a spring-loaded cover. However, that’s not typically the case. Therefore, as Keith shows in the video using a simple rubber band around the water inlet pipe and cover will help to stop it bouncing up and down in the wind. As a result, you will get a better nights sleep. This can also sometimes be an issue with other external covers, such as external BBQ and power outlet ports.
3: The Benefits of Colpasable Water Carriers
In the video above Keith discusses the benefits of collapsable water carriers for filling up an Aquaroll. As we provide fully serviced pitches here at Horton Common the majority of our guests will use a mains connection kit or top up their Aquaroll with some food grade hose. However, we have provided two taps to our pitches and for a specific reason. My family as caravanners ourselves never drink water directly from a caravan tap, even though we frequently sterilise the water system. Its just a personal preference not to do so, and many our of guests do the same. Therefore, we provided two taps per pitch so our guests can fill up separate drinking water containers. And this is where collapsible water containers can be really handy, as a source of drinking water within the caravan.
A typical example of a collapsible water carrier which can be a very useful accessory to save storage space in your caravan: Image – Amazon
As you will notice in the image above of a typical collapsable water carrier, its stated to be BPA Free. What that means is that the plastic used to make the water carrier is free from Bisphenol. Bisphenol has been typically used in plastics, particularly clear plastics since the 1960’s. Various research is now coming to light that Bisphenol has potential health implications. Therefore, if you are going to be using a reusable plastic container for food or drink, its not a bad idea to purchase BPA free products.
The clear advantage of these collapsible water carriers is their ability to save storage space. They are commonly available in various sizes from 5L up to an impressive 20L. However, a 20L container may be difficult to use. We do have several guests that bring multiple collapsible water carriers with them. For instance, another use for a second collapsable water carrier is for topping up the external toilet flush tank on the caravan.
4: Support For Caravan Steps to Stop Them Sinking
I’ve previously written a post on caravan steps. Within that post, I discuss from my observations and the comments of our guests on the various caravan steps they own or have owned and the pros and cons of different designs. Within the video above Keith discusses the issues of caravan steps sinking into the ground. Now, the extent this is an issue obviously depends partly on the step itself, but also on ground conditions. Whether its a hardstanding or grass pitch, wet or hard ground etc. At Horton Common, all our pitches are hard standing. However, the area where the door is typically located on caravans exits out onto the grass. To correct the issue of sinking caravan steps and muddy feet the solution I came up with was to provide each pitch with a thick rubber matt. These are typically used in horse stables.
We provide each pitch on Horton Common with a large rubber matt which helps to support the caravan step and stop it sinking. It also serves as a good means to wipe your shoes before entering the caravan: Image – Amazon
As Keith shows in the video, you could take a board of wood with you if you have sufficient space to store it in your car. However, be careful about what type of wood you use. Avoid OSB, Chipboard and MDF, all these types of wood particleboard will absorb moisture. Marine-grade plywood would last quite a long time. Alternatively, some form for PVC/fibreglass board would be the best option. You could consider a more flexible option such as the rubber mats we provide for our guests as seen in the image above. However, I will note they are pretty heavy, so not ideal if you have a fairly limited payload.
5: Turning Off Tilting Wing Mirrors When Reversing a Caravan
I think this one is a great tip from Keith and Michele’s video above. Its not an issue I’ve been previously aware of, but it makes a lot of sense. Going forward as more tow cars will come with tilting wing mirrors while reversing I think more people will be aware of this issue. Keith and Michele have a BMW X3 where the mirrors automatically tilt down when the car is reversing. The reason being it provides a better view of the kerb, to avoid scrapping your alloys etc. However, as Keith discusses in the video, this tilting action may actually knock off your towing mirrors if they are clipped to the top of the wing mirrors! Worse still, in doing so it may even crack your wing mirror glass!
I do believe the Milenco Aero towing mirrors are currently some of the best available. However, they do clamp to the top of the wing mirrors. Therefore, a tilting wing mirror feature (if fitted) should be turned off: Image – Amazon
Keith owns a pair Milenco Aero towing mirrors which I also think are some of the best available. But as shown, they do clamp to the top of the wing mirror. Keith states on his BMW X3 he is able to turn off the mirror tilt function. I would hope that’s the case on other potential tow cars that have the tilting wing mirror feature. However, I’m not sure that’s universally the case. The point being if you are in the market for a new tow car and it does have tilting wing mirrors, make sure the dealer/owner shows you how to turn that feature off when reversing your caravan with towing mirrors fitted.
Top Caravanning Tips – Andrew Ditton and Travelling K
Andrew Ditton is a very experienced leisure industry journalist with many years of experience. I’ve embedded Andrew’s videos quite a few times in my previous posts, notably on campervans vs caravans. In this particular video below Andrew was interviewing Travelling K, who is another popular caravan vlogger from New Zealand. I’d encourage you to check out her channel. Karen is a full-time caravanner who provides lots of tips and advice based on her travels and experiences. In New Zealand, they do import UK spec caravans. This was something I was only made aware recently when I looked at the statistics for my blog. I noticed after the UK the majority of the readers of my blog are from New Zealand, several thousand a month!
The first tip that Karen and Andrew discuss is to plan your route. It would appear that in New Zealand the roads that Karen travels along are wider and less congested than many of our UK roads. If you watch some of the other videos on her channel on her experiences towing a caravan in the UK you will see the challenges she went through. Every time I take a booking for Horton Common I draw my guests attentions to our directions page. While Horton Common its self is off a wide/straight main road, getting to us while avoiding narrow roads does require a specific route. While its tempting to just put a postcode in your phone or Sat Nav, please don’t use that as your chosen route. What about caravan specific Sat Nav units?
