Updated 13th June 2016
How can we do without them? High-tech or low-tech, we appear to have surrounded ourselves with gadgets of all shapes and sizes. Life as we know it seems almost impossible without them.
With the freedom of the open road and an escape from the hassles of everyday life at the top of the agenda, it might seem that your caravan offers a gadget-free kind of existence.
This guide might help you to think again, as it looks at the many different kinds of gadget which in fact make life in your caravan safer, more secure, or simply that much easier to enjoy.
Here we look at the types of gadget you might buy for your caravan across three broad categories:
- gadgets which contribute in one way or another to the safety of you and others in the use of your caravan;
- those which help to keep your caravan more secure against thieves, intruders and generally unwelcome attention; and
- others which might simply make life more enjoyable – either through their labour-saving effectiveness or because they make any outing in your caravan that little bit more fun.
Some gadgets might make use of the very latest technology, whilst others build on established good sense; some might cost more than others, some might cost next to nothing – one gadgets bible, for example, puts the humble ball of string as the most indispensable of them all. The aim is to suggest those which may help you to make the most of your caravanning experiences.
No guide such as this may hope to provide an exhaustive list of every type of gadget you might find useful or fun – so feel perfectly free to add others which you might have come across.
If there is one way of making sure that you can relax and unwind on your next caravanning holiday, it is knowing that everyone is safe and out of harm’s way. You might recognise some of these as common enough safety devices around your home – in the relative confines of a touring caravan, however, they may prove even more important.
- despite every effort of manufacturers to increase the safety of materials used in their construction, touring caravans remain highly combustible – any outbreak of fire needs to be dealt with quickly and efficiently;
- an essential and potentially life-saving gadget or piece of equipment, therefore, is the fire extinguisher;
- probably the most versatile, compact and multi-purpose extinguisher is a dry powder extinguisher – with a typical capacity of just 1 kilogram of powder these are ideal first responders in the event of a fire;
- accidents in the kitchen area or galley of your caravan may involve burning oil or fat. The UK Fire Service recommends that you deal with these using a fire blanket (made to the appropriate kitemark standard) and placed over the pan in question;
- a fire blanket is quick and easy to use – essential considerations when you need to deal with a fire immediately at its source;
- there’s no smoke without fire, as the saying goes – so make sure you get an early warning of any fire with a simple and inexpensive smoke detector;
- you can’t smell it, or taste it or see it – yet carbon monoxide may prove fatal (for children in particular), especially in the enclosed space of a touring caravan;
- consider the purchase of a carbon monoxide detector – a model sold by British Gas needs no wiring, is easy to install, has a 7-year battery life, and self-tests continuously;
- they are cheap, there is no legal requirement for them and they hardly qualify as gadgets but the use of warning stickers about the presence of LPG on board your caravan seems to generate considerable discussion – see the thread on Caravan Talk, for instance;
- if you want to play safe and make the warning perfectly clear – in the event of an accident whilst towing your caravan – however, a simple sticker is unlikely to set you back more than a couple of pounds;
- likely to be far more useful in the event of an emergency, is a hammer which can be used to break open the window of your car or caravan if any other exit is blocked;
- when towing a caravan behind your car, it is clearly important to have an external (wing) mirror to give you a clear rear view;
- read our Guide to Towing Mirrors for more information;
- more innovative gadgets, of course, are the various camera systems now available to aid the safe towing of your caravan by increasing your field of view;
- these may prove especially useful whenever you need to reverse the trailer;
Nose weight gauge
- a handy gadget for measuring the nose weight of your caravan – so that you are safely and legally hitched to the vehicle towing it – is a simple and relatively inexpensive piece of kit;
- if you are planning to tow your caravan in Europe, remember that different countries may have particular rules on the kit you need to carry in your car;
- a complete kit produced by Ring Automotive, contains a universal warning triangle, two high visibility tabards, headlight beam converters, a full set of replacement bulbs, a first aid kit, a foil blanket, two alcohol breathalysers (as required in France) and a GB sticker.
One area where gadgets may come into their own is for the security of your caravan and its contents. Recent figures show that the theft of caravans rocketed by 20% last year, so making sure you have a safe and secure ‘van will no doubt be a priority.
Security is a concern likely to be shared by your caravan insurers, too, and the more you are able to demonstrate your practical concern for keeping the caravan safe, the more likely you are to earn a discount on the insurance premiums you pay.
Watch our short video on caravan security here for further information and details of your obligations under your insurance contract.
