As any trailer tent or folding camper devotee will tell you, these handy units can offer the best of both tent and caravanning worlds – but you need to know a few key things before you start on your crossover camping experience.
Specialist insurance broker Adrian Flux, which can provide cover both for your trailer and camping equipment at competitive rates, provides a quick guide to getting on the road and in the field.
1) What can your car tow?
As most trailer tents are fairly light, you should be fine to tow one unless you have a small car. The combined weight of your car and trailer must not exceed the gross train weight of your car.
The maximum weight you can tow should be listed in your car’s handbook. Failing that, the gross train weight can be found on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car, usually under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.
A combined weight of up to 85 per cent of your car’s gross train weight is advised for safe towing.
If you buy a trailer without brakes, it must weigh less than 50 per cent of the kerbweight of your car.
2) What will your licence allow?
The weight and size of trailer you can tow will depend on when you passed your driving test – was it before or after January 1, 1997? For full details of what you can legally visit the Government’s driving licences page.
3) What type of trailer tent or folding camper?
There are various types of trailer tent available, and you first need to decide how much you want to spend and how you want to use it. Some require the tent part to be pegged to the ground, while others simply fold out and can be used on hard surfaces with no pegging.
A trailer tent usually folds up and out and is pegged to the ground, giving you a wider living area than the surface area of the base unit. Beds often fold out from the trailer base.
Folding campers look like the bottom half of a caravan with the roof chopped off until they are folded out. The base unit comprises most things you’d find in a caravan, with beds often sliding out from the base and covered by a canvas awning. These usually do not require pegging and can provide even more spacious accommodation than a caravan.
There are other variations, such as flip-top trailer tents, where the lid of the trailer flips up and forms a flooring for the complete unit.
4) How much should I spend?
A brand new folding camper can cost as much as a caravan, with the 6-berth Pathfinder Q6 a typical example at nearly £13,000. Trailer tents tend to be much cheaper, with the Camplair S trailer tent sleeping four available for about £2,000.
There are plenty to choose from to suit all budgets, and many on the secondhand market – but make sure you check for rips and tears, and ask to see the unit both open and closed to make sure there are no glitches.
5) Do I need insurance?
Third party road risks will be covered by your car insurance policy, so if your trailer strikes another vehicle or person then you will be legally covered.
However, the trailer and its contents will not be covered under your car insurance policy, so will need to take out cover for the trailer itself for accidental damage and theft etc.
Adrian Flux specialises in providing cover for all types of trailer tent or folding camper, and can also provide cover from just £26.50 a year for all of your other camping equipment, including tents, luggage, cooking equipment, furnishings used for camping, personal possessions and bedding and linen. Call 0800 081 0777.
6) What maintenance do I need to do?
As your trailer tent or folding camper is a road vehicle you need to make sure it is maintained in a roadworthy condition by having it regularly serviced.
Brakes, lights, tyres etc all need to be maintained in exactly the same way as a car, while showers, toilets, gas fittings etc also need to be checked.
Make sure you keep the fabric part of your trailer clean, and remember to dry it before folding it away to prevent mildew and rot building up.
7) Is towing a trailer easy?
It can be daunting if you’ve never towed a trailer before, but a trailer tent is generally easier to tow than a caravan and you should have few problems if you remember to watch your speed, give yourself more time to brake and avoid sudden movements, like changes of lane.
You will also need to give corners a slightly wider berth to avoid clipping the kerb with the trailer.
If you’re still unsure, there are many courses across the country that will provide tuition for beginners.