There are a few things in the world of caravanning that show you’ve made it – things that announce to the nomadic fraternity that you’re part of the gang; the real deal; someone worth having happy hour with. Not washing your feet in the concrete basin where everyone else empties their toilet cassette (yes, I’ve seen that happen – no, I didn’t let my kids in the caravan afterwards!) is one of them, and reversing a caravan into a tight campsite first go is another one.
There’s actually nothing more nerve-racking than getting to a busy campsite late in the afternoon, when everyone else got there earlier in the day to snag the best spots that didn’t involve reversing around three trees, a tap that’s for all intents and purposes invisible to your mirrors, and six unleashed dogs enjoying freedom from the car. Literally nothing – I’d rather overtake four road trains on one of those outback roads with only a single strip of bitumen than have half a campsite watch me mess up my reverse park and yell at my wife before setting up camp on an angle 28 degrees different to everyone else.
But there is an art to reversing your caravan in first time, in any spot, with any number of other campers watching. I tell you truly, there is nothing more satisfying that being applauded as you glide into your campsite at a perfect 90-degree angle just millimetres from the slab (unless the effort took 15 minutes and nine attempts, of course – that sort of clap is just condescending).
Here are my top seven tips for reversing a caravan into camp first time. Most times.
1. Use your partner
The best way to use your partner is to have them do it while you sort out something at reception, or go to check out the facilities, or something that’s super important and definitely couldn’t wait until the caravan’s parked. If they’re not as keen on that idea as you are – have them stand outside to guide you, in a position where they can see all the things you’re going to hit and keep a tally.
2. Fix your mirrors
After ignoring the fact you couldn’t really see out of the passenger side towing mirror for the last few hundred kilometres, because it was basically just reflecting the road and some of your rear tyre, adjust it so that it can see down the whole caravan, in particular the back, lower corners and wheels. That way you can see what you hit, too, and can check the tally for accuracy later.
3. Give yourself plenty of space – Drive a little way past your assigned site, maybe three of four rows, and check that there isn’t a drive-through one available. If there is, park on it and set up camp, then go back to reception and change your booking. If there’s no drive-throughs, stop a little past your spot so you can ease your way in with no sharp turns.
4. The other left hand down – Develop a clear set of instructions that both you and your partner understand. While terms like ‘swing it’, ‘left-hand-down’ and ‘you’re going to hit a f#%&ing tap’ are really helpful, not everyone understands them the same way, so make sure you’re both speaking the same language when the time comes.
5. Think backwards – Everything you are about to do does the opposite of what you think it will. Your partner will say right, but they really mean ‘correct’. They’ll say left, but they really mean, ‘no room left’, and you’ll turn the steering wheel right, but your caravan will jack-knife, and so on. The best thing you can do is go slow at this point, and once you’re moving, focus on where you want the caravan’s tyres to end up, and constantly reference this point with the arc of your slowly moving caravan. There is actually a point in your caravan’s articulation that would enable you to constantly reverse in circles – set yourself up so you are reversing as close to this point as possible, and have your partner only tell you if you need more turn, less turn or to stop.
6. Ease her in – Once your caravan’s tyres are in line with the top corner of your destination (i.e. the corner of the slab), resist the urge to just give up here because ‘close enough is good enough’. You’re just about there! If you’ve come in fairly straight, make small adjustments to keep the van in line as you move back. If you’ve come in on a tight angle, now’s the time to tighten up even more and hope you don’t stamp the back of your car with a gas bottle.
7. Breathe – You’re all done. Now that you’re breathing and thinking properly again, you can soak up the adoration of other caravanners around the park. Of course, you could have avoided this whole situation if you’d just followed the advice Clayton from Horizon Motorhomes offered us on the subject, and just bought yourself a motorhome.
Had a caravan reversing shocker? Got a story to tell? Add it to the comments below.
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