Once again, the list of gadgets which may help you to do just that includes the simple and relatively inexpensive to more sophisticated technology:
Locks and bolts
- probably your first line of defence when it comes to keeping out unwanted visitors is the locks you have on the caravan door and windows – and many manufacturers still seem to be fitting relatively low-security locks as standard;
- simple, but much higher security bolts are available to secure the door of your caravan and can be fitted by yourself – the only problem being that they invariably required some drilling or screwing into the body of the trailer;
- Caravan Times suggests two alternatives, both of which involve fitting a locking device to the frame of the door itself;
- window stays with lever locks are now made in affordable polyplastic and offer an economical way of improving security of your windows;
- locking devices are also available for your gas cylinder and other external lockers;
- one way of making the theft of your caravan a lot more difficult is to keep it firmly locked to the vehicle being used to tow it – this is done by a simple and effective hitchlock;
- when the caravan is unhitched from the towing vehicle, it can also be immobilised through the use of lockable wheel clamps;
- indeed, many caravan insurance policies – including those arranged by us here at Cover4Caravans – require the use of both a hitchlock and wheel clamps if the caravan is left unattended whilst still hitched or wheel clamps alone when it is unhitched;
- according to the Camping and Caravanning Club, some 1,200 caravans were stolen in the UK last year and their website contains the link to a video of just such a theft in broad daylight;
- these are relatively recent immobilising devices – made to exacting “Sold Secure” security standards – that are similar to wheel clamps but which are fitted through the wheel itself and locked onto the brake assembly;
Intruder alarms and detectors
- the Optex Group has reported how its state of the art wireless security system is helping to protect a whole site of 600 caravans by raising the alarm whenever an intruder is detected;
- you are likely to have only one caravan to worry about, of course, but similar technology is available in security gadgets which detect intruders and set off the appropriate alarm within the caravan itself;
- these kinds of security systems may help you feel more considerably more confident and at ease about the security of your caravan – and strategically placed warnings to the effect that the devices are fitted are likely to discourage all but the most determined of intruders;
- there have been past media reports of thieves operating in Europe who appear to have used some kind of narcotic “sleeping” gas to knock out the occupants of caravans in order to gain entry and make off with valuables;
- the stories prompted warnings about the need for caravan owners to consider installing gas detectors in addition to intruder alarms;
Tracking devices and systems
- modern technology is making tracking systems and their associated gadgets ever more sophisticated;
- current systems are internet enabled and connect to 24-hour monitoring centres using global telemetrics;
- they may also include motion detectors, battery disconnection alarms and alerts when the battery is low;
- many tracking systems extend not just across the whole of the UK but continental Europe too;
- some may even provide an app which you can download onto that most ubiquitous of gadgets – your mobile phone;
Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS)
- any caravan manufactured by a National Caravan Council (NCC) member since 1997 has incorporated an electronic tagging chip, and its chassis and windows have been etched with a unique 17-digit registration number held on the database of the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS);
- this is a registration service which offers a caravan “log book” – similar to the one issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for your car – and contains a full record of legal owners of the caravan.
With a whole world of different gizmos and gadgets at your feet, the one thing you are probably looking forward to most of all is simply kicking back and relaxing on each outing with your caravan.
There are any number from which to choose – simple or sophisticated, expensive or cheap – but all are designed to take the stress out of caravanning maximising your opportunities for just chilling out and relaxing.
