5 mistakes new caravanners should avoid
If you’re in a rush to hit the road, don’t make these classic top five mistakes that are the hallmark of a new caravanner
But it’s not just newbies, is it? A couple of these mistakes are still being made by many with more experience. As the rush to hit the road beckons post-COVID-19, make sure you’re not one of the statistics – and be a happy camper!
1. Buying the wrong RV
If the catchcry of the real estate game is location x3, then the term applicable to buying a caravan or motorhome is research, research, research. I say it three times here for reinforcement. Location is less relevant because the main point of our lifestyle is the ever-changing location.
So, in quick order, what kind of travel do you intend to do? Don’t buy a single axle, on-road van with a 50mm ball coupling and take off for the Gunbarrel Highway. You’ll hate the experience, even if you end-up with cool tales for happy hour. A 3.5-ton twin axle off-road behemoth for just two-weeks each year at your favourite coastal location is hardly horses for courses either.
Make sure the trailer towed suits the capacity of your tow vehicle for weight, and that you have adequately accommodated your potential travellers. There’s nothing worse than trying to convince family members to go camping and then killing them with discomfort!
Read reviews, talk to other owners, tour the factory of potential brand options and, if possible, try before you buy – anything to avoid a lemon. While nothing is ever certain in this world, the more you put in pre-purchase will reward you in smug points at sunset outside the RV you bought with dollars and sense.
2. Don’t overload yourself
Some advice is harder to give than others; but, don’t believe everything you read in the media, especially when it comes to towing capacity for tow vehicles. Simply hitching-up your new 3500kg trailer, the one you bought on face value based on what your car can reportedly tow (ignoring point one above) is a recipe for disaster. You need to know all weight ratings and capacities for caravan or camper and tow vehicle, or the GVM and towing capacity for a motorhome if you’re towing behind one.
And then this is the big one, don’t add in your worldly goods on top. Your payload needs careful consideration and applies to tow vehicle and trailer. Minimise your list of essentials, though this will likely happen after a few trips if you’re honest with yourself. Pack light, and pack wise.
3. Heading off into the great unknown
Hang on, isn’t that the point of all this? Well, yes and no! Australia has a lot of unknown, some of it more dangerous than others. Having taken the precautions of points one and two above (right vehicle, right van, right weights) then your planning needs to match your preparation. It should be no less of an operation to head up the coast as it is to hit the outback tracks and whereas it’s going to be more convenient to undo mistakes within reach of civilisation that shouldn’t make you blasé.
Things to consider are the weather: download weather apps to your Smartphone, or simply check the BOM to make sure you’re not heading into something unpleasant. This is relevant especially in off-road terrain, if you need to ask why you’ll need a shovel. And that leads nicely into mapping. It’s amazing to find unknown spots, just be mindful that any track you head down, you may need to get back out, with the van in tow; can you?
And finally, make sure you check your caravan park bookings too. It’s one thing to re-position in a free camp but make sure: you’re booking is locked in; the site is the right size (always tell a park the size you need); and that the park is not overbooked or undergoing renovation work you’re unaware of.
Essentially, what we’re saying is ring or email ahead and double-check, especially if you booked online or in a hurry.
4. Simply trying to do too much
If you spend any time at all on social media, a question that comes up over and over is the ‘how long will it take to see … ?’ This can relate to a lap of the island, crossing the Nullarbor but in the main, it’s about Tasmania! Under normal, non-pandemic conditions, annual leave is precious, and it’s understandable to want to pack as much in as possible (just not physically, remember payload) but it can be counter-productive.
Rushing to reach a destination can mean big transport sections, and they’re not fun. You will, no doubt, pass things you wish to stop and see, unplanned, which then upsets the planner(s) and can lead to frustrating thoughts that you’ve lost time. You haven’t – you just spent it differently. Time is a currency but with no refund policy, so enjoy all of it where you are with who you’re with.
And as for Tassie, there is so much to see and do that, to be honest, you could head over there and turn left or right out of Devonport with nothing but a return date, and you’d not be disappointed. And rushing is dangerous, leads to mistakes and forgetting stuff.
5. Not To honestly assess driving skills and attend training
There can be few more dangerous drivers to be meet than the unprepared. And being unprepared for towing is not conducive to happy nor safe travels. It is best to be honest with yourself and evaluate your driving skills; towing is not the same as driving solo. Nor is it just the same as driving a truck all those years ago. Last week, that’s relevant, but 20-40 years ago? It might be time to book yourself and your better half in for a towing course.
And if your plans include leaving the bitumen, an off-road driver training course too – towing. You might think you don’t require training, but you probably do. No one doesn’t benefit from even a basic refresher. Plus, if you’re both competent at towing, you share the driving, which makes life easier.
Still, you need to experience it for yourself. It’s not just your efforts either, remember the effect of passing trucks, or of having to pull out and overtake something yourself. Other drivers are involved in those manoeuvres and physics!
Yes! You there, at the back, with your internal voice saying ‘if you don’t know how to do these things, you shouldn’t be towing’. Silence that critic because everyone needs to start somewhere and that voice isn’t helpful.