Never put blind faith into ‘Caravan Sat Nav’ products such as the TomTom Camper. They can still make mistakes and send you down a narrow road: Image – Amazon
In my post on caravan Sat Nav units, I note that I have repeat guests that own them. The general consensus which applies across all the brands (TomTom/Garmin) is you still cannot put blind faith into these devices to get you to a campsite avoiding all narrow roads etc. They will often plan a more suitable route than a standard Sat Nav or your phone, but they still make mistakes. In my post on caravan Sat Nav units, I discuss how you can plan your own route and upload it to most smartphones and standard Sat Nav units. That’s the best option you have to plan a safe/suitable route to any campsite.
2: Caravan Security – The Belt and Braces Approach
So it would appear from Karen’s comments in the video above that in New Zealand caravan security is not a ‘hot topic’ as it is here in the UK. The reality is thefts do happen, so you want to protect your caravan the best you can. First of, talk to your caravan insurance provider. They will tell you what security devices are essential, potentially an AL-KO wheel lock. They will also tell you which security devices they will provide discounts on your insurance for fitting. The main caravan security devices are wheel locks and hitch locks.
A premium hitch lock is a wise investment as it will often deter any potential thief from even bothering to try and steal the caravan: Image – Amazon
There are also what I refer to as supplementary caravan security devices, such as leg locks. I definitely would advise spending your money on a better quality hitch lock or wheel lock over a leg lock. But if you do want the whole belt and braces approach, you can opt for all three. What about caravan alarms and trackers? Definitely consider an alarm, the tracker debate is still out for me and many of our guests. With a tracker, you have to pay an annual fee. That fee is often more than the discount on your caravan insurance. Furthermore, I know from speaking to our guests that if their caravan was actually stolen many wouldn’t actually want it to be returned to them. Therefore, the purpose and incentives of a caravan tracker for many people just don’t make sense.
3: Caravan Weight Distribution is Important
The importance of weight distribution in a caravan is a difficult one for beginners to appreciate. As you only really realise how important it is when you have been on the road with an unstable caravan. I’ve written several posts around this topic now, first of you need to understand the weight of your caravan. You will then appreciate what your payload allowance is. After that, you need to understand how to load a caravan for good weight distribution and to achieve the best noseweight. Finally, you then need to know how to weigh a caravan to check your outfit is legal to be on the road.
It’s vital that you have at least some means to measure the noseweight of a caravan to check weight distribution: Image – Amazon
An unstable caravan is a potentially dangerous caravan. While modern caravans and tow cars have various electronic stability control systems the fundamentals are still really important. Keep the heaviest items low down on the floor of the caravan over the axle. It is important to note, each caravan is different and some layouts can create problems. For instance, my fathers Bailey caravan is a single axle with a long overhang. We have had much ‘fun’ over the years trying various methods to pack the car and caravan to get the noseweight under the limit of the car and caravan.
4: Motor Movers – To Many, An Essential Accessory
This tip really only applies to caravan beginners who may not be aware of what a caravan motor mover is. As anyone who has been on a caravan site within the last decade will have seen a motor mover in action. Around 10 years ago I think motor movers were seen as a ‘nice to have’. I know with many of our guests they are an essential accessory. There is now a massive range of caravan motor movers on the market.
Not all caravan motor movers are created equal. Therefore, its important to research your options before making such a significant purchase: Image – Amazon
Now, it is important to note, motor mover problems do happen. However, the most common problem is an undercharged leisure battery. As you can imagine it takes quite a bit of power from the leisure battery to move a caravan. Therefore, if your leisure battery is not in top form it may struggle, or the movers may just stop. Therefore, as many people with a motor mover end up heavily relying on it to manoeuvre their caravan my top tip is to look after your leisure battery. That also includes owning a good quality portable leisure battery charger for the winter months.
5: Annual Caravan Servicing Is Important
As Andrew states in the video, annual caravan servicing is seen as a cultural norm here in the UK. Annual caravan service is not a legal requirement (yet). However, I would encourage everyone reading this to have their caravan inspected and maintained annually. The key aspects of a caravan inspection are the gas system, the brakes and chassis. However, a full caravan service covers far more checks.
When it comes to DIY servicing that’s a personal choice. However, if you are even slightly confused on how to service your caravan, get a professional service. What I will say is always leave the gas system test to the professionals. However, you should take responsibility to frequently check that your carbon monoxide monitor is working and the batteries are in good condition. Press that test button on your carbon monoxide alarm before every trip. While you should not work on your caravans gas system, you do need to know how to change a gas bottle.
Conclusions on Caravan Tips for Beginners and Experienced Caravanners
Obviously, as you can probably tell by the number of posts I’ve got on our blog there are little hundreds of other caravan tips. However, I feel the two videos above do cover some really useful and important caravan tips that every caravaner should pay attention to. There is also a general theme to all the caravan tips above, and that’s to plan ahead and to be prepared. To make your time owning and using your caravan as enjoyable as possible really think about how and where you will use the caravan and how you will get there etc is the key. This goes hand-in-hand with the range of safety checks you need to carry out. And on that note I’ll give you my final two top tips, check the age of your caravan tyres and check their pressure. Caravan tyre safety I find often gets overlooked and its one of the most important aspects of being a responsible caravanner.
Many thanks for reading, I hope at least some of the tips above will be useful for you on future trips out in your caravan. I also hope at some point in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common Campsite. We have expansive views over the Staffordshire Moorlands and Peak District National Park along with fully serviced hard standing pitches. 🙂