Independent Caravan Weigh – In Day MtGambier 2017

organised by Everything Caravan and Camping and RVeeThereYet

Four months ago, Matt Sutton, owner of the Everything Caravan and Camping Facebook Group, came to me with an idea. He wanted to run independent caravan weigh-ins across the country, starting in his home town of Mt Gambier. I thought it would be a good idea, but I didn't think we would get too many takers in a small country town in SA. How wrong I was...!

Last weekend, we had the first of our weigh-ins and right from the start I knew we were in for a big day. When we arrived at the car-park where the event was run, there was already over 10 vans lined up waiting. By day's end we had weighed 48 rigs...!

Most of the rigs weighed were caravans, but we also had a few camper trailers and a couple of motorhomes thrown in for good measure.

The results...? Well we were quite surprised to find that most rigs were within 50kgs of their maximum weights. Given the margin for error in our scales, this is a very positive result. Most rigs were packed and ready for an extended trip with full water tanks and stocked fridges. There were around 10 vans that were well under their limits, which again is an excellent outcome. There were 4 vans that were well overweight, one being 400kgs over his ATM.

All up, it was an extremely successful day. We were fortunate to have great instructions of what to do provided by Graeme Shenton, the police officer who ran the recent operation in Newmerella, Victoria. We were also fortunate to have Matt's mate Kallen Westbrook, who worked tirelessly all day with me on the scales.

Special thanks go to Wendy and Steve McCallum and Rosie and Tony McKeough who bought us all coffees and snacks, and to Matt's wife, Paula, who who bought us lunch. Thank you for your support.

The next weigh in will be held in Melbourne at a location to be determined. Keep an eye out on the Everything Caravanning and Camping group and RveeThereYet.com for details.

Safe Travels

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Independent Caravan Safety Weigh-in.

Here RVeeThereYet.com we take towing safety very seriously and we have been working hard to promote awareness of the safe towing message.

Following on from the success of the Caravan Safety Operation in Newmerella, Victoria, back in January, we have been supporting our friends at Everything Caravanning and Camping who are organising and running a series of Weigh-Ins in South Australia and Victoria over the coming months.

These will be run independently from Police and Roads Authorities. No fines will be issued if your vehicle is found to be overweight.

The objective of the weigh ins is to provide drivers with data about their rigs that they can use to ensure they are compliant with the weight restrictions of their vehicles. Drivers will also receive information about towing safety and can seek advice about ways to better manage their loads.

The first of these weigh ins will be held in MT GAMBIER on 8.30am Saturday the 17th of June, at the old Masters complex, Mt Gambier Market Place, 204 Penola Rd, Mt Gambier.

This will be a great opportunity for anyone towing a caravan or any large trailer to check their actual weights and find out if they are actually legal. There will be no charge for attending.

Many RVers are finding out that their rigs are overweight, some by hundreds of kilograms. Apart from being illegal, it is unsafe both for themselves and for other road users. We strongly urge you to take advantage of this free service.

For more information visit Everything Caravanning and Camping Website

Until then, safe travels.

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The Truth about Towing Mirrors

Dedicated towing mirrors like these Clearview mirrors make towing safe and ensure you are compliant with the law.

One of the most common questions asked my novice caravanners is “do I need towing mirrors?” If this question is placed on a caravanning forum or Facebook group, the ensuing responses, usually numbering in the hundreds, would confuse anyone posing this question. Most responders would say the answer is yes but a staggering number also argue the opposite and they cite many publications as evidence supporting their claims. The truth is often obscured by these comments, leaving the original poster without a definitive answer. In this article, we hope to put the myth to rest and provide you with a definitive answer.

The first thing we need to do is to establish exactly what the relevant laws are and how they apply to each particular situation. This EXCLUDES many of the towing guides that are published by the various state road authorities. These are guides only and are intended to provide advice that can cover a range of towing configurations, including those that do not require the fitting of mirrors.  This is why many of them state that you may be required to fit extension mirrors.  Do not rely on the guides.  They are not the law.

