THE golden rule on loading a caravan is: Don’t overload it. That means don’t put in more equipment than the manufacturer’s stated payload – that’s the difference between the MRO and the MTPLM.
How to work this out:
Caravan manufacturers divide the difference between MRO and MTPLM into sections. There’s an amount allowed for “essential habitation equipment” – that’s your gas cylinders, water containers, pans, plates and other equipment that you can’t go away without.
There’s an amount for “personal effects”. That’s where the skill and maths comes into play, because it’s in this area that it’s easy to overload.
With a family of four, for example, going on a two-week holiday, a list like this is not unusual:
The heavyweight stuff:
Take care not to exceed your car's
Awning, cycles, barbecue, windbreaks, sunloungers, table and chairs for the awning.
Clothing, walking boots, hairdryer, food, fizzy drinks bottles, even shampoo bottles and beach towels all add up… And because, when we are loading our caravans, we carry items into the caravan in small quantities; we really have no idea of how much total weight we’re putting into those lockers.
Caravanners don’t use suitcases, of course, to carry an entire holiday’s clothes and essentials from home to caravan, so we never actually feel the weight of what we’re taking on board.
There is, though, a simple way to find out. Bathroom scales.
Start by weighing the large items – awning, barbecue, for example. You’ll have a good idea how much your cycles weigh because you’d have known that at the time you bought them.
And with the increasing number of triple bunk caravans designed to stow items like cycles in the bottom bunk section, there is a real risk of running into overload territory.
Yes, cycles are more secure from theft in the caravan than perched on a rack on top of the car or on the drawbar of the caravan. But there’s more at play here than total weight in the caravan. Those rear storage areas are really useful but you have to consider weight distribution.
Some layouts are easier to load evenly than others, depending on where the low-level lockers are. It’s wise to stop and think, for example, how much equipment you CAN cram into that cavern under the fixed bed – and how much it’s WISE to stow in there. Out of sight is out of mind – you might not realise just how much weight is hidden away down there.
Heavy items are best placed over the axle, not near the rear of the caravan. It might be tempting to hide your heavy awning away under the fixed bed but the caravan will be a lot more stable if you sit it on the floor in the centre of the caravan over the axle.
If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you are entitled to tow any outfit where the combined maximum weight of car and caravan doesn’t exceed 8,250kg!
If you passed your test after that date, your combined car-caravan maximum weight must not be greater than 3,500kg. It’s calculated on gross vehicle weight, which is considerably higher than your car’s kerb weight.
You’ll need to take a test (it costs £115) to enable you to tow heavier caravans with heavier cars. A variety of courses are available to ensure you can learn the skills required to pass the test.
The big question is: Do you choose a detachable towbar and retain the neatness of the car, or a less expensive fixed towbar? A towbar specialist will guide you through your choices for your model of car. Next month we take you through this process.
Several companies specialise in caravan insurance. All give reductions for anti-theft devices such as alarms and wheel locks.
Stick to the insurance companies which specialise in caravan insurance – and shop around.
If you can’t, or don’t want to, keep your caravan on your home premises when it’s not in use, seek out a secure caravan storage compound. Make sure you know your insurance company’s requirements on caravan storage and check the storage business you choose meets with these.
Many caravan storage businesses are members of the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA). Our advice: Choose one of these if you can. CaSSOA is a nationally-recognised body providing a register of secure storage sites all over Britain. Visit www.cassoa.co.uk; the website guides you on how to find site locations.
Read part 1 of our beginners' guide by clicking here.
Read part 2 of our beginners' guide by clicking here.
New to caravanning? Read our top caravan tips by clicking here.
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