Before you tow
It is important to familiarise yourself with the weight of your caravan (MIRO - Mass in Running Order) and the maximum weight your caravan is allowed to weigh when fully loaded (MTPLM - Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass). The difference between these two weights is the User Payload, i.e. the maximum weight of food, clothes, bedding etc that you are permitted to carry in the caravan when towing.
You will also need to be aware of the correct nose weight which is the maximum force that can be exerted on the tow bar of your car. This is the lowest of three values; the caravan chassis manufacturer, the tow vehicle manufacturer and the towbar manufacturer.
Check your driving licence and insurance policy to make sure you are permitted to tow. Full UK driving licences awarded after January 1997 do not automatically include categories B&E and you may be required to take a practical test. Heavier caravans can also require additional tests so check the weight of your caravan and your policy and licence documents.
Loading your caravan
When loading your caravan, consider the weight distribution of your belongings.
Place heavy items such as your awning and outdoor furniture on the floor over the axle of your caravan.
Medium weight items such as bedding and toys can be spread a little further from the axle, although keep below window height and as centrally as possible.
Only place very light, non breakable items in the top lockers of your caravan.
Load your caravan as centrally and evenly as possible. Do not be tempted to fill the storage lockers underneath bunks at the back of your caravan as this can cause instability and snaking. Keep your centre of gravity as low as possible.
Heavy items can also be loaded into the boot of your car, although be careful not to overload your car or exceed the maximum load weight of your car.
Don’t fill the front lockers by the tow hitch of your caravan. Overloading the front of your caravan may cause it to become unsteady.
What to take
Pack sensibly and don’t take everything you own with you on holiday. Think about how many people are going and only take what you will each need for the duration of your stay. Consider taking lighter versions of your usual products such as plastic plates and drink ware, dry packets of food rather than tins, and travel size versions of toiletries. Always empty water containers and onboard water tanks before travelling.
Once you are loaded and ready to set off, check the tyre pressure of your tow vehicle and caravan before travelling. Remember that the weight of both vehicles will change dramatically when loaded so tyre pressures will need to be set accordingly. Check manufacturers guidelines for exact tyre pressures.
Before you travel, be sure to plan your route to make sure that the roads you are taking are suitable for caravans and avoid narrow lanes, low bridges or road restrictions. If you are travelling abroad, check international tow laws, speed limits and any specific equipment that you may be required to carry such as first aid kit or high visibility vests, for example. Check with your insurance company that you are covered to travel in other countries and arrange breakdown cover that will cover the full range of your journey.