There is a moment shortly after you arrive at your pitch where you can sit down with a cup of tea and start to unwind. I call it the ‘Ahhh’ moment. After the packing, the journey, the pitching, the unpacking and the settling-in, you get that glorious few minutes of peace and quiet where you know the break is really starting.
That moment is what caravanning is all about for me. It’s the freedom from the daily grind and the ‘home from home’ feeling that we all enjoy. With that in mind, we have listed a few hints, trouble shootings and general tips below that will hopefully help you get to that moment faster and with as little hassle as possible.
- Have a couple of torches on standby in case you arrive in the dark. The headband-mounted torch has been a real godsend for caravan pitching because you can see and use both hands. It is probably also worth having a strip light style torch to hand as well for when you need a steady glow.
- Make sure you test everything before you leave. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget to do something as simple as checking batteries in the rush of getting away
- Learn to fault find. When something doesn’t work, there is usually a very simple, and therefore easily fixable, reason. The first thing to do is to backtrack. No gas? Then backtrack from the control on the cooker along the gas flow to the cylinder. The chances are it is as simple as an unhooked pipe or a closed valve.
- Batteries, plugs and sockets. These are the common reasons for equipment failures and should be checked before you start to worry about the fridge having failed, or the TV being broken. Again here start with ‘is it plugged in properly?’ and work back to the hook-up point.
- Keep your immediate necessities and a small toolkit handy. Pack when you leave home so that the things you need first will be right to hand, and never leave home without a few basic tools. A good multi-tool can be very useful as well.
- Bulbs and fuses are essential spares. Probably the second most common cause of failure is a blown fuse or expired bulb, so make a list of the ones you need for the ‘van and carry spares. Remember to keep topping up as you need them as well.
- Check the pumps and pipes. If the water isn’t flowing (which is a common problem after settling the van in) there is a good chance the pump is off or the stop tap is closed. Again, a careful fault-find will usually solve it. You will often be able to test the pump independently on a battery. See your literature about the best testing methods.
- Learn to improvise like a pioneer and talk to people. There are all sorts of little skills and tips that you can pick up from the caravan forums and other caravan owners. It’s always worth getting to know people around you because they may well be able to pass on some valuable knowledge. For example, I was recently told that if you need to level your ‘van, but you don’t have a spirit level, put some water in a bottle and use the relative position of the water and the cap as a guide. I would probably never have thought of that myself.
- Google and YouTube it. The internet is a goldmine of hints and tips, and a quick search may well solve the issue for you. If the site is a dead-spot for data service, try and find some free WiFi in the local pub or similar. If it’s a problem for you, someone probably already solved it and posted it on the internet.
- Know when to give up. There is no point in continuing past your knowledge level and never try to fix or make do if you don’t fully know what you are doing. The worst case is that you will need to sleep on it and solve the problem in the morning when you can get more help.
- Love your van. Part of the pleasure of owning a caravan is being able to maintain it. Spend plenty of time reading the support materials and really getting to know where everything is.
As always, good planning will often resolve any problems on site before they start, but should you encounter a problem, the chances are it will only be something minor.
Actually, now I come to think about it, as well as the ‘ahhh’ moment, another nice feeling is knowing that you can sit down with that cup of tea because when the kettle didn’t work, you knew where the fuse was.