Caravan Technology: how much do you need?

Question to 12V Guru: How Much Technology Do We Need In A Caravan?

Hi 12 Guru – I am in a dilemma as hubby and I are in the process of working through the various van options and we seem to keep getting bombarded and consequently confused by the amount of technology that is offered in some of these vans.  Can you give some guidance of what we should be looking for?

Befuddled, Gracemere, FNQ

12V Guru answers:

Well Befuddled, let us try and sort through some of the various options that you may need to look at to work through 21st century caravanning.  Firstly, consider separating the caravan technology into a few categories and then from there you can decide as to what we describe to the young’uns in this world “what are needs and what are wants” – simple but effective!

Caravan Safety

Safety – arguably the most important category and obviously tends to be one of the key selling points.  Any device that is proven through independent testing (as compared to manufacturers claims) to improve the handling and safety of towing caravans is a serious consideration – a “need”. Just as we all look out for ANCAP ratings on car purchases, considering key safety features that are enabled through tech is critical. 

Electronic Sway Control is probably the most obvious choice in this category. Devices such as the BMPRO SwayControl which utilises high powered microprocessors to detect caravan sway and then apply independent power to the brakes to reduce this would be up there in terms of essentials, as would technology that can assist with measuring ball weight on your caravan. 

Unfortunately, many travellers out there do not really consider the weight that can be loaded into a caravan and how it is loaded inside the van. This can inadvertently change the manufacturers intended load ratings and cause a towing nightmare including making sway events more likely.  So, any device that can help understand your true ball weight on the towing hitch of your vehicle is a “need”.

Lastly in the safety category I would be strongly recommending checking out caravan technology which can better offer safety or convenience in trailer breakaway systems – for example automating the connection and checking serviceability functions. Safety really falls into the “needs” section.

Caravan Power: needs and wants

Power – this lands into both the “needs” and “wants” categories.  The “need” here is for reliability, ensuring you have the power you need when you want it. Many systems can offer this however the key is reliability. Go for brands that have been around for a long time and we recommend where possible go for Australian Made brands as they really understand the demanding requirements of travelling Australia.

In the “wants” category consider carefully what you believe will add value or comfort to your trip.  For example – if you are prone to grumping around the campsite hunting that caffeine fix consider packing a small coffee machine which can be safety stowed.  Or if a daily makeover for your hair helps you start the day meeting campground etiquette, consider packing the hair dryer and have installed a 2000W inverter that can power everything offgrid from a toaster to the hair dryer or even cool the caravan for 15 minutes if necessary. 

In this regard go for an inverter that has pure sine wave output to ensure smooth operation and see if you can have it installed with an auto transfer switch that saves your batteries as soon as AC becomes available.

Lithium batteries

Again, in the “wants” category for power would be Lithium batteries – expensive but the technology can offer extended time camping away from the crowds, fast charging, lighter and lasts 10x longer than lead acid varieties.  Recommend paying for quality and batteries with long warranties as the technology is new and yet unproven over the longer term. We have seen cheap and cheerful Lithium batteries packed inside with floor tile to make it feel authentic in weight and even manufacturers claiming 120Ahr but they don’t let you use all that power!

Caravan Technology Offering Convenience and Luxury

Convenience is probably the final category and this definitely falls into the “wants” category for those who want the latest gizmos and gadgets – everything from voice activation to apps for absolutely everything.  Unless you are ready to accept the extra price or increased potential for things to go wrong stick with simplicity – after all isn’t that what “getting away from everything” is all about?  Do you need to have your van “smarter” than your home?  Maybe!

In summary – safety first is a “need” followed by power and then convenience.  Sort out the offerings along these lines and you’re more likely to be enjoying trouble free travels.

12V Guru

The article was written for Caravan World Magazine.

Caravan Technology: understanding needs and wants
SwayControl - technology to assist safe towing

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4 thoughts on “Caravan Technology: how much do you need?”

  1. Sam DeGabriele

    Well this advice sounds good on first sight,however i all takes a fair amount of cash flow to achieve ,I have yet to find that my 2 batteries (not lithium) have ever let me down (backed up with 600 w of solar panels), and I certainly do not want to fork out more cash to replace the three year old BMPRO as well as the similar age batteries
    the anti-sway control BARS I use have been so far successful on the open road and do not need them on the back roads or town roads where the speed is limited anyway
    I do like my coffee and sport a very good Compact machine under the sink albeit would rather have the giant one I use at home if space permitted
    and yes I do have a giant screen UHDTV weighing in at 9kg with full surround sound to make those cold rainy nights bearable in the middle of nowhere
    not to mention the Diesel heater happily chugging away under the seat
    whatever weight I add to the van I compensate by removing unnecessary stuff like glass shower doors, and bath area doors
    yes there is a limit to what I can remove but so far so good!
    Happy safe travels friends of the road

  2. I run a caravan repair business and wholeheartedly support the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid). Do you really need a phone app that opens your caravan door, or your awning? Diagnosing issues with electrical systems in caravans is becoming more and more complex, and expensive! There is absolutely nothing wrong with a switch instead of bluetooth. When it doesn’t work (not if) any mug can fix it.

    As for safety, since caravans are now so large and dangerous some form of stability control is a must on the bigger vans. I have had customers who have been saved by their stability control system.

  3. when it all boils down, if your out and about checking out the sites Australia has to offer. what the hell arer you doing sitting in a van talking to all your gizzmoes, when you can be out really enjoying what you towed the van out to see and be part of, our great and entertaining country. better than Bali any day and hardly any chance of an out back bar getting bombed or a shoot up down any back dirt road. take the van but leave the junk behind and get out there and live i say.

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