The overarching law that is applicable to this case is the Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 18/03 Instrumentation) 2006. The Australian Design Rules (ADRs) are national standards for vehicle safety, anti-theft and emissions. The ADRs cover issues such as occupant protection, structures, lighting, noise, engine exhaust emissions, braking and a range of miscellaneous items. They are produced and administered by the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. They are made under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (the Act). The Act enables the Australian Government to establish nationally uniform standards for road vehicles when they are first supplied to the market in Australia. The Act applies to such vehicles whether they are manufactured in Australia or are imported as new or second hand vehicles.

The Act is Legislation that has been made and enacted by The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Put simply, it is the law.

In order to register a vehicle, it must comply with the ADRs. Any modifications, alterations or additions to a vehicle, and attaching a caravan is an addition, has the potential to effect the vehicle’s compliance with the ADRs.  If a vehicle is non compliant with the ADRs, it is essentially unroadworthy.

Now you can, if you feel the need, read all the relevant ADRs but the one that is applicable in this case is Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 14/02 Rear Vision Mirrors) 2006 Amendment 1. It states:  The field of vision must be such that the driver can see at least a 4 m wide, flat, horizontal portion of the road, which is bounded by a plane parallel to the median longitudinal vertical plane and passing through the outermost point of the vehicle on the driver’s side of the vehicle and extends from 20 m behind the driver’s ocular points to the horizon. In addition, the road must be visible to the driver over a width of 1 m, which is bounded by a plane parallel to the median longitudinal vertical plane and passing through the outermost point of the vehicle starting from a point 4 m behind the vertical plane passing through the driver’s ocular points.

That may sound like a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, and it is, but the diagram below explains what this means:

The field of vision required from side rear view mirrors.
So assuming that your chosen tow vehicle complies with the ADRs, it is your responsibility to maintain that compliance. When you hitch up a caravan, boat or other trailer to your tow vehicle, you potentially block your vision of the area as specified above. If the trailer is no wider than your tow vehicle, then it is likely that your standard mirrors will be sufficient, but if the trailer is wider, and pretty much all caravans are 2.5m wide, then you will need to fit extension mirrors. The following diagram gives a visual representation of what that means:

 

The area in green represents the area of vision that you must maintain. A simple test would be to attached your trailer to your tow vehicle and stand directly behind each of the rearmost corners at a distance of about 20m from your side rear view mirrors. If you can see each mirror in its entirety, then you are likely to be compliant. If the mirrors are partially obscured or completely hidden behind the trailer, then you must install extension mirrors.

Some people will argue that they have a camera fitted on the back of their vans and that it provides the additional area of vision required. This is not the case. As shown above, at best, a camera will show you what is directly behind the trailer and that may actually include some of the green area. What it won’t cover are the areas alongside the trailer and its rear most corners. These are the critical areas that you need to be able to see in order to avoid a collision with another vehicle when changing lanes, merging onto traffic or cornering around a dual lane roundabout.

Now, having been explained all that, many drivers will choose to ignore it and will continue to tow a caravan without fitting extension mirrors to the vehicle. Apart from the obvious safety issues, there is a very high likelihood that they will be pulled over by the Police and issued with an infringement notice. In Victoria, that infringement is 297(2) – fail to have a clear view of the road and traffic, ahead, behind and to each side of the driver RR 297(2) and it will set you back $233. A few drivers who were subjected to safety checks at Newmerella recently were fined for not having mirrors fitted where required. Given the low cost of a good set of towing mirrors, and the likelihood that, in future, there will be an increased focus on towing safety by police, if you avoid just one fine by fitting extension mirrors, they’ll have paid for themselves.

Boat owners are not exempt from the requirement to fit extended towing mirrors, as a couple of drivers found out at Newmerella.

Police Operation at Newmerella 2017

Marketing oportunities available

Loading and Weight Distribution Explained

More on towing mirrors

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Newmerella – A Turning Point in Towing Safety

Drivers being directed into the inspection area.

