Thinking about taking your caravan off-road and exploring more adventurous destinations? Not only do you need a caravan that’s capable of the job but the skills to handle a whole range of situations that you may encounter.
At the end of the day, taking your caravan off-road is all about planning and being prepared, which includes knowing your abilities and that of both your vehicle and caravan. So to help you embark on your next off-roading adventure, we have put together some of our top tips for a safe and stress-free journey.
Control Your Speed
One of the most important things to consider when taking your caravan off-road is controlling your speed, particularly if you’re prone to getting a little carried away. It’s easy to underestimate just how dangerous driving can be on dirt or gravel roads, not to mention doing it with a caravan in tow.
With reduced traction for your tyres to grip the road, it’s easy to lose control, especially if you’re taking a bend at high speed. Potholes and ditches only add to the problem. As the suspension unloads and lifts the pressure off the wheel, this reduces traction even further.
What all this means is that you need to take it slower than you normally would. Less speed equates to less chance of losing control, as well as a reduction in bouncing and (in the worst-case scenario) flipping your vehicle.
Avoid Dead Ends
If you’ve ever tried to do a 180-degree turn while towing a 20-foot caravan, you’ll know that it’s frustrating, to say the least. Not only are you negotiating the turn with a lengthy load but you’re dealing with reduced visibility thanks to a caravan positioned directly in the line of your rear-view mirror.
Avoiding dead-end roads isn’t always easy, particularly if you’re off-roading through unexplored territory. If the opportunity allows, send an unhitched scout vehicle up ahead first or even go on foot to see what lies down the track. It might sound like a nuisance but it may save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Know The Tricks Of Turns
If you do end up needing to perform a U-turn while taking your caravan off-road, there are a few tricks to keep up your sleeve. As you start to reverse, try activating your caravan’s brakes independently to your vehicles, which will cause it to jack-knife more effectively than usual.
When you come to straighten up the car, try exaggerating your turns both ways. By doing this, you should avoid having to take multiple swings at getting you and your caravan on the right track.
Avoid Low-Hanging Branches
Low-hanging tree branches can cause all sorts of issues and are something you need to keep an eye out for when taking your caravan off-road. The last thing you want is a branch scraping along the top of your caravan and causing costly damage. Being aware of your caravan’s height is the first step and making a sound judgement of what you can and can’t clear is the next. In some cases, you can drop some air out of the tyres if you need to get a little more clearance or try renegotiating your route to avoid the branch altogether.
Be Realistic About Your Abilities
We’re always encouraged to push our limits but understanding your abilities (and those of your vehicle and caravan) is just as important. In addition to knowing your ground clearance, weight and length, you need to be realistic about your off-roading driving and just what situations you can (and can’t) get yourself out of.
To be honest, we’re all going to end up dealing with obstacles at some point during our off-roading adventures. Rather than panicking or ploughing ahead with option A, always stay calm and carefully consider your options, which may include a more suitable plan B. If a caravan owner with more off-roading experience turns up, don’t be too proud to take their advice or assistance in getting out of a sticky situation.
Pick Your Line Carefully
If you’ve driven with a caravan in tow before, you’ll know that you need to swing relatively wide to account for your increased turning circle. This becomes slightly more challenging when you’re dealing with rocks and uneven terrain in an off-road situation.
When selecting your line, it’s really important that you keep in mind any low-hanging parts of your undercarriage, such as water tanks, which could be severely damaged if they take a hit. This is also the case during river bed crossings when you don’t necessarily know what’s lurking below the water’s surface. Your best option is to take things slow and smooth, rather than putting your foot on the pedal to shoot your way out of there. In some cases, just the slightest shift in positioning can be the ticket to success.
Be Gear Selective
Any off-road driver will tell you that selecting the right gears plays a huge role in your success. Generally speaking, low-range gearing is the way to go on difficult off-road tracks and you want to avoid shifting gears if you can when taking on steep hills. Coming down, try and stop yourself from engaging the clutch, which reduces your engine braking and could result in you picking up speed and free-rolling down the hill.
Complete An Off-Road Training Course
If you’re new to off-roading with a caravan, we highly recommend you complete an off-road training course, which will give you the skills and confidence you need. You’ll learn how to handle rough terrain and unpredictable conditions, as well as how to negotiate turns and navigate new territory with ease. While it may cost you time and money, it could save you a lot of heartaches and expense down the track.
So before you venture off-road with a caravan in tow and the attitude of “how hard can it be?”, take the time to plan and prepare. Most importantly, ensure your caravan is capable of off-roading and can handle the rough and tumble of the terrain that lies ahead.