26/10/2012
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Buying a trailer tent: FAQ

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  Trailer tents and folding campers: the ultimate guide

Should we buy a folding camper or a trailer tent?

Some people refer to any vehicle that requires pegging out as a trailer tent and anything that doesn’t need pegging as a folding camper.

Some upmarket folding camper manufacturers are trying to redefine their products as ‘convertible caravans’ and there’s an element of truth in this definition in that they have more in common with a touring caravan than a tent – including the price!

As far as we’re concerned, if it looks more like a tent when erected, it’s a trailer tent, and if it looks more like a low-profile caravan when collapsed, it’s a folding camper.

Which is best for you depends primarily on your budget. You can pick up a used trailer tent for as little as £500, but even the cheapest second-hand folding campers cost a couple of thousand pounds and a new one will set you back as much as £15,000. Without an awning, a folding camper is quicker to set up and will usually have more mod cons and will certainly be more comfortable for spring and autumn trips. A trailer tent will be much cheaper, and will usually have more space, but won’t be as quick or easy to set up.


TOWING AND THE LAW

Do I need to take a special towing test before I can tow?

The vast majority of motorists holding a full Category B driving licence are entitled to tow a trailer tent without taking an additional test. The only exception to this rule relates to people who passed their test after 1997 who want to tow an unusually large trailer tent with an especially heavy towcar. If the combined weight of both car and trailer exceeds 3500kg, a special towing test needs to be taken, but in practice, few trailer tent/car combinations are likely to weigh more this limit.
 

Will my car tow a trailer tent?

Check your car’s manual and consult the section dealing with payload capacities and towing. Some car manufacturers expressly state that their small aren’t designed for towing and to do so would invalidate the warranty. If this is the case, it’s inadvisable to tow anything, but the majority of cars should be capable of towing a trailer tent of up to 750kg.

As a rule of thumb, as long as when fully laden, your trailer weighs no more than 85 per cent of the car’s kerbweight, you should be able to tow it safely.

The other important factor yout towcar’s noseweight limit, which should also be listed in the payload and towing section of its manual. The trailer’s noseweight is the force exerted by the hitch on the tow hook and agTrailer tent adviceain, the noseweight limit stated by the manufacturer should not be exceeded.


What are the speed limits in force while towing?

On dual carriageways and motorways, trailers are restricted to 60mph, while on single carriageways, the limit is 50mph or as indicated by speed limit signs. Trailers are not allowed in the fast lane of motorways. Some trailers with the smaller 10-inch wheels are further restricted to 50mph at all times – check the manual for details.


Does my trailer tent need its own brakes?

If the trailer together with any payload being carried weighs less 750kg, then it doesn’t need to have an independent braking system. Anything over 750kg must have its own braking system. Additionally, trailers weighing less than 750kg must have a robust back-up coupling (usually a chain) to keep them attached to the towcar if the hitch fails. Trailers over 750kg must be fitted with a breakaway cable which, in the event of a hitch failure, applies the trailer brakes before sheering.


TOWBARS AND ELECTRICS

I’ve bought a second-hand towbar off eBay. Can I fit it myself?

No. Since 1998, all towbars are required to be type-approved for the vehicle to which they are fitted. You can still fit a towbar yourself, but it must be type-approved for the make and model of your towcar.


I’ve had a towbar fitted specially to tow the used trailer tent I bought, but the electric sockets don’t match. Help!

It sounds like you have had a new 13-pin socket fitted along with your towbar, but your trailer tent still has the old 12-pin plugs. Don’t panic – pop down to your local camping specialist, who should be able to sell you an adaptor for just a few Pounds.

 

SITES

 
Do all campsites accept trailer tents?
 
Almost all campsites welcome trailer tents – even tent-only sites that don’t normally accept caravans or motorhomes. Some posh, privately-owned caravan parks might be reluctant to accept a trailer tent, so if in doubt, check by ringing ahead rather than just rolling up. On the continent, pretty much anything goes and you even see trailer tents pitched overnight on ‘aires de servtrailer tent electricsice’ in France.
 

Can I pitch my trailer tent on Club sites?
 
Yes. The Camping and Caravanning Club has lots of trailer tenting members and all Caravan Club-owned sites also welcome folding campers and trailer tents, so you have access to a much wider choice of Club sites than tent campers – more than 300 sites throughout the UK in fact.
 

Can I use an electric hook up in my trailer tent?

You can, but if your trailer isn’t already fitted with sockets, you need to invest in a purpose-made unit containing the sockets for the appliances. These should attach to one of the poles and have a Residual Current Device (RCD) and Mini Circuit Breakers (MCB). The RCD is a very fast acting safety device that cuts off the electricity if there is an imbalance in the electric flow. RCDs come with a test button and this should be used regularly.

 

MAINTENANCE AND STORAGE

Do I need to have my trailer tent serviced regularly?

It’s a good idea – especially if you have purchased a state of the art model with gas, electrical and water services included. These will all benefit from an annual inspection carried out by a professional and if the trailer is covered by a warranty – may be a condition of the policy.

The hitch, axles and lighting should also be checked at regular intervals and if your trailer has brakes, these should also be inspected and reset every 3,000 miles or so.


I don’t have much room to spare in my garage – can I store my trailer tent outside?

Trailer tents can be stored outside, but it’s essential to pack away the tent properly to avoid some of the problems associated with long term outdoor storage.

Make sure the tent fabric is thoroughly dry before you pack it away. If there’s any dampness – even from condensation build-up inside the tent - this could rot the inner and, in extreme cases, the outer.

The best prevention is to remove the inners and maybe give them a wash before drying on a washing line and re-attaching later. In the meantime, erect the tent and leave to dry outside – ideally on a warm, dry day with some of the vents wide open. Do the same with the awning.

Once you’re happy everything is bone dry, collapse the tent and make sure it’s all well folded before re-attaching the cover, and – as a belt and braces measure – firmly attaching a second loose tarpaulin with bungee cords.

If you have room, the inners and soft furnishings are best stored inside over the winter months to keep them aired and safe from wee beasties who might fancy making their home in them!

If you do have a few feet to spare in you garage, an even better solution is to invest in the brackets which allow a lot of trailer tents to be stored on their side.


Finished reading?

Want more great trailer tent or folding camper information?

Our "Trailer tents and folding campers: The ultimate guide" is full of great tent buying advice.

  Buying a trailer tent or folding camper: the ultimate guide


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