On the 4th and 5th of January, 2017, a police officer from the small town of Orbost in Victoria fired a massive salvo across the bow of the caravanning, camper and boating communities. With the help of a small team from Vic Roads, Victoria Police and a group of media and industry representatives, Acting Sergeant Graeme Shenton ran a standard roadside police stop during “Operation Roadwise”, a Victorian state-wide blitz over the Christmas holiday period. What made this unique was that he added the capacity to weigh caravans and other trailers by utilising Vic Roads personnel and portable roadside scales. Up until this day, this sort of operation, where caravanners were subjected to weight safety checks, was a myth of epic proportions. Graeme’s salvo may have crossed the bows of the general towing communities, but it scored a direct hit on the myth, making the possibility of being subjected to weight safety checks a reality for RVers across the country.

Officers from Vic Roads were on hand to assist with the inspections

The event was widely publicised on social media. The details of the operation reached literally hundreds of thousands of people across Australia in a matter of weeks. The general reaction was overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority of posts on social media pretty much saying the same thing. There should be more of it. More importantly, those same people who were praising the operation were more than likely starting to question their own compliance with the law regarding their individual rigs. I know Kylie and I were. It prompted us to take our caravan up to a weighbridge and check out our weights. Like the many who were weighed at Newmerella, we were quite surprised by the results.

To put this into perspective, you have to look at the results from the Newmerella operation itself:

• 71 caravans were weighed across 2 days.
• 2 drivers knew all their ratings.
• Most had an idea of what their maximum allowable weight was (ATM) but were confused about how to manage weights.
• 3 knew what they actually weighed.
• 41 were overweight in one or more ratings (ATM, GTM, Ball weight).
• 5 were overweight by more than 20%.
• The majority of those spoken with were surprised at how heavy they were and had under estimated their actual weight.

It is worth noting that due to the time constraints of the day, no tow vehicles were weighed, however it is well known that many of the popular dual cab tow vehicles have some issues with GVM and GCM. Several were noted on the day with advise given to some who were obviously pushing their limits. If these had been weighed, then the percentage of overweight vehicles would likely have been much larger.

The owners of many dual cab utes appeared to push the limits of their vehicles capacity

In many respects these figures were entirely expected but when you see them written down like that and understand they have come from a factual source, it is very confronting. Recognising that the sample from the weekend is not huge, if we were to apply a simple extrapolation of those figures to the wider RV community of over 600,000 registered vehicles across Australia, only 25,000 will actually know what they weigh. More troubling, out of the remaining 575,000 drivers who have little to no idea about what they weigh, nearly 350,000 are likely overweight in at least one category. Worse is that around 42,000 are, in all likelihood, overweight by more than 20%. Remember that is just RV’s. Consider drivers towing boats and other heavy loads and you can start to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

Now there will be those out there who do not agree that this is a significant issue. In fact, many accuse law enforcement agencies conducting similar operations as nothing more than revenue raising. I saw one particular comment on social media where it was stated that the police should be patrolling caravan parks and camp sites to counter thieves and stop wasting time targeting a minority. To me, this shows that many people have absolutely no idea about the way law enforcement works and how agencies like Victoria Police have to spread their resources across many areas in order to meet public law enforcement expectations.

Individual scales were placed under each wheel and all weights were added together to get a total figure

I have actually known of Graeme for about 4 years, but only met him in person very recently. Over the Christmas period, Kylie and I were holidaying in Bemm River, about 70ks from Orbost, and Graeme turned up at our caravan site at about 10.30pm on New Year’s eve, just to say gday. He had been on general patrol with his offsider checking caravan parks and camp sites in the area to ensure the safety of campers during festive celebrations. He is a fairly typical country cop. Extremely friendly. Loves a chat but you also get a sense that if the situation called for it, he would be a force to be reckoned with, as his towering frame would suggest.

But Graeme has another side to his life. He is a fellow caravanner and he, like many of us, is passionate about the lifestyle. He is quite active on many forums and Facebook groups, although he keeps his identity on Facebook, well…let’s just say low profile. He is very knowledgeable about the subject having gained a lot of experience from his own travels as well as from his police duties in Orbost. You see, Orbost sits right at the critical point between the major summer holiday destinations of Lakes Entrance in Victoria and the southern NSW coast along the busy and treacherous Princes Highway. Motor vehicle crashes involving caravans and boats are, unfortunately, a normal part of life in this area and Graeme has seen his fair share. In fact, the day we were heading up to Bemm River, there was a rollover involving a large caravan towed by a 4WD that Graeme attended. All were safe but it could so easily have been another tragic start to the holiday period for one family.

