There are plenty of exciting new choices out there when it comes to trailers and caravans that can handle tough off-road conditions. This selection of 10 shows the wide range of choice available to buyers across the spectrum of needs.
Before entertaining the purchase of an off-road or gravel road trailer or caravan, it is important to decide what you will use it for. Will it be used predominantly on tar and good gravel roads, or will it be subjected to difficult off-road terrains that require a more robust chassis and suspension design?
Once you’ve decided on the types of usage your towable treat will be subjected to, and settled on your needs in terms of space required and spending budget, it’s time to gather the family and go shopping. We’ve helped things along over the next few pages with some great examples from South Africa’s premier trailer manufacturers, ranging from tough full off-road multi-berth camping palaces, to gravel-optimised caravans.
We urge you to browse the size and capacity specifications, compare the construction differences, size-up the layouts, and analyse what is offered as standard and what can be fitted as an option. You need to be sure that the trailer can easily be towed by your existing vehicle, and that it has sufficient space for most of your adventures.
A key check is to ensure the trailer can easily be set up (and taken down) when on the road. Try out the process before signing on the dotted line. Buying the correct trailer for your family’s needs is essential because you want a trailer you can use for many years without worrying about overloading or having to upgrade. Our suggestion is do your homework comprehensively and consider all your options before you decide to purchase.
1. It’s always best to purchase from reputable dealers offering approved off-road trailers or caravans with the necessary warranty, backup service and dealer network in place.
2. Ensure that the maximum downward force on the tow hitch is within allowable and safe limits in compliance with the law.
3. Does the trailer chassis design, plus the axle and suspension system, meet approved standards (and your specific requirements) regarding tensile strength, shear strength, length, rigidity and trailer weight ratings? Is the chassis Monocoque or ladderframe. Is it galvanised? Leaf springs coupled with solid axles are still widely used; be sure the capacity and mounting systems are top drawer. Torsion bar systems may offer a more cushioned ride, but are not all designed for sustained use on heavy corrugations. Some designs even go so far as to use coil springs linked to trailing arms.
4. Tow hitches need to meet the strict regulations set out by law and be approved to ensure they do not fail during towing. There are various designs available, along with different systems for raising and lowering the trailer. Hitch up, and try them out.
5. Exterior trailer and caravan lights such as indicators, brake lights and tail lights must be set at a specified minimum height above the road surface when the trailer is on the level.
6. Will your off-road trailer or off-road caravan carry everything you need for a trip into the wilderness without breaking down?
7. Will it provide sufficient shelter from the elements for all your family members? How many beds will you need, and how do the sleeping spaces deploy? Can you set up the system rapidly on your own, or will it take a team effort?
8. Is it water- and dustproof?
Check seals and construction methods carefully. For example, if you live near the coast, mild steel elements should be galvanised or epoxy powder coated. Be aware too, that going for a stainless steel shell, and expecting a high percentage of stainless steel fittings, will add to the purchase price. Looking long-term, this might well make sense. Composites are getting better too, so have a good look at these options.
10. Does it have space to store and prepare food when on an adventure? What items are included in the kitchen area, and how do the ergonomics work? Can you, for example, reach items in the fridge without knocking pots off the stove?
11. Does it have sufficient stored energy to ensure good lighting and power your equipment when out in the bush? Will you need to install another battery system, and can you hook it up to your tow vehicle?
12. Does it have water storage facilities to last at least a few days without replenishment? Is there space to do the washing up, or will this be a separate operation?
13. Does your off-road trailer or caravan have sufficient packing space for your trips? Remember, you cannot exceed the stated GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of the trailer, and it is better to allow for a decent margin below this maximum weight.
14. Does it have levelling stabilisers?
15. Is the electrical system reliable?
16. Is it braked or nonbraked? With a fully loaded weight of up to 750kg, your trailer does not need brakes. Up to 1 500kg, it must be fitted with overrun brakes, and over that mass, it will require a more sophisticated vacuumassisted, hydraulic or electrical system. 17. What is the tyre size and PCD and are the tyres off-road suitable?
Remember, it’s best to have wheels and tyres similar in size to that of your tow vehicle, and it is best to ensure the trailer and tow vehicle have almost the same track width.
Before you buy
• What is the warranty period and back-up service offered?
• Are there finance options available?
• What accessories and extras are included in the purchase price?
• What are the approximate annual costs?
HERE ARE OUR 10 TOWABLE TREATS:
Click the links below to find out more about each product.