When you buy a caravan and are getting it ready for touring, the way you load it will have a huge impact on safe caravan towing. Packing your caravan lightly, evenly and securely is what you want to aim for, and the following 3 tips will show you how:
1. Pack your caravan lightly
This is a big one when it comes to ease of towing and fuel efficiency. From luxury to family caravans, a lighter caravan will put less pressure on your tow vehicle, be easier to tow on varying road conditions, and also reduce expenditure on the fuel required to tow a heavier load.
So, before you start packing the extra furniture, tools, supplies and grand piano, have a think about what you really need to take. Look at the things you are about to pack and ask yourself ‘Do I really need this?’ To help you answer this, establish:
The kind of trip you’re doing
- Are you travelling only on sealed roads and staying in caravan parks?
- Are you travelling mostly off road and staying in bush campsites?
- Are you doing a combination of both on and off road caravan travel?
The length of your trip
- Is it a short trip, and so you really only need to pack the bare essentials?
- A medium to long-term trip and you need to pack many essentials, plus some creature comforts?
- A permanent trip and your caravan will become your official home?
The number of people going
- Is it for yourself, a couple or a whole family?
- Do you really need to pack clothes, food and supplies for more than 2 people?
The environment you’ll be staying in
- Can you rely on caravan campground facilities for things like cooking, extra power and water supplies?
- Will you be going off grid and need to take extra water, power, food, tools and more?
The activities you plan to do
- Will you be eating out and buying supplies on the go?
- Are you packing extra bikes, surfboards, sports supplies...and what’s the likelihood you will use them?
Learning to travel with less can be a cathartic experience and good practice for planning future trips. Less luggage means less clutter to crowd your interior spaces, more room for you to stretch out and unwind and less weight, providing a smoother caravan towing experience.
2. Load your caravan evenly
The way you pack your caravan will influence your trailer ball load, the weight imposed on your vehicle’s tow bar, and ultimately the safety of your caravan and vehicle when towing on the road.
The kind of heavy items worth weighing beforehand include awnings, metal outdoor furniture, bicycles, whitegoods and more.
When you start loading your caravan, pack all your heavy items close to the centre of your caravan, low down on the ground, and evenly on both sides.
Medium items can be loaded further from the caravan’s centre, as high up as the window level, while your lightest items, such as clothing, can be placed in overhead lockers; this is important to follow as storing heavy items high up will impact your caravan's centre of gravity.
Avoid loading items at the caravan’s front or rear. A caravan with excessive weight at the nose will impact your car's rear suspension, while too much weight at the caravan's rear can lift it's nose and affect your tow-vehicle's wheel traction on the road.
Loading evenly means less pressure on your brakes and suspension, making it easier to drive straight and smooth for safe caravan towing.
3. Fasten everything down securely
Once you’ve loaded up, make sure you have everything securely fastened down to prevent objects flying around inside. If you haven’t done this before, the kind of items to secure and pack away, include:
heavy poles, awnings, water bottles laid flat on the floor, i.e. in under-floor storage, and secured tightly with fasteners
- gas bottles, electric cables stored in secure lockers
- kitchen items kept in low cupboards
- consumables sealed tightly in the fridge
- clothing, blankets stored in bedroom robes and under-bed storage
- digital equipment secured using i.e. velcro fasteners
- bikes fastened to exterior bicycle racks on your caravan or tow-vehicle
And there are many other great storage options you can use to keep all your items packed away and out of sight.
After you've secured your caravan interior, step outside and visually check your caravan. Make sure there is no sagging at the nose of your caravan or excessive pressure put on your vehicle’s tow ball. You also want to follow all legal tow requirements and ensure:
- excessive weight isn't placed on you tow-vehicle ball
- the max weights your tow-vehicle and caravan can carry are not exceeded (specified by the manufacturer and also Australian state and federal road safety laws)
- the combined legal weight of both your tow vehicle and caravan is not exceeded
To check how much weight you're carrying, you can use a public weigh-bridge. You can also weigh the nose weight of your caravan by using a 'nose weight gauge' or 'ball weight scale' to give you an accurate measurement of the weight of your trailer at coupling.
Once you have this information in hand, with a legal towing load, then you're ready to start hitching!
Want to find out more about legal tow weights and master the art of caravan towing? Download our free ebook 10 steps to becoming a caravan towing pro.