A small number of motorhomes were put on the scales as well

This puts Graeme right in the middle of the debate. He has a unique perspective where he can actually see the situation from both sides. It was this insight that gave Graeme the wisdom to run the operation, not as an enforcement exercise, but more as an education with the aim to raise awareness of the safety issues with drivers. Judging by the social media responses, he definitely achieved that. Thousands of RVers around the country took notice of what went on and have started to question their own status.

Evidence of this can be seen in the reaction on social media to posts, one by myself and the other by Mr Matt Sutton, who manages the very popular Caravanning and Camping Facebook group with in excess of 120,000 members. The posts showed ourselves weighing our rigs at public weighbridges. At last count, both posts had been viewed in excess of 270,000 times. Another subsequent post showing a link to our website where people can download a list of public weighbridges in each state received over 3,000 hits in 2 days.

A large number of boats were weighed as the area is popular with the fishing community

I was present at the Newmerella operation and watched how the weight checks were conducted and how Graeme and his team interacted with drivers during the checks. They were patient, methodical, friendly, and willing to discuss the issues in a helpful and constructive manner. Others present included representatives from the Australian Caravanning Club who were also on hand to talk to drivers and assist with the overall goal of education. It was very impressive. Drivers were given advice on how to reduce weight and the effects of weight distribution on stability. All drivers were given printed information detailing a step by step process to assist them to establish their empty and loaded weights and how to use a weighbridge. All drivers were spoken to in regards to fatigue and taking rest stops. A TAC handout was given to drivers describing the effects of fatigue. I spoke to many drivers as well and everyone I spoke to said they were pleased with the approach and valued the advice given to them.

One area of concern that was addressed in a sterner manner was the lack of towing mirrors fitted to a number of vehicles. Many drivers who pulled up without towing mirrors defended their lack of compliance but found themselves loosing that argument very quickly. This is a subject for another day but one worth keeping in mind.

The outcomes from this operation are many but some stand out, in particular in relation to the overall desire of caravanners to become more knowledge about the safety aspect of their activity. In this respect, it is now up to the authorities, the media and industry associations to start to develop and publicise this information on a broader scale.

Representatives from the Australian Caravan Club were on hand to lend assistance and advice to drivers

There is another outcome from Newmerella that I believe needs even greater promotion and follow up, and it relates to the manufacturing sector of the RV industry. The issues surrounding the accuracy (or lack thereof) of compliance plates on new caravans and campers are well known and have recently received a lot of main stream media attention through the activities of Ms Tracey Leigh and her Lemon Caravans and RVs facebook group. Others like Phil Sanchez of the Shonky Caravan Builders/Dealers facebook group have also been challenging the industry by publically naming and shaming builders and dealers who are allegedly involved in some decidedly dodgy practices. Industry experts like Mr Colin Young from the Caravan Council of Australia have also been extremely vocal in their condemnation of the industry and its severe lack of regulation. Newmerella should be a signal to the RV manufacturing industry that law enforcement agencies are now starting to look very carefully at the issue and realise that it will be only a matter of time before they become the focus of investigations.

Everyone involved in the RV lifestyle, from beginning to the end, has now been put on notice that the authorities are aware of the situation and are now prepared to do something about it.

So what happens now?

Well, that will depend on many things, not least will be the value placed on further activities of this nature by the authorities involved on the day. I know the recommendation in the follow up of Newmerella include conducting more weighing operations around the state of Victoria and to continue along the path of focusing on education before enforcement…for now. A closer examination of dual cab utes towing big loads is something that is being considered.

At times, there was a bit of a wait to be checked

However, for Newmerella to be truly successful will require more than just further police operations. Those involved in the RV media and its representative bodies need to stand up and show their support for greater awareness, better adherence to the law and a genuine effort to further educate and prepare RVers of all types to ensure they are compliant with regulations and not overweight.

More importantly we need the RV manufacturing and retail industry to get their heads out of the sand and take responsibility for their part in the issue.

