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Towing Tips: How to Go Off-Road Safely with a Camper Trailer

Home > Perth > Travel | Escape the City | Day Trips | Camping
by Jayde Walker (Ferguson) (subscribe)
Perth Copywriter | the little typewriter.
Published August 27th 2017
Us Australians love to camp. It's in our blood. It's who we are. Maybe it's the ample amounts of sunshine that encourage us to get outdoors, the outback adventures, the stunning wilderness and scenery, or the pockets of paradise you find along the way. Whichever it is, the feeling of fresh air on your face as you road trip to some of the most mind-blowing spots is priceless.

It's a little challenging living in this beautiful country without some sort of camping rig too. With the number of locations that are begging to be discovered or explored, you really struggle to run out of things to do. So, if you're looking to upgrade from your current tent setup, already invested in a camper trailer or want to downgrade from your large lug-around caravan, you've come to the perfect place to get some towing and safety tips. Get the most out of your camper trailer and start travelling to the outback destinations you only ever dreamed of today:

Invest in the Right Off Road Camper

It all starts with the perfect camping rig the camper trailer. These camping beauties are easier to tow than a caravan, offer great convenience, flexibility and freedom - and they won't break the bank. But perhaps their best feature is despite their size, camper trailers can go off road. And they have the lightweight, durable properties to handle the toughest terrains in Australia. Winning, right?

To go off road safely with your camper trailer rig you need to first invest in the right one. Camper trailers are a comfortable way to get the authentic outback experience, whilst still implementing at-home luxuries. To find the ultimate camper trailer consider the following:

Be specific with your needs: What's most important to you in a camper trailer? What features can you go without with?

Check your vehicle towing capacity: Your car manual should have its maximum towing capacity. Make sure you invest in a camper trailer than your vehicle can easily tow. Most 4WDs won't have trouble towing the larger size camper trailers, but smaller cars will. Travelling up long or steep inclines will affect towing too.

Hard-floor camper trailers vs. soft floor: Although hard-floor camper trailers typically weight more than soft floors, they come with more creature comforts for the trip. They're also a lot easier to set up than their counterparts. Determine which option fits with your towing capacity better, but still has the features you require.
Use the Right Tow Vehicle

Using the right tow vehicle is as paramount as investing in the right off road camper. Does it have enough power to not just tow your camper trailer, but permit quick and safe passing manoeuvres too? There's a common misconception that you need a 4WD to tow a camper trailer but that's not quite the case. Providing the trailer meets the vehicle's towing recommendations, it's just as capable of towing a camper as a 4WD. This includes front wheel drives too. 4WDs are only necessary for exploring off the beaten track or pulling longer and heavier trailers. Other conditions include, but not limited to:

The vehicle's gearbox: The 5-speed manual is often preferred but for larger camper trailers automatic transmission is ideal.

Self-levelling suspension: Some vehicles are fitted with a self-levelling suspension which is recommended for some towing capacities. Failing to use the correct towing equipment for the size and job can damage the vehicle's suspension.

Weight and size: Under no circumstances exceed the recommended maximum load for towing safety. Remember, contents like water, petrol, food and camping supplies can easily add another 300kg to the weight. The size of your camper trailer will impact too, but these are much more economical to tow than a conventional caravan.

Beach Driving

One of my favourite things to do is beach driving and camping. And Australia has some ridiculously spectacular ones to road trip to. There's not much that beats waking up to a rising sun over the ocean and the smell of saltwater. Period. The downfall? Getting sand in your bathers and making sure the camper trailer arrives safely on shore without getting bogged. Challenge accepted.

Usually, the hardest parts of beach driving and towing are the entrances and exits on and off the beach. This is where you're bound to get stuck if it's going to happen. The key to good beach driving techniques is momentum. I'm not talking about hooning but keeping your vehicle moving is vital. The resistance created by the sand works your engine, the softer it is, the lower gear you want to use. Third gear is ideal for the softer stuff, which will give you enough speed and grunt for relatively smooth sailing. Keep gear changes stable and snappy. Smooth and steady wins the race. You also want to:

Reduce tyre pressure: When the air pressure is released in both your vehicle tyres and the camper trailer's tyres, you're able to 'float' across the sand rather than sinking into it. How low you should go depends on the softness of the sand and the weight of your towing load, but a general guide is between 15 22 psi.

Know how to get out of a rut: Should you get stuck, know how to combat the disaster and get back to camping! Spinning the wheels will only dig you down further once you stop moving, you're only getting more stuck. Instead, try to gently reverse over the compressed sand and start again. Gentle rocking motions back and forth will help and you can use the tow vehicle's handbrake if the wheels keep spinning.

Rocky Terrain

Tackling different terrains is challenging when you throw towing into the mix. Taking your camper over rocky and muddy landscapes relies on a focused driver, good pace and plenty of traction. Keeping things under control is essential. There are loose rocks to be aware of, tight corners to navigate around and unexpected wildlife which can cause you to easily lose traction.

It's all in the wheels: If you find yourself stuck at a nasty angle stop. If it still feels like you're going to roll over, turn into the roll by pointing the wheels into the same direction as the vehicle is leaning in.

Increase your clearance: Ground clearance is vital for large rock steps. This is the distance between the height of the front tyre and the most forward part of the vehicle. If the rock step's height is too large to tackle, build a ramp with smaller rocks and logs to better support the wheels.

Standard Safety Features

Most modern off road camper trailers will come with a standard electronic stability control. This works by correcting swerves by gently applying the brakes to the trailer, should you lose control on the road. Some retailers will also offer their own roadside assistance so help is only a phone call away. Bear in mind though, many off road spots won't have reception so it may be worth investing in a safelight phone if you're going outback.

Tools and Other Essentials

Camping adventures need tough tools to make the trip a safe one. On all camping trips, you should bring with you a large toolbox, jumper leads, puncture repair kit, cable ties, trailer wheel bearings and assorted nuts and bolts for emergencies. A basic toolkit and common failure items will always come in handy should you get stuck.

When tackling outback roads with your camper trailer, take your time and keep a safe distance. Exploring all Australia has to offer comes with many benefits and with a little preparation and practice, it's a safe and fun-filled adventure for all Camper trailers are a great way to soak the scenery all in and explore even the toughest parts of the country without breaking the bank. Where will you be taking off for your next camping trip?
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