The secrets of safe loading
- Keep heavy items low The heaviest items, such as your awning, mains electrics cable, outdoor chairs, tables and similar items, should be kept on the floor, above the axle. If your caravan has a fixed rear bed, don’t put anything heavy in the temptingly large space beneath it – weight at the back of the van will make it tail-heavy and unstable. If you get into a snake, that weight will perpetuate the pendulum effect – very bad news indeed.
- Spread medium items Medium-weight items can be spread a little further than the axle. Generally, your front seat lockers will accommodate most of these, but even here, position the heavier items as near to the axle as you can.
- Lightest items to the top Only the lightest items – T-shirts, underwear and so on – should go in the roof lockers. There’s a good reason for this: heavy items up top would badly affect your caravan’s centre of gravity.
- Use your car Your car’s boot can take its share of the load, but don’t go crazy – cars have a maximum weight limit, just like your caravan. If you think you might have exceeded the MTPLM, test your laden outfit at your local public weighbridge (ask your council for details).
- Weigh everything Weighing all your kit is a bit of a bind but you only need to do it once. It’s a good idea because then you know exactly where you stand, especially if you think you might be close to the MTPLM. Take everything out of your van and weigh it individually on a set of bathroom scales, recording each item’s weight on a spreadsheet. That way, each time you go on holiday, you’ll know exactly how much you can take with you.
Mass in Running Order (MIRO) This is the weight of your caravan when it leaves the factory.
Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) This is the maximum your caravan is allowed to weigh when loaded.
User payload This is the difference between the MTPLM and the MIRO
– in other words, the maximum weight of all the food, clothes and accessories you are allowed to carry.
Noseweight limit The maximum downward force that the car manufacturer will permit to be exerted on the towbar, and that the caravan manufacturer will allow to be exerted on the hitch.
More loading tips
Don’t use the full capacity of your caravan’s front locker. Because it’s right at the front, any weight here will severely increase your caravan’s noseweight. Chances are, it’s already heavy because it usually contains the gas bottles.
Never travel with full water containers or on-board tanks. Empty them completely before travel (when full, they are heavy and unstable).
Buy a noseweight gauge. Try to get the reading near to the car manufacturer’s limit without exceeding it. You must also take into account the caravan’s maximum noseweight limit. Do not exceed whichever is the lowest.