Mr Gary Moreland, who writes for Caravan and Motorhome magazine, who was also present at Newmerella, said something on the day that resonated with me. He described how the trucking industry introduced a chain of responsibility when it came to safety. In essence it means that everyone in the chain from industry regulators, RV Manufacturers, dealer companies and the drivers share varying degrees of responsibility for safety and, likewise, share the accountability when safety is compromised.

A large percentage of camper trailers were overweight

Gary believes the RV industry in this country needs to adopt a similar approach. Rather than working in isolated silos, everyone needs to take ownership of their part in the problem and work together to find solutions. As is the case of a regular motor vehicle, the compliance plate on an RV, be it a caravan, a camper trailer, a boat or a motorhome, is a legal document and it should be treated as one and enforced as one.

Graeme’s operation at Newmerella is an enormous step forward in the path to safer RV motoring and will likely have already saved lives. But for this to be truly successful requires others in the industry, including those who are active on social media, to carry the momentum forward, but they must work together in order to achieve this common goal. As for the rest of us, the average motorist who just happens to tow a caravan, a camper or a large boat, we need to step up and take some responsibility for our own actions. We will not be able to plead innocence for ever or go on blaming the manufacturer of our RV for our situation.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse and right at this moment, the onus is on us to comply with the law.

I urge everyone who reads this to get your rig down to a weighbridge and get your weights checked. Even if you spend the effort to ensure you have not exceeded your tow vehicle’s gross combined mass (GCM), you will have achieved something and taken one big step forward towards ensuring your own safety and that of others on the road around you.

Safe travels

Let's hope this this becomes a common sight at a weighbridge near you...!

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Weighbridges in Australia to download.

Putting Olaf and Sven on the public weighbridge in Broadford, on the Hume Highway, Victoria. This is open 24hrs a day and is fully automated with a large digital display. Very convenient and free of charge.
Following on from the Police operation in Newmerella where caravans, campers and boat trailers were weighed and drivers advised of their result against their vehicle's rating, there has been a flurry of activity on the various Facebook groups and caravanning forums with many drivers wanting to know where to go and get their rigs weighed.

Well, thanks to our friends at Victoria Police and Vic Roads, we have a list of all available public weighbridges in Australia. So if all the talk of police weighing operations has got you a bit concerned about your rig's weight, now you can find the public weighbridge closest to you.

You can view the list or download it for yourself using the links below.  There's a couple of other links may be of interest as well.

Safe Travels

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Police Caravan Weight Safety Checks at Newmerella Victoria

Aerial view of the rest stop in Newmerella where the operation was conducted showing a number of trailers lined up ready for inspection.

Here’s a very brief update on the Police Operation at Newmerella where caravan, campers and other larger trailers were checked for compliance with weight restrictions and other general requirements.

Victoria Police worked together with Vic Roads and the Sheriff’s department to conduct a major road safety operation that included blood alcohol checks, licence and registration checks, outstanding fines or registration payments and, in particular, safety checks of larger trailers including caravans, camper trailers and boat trailers.  This was conducted on the 4th and 5th January, 2017, at the rest stop in Newmerella Victoria on the busy Princess Highway.

With regards to caravan and trailer checks component of the operation, it was largely an education and safety awareness exercise. No one was fined for being overweight. I did see one defect notice issued to a driver who’s boat trailer had incorrectly rated tyres for the weight being carried.

Officers from Vic Police and Vic Roads with their checklists ready to begin the safety check of this caravan. The scales can be seen on the side of the road ready to use.
There were fines issued for drivers who did not have towing mirrors fitted where required.
Here you can see how the scales were used to measure the load on each wheel. The total weight was derived from the sum of all individual readings from each wheel.

A full report will be issued by the police on the results of the operation but I can tell you that overall most trailers were either right on their maximum weight or were overloaded. Some vehicles were also overloaded in terms of their tow ball load and rear axel loadings. Interestingly, many camper trailers were overloaded and this was a bit of a surprise to those of us observing proceedings.

Most drivers were appreciative of the information and guidance provided with many not being aware of the critical state of their rigs. A few were not entirely pleased especially if they had recieved assurances from the manufacturer of ther caravan of its weight carrying capabilities.

