A caravan is a fantastic way to see Australia - whether you're doing the big lap, heading a couple of hours down the coast, or something in between. And so the comfort level you require in your caravan depend on a few things. How much space you have, who you are sharing the space with (and how much you like them!) and how much you are willing to spend on mod cons. In saying that, there are a number of caravan accessories that we think are essential to comfort, safety and a good trip - and the good news is most of these won't break the bank.
Of course if you choose to customise your caravan or build it from the ground up, you can pick the accessories you like to make your on-road experience that much better. But for those who don't have the time or budget for a fully customised caravan, here are some accessories that you can invest in and add yourself.
1. Fresh Water Supply and Waste Water Removal
Lugging heavy tanks to and from the main water supply is hard work, and you're bound to tire of it pretty quickly - especially in the hot summer months. Consider getting yourself a portable water tank, so you can wheel your water back from the supply easily and quickly. These will save your back, and your sanity! You're looking at around $50-$140 for a 40 litre tank.
Most sites require grey water be removed from the site as it can attract bacteria and mosquitoes, and start to smell after a while, affecting other people. Water is heavy so few caravans nowadays come equipped with an inbuilt tank. To save on the cost (and weight considerations) of installing your own tank, consider a portable grey water tank that sits easily under your caravan. The waste water is directed straight into it through tubes. Check with the site manager about the appropriate place to dispose of the waste. The cost of a portable tank is around $80-$120.
Caravans nowadays can be comfortable and fairly spacious, but it always helps to have a little extra living space, especially if you're travelling with kids. Investing in an awning can save your sanity as well as providing a lovely outdoor area that increases the footprint of your campsite. Awnings also protect you from the elements - the baking sun or driving rain. You don't have to let kids or the weather impact your holiday if you get yourself a good awning!
3. Slide Outs
Space is the one thing that might impact the enjoyment of your holiday. There often seems to be limited space in your house, let alone in your caravan! If you opt for a slide out caravan, you will find space is created in very innovative ways - think pop up televisions, and slide out kitchens, pantries or living, dining or bedroom areas.
While most caravans come equipped with a battery, sometimes this doesn't quite cut the mustard in terms of providing you the reliable power you need. It pays to do some research and invest in an additional battery that will ensure you have the power you need so you do't have to stick to powered sites on your holidays. After all, the joy of owning a caravan is the freedom of exploring places off the grid or away from the hustle and bustle of camp sites. Both AGM (absorbed glass mat), lithium and gel batteries are a popular choice for caravan owners.
5. Weight Distribution Devices
If you're new to towing or just want to ensure your caravan is as stable as possible, then consider purchasing a weight distribution device. These attach to the coupling to reduce sway and improve your vehicle's steering and breaking (they work by lifting the rear of your tow vehicle). If you combine this with electronic stability control, this will go a long way to increasing your towing confidence and ensuring you have a smooth ride.
6. Toilet Chemicals
It's important to be very aware of and disciplined with your hygiene when you're on the road or at a campsite. Bacteria can build quickly, and can ruin the fun pretty quickly. It pays to do some research so you fully understand the ins and outs of keeping your toilet clean and hygienic on the road. There are 2 basic types of toilet chemicals you can purchase to ensure your toilet and tank are kept clean and safe. waste tank additives (look for the green ones, which are the most environmentally friendly) and flush tank additives (the pink ones), which supplement the waste dissolving active ingredient.
7. Portable Fans and Heaters
No matter how good your insulation is, caravans can get mighty hot in the daytime and pretty cold at night. Most caravans come with a basic means of heating and cooling, but probably won't meet all of your needs, especially if you're planning on traveling in winter or summer. There are a few types of heating options to consider:
- diesel-powered heating - more expensive and noisy, but the most effective for heating larger spaces.
- gas-powered heating - the most popular option, however you'll need to ensure the fumes are safely omitted from the vehicle.
- electric heating - works in a caravan park with power mains. Under-floor heating is a good, space-conserving option if the budget stretches that far.
- Space heaters - use diesel, gas, electricity or a combination. Some work in conjunction with the hot-water unit, others can be mounted to the chassis.
8. Washing Machines and Clothes Lines
A good holiday (for all) involves everyone feeling good, clean and smelling nice. If you want to keep your clothes clean and the place smelling nice, then caravan accessories you might want to consider include portable or expanding clothes lines, or portable washing machines.
9. Reversing Camera
If you are still building your confidence with towing or generally just need a bit of extra help moving such a large vehicle without taking out everything around you, then consider investing in a reversing camera. There are many blind spots for a caravan driver due to the size of the vehicle. A towing mirror will allow you to see the length of the caravan, which is a huge help. Couple this with a camera that will give you eyes in the back of your van so you can spend less time reversing in and out to get into the right spot, and save you the stress of fearing you'll hit something.
10. Tool Kit and Spare Wheel(s)
When you hit the road, you're not always going to have a nearby service station or mobile mechanic who will sort you out should something go wrong with your rig. You need to be able to help yourself, and equip yourself with the right training and caravan accessories to help if you break down. Consider wheel braces, wrenches, tyre leavers, air compressors, a screwdriver set, sealant and wheel blocks important parts of your tool kit. Include a spare tyre that has been matched to the caravan's wheels. Don't assume the wheel comes along with the caravan - this is not always the case, especially for second hand vehicles.
People have been travelling the country in their caravans for many years, and along the way caravan accessories have been invented to make life as safe, easy and comfortable as possible. You need to pick and choose the accessories that suit your caravan, your trip and your budget. The smallest amendment can make a big improvement to everyone's comfort and enjoyment of the adventure.