Buying a caravan for the first time is one of the most exciting events in your life. And once you’ve brought it home, you will be keen to take it away for that first caravanning holiday. However, before you head off, there is a fair bit of ‘stuff’ you’re going to need to take with you to ensure your first and subsequent caravanning adventures are as comfortable and trouble-free as possible.
Here is our list of basic but essential caravanning gear that you should stock up on before you tow your new caravan out of the driveway.
You caravan needs a 15Amp lead to fit onto caravan park supplies. Your home has a 10Amp supply so you must not use your 15Amp lead for your caravan in your home sockets. Because you are drawing more power, your power socket will heat up and potentially catch fire and void your insurance. The correct thing to do is –
- Get an electrician to install a special 15A power point at home
- Buy a 15A to 10A adaptor for your new caravan from Bunnings, BCF or other camping suppliers.
It is useful to have one of these with you anyway.
15A power sockets and leads have a larger earth pin. They won’t fit in a standard home 10A power point. The bigger pin isn’t there because a greater earth is needed. It’s literally there to stop you plugging it in to a standard 10A power point!
WHAT DOES A 15A TO 10A CARAVAN POWER ADAPTOR DO?
These safely (and legally) connect your 15A caravan to a normal 10A power point. If the circuit gets loaded over 10A? It will cut out before your home power point gets a chance to fail. Ampfibians are one of the most popular caravan adaptors because they’re approved.
It is a good idea to have two 15Amp extension cord for the caravan of 20metre length. One cord might not be enough, and one lead could be damaged, so you have a spare.
Most caravans have all the modern conveniences of home including a shower, washbasin and a kitchen sink. You are likely to have a hot water system as well. These will require the caravan to be connected to a water main tap, again, conveniently provided near your site at the caravan park. You will need at least one 15-20m hose with sufficient fittings to connect it to the tap and to the water inlet of your van.
Again, we would recommend having an additional hose both as an extension and a spare. Remember to have a joiner connection. Do not use a normal garden hose as this will taint the taste and odour of the water. Ensure you only purchase hose suitable for drinking water. While it’s not an absolutely necessity, an inline water filter/purifier may be useful if your destination relies on bore water. This ensures your grey water tank is as clean as possible and avoids sediment build up.
All the wastewater from your sinks and showers needs to go somewhere and some caravans have a grey water holding tank fitted. You need to check in your caravan. Having a grey water tank enables your caravan to be classified as self-contained and welcomed in the National Parks.
Your caravan will have a greywater outlet, either from the holding tank or direct from the sinks and shower. Now, unless you want a great puddle of smelly water near your van or worse on your neighbour’s site, you’ll need a greywater diversion hose. Just make sure you have the right plumbing connections to attach the hose to the greywater outlet. Ideally your greywater hose can be put into a drain on the campsite.
Once you’ve arrived and parked your caravan on your site, you will need to secure it. Most caravans are equipped with a rudimentary handbrake, but you should not rely on these exclusively. A set of simple wheel chocks placed against at least one wheel, preferable two, will ensure your caravan doesn’t roll off the site. A selection of small wooden blocks will also be useful.
You may also find the site is not completely level so include a set of levelling ramps in your kit for the caravan wheels and a spirit level to check how level you are. There is nothing worse than finding your bed is on a slant when trying to sleep!
Whether you have a concrete slab or grass as the area by your caravan you will want a ground mat to avoid walking in dirt and grass, which will drive you mad if you like a clean caravan floor. You should also consider purchasing a good quality doormat as well. One tip is to take your shoes off at the door and have another pair to put on in the caravan.
The awning is a constant source of frustration for many novice caravanners, but it needn’t be if you remember to take a few extra items with you. Importantly, for a roll-out awning, make sure you have the special hook tool that allows you to reach the strap to pull out the awning otherwise you’ll be searching for a ladder to reach it. Once the awning is out, it’s a good idea to secure it with a couple of guy ropes and tent pegs, so remember to pack them as well. A rope suspended from one arm of the awning to the other makes an excellent makeshift clothesline. If you have a wind-out awning, make sure you have been equipped with the winding handle, and don’t put it down in long grass ‘somewhere’.
Double top tip: make sure you have the winder for your stabiliser legs also.
Nowadays sides can be purchased for awnings to create a private area outside the caravan, just make sure the sides are compatible with your awning before you set off on your trip
If your caravan is equipped with a toilet, you will need special chemicals to minimise odour and break down solids. There is a considerable variety available, although in theory with a SOG fitted, chemicals to dispel odour are not necessary. Whichever ones you chose, ensure you follow the directions carefully. Many caravan parks rely on septic tanks for sewage and using the incorrect or improper dose of chemicals can destroy the vital bacteria they rely on.
You may have noticed that your caravan is a fair bit wider and taller than your tow vehicle. This means it will be quite difficult to see along the side of the caravan with your car’s standard mirrors. For this reason, you must fit extension mirrors to your tow vehicle. These will allow you to see any passing traffic approaching you from behind and it will ensure you do not attract any unwanted attention from the police. There are many styles to choose from, whatever your budget
It doesn’t matter how old or new your van is, how well made it is or how carefully you take care of it, there will inevitably be small maintenance tasks you’ll need to perform from time to time. Screws can come loose, wires can break, and hoses can burst. You can save yourself a lot of trouble if you’re able to make minor repairs yourself. All you need is a set of screwdrivers, a hammer, a basic socket set, a large shifting spanner, a plumber’s wrench and a good multi-meter and you should be able to deal with most odd jobs and emergency tape to stop a leak. Electrical contact cleaner and WD-40 are also essential gear for keeping your trailer plugs in good, working order. We also suggest a bottle jack is the best solution for jacking up the caravan and a piece of timber is a good idea for under the jack.
Also remember a good torch is needed for the trips across the caravan park at night.
You’ll have a small collection of keys for all the hatches, doors and water tank caps. The last thing you need is to lose any of these keys and not have a replacement at hand. Ideally have two sets of keys both labelled on each key. One set is kept in the caravan and the other is kept in the tow vehicle. It is also a good idea to have a spare key for the main entry door in safe place in case others are misplaced. Nothing worse than not being able to get into your locked caravan.
Caravans will have a number of appliances and fixtures that you will need to know how to use. Do yourself a favour and go through the manuals for your caravan and ensure you have one for each item. The hot water system, air conditioner, toilet, washing machine, awning, a stereo system, you name it, you should have a manual for it. Always keep them in the caravan as you will no doubt need to refer to them at various times.