A number of drivers came to Newmerella specifically to have their rigs checked as did this couple with their new Elite caravan.

The day was observed by representatives from the Australian Caravan Club Ltd, Everything Caravan and Camping Facebook Group, the Caravanners’ Forum and other organisations. All were very impressed with the operation and how it was conducted. It was agreed that further promotion of the operation and its associated safety message must continue and all agreed to collaborate on achieving this outcome.

From my perspective, it was an extremely worthwhile exercise and it was a privilege to be there to watch the dedicated members of Vic Police and Vic Roads go about their work in a professional and helpful manner. I spoke to a number of drivers who had been tested and they were all appreciative of the advice and assistance offered. Many were grateful for having the opportunity to get their rigs checked.

Surprisingly, there were a large number of overweight camper trailers. Many owners not aware of their weight restrictions and limited cargo capacity.

Of particular note was the number of drivers who had heard about the operation on social media prior to the event and came down specifically to get their rigs checked. This, to me, is an amazing outcome that just goes to show that attitudes are changing and that people are genuinely wanting to ensure their rigs are legal.

This was the first real, widely publicised, safety operation specifically aimed at caravans, boats and all large trailers. The social media campaign of this operation had, to this point, reached well over 250,000 people who are members of the RV and boating communities. It is the start of a whole new approach that could have far reaching implications, not just for folks like ourselves, but for the manufacturers, law eforcement in other states, industry regulators, and so on. This is great momentum for continued improvements in towing safety.

I’ll be publishing a more detailed report later.  Until then, safe travels…!

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Christmas Holiday To-Do List

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by and we are fast approaching the holiday season. Like many others, we’ve planned to take the van away for a quick trip to the coast and our thoughts have turned to getting the van and car ready for the trip. It has reminded me that we have quite a few handy hints ant tips on this site that are extremely useful at this time of year. 

I thought it would be a good idea to put them all together in one post so that they can be used as a sort of To-Do list before you head off. 

We hope you find this useful. Safe travels.

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10 Reasons to Keep a Spare iPhone in Your Caravan

Have you got an old smartphone or two lying around and you’re wondering what to do with them? Well…if you’re like Kylie and I, and you love upgrading to the latest gadgets, you’ve probably got at least one sitting in a drawer in your home. I know I find it very difficult to just get rid of a device that once cost me a lot of money. So I started to think about what use could an old, unused smartphone be to the average caravanner? Well…as it turns out, there’s quite a lot of functions a spare smartphone can be used for especially for RV use and, when compared to purchasing individual hardware for each specific task, you could end up saving yourself a substantial amount of money.

Here we look at just 10 useful apps that we have found that you can install on a spare iPhone or similar device that will be useful for caravanning and camper travel.

