The best thing you can do to ensure a safe trip is to load your caravan properly. Using just a little common sense will keep you and other road users free from danger.
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.
The secrets of safe loading
1 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.
2 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.
3 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 high up would badly aff ect your caravan’s centre of gravity.
4 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 outfi t at your local public weighbridge (ask your council for details).
5 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.
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.
Don’t carry any water in your Aquaroll or inboard freshwater tank – water is heavy and unstable. Remember, one litre of water weighs 1kg, so a 40-litre Aquaroll will weigh 40kg. Instead, carry a bottle of water in your fridge for roadside brew-ups.
Be sensible about what you need to take. For example, don’t empty your kitchen cupboards straight into your caravan. Instead, just load a few key items – e.g. coffee, teabags, and enough for a light meal or two – until you can go shopping after you arrive. Also take lightweight, melamine crockery instead of heavy, domestic chinaware.
For more information
Caravansitefi nder.co.uk Web www.caravansitefinder.co.uk/features/touring/towing.php
The Camping and Caravanning Club Web www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk. Tel 0845 130 7631
The Caravan Club Web www.caravanclub.co.uk. Tel 01342 326 944
Books and guides
The Caravan Handbook by John Wickersham (£12.99 Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978-1-859-60801-2)
The Caravan Towing Guide by the National Caravan Council (free of charge) Web www.nationalcaravan.co.uk. Tel 01252 318 251
Teach Yourself Caravanning by Rob McCabe (£8.99, Hodder Education ISBN 978-0-340-94194-2)