When buying your first tourer you might be daunted by the enormous array of caravan accessories on display in your retailer’s showroom.
Whether you're buying essential security accessories or extras for caravan comfort, everything from stylish lightweight tableware to toilet chemicals and awnings is likely to merge into a kaleidoscope of confusion.
But there’s an easy way through this maze. Accessories can be neatly divided into two sections: items that you can’t leave home without, and items that, later on, may catch your eye and enhance your caravanning lifestyle.
Here, we guide you through what you’ll need to budget for initially and approximate prices of these items.
If it’s caravan gas cylinders you want to find out about, read our special section below by clicking here.
You can opt for a small, simple white water container that you carry to and from a tap but, with a number of wheeled water containers to choose from, our advice is to look closely at these.
They’re a lot more expensive than a small white container but you don’t have to carry water and the good news is you’ll only have to refill it about once a day, as they’re of larger capacity.
These are cylinders that have two tyres around the edge so that you can pull them along, holding a handle which clips to the top and bottom of the cylinder.
The original rolling water carrier is called an Aquaroll; the brand name has become ingrained in the caravan world similar to the way that the Sellotape brand has infiltrated our language. Still, Aquaroll, first appearing 50 years ago, hasn’t got the market all to itself now.
Aquarolls come in 29-litre and 40-litre sizes. They’re available in beige (dull and boring) or metallic silver (smart and bright). Fiamma produces a 40-litre wheeled water container of a different design. The wheels are on the base; there’s an integral handle at the top.
Caravan accessory company Royal produces an Aquarius rolling water tank of a similar design to Aquarolls. It’s bright blue. And Kampa, which also makes awnings, produces a pale grey 40-litre container, too.
Again, there’s a choice between those you have to carry to the site’s waste water emptying point and those you can pull along easily on wheels.
Royal’s 40-litre Waste Warrior is bright green. It rolls along on two wheels at its base and there’s a handle at the top. Royal also produces a basic black waste water tank with a carry handle; it holds about 10 litres.
Aquaroll’s Waste Master holds 38 litres. Like the fresh waster container in the same range, you have a choice of beige or metallic silver.
Kampa produces a wheeled waste water container, too. It rides on chunky wheels at its base like the others on the market and holds 40 litres.
Unless your caravan is specifically designed to be used on mains hook-up only, you will need to buy a battery. Caravan batteries are called leisure batteries. They’re usually 75 to 110amp-hour and are between £50 (for the 75Ah) and £90 for the 110Ah. As with most things, it’s worth shopping around to get the best price – this is especially true of batteries.
All new caravans now come with a large, stable plastic step. A used caravan may not have a step. If you need to buy one, you have a surprisingly wide choice.
There are folding steel steps, metal steps that don’t fold and a range of double steps, plus steps that are also boxes to contain small items.
A caravan step will cost you anywhere from around £7 up to £87 (that’s for a Fiamma folding aluminium one). There's nothing wrong with the basic cost effective options.
The law states that drivers must be able to see for a distance of 20 metres to the rear, and four metres either side of their outfit. This is achieved with mirrors that secure to your car’s door mirrors and extend the field of vision along both sides of the caravan.
There’s an enormous choice of styles and types. Which you choose depends on two things. Firstly, you need to pick one that fits really securely on your car’s door mirrors (which vary in shape). Secondly, pick mirrors you can afford without stretching your budget. That said, generally, the more you pay, the better the structure you’ll get and that means less vibration which will distort the image.
Expect to pay from around £10 for each mirror; prices go up to around £30 or more. As with batteries, standard advice is to shop around for the best price. And, more important than anything, try before you buy; caravan accessory shops will usually let you check that the mirror you’re considering actually fits well on your car’s mirrors before you buy.
Why you need mirrors
The law states that if your caravan is wider than your car you must have extension mirrors. Don’t risk leaving home without these – it’s three driving licence points for each side and a fine of up to £1000 awaits mirror-less caravan towers!
Again, a legal requirement, you will need to buy an additional car number plate to stick on the back of your caravan while on the road.
Caravan accessory shops and Halfords make these up but you can get them from car dealerships as well, of course. Be prepared to present your car’s ownership document as this is often required to prove you own the vehicle before you can have a number plate made up for it.
It’s one of the cheapest on your list of things you can’t go away without and it’s also one of the most important! You can get inside your caravan without a step but you can’t get in a single-axle caravan without winding down the corner steadies because the rear of the caravan will tip towards the ground when you walk along it! Around £10 buys you a decent corner steady winding handle.
Chemical toilets are a brilliant invention. They’re easy to empty and easy to clean and there’s a good choice of chemicals to add to the waste and top tank. Waste tank chemicals prevent odour; top tank additives smell slightly fragrant and keep the toilet mechanism working well.
All new caravans come with mains cables. Most are 25m long. If you’re buying a used caravan for sale, it may still have its original mains cable with it or the caravan may have been manufactured before it became standard practice to supply cables with caravans.
There are two types of gas used by caravanners, propane and butane. Propane comes in red cylinders while butane is in blue ones.
If you intend to use your caravan in frosty weather you will need to choose propane, because butane does not vaporise in sub-zero temperatures.
Calor propane gas comes in a choice of cylinder sizes: 6kg is the most popular; it’s also in small 3.9kg and much larger 13kg cylinder.
The cost arrangement is this: When you buy your first cylinder, it will cost you £29.99 plus the gas inside it. The £29.99 is known as a Refill Agreement Charge. This is an agreement under which Calor will supply you with subsequent full cylinders in exchange for your empty one; you just pay for the contents.
Replacing a 3.9kg cylinder will cost you £15.49; a 6kg cylinder £19.99; a 13kg cylinder £25.49.
Butane comes in 4.5kg (£15.99), 7kg (£21.49) and 15kg (£32.99). There are other gas cylinder providers on the market, but Calor is stocked by most caravan accessory shops and many campsites, too, so it’s the type that most caravanners pick.
Which size to choose
Most caravanners opt for the 6kg propane or 7kg butane.
Lighter weight alternative cylinders from Calor and BP have been available since March 2008.
The Calor Lite weighs 4.5kg empty. The BP light 5kg cylinder weighs 3.7kg empty. The standard Calor 6kg cylinder weights 9kg empty. So saving 5.3kg per cylinder makes a lot of sense, not just in terms of your overall caravan contents’ weight, but in terms of ease of handling your gas cylinders.
Calor uses a higher strength of steel for the Calor Lite cylinders, enabling the cylinder walls to be thinner and the cylinder lighter.
BP Gas Light
BP also produces gas cylinders that are lighter in weight than standard ones. These are called BP Gas Light and are about half the weight of a standard steel cylinder. These cylinders are made of fibreglass and they’re semi-translucent, so you can actually see how much as you have left.
The disadvantage with BP cylinders is that they are not sold on campsites or caravan dealerships; they are sold at Homebase stores, of which there are 300, so it’s easy to locate one. The advantage is that you can see the level of gas. They come in 10kg and 5kg sizes.
Initial costs, for your first cylinder and its contents, are £64.99 and £56.99. Replacing a 5kg cylinder costs £21.99; for a 10kg cylinder it’s £29.99.