maxresdefault1. GPS Tracking Device. Pretty much every iPhone and most other brands of smartphones, have a built in GPS function. Normally this is used for mapping and navigation but it is also used as a means to locate a lost or stolen iPhone using the Find my Phone application. This comes standard with iOS and basically allows you to view the location of any other iOS device you own using the internal GPS. Android phones have a similar app. The location is displayed on a map and, from what I have found, it is extremely accurate. By placing an old iPhone in your caravan or camper and having it connected to a constant 12v source, it can act as a GPS locator in the event your RV is stolen. Where ever the caravan goes, the phone will go. Obviously you will need to install a separate SIM card for the phone to work. I found that Vodafone offer a ‘pay as you go’ or prepaid account that has a validity period of 12 months for any credit you put on the card. This means you can put a minimum of $10 on the account and this will last you a year or until you run out of data credit. A dedicated GPS tracking device can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000 dollars depending on functionality so the savings on this function alone justify keeping a spare phone in your van.
2. Video Surveillance Camera. If you have a look on the App Store, you will find a variety of video surveillance applications that turn a spare mobile phone equipped with a camera into an IP camera that can be accessed remotely from another smartphone. Some apps like Surveillance Pro allow 2 way video and audio communications. If you travel with dogs and, for whatever reason, you need to leave them in your van for a short period of time, you can monitor them and ensure they are OK and not barking. You could also place the phone in a window to keep an eye on your campsite. The uses for this are endless. Installing a similar dedicated IP camera could cost upwards of $150.
logo_big3. Caravan Levelling Device. Another unique feature of the iPhone is the inbuilt position and accelerometer sensors that are used to , among other things, detect the movement and orientation of the phone itself. It allows the screen to rotate between portrait and landscape modes automatically or for applications like the digital spirit level. Now some enterprising people have come up with an app that sends this positional data to another smartphone remotely allowing the spare phone in the van or camper to tell the driver when it is level. The app is called StayLevel. It’s a brilliant system that allows you to park your van in the most level position on a campsite before unhitching it from the tow vehicle. It should avoid one of the most common causes of arguments between couples and prevent you from rolling out of an uneven bed at night…! Again, there are devices that can be purchased for this very purpose that cost upwards of $350.
4. Remote Battery Monitor. Just about every modern caravan or camper has a 12v electrical system of some description and monitoring the health of your batteries is key to ensuring this system delivers constant power to all of your appliances. If, like me, you rely on your 12v power system to power a cpap machine overnight, knowing your batteries are fully charged before nightfall is essential to your health. Your van will likely have an inbuilt monitor of some type but imagine how good it would be if you could have that information at your side all the time? Well now you can with the availability of several devices that connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth and display all sorts of information about the health of your batteries and the rate at which you’re using power. They are not cheap, costing around $300 but the convenience they can offer can be very helpful. You can keep the phone with you outside of the van and at a glance see what state of charge your batteries are at. If they are not getting charged sufficiently, you can move the solar panels into better sunlight or consider other methods of charging. Some apps give you the ability to set alerts to prevent running your batteries too low and causing them damage.
 bmpro-battery-check-feature-image5. Juke Box. If your caravan or camper has an inbuilt stereo system that allows the connection of a smartphone or MP3 player, you can store your favourite music on your spare iPhone and leave it in the van permanently connected to the stereo so you will always have your music with you when you travel.
6. Movies on the go. Take the above one step further and, if you have sufficient memory capacity on your phone, you can also store a selection of your favourite movies that, with the addition of an AV cable, can be connected to your TV. This saves carrying around a heap of DVDs or a separate portable hard drive.
7. Walkie Talkie. How many of us love watching others trying to back their campers and vans into a tight spot and have a giggle at the antics and agreements that inventively ensue. Sadly we do and often we have offered these poor souls the use of our portable UHF radio. I’ve often wondered why people don’t have one of these useful tools for assisting with this task. Well, there is a great feature on all smartphones called push to talk and it allows phones to communicate with each other without using valuable data or phone credit turning your phones into walkie talkies. Just do a search on ‘push to talk’ apps on the Appstore. It could save you $50 or more on a dedicated portable radio.
8. Night Light/Alarm Clock. You can spend hours trolling through all the night light apps on the app store. There are literally hundreds. Some will have sound activation, others will have various functions like a night clock that is sound activated. There are probably more out there with features you may not have ever contemplated. Either way, making use of your spare iPhone as a night light and a bedside alarm clock can be very helpful.
screen568x5689. Children’s entertainment. We don’t have children but on occasion we may have people visit is when were in the caravan and they may bring their kids along. If it’s raining and there is not much for them to do , it may be handy to have a spare iPhone around loaded with a selection of games to keep them entertained without lending them your actual mobile phone. Kids have a habit of destroying things from time to time so if they do break your spare phone, it won’t be such a hardship.
10. Netflix Box. Netflix, if you haven’t heard about it, is an on-demand online TV streaming service that costs a fraction of traditional pay TV subscriptions. You can use the Netflix app on your smartphone to stream TV to a normal television using a device like the Google Chromecast. By installing the Netflix app on your spare phone you will always have a player handy in your RV and it will allow you to use your personal mobile phone for other applications. I wouldn’t recommend using a smartphone for Netflix unless you were at a caravan park with free WiFi access available.

So there you have it. Ten very practical uses for a spare smartphone that you can keep in your caravan or camper that can make life on the road just that little bit easier.

Safe Travels

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New BOS 370 Jockey Wheel Fitted to Olaf

There’s one thing that has always annoyed me about our caravans and campers; the jockey wheel.

