It takes a great deal of serious thought to research your next caravan before you buy, so you can ensure that it meets your needs. One important factor is the storage space.
This can involve compromises, but there are ways to maximise the amount of kit you can carry – within your payload and loaded sensibly, of course.
The key point here is to choose your kit carefully, then load your caravan and tow car thoughtfully, both on the road and when pitched. If you are moving on from a previous van, you will probably have most of your gear, ready to fit into the new unit.
If you’re upsizing, you should have no problems, because you will have plenty of spare space; but if you are downsizing, as many do, careful selection (and some crafty ideas) will help you to fit all of those essentials into more limited space.
If this is your first van, you’ll need to plan your list of your essential caravan accessories, ready for packing. Most people keep basic items permanently in their caravan, adding perishable goods and everyday clothing before a trip.
I start by checking out my plastic storage boxes, to see which sizes will best fit into the cupboard spaces available. These can then be allocated functions as appropriate.
Depending on your personal preferences – and the space you have available – your bedding might consist simply of sleeping bags or duvets, or could involve a complete domestic-style bedmaking kit.
Either way, one advantage is that items of bedding are very adaptable in shape, so storage boxes are not normally required for them.
One of my favourite ways to save space is to store a couple of pillows in large or bespoke cushion covers, so that they can be used both day and night, without taking up your valuable cupboard capacity.
Other bedding can be stowed away in the underbed lockers.
Perishable items can go straight in the caravan fridge at the last minute, and we often store meat short-term in the freezer compartment – otherwise this area is sometimes underused.
Tinned food and drinks are relatively heavy and, as with all heavy items, need to be stored somewhere low down.
For convenience of access, we tend to pack our tinned goods into a suitably sized plastic box, which can then be simply reached into, rather like a kitchen drawer.
If you can select pans and a kettle that fit inside one another (perhaps with a tea towel between each), so much the better, as you will certainly save cupboard space. A large plastic storage box would help to keep things tidy here.
For crockery, one popular choice is melamine, which is virtually indestructible; although I prefer thin white glass crockery, such as Corelle, or Oftast, the Ikea equivalent.
Although they are quite heavy, you’ll find that plates will stack compactly. They are also hygienic, stain-resistant and pleasing to use.
Fitting out a bespoke crockery cupboard minimises the space required and offers protection from chipping or other damage. Cutlery can be fine in a drawer, but to prevent it getting mixed up, you could use or make a tool roll to store it more securely.
A small kettle (and see our best caravan kettle guide for ideas) and toaster can be fitted into any spaces left in the kitchen unit, as can a small water-carrier for drinking water supplies, if like us, you prefer to keep the caravan system’s water for washing.
Oil, vinegar and washing-up liquids are best fitted into a small plastic container to keep them upright – you might also use this to store some 3-in-One oil, WD-40 and a small bottle of methylated spirits, which is handy as a solvent for ink stains and sticky adhesive remains.
Medical kits should not be confused with first-aid kits, which you might already have as a motoring essential.
A suitably sized box, or even a small toolbox, will be ideal to hold tablets and medicines for digestive upsets, headaches and pains, travel sickness, hayfever and so on, in addition to stocks of routine medication.
Pack some sticking plasters and elastic bandages; tweezers, nail-clippers and small scissors are also sensible additions.
This could live in your tow car, but make sure that you can access it easily if needed.
The size and contents of your toolkit depend on the storage space available, as well as your DIY capabilities. Like your first-aid kit, this can live in your car.
A small multimeter, sets of screwdrivers, spanners and pliers, and a small hacksaw are bound to come in handy from time to time.
Useful consumables include cable ties in various sizes, fuses and connector blocks.
A small container of various screws, washers, and nuts and bolts, and a reel of insulating tape, would be another good idea for your toolkit.
A couple of wire coat hangers can be cut up to perform a range of emergency tasks, and I never travel without duct tape and extra-strong rubble sacks, for temporary repairs to broken windows or lost rooflights.
Items needed for pitching include steady winders, electrical cables and connectors, an aerial cable, water-hoses and water-carriers, for both fresh and waste water. Some of these are quite bulky and heavy, and should ideally be stowed in your tow car to help distribute weight and stop them rolling around in the caravan.
I normally carry a full-length mains cable on a reel and a half-length one folded, which will often fit conveniently into the gas locker.
Storing your folding camping chairs and table while you’re on site can require much thought to ensure easy access while keeping them out of the way when they are not in use, particularly if you don’t have an awning.
Have easy access to your steps too, if you have them – and check out our best caravan steps guide if you’re looking for some.
If you drive on the Continent, you will need high-vis jackets, which must be stored where they can easily be accessed before you leave the vehicle. Your warning triangles and first-aid kit should also be stowed in an accessible spot; don’t leave them in the caravan!
Items such as cameras, laptops and binoculars require a safe place while you’re not in the caravan – you can even fit a safe into a locker if you don’t want to take them in the car with you when you go out and about.
Some paper, envelopes and stamps, stored in a thin packet, might come in handy, as will a small sewing kit for repairs.
By the time you have accommodated these items in appropriate places in your van, you will be ready to add perishable food and your clothes – then you should be all set for that exciting first trip!
For further advice on safe loading, including essential weight info, see our guide to caravan weights and measures.
Looking for more top tips for your next tour? Then be sure to head to our Back to Basics: On Tour category, where we’re providing you with all the information you could need to enjoy the ultimate adventure on the road.
Future Publishing Limited, the publisher of Practical Caravan, provides the information in this article in good faith and makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Individuals carrying out the instructions do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement in determining the appropriateness of the advice to their circumstances. Individuals should take appropriate safety precautions and be aware of the risk of electrocution when dealing with electrical products. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future nor its employees or agents shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information. You should check that any van warranty will not be affected before proceeding with DIY projects.
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