One way of testing just how true this might be is to take a look at just what gadgets are on offer:
- if you have ever been in a tight corner, needing to manoeuvre your caravan to within an inch or two, without the aid of the car to which it is usually hitched, and doing it all single-handed, you have some idea of the strain, stress and effort required;
- instead of burning up that energy just trying to get the caravan into – or out of – position, therefore, you might want to invest in an electrically powered and remotely controlled caravan mover;
- these run a motor to the wheel of the caravan so that it can be manoeuvred precisely, with the minimum of effort, with the direction and speed governed by a handheld remote control;
- versions are available for both single and twin-axle caravans;
- now you finally have your caravan into position and you need to inflate the airbeds and any inflatable cushions on which to relax;
- save your breath – and that inevitable dizzy feeling – by buying a simple and inexpensive foot pump to make the job easier;
- but if even that sounds like too much effort, you might want to go one step further and invest in an electric inflator which plugs into the 12-volt cigarette lighter socket in your car;
- by exercising a little more care in your purchase, you might buy one that is capable of the added safety routine of ensuring that the caravan’s tyres are inflated to the correct pressure;
A solar panel
- it is not just your electric inflator but a whole mountain of appliances and gadgets that are sooner or later going to need the energy to run them or re-charge them;
- instead of constantly draining your 12 volt battery, therefore, you might want to buy your very own – portable – solar panel, suggests the website How2Caravan;
- to help you kick back and relax – whilst making the most of that solar powered energy – you might want to settle down and watch some TV;
- the introduction of flat screen technology has made TVs especially suitable for caravans and there are a number of solutions for resolving any reception difficulties through the installation of aerials or satellite dishes and receivers;
Wireless speaker systems
- it is not as though you are likely to have a huge space to fill with sound in your caravan – but it can prove frustrating if the speakers are in the wrong place;
- a wireless speaker system may help to solve that problem by allowing you to place the speakers just where you want them and control remotely from your laptop, smartphone or MP3 player as you want;
- the inside of your caravan is no place to be overly house proud, of course, so you probably want chores kept to the minimum;
- to help you cope with spilt breakfast cereal, dust, and other scraps, a handheld vacuum cleaner can prove its labour-saving worth;
- it might take some stretch of the imagination – during your hard-earned breaks to get away from any number of household chores – to talk about washday blues;
- but compact and energy efficient washing machines, specifically designed for use in touring caravans, are available and perhaps worth some consideration;
- if you can do it, there is almost certain to be an app for it to download onto your smartphone – it is estimated that there are already more than 100,000 different apps available for both iPhone and Android devices;
- there are also a number of apps which might be of special interest or use to caravanners and Caravan Times suggests a top ten of these;
- closely related to apps for your mobile phone are GPS systems;
- practically everyone is likely to have heard one horror story or another about being led up the proverbial garden path through the mis-directions of a satnav, but they might nevertheless still be useful if used with a little sense and care;
- some GPS devices are currently available for caravanners especially in mind – with campsites listed and caravan friendly routes demarcated;
- how can you relax and be happy if man’s best friend is not similarly well served;
- there are some gadgets made especially with our four-legged friends in mind;
- one of the more ingenious of these is the so-called Road Refresher, a water bowl for pets that its makers claim never spills, however bumpy or potholed the road might be;
- for the really discerning pouch there is even a model Airstream caravan – not so much a dog basket, more a lifestyle choice – that comes with its own outside shower for perfect grooming;
- not a gadget in itself, but a way of using your smart phone to your pet’s advantage is the searchable website at Dog Friendly Britain – a directory of caravan sites at which dogs are expressly welcomed;
- check out our guide to caravanning with pets
- fresh air and exercise might be all very well and one of your principal reasons for taking to your caravan in the first place;
- but some locations, especially in the height of summer, have a way of attracting peskily biting insects – because as one authority would have it, bugs like caravanning too;
For the backwoodsman
- any Boy Scout or Girl Guide will tell you that when you are out camping, your food needs to be stored up off the ground so that pests and vermin cannot reach it;
- the ideal solution, of course, is a hanging larder – you don’t have to make one yourself, but can buy it quite affordably from your nearest outdoor activities store;
The one stop solution
- it is perhaps impossible to end such a long and varied list of gizmos and gadgets without referring to the best and most indispensable of them all;
- according to – an admittedly Kiwi – travel writer, the number one gadget to beat all others is the humble ball of string;
- few breakages cannot be mended or emergencies averted without recourse to a simple length of string claims one Cameron Williamson, writing in Stuff Magazine.
From the high-tech to the low-tech, from sophisticated tracking devices to simple balls of string, from the expensive to the affordable, caravanning might be made a whole site more relaxing, energy saving and safe through the use of some well-chosen gadgets, gizmos, accessories and fittings.
Whether you are looking for ways of ensuring the safety of yourself and your fellow travellers, looking to make your caravan more secure from the unwanted attentions of thieves and other intruders or simply looking for better and easier ways to kick back and relax, some of the suggested gadgets might be worth more than a second glance.
Caravanning is an increasingly popular pastime – according to the website Pitchup.com’s latest statistics, one in three Britons took a camping or caravanning trip within the last three years and some 16 million take such a holiday in any one year.
There is a flourishing market, therefore, in the many new, varied and established favourites as far as gizmos and gadgets go. All of those listed in this brief guide are likely to be readily available at your local stores, shops, or specialist caravan dealers. Whilst checking them out, you might want to make sure that none of your particular favourites have been omitted from this list.
Further reading: Al’s 8 great travel gadgets to make life easier.