I have not been able to find a system that I have completely happy with. The camper’s we’ve had used the swing away variety but I’ve found the pivot mechanism to be a weak point resulting in bending of the wheel. Both caravans have had the removable unit that is attached using 2 screw clamps positioned in the middle of the A frame. These are awkward to get to and the clamps are damn fiddly. Then you have the problem of where to store the jockey wheel when you’re on the road. I never really found a good spot to store it where it wasn’t in the way of other stuff. What I wanted was a jockey wheel that I could leave in the holder but could retract it so it was is out of the way when travelling. Well I’m glad to report I have found such a device.

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It’s called the BOS 370 Jockey Wheel and it is absolutely brilliant. It uses a geared winding mechanism to raise and lower the shaft. The ends are interchangeable depending on what unit you buy. I went with the straight base plate instead of the traditional wheel as the team at BOS advised that it is not really useful for a huge van like ours. You can also attach extensions to the base plate in order to cater for uneven sites. The mechanism can be operated by either the hand winder or using an ordinary clutched battery drill, the later make raising and lowering your caravan a breeze.

Best of all, once the base plate and any extensions have been removed using the quick release cotter pins, the shaft can be fully retracted sufficiently to allow the unit to remain in place. No need to remove it from the clamps. To me, this is the best part of the system.

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We’ll be giving the BOS unit a good workout shortly on our up and coming trip to Stradbroke Island so we’ll do a complete review later. For now, if you’re a bit frustrated with your existing jockey wheel, the BOS370 may be worth a look.

Safe Travels

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BOS Stabiliser Legs DIY Install

More products from BOS

Police Target overweight RVs

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The Dangers of Facebook and Forum Electrical Advice

burnt power point
Overload an electrical socket and this could be the result.

Having a keen interest in all things caravanning and camping, I spend a bit of my spare time scrolling through various facebook groups and caravanning forums. More often than not, they are a great source of information as well as ideas for this blog. Recently I have noticed a troubling increase in the number of posts that advocate for completely unsafe practices particularly when it comes to 240v mains power. The old argument about plugging a caravan into a domestic 240v 10 amp power supply is the most common. Others are about the use of generators and inverters. These topics seem to start off innocently enough with the original poster having a genuine question to ask but many of the replies that follow just defy belief. It is incredible the number of people who suggest that making up your own power lead with a 10 amp point at one end and a 15 amp plug at the other and try to justify its safety and legality. I have even read a post from one person, whose son was supposedly a qualified electrician, claim it was a totally legal thing to do. I cannot imagine any self-respecting electrician making such a claim especially when the laws about this are so clear.

safety switch
The Amp Fibian has an RCD that cuts the power if it exceeds 10 amps.

Other troubling advice I have read suggests to grind down plugs so that they fit the smaller outlets. Others suggest that drilling out the power point to accept the larger plugs is also acceptable. Fortunately, many forum and facebook group administrators have recognised the issue and are now deleting these posts. Apart from the fact that people posting such advice are actually incriminating themselves on a public forum, the possibility that someone could actually think this advice is correct and act accordingly means lives are put at risk. The question of liability in such an event would be very interesting indeed.

There is another troubling side-track that has also emerged from these posts. That being the behaviour of some caravan park managers and their blatant disregard for electrical safety. Some allegedly have been handing out illegal power cords and instructing their tenants to use 10 amp outlets for their RVs. Worse is the tenants have actually been using them…! Truly staggering behaviour.

honda generator
Generators should be treated with respect.

It is so important that we are all aware of the laws and have a clear understanding of what is safe and what is unsafe. This is especially true for the novice and the experienced caravanner alike. We have an article on electrical safety with pictures of the sort of things to look out for as well as a summary of the laws in question.

power safety button

In essence though, the advice is very clear and simple. No one should be doing any work beyond changing a fuse or light bulb on anything 240v related unless they are a qualified electrician. Any electrical work must be accompanied with a certificate of electrical safety. Don’t listen to the trolls on forums and facebook groups. Only use electrical products purchased from reputable retail outlets.

If in doubt, talk to a reputable and licenced electrician.  It really is that simple.

Safe travels everyone.

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