Off road caravanning means a whole other set of rules when it comes to effective caravan towing tips. Bumps, divots, corrugated sections, rocks, sticks, mud and sand, these are all the kind of things you can expect to travel over, when you go off grid in Australia.
And that’s what makes it exciting! Every road has the potential to be different, from shifting landscapes to changing track conditions that throw up brand new challenges. And this is what you need to prepare for. These 8 caravan towing tips will help ensure you have the right caravan setup for safe and smooth off road towing.
1. Make sure your caravan frame is raised
When you choose an off road caravan ensure it has a raised frame. This is an important feature, giving your caravan more ground clearance for navigating bumps, ruts, depressions and uneven surfaces.
You also want to ensure that the frame is strong, reinforced, durable and can absorb the vibrations that come from travelling on unsealed roads over long distances. Also check the rear of the frame has a cutaway section making it easier for you to travel over low river crossings.
2. Check it has a steel chassis
The chassis is the base frame of your caravan and needs to be made of strong steel treated with duragal to protect it from rust and corrosion. This is crucial for safety and comfort. The chassis underpins your entire caravan’s structure and needs to be solid and sound in its construction.
Strong steel components that can handle harsh Australian conditions are also critical to the longevity of your caravan’s life and the types of roads you want to travel on.
3. Only use heavy duty tyres
Like any kind of off road activity, from 4x4 driving to mountain biking, heavy duty off road tyres are a must. Without them, you won’t get far, finding it hard and uncomfortable travelling over rough surfaces without losing grip, slipping or getting bogged. Not a nice (or safe) experience when you're way out bush.
Off road tyres are built for unsealed roads and can withstand sharp rocks, corrugated sections and continual exposure to hot, wet and/or dusty conditions. Look for 15 inch wheels and tyres with a heavy-duty tread. You want to make sure that the tread pile count is 10+, with deeper grooves capable of travelling over rough surfaces.
Make sure the size and stud pattern on your off road caravan tyres also match that of your tow vehicle. And lastly, make sure the air pressure is at the optimum psi for off road conditions. This is specified by the manufacturer and can be found on the wall of the wheel.
4. Fit mud flaps!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes it can be the last thing you think off when you're getting ready. It’s only when you go off road and the conditions get really wet and muddy that you realise the importance of mudflaps.
Most new off road caravans will come with mudflaps fitted, but if not make sure you invest in some. Mudflaps protect the life of your caravan, preventing mud, dust and more from being flung up onto your caravan and elimiate the hassle of having to scrape mud off every caravan part you can think off. Not a welcome job after a long day’s towing.
5. Use an off road braking system
With so many hills, corners and depressions coming your way, you will be doing a lot more braking than when driving on a paved road, which means we've put choosing a reliable braking system high on the list when it comes to our caravan towing tips.
Look for electric brakes specifically designed for off road conditions and the harsher Australian environment. These systems are designed to reduce vibrations and withstand higher temperatures in outback conditions. This is an important distinction ensuring you can rely on your brakes when navigating unpredictable trail conditions.
5. Look for independent, tandem suspension
Travelling off road with poor suspension will be a trip you won’t forget - and not in a good way! The drive will feel harsh and unforgiving, with a lot of stops and starts. Your caravan will also feel it too, experiencing more shocks and vibrations, and over time impacting the integrity of the caravan's frame, chassis and it's components.
For long distance off road travel, independent suspension is recommended for smoother driving and the durability of your caravan. Tandem suspension is also favoured in off road conditions, working with independent suspension to help your caravan track directly behind when towing and to prevent it from getting bogged into soft ground.
With these two features your caravan can be more reactive and adaptive to rough road conditions, passing over things more smoothly and efficiently.
6. Ensure it has electronic stability control
Electronic stability control has done much to improve the safety of driving. It helps to stabilise extreme steering movements such as sudden swerving that may come from unpredictable hazards on the road, or a driving error.
Off road caravans should always be fitted with electronic stability control for emergency braking situations. When using this system, ensure that it is fully calibrated and customised to your caravan’s specifications and for off-road conditions.
In extreme 4x4 conditions, automatic braking can sometimes occur from the constant jolting movements, and may require deactivation; this, however, should only be done after consulting an expert.
7. Make sure it’s an off road ball hitch set-up
Off road caravans need a tow hitch with a broad-range articulation angle far greater than the standard 15 degrees. This is often referred to as polyblock coupling, which provides a broader range of movement for the tow hitch. Make sure you look out for this. Greater articulation will make it easier and safer to tow, particularly on corrugated roads.
8. Put your armour on
Like a rhino ready to get muddy and take on anything, your caravan needs armour and protection to prepare it for the rugged Australian conditions. Armour will help maintain the integrity and quality of your caravan’s exterior and interior.
Features to look for that will give you extra protection from stones, rocks, sticks, dust, mud and anything else that may come your way, include:
- heavy duty bumper bars that extend underneath
- a checker plate on the exterior to protect the bottom of your caravan
- a rear stone guard to deflect rocks from your caravan and tow vehicle guards to protect water storage and plumbing
- full dust proofing to protect the interior from dust.
Tick your caravan towing tips off the list
To reinforce the safety of your off road caravan and follow perfectly our caravan towing tips, make sure you tick all 8 features off the list before you go. As well as this, also ensure that it follows all the standard features needed for any kind of caravan towing. This includes things like fit load levelling devices, electrical connections to caravan brake lights, additional mirrors for visibility, and more.
Want to find out what else you need to know to safely tow your caravan? Download our free ebook 10 steps to becoming a caravan towing pro.