While there are some caravan owners who prefer to use their caravan to visit camping sites where they can relax for a few days, many are more adventurous and like to take their caravans off-road in order to enjoy the true outdoors. These excursions can range from sticking to mapped-out caravan trails on previously traversed dirt roads to venturing out into the Australian outback with a lot more challenges.
As caravan manufacturers classify their caravans differently, there is no definite set of criteria for what is required to make a caravan off-road or not. If you plan to do serious offroad touring it is important to do some research into the minimum criteria required to call a caravan ‘off-road’.
What Is a True Off-Road Caravan?
If you are considering purchasing a new caravan or want to asses whether your caravan is capable of going off-road you need to know what design features are necessary to make a caravan capable of handling the off-road conditions you plan to traverse and what preparations you need to make before heading off road.
What Are The Features Of A True Off-Road Caravan?
The foundation of a caravan is its chassis and a strong chassis is a must if you plan to take your caravan on rough roads. The chassis of a true off-road caravan is designed for much more challenging conditions than what can be expected on normal dirt tracks.
Strong off-road caravan chassis are usually built from thick steel box sections with lots of bracing in a ladder-frame configuration. However, manufacturers of specialised off-road caravans are now designing chassis out of much lighter materials with the same capabilities as much heavier steel versions.
Shock absorbers are designed to absorb the constant vibrational forces or shocks created by driving on rough roads. If you are planning to take your caravan on long trips with corrugated tracks you will have to ensure that it has excellent shock absorbers and a good suspension. Bad shock absorbers will eventually lead to dislodged fittings, broken axles, failed bearings, and other damage.
A good set of all-terrain brand tyres are an absolute must for caravans exposed to long trips on rough roads. All-terrain tyres have excellent load-carrying capabilities, thick treads, and strong sidewalls to resist blowouts and punctures from the onslaught of stones and sharp objects encountered in rough conditions. Correct tyre pressure is also vital to give your caravan tyres the best chance survival in rough off-road conditions.
Travelling on a dirt road causes a barrage of stones and other debris to get kicked up from the tyres of the tow vehicle and strike the front of the caravan. Adequate stone protection is vital to minimise the damage to the exterior of the caravan.
Apart from the damage, there is a high risk that stones can ricochet off the front of the caravan and hit the rear of the tow vehicle, potentially breaking the rear windscreen. A stone deflector will deflect any stones or other objects harmlessly toward the ground.
A proper off-road tow hitch or coupling is invaluable on rough roads as it not only offers a secure connection, but a greater range of articulation compared to standard ball hitches. A good range of motion is vital in the event of a rollover. A standard ball hitch is capable of transferring the rolling force onto the lower vehicle, causing the tow vehicle to roll over. A good off-road hitch is designed to minimise this effect.
A good departure angle is needed to negotiate obstacles like dips, spoon drains, ferry boarding ramps, and creek crossings. It prevents the caravan from getting caught up and avoids damage to the van and the tow vehicle. True off-road caravans feature a full cut-away and a raised rear end that provides additional clearance when needed most.
Securing Your Gear
When travelling on rough terrain everything in the caravan is likely to be thrown around, with a high risk of damaging essential components. Off-road caravans have features like special compartments to secure loose items.
Plumbing and Wiring
Off-road caravans have plumbing and wiring running up behind components like the main beams of the chassis or water tanks that offer a certain amount of protection. Stones and gravel flung up from the tow vehicle’s tyres can cause extensive damage to exposed plumbing and wiring fitted under the caravan where they are particularly vulnerable to breakage.
Single or Dual-Axle?
This will depend on how extreme the off-road travel will be. Caravan experts agree that while a single-axle is much easier to maneuver on extremely difficult terrain, a tandem-axle is much better to tow on long distances as they do not pitch as much as single-axles and are more stable on undulating terrain. This makes it much more comfortable for the driver as it exerts far less influence on the tow vehicle.
Purchase Off-road Caravans From Retreat Caravans
When you purchase a caravan from Retreat Caravans you buy more than just a caravan. Owning a Retreat Caravan is like travelling with old friends. You get all the support and important information you need to make every caravan trip a pleasurable experience.
You can enjoy the company of other caravanners at the Retreat rallies and help support important charities at special events. A Retreat Caravan gives you the confidence that the caravan you have chosen is perfect for the purpose and if not, you will receive all the help and support you need to make it so.
Click below to learn more about off-road caravans and our experts will help you make the right choice.