Heading off-road in your caravan? Let's not beat around the bush...
The term ‘off-road caravanning’ means different things to different people. Specific advice on this topic, therefore, should largely depend on the location. Entire books have been written about the dos and don’ts of off-road travel, from emergency communications, fuel and water, to carrying essential spare parts and the like. I don’t have that kind of space here, but four essential areas of off-road caravanning advice do come to mind.
In particularly sandy and rocky conditions, it is wise to lower the pressure in your vehicle and van’s tyres. The exact pressure will depend on your setup and the conditions, but the idea he is to widen the ‘footprint’ of the tyres which, in sand, will increase traction. In rocky conditions, reduced pressure should allow the tyre to conform to rocks and other hazards, decreasing the chances of a puncture.
Be sure to pack a pressure gauge and a portable air-compressor so you can re-inflate your tyres to the correct pressure once you’re back on firm ground.
It makes good sense to have your vehicle serviced and/or inspected by a mechanic before any trip, especially if you’re heading off-road or into remote areas. The same goes for the van. Mechanically speaking, there are fewer components on a caravan or camper trailer to fail compared to the tow vehicle. Having said that, a shot wheel bearing or a leaking gas system on your trailer will quickly ruin your trip. So, get it signed off by a specialist beforehand.
Towing a van on off-road tracks is unlike towing on the open highway. It will require an even greater awareness of obstacles, such as tree branches and ruts. Depending on the terrain, you’ll also require confidence in your ability to turn your rig around should a track become drastically narrow or otherwise ill-advised. The best advice: if you’re unsure what’s ahead, unhitch and scout the terrain in just the 4WD.
Good judgement in your rig’s ability to negotiate tight corners is a must. I try to take a central line around the corner, remaining aware of my ‘cutting in’ angle as well as the van’s outside tail sweep. If you’re unsure about that corner, back off, lest you damage your awning on a tree branch.
For these reasons, I recommend purchasing a compact van if you’re in the market for a new off-roader. You’ll have a tighter turning circle and a greater ability to dodge and weave around obstacles, such as overhanging branches.
Finally, educate yourself. The internet and public libraries are filled with sound information on this topic. And if you’re ever in doubt about a certain road or track, or your equipment’s ability to cope, develop an alternative route or destination. No adventure is worth risking your gear or your life.
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