Caravanning Experiences

LIVING IN A BOX

It’s probably about time that I wrote up my caravanning experiences to date. I’m sure you’ve all been desperately* waiting for an update.

RAV4 shortie towing

Caravanning – better than you think. This was a test tug before our big trip.

Easter was the first big outing, when I still owned the XM. In theory, the XM should have been the perfect tow car. In reality, the weight of the caravan made it utterly frustrating to drive. Normally, the XM could be kept on-boost very easily, right down to just 1500rpm. Sadly, the legal maximum of 50mph (single carriageway) co-incided with around this engine speed. It meant that the slightest loss of speed caused a loss of boost, and therefore a downchange was needed. May not sound much, but it made the XM much more of a pain to drive, and much louder.

Frustrated, I put the caravan up for sale, though it didn’t attract much interest. So I sold the XM instead!

We didn’t go caravanning again until the last weekend in June, when we hitched up the caravan to my new Toyota RAV4 3-door and prepared to drag it all the way to Buckingham for Shitefest.

To be honest, I was nervous. After all, the RAV is much, much shorter than the XM, even though it has the same plated towing weight (1500kg braked). In a tow vehicle, length is your friend. It makes the tow car more stable. Mind you, the RAV at least has no rear overhang, so the tow bar is practically between the rear wheels. This is a good thing as there’s then no pendulum effect.

We set off, with me being very cagey at first. As the miles built up though, I began to realise that the little RAV is excellent for towing. The gearing is that much lower than the XM, to make up for the lack of torque at lower engine speeds. On the flat though, it really wasn’t bad, and while downchanges were needed to climb hills, the sound of a revving petrol engine is much kinder on the ears than an dirty diesel.

The only real struggle was climbing the very steep Fish Hill, near Broadway in The Cotswolds. I had to drop down to second gear, and the engine was working very hard indeed. It stank as old engine oil and muck began to cook on the hot engine. Thankfully, the temperature gauge stayed resolutely in the land of sensible.

It felt remarkably stable though, with caravan yaw (that wagging sensation) only apparent if you braked hard from speed, and even then only until the caravan brakes kicked in. Another benefit is that sitting higher up means I could see right through the caravan, to back up the towing mirrors. It’s so much nicer knowing what’s behind you. Amazingly few cars was what I saw. Far from creating huge tailbacks, there was only the occasional car. I had visions of irritating everyone as a mobile road block, but this never seemed to be the case. Nice.

On arrival in Buckinghamshire, the RAV had to drag the caravan into a very damp field. It did this with no trouble at all. In fact, when a friend got stuck in his Xantia trying to tow his caravan in, the RAV was able to take over with barely any wheelspin. I’m sure the Michelin Latitude Cross tyres helped – they’re brand new and have lots of lovely, semi-aggressive tread.

On-site. Pretty. Or something.

On-site. Pretty. Or something.

It also managed to drag his caravan back out again, by which time things had got seriously churned up. I really do like the RAV a lot. Which is good, as I’ve just had to pay £282.50 for a new timing belt, tensioners and water pump after the original pump came seriously close to failing (and taking the old timing belt with it). Oh well! At least it feels worth it.

I haven’t actually brought the caravan home yet. It’s still in a field in Buckinghamshire, where I’ll be sleeping in it for a night or two very soon. The following weekend, we’ll be collecting it and taking it to a 2CV camp in Warwickshire, before finally bringing it home.

That’ll be nice, because the caravan offers dry space to sit during poor weather, decent cooking facilities and a very comfortable bed. It feels like outrageous luxury to be honest, compared to a tent at least. I can certainly see the appeal of the ‘wobble box,’ and the downsides seem much reduced with a decent tow car. I am very surprised that a hydropneumatic, diesel Citroen has seemingly been out-performed by a tiny, Japanese soft-roader with a petrol engine, but there you go. Things aren’t always as they seem.

Certainly, I must concede that this is true of caravanning. Sure, I wouldn’t fancy going to a regimented site and calling that a holiday – I already live somewhere beautiful and peaceful, so I don’t need to sleep in a flimsy box to escape from modern life. But as an upgrade from a tent, it feels infinitely preferable. There’s only one problem really. There’s no way my 2CV is going to be able to tow it…

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