Caravanning 101 basic terminology

Mandy Davies

Written by Mandy Davies

So you want to get out on the road and enjoy our beautiful country and you're thinking a caravan is the way to go. We understand why, it’s cost effective especially if you already have the tow vehicle. It allows you not only to explore our stunning country but for some it’s a great lifestyle choice whether you are full time traveling or live permanently onsite near family and friends. 
If you haven’t had one before and you want to make a well informed purchase decision, a great starting point is understanding the terminology.
 
Here at TrailLite it's all about teaching you what you don't know and gearing you up to make the right choice for you because you are well informed and understand the benefits and terminology so often thrown about. You'll often here our Product Specialists say "you don't know what you don't know" which is so true and can be so costly when it comes to caravan ownership. 
 
If after reading this you still need help be sure to: 
 
Book a needs assessment consultation now
 
Terminology  Description 
Alu-tech 5 part construction 
Impact resistant fiberglass body panels, bonded and bolted to a unique interlocking Aluminium external frame and fixed to a 44mm thick floor. Benefit is that is has unrivaled strength yet light weight. Weighs up to 500kg less than other similar comparisons.
ATC  An electronic stability device that can be fitted to caravans to help prevent snaking (Assisted Trailer Control)
Awning  A structure that fits to the side of a caravan so to extend the living space of the caravan. This can be a fully removable room or a permanent shade awning attached to the caravan.
Awning rail  The rail on the side of the caravan into which the full awning slides.
Awning skirt A long piece of plastic/material that is used as a draft protector between the base of the caravan and the awning.
Berth  This refers to the amount of people that a caravan can sleep.
Body length  The inside length of the caravan. Also referred to as internal length.
Breakaway cable
A thin steel wire normally coated in a coloured plastic that attaches to the caravan and then to the car, in the event of the caravan becoming detached from a car whilst towing the breakaway cable will apply the caravans brakes. This piece of equipment is a legal requirement.
Caravan mover  A remotely controlled device used to manoeuvre caravans while not attached to a vehicle, also know as a motor mover.
Caravan Needs Assessment
 A free, no obligation service offered by specialists in the industry to assist in getting you clear on your non negotiable’s. Ensures you buy once and buy right by focusing on your needs rather than features
and benefits of a product.
 
Book a needs assessment consultation now
 Cassette toilet  A toilet built into a caravan that has a separate cassette in which holds the toilet waste. A spare cassette can be a worthwhile investment.
 Control panels   Panels of switches that control various features within the caravan such as; mains power, 12V power, water pump, water heater and heater etc. 
 Dinette   A combination of seats that allow people to dine in the caravan, these can normally be converted into a bed.
 Fresh water roll away tank  A container positioned outside the caravan from which fresh water is drawn to supply a caravan’s taps and shower.
Fresh water fitted water tank with monitoring Fresh water storage attached under the caravan with a display to see volume held.
Front locker Refers to the locker outside at the very front.
Gas BBQ point An externally mounted point of a caravan into which you can connect a gas BBQ that will run off of the caravan’s gas supply.
Grab handles Located on all four corners of a caravan and used to manually manoeuvre it.
Hitch head The device on the front of a caravan that attaches to the towball of a car, also referred to as hitch head coupling.
Hitch lock  A security device that is used to lock onto the hitch head of a caravan to help prevent theft.
Hookup This refers to being “hooked up” to the mains electricity supply.
Jockey wheel The small pivoting wheel located through the A frame of a caravan.
Laden weight The maximum loaded weight of a caravan, also referred as the Gross Vehicle Mass.
Leisure battery 12V supply battery. Battery capacity can vary so an important discussion point.
NZMCA New Zealand motorhome and Caravan Association - a body that will represent you and support you with information, publications, discounts, subsidized camping areas.
Noseweight (caravan) The weight of the caravan on the tow bar.
Payload  The weight allowance the user has to work with when packing a caravan. The weight difference between the unladen (unloaded without water) and GVM of the caravan.
Pitch  The space in which you park your caravan on a site.
Porch awning A tent like structure that attaches to the side of a caravan. Unlike a standard awning a porch awning covers only part of the caravan.
Shipping length The maximum external length of the caravan, also referred to as external overall length.
Stabiliser A device fitted either to the hitch head of a caravan or to the A frame cover that helps to minimise snaking while towing.
Stabiliser legs Each caravan is fitted with 4 stabiliser legs, one on each corner, they wind down to steady the caravan when pitched up, also referred to as corner steadies.
Satellite dishes Can be portable, manual or automatic - allow you to watch free to air TV.
Solar panels Allow you to change your batteries when self-contained freedom camping.
Unladen weight The empty weight of a caravan.
Vehicles towing capacity  The maximum recommended tow weight the vehicle manufacturer has set for the vehicle.
Waste Grey water roll away tank A container positioned outside of a caravan that stores all waste water (or grey water as it’s also known).
Waste water fitted tank  A fitted tank under the caravan to store waste water. 
Waste water hose To transfer waste water into a dump station.
Water ingress Refers to water infiltrating the body of a caravan.
Wheel lock A security device that is used to lock onto the wheel of a caravan to help prevent theft.
Window stays Catches or telescopic poles that are used to hold a caravan window open.
 
This information is intended to be used as guidance purposes only. It is not suitable as a substitute for understanding and complying with legislation and standards. We recommend everyone does their own research and has a thorough understanding of all terminology and specification. 
 
Buyers Guide to Motorhomes and Caravans from TrailLite
 
Mandy Davies

Written by Mandy Davies

Mandy is heads up TrailLites team of product specialists. Mandy has been sharing her passion for creating dream lifestyles for 12 years. She loves sailing the Hauraki Gulf with her partner Greg, and loves the beach lifestyle she shares with family and friends.