How to load up your caravan for your next road trip

There are two important points to remember when loading your touring caravan. The first involves ensuring you do not exceed the amount you can safely carry, and the second requires you to position individual items within the caravan to ensure maximum stability when on the move. Here, we look at both of these elements – to help you achieve hassle-free loading and the smoothest possible journey…

Check how much extra weight your caravan can carry

For this, you need to find the user payload for your particular caravan. This ‘payload’ refers to the combined weight of all additional items you add to the caravan. It does not include those items included in the manufacturer’s standard specification for the safe and proper functioning of the caravan such as the essential habitation equipment, hook up cable and gas cylinder (these items are taken into account in the Mass in Running Order or MRO).

Your user payload is likely to be specifically stated in the owner’s handbook. If it is not, you can calculate it by looking at two mass figures detailed on the caravan weight plate – which tends to be located close to the caravan door. These figures are as follows (both of which are expressed in kilograms):

  • Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM). This refers to the absolute maximum weight that the entire caravan – including all contents within it – must not exceed when on the road.
  • Mass in Running Order (MRO). This refers to the mass of the caravan when it is equipped according to the manufacturer’s specification (i.e. when it has everything on board to keep it running – but excluding all the ‘extras’ you might place inside it such as personal effects, food, and other equipment).

If you deduct the MRO from the MTPLM, this will give you the figure, in kilograms, for your user payload.

Weight calculations where there are additional items fitted within your caravan

If you have had any extra items fitted inside your caravan such as a motor mover, air conditioner or solar panel, then the weight of these additional items will need to be deducted from the stipulated user payload in your handbook to give a true maximum user payload figure.


Calculate the combined weight of items you intend to carry

Making a list of all the items you intend to carry and noting the weight of each item, helps you in two ways: it ensures that the combined weight of these items does not exceed your user payload – and it also makes it easier to plan out where you are going to place individual items when it comes to loading up.

Ascertaining the weight of larger and heavier items

This includes equipment such as your awning (including all parts and attachments), table and chairs for outside, TV, stereo, bbq, etc. To try and avoid struggling with weighing cumbersome items on a set of bathroom scales – or luggage scales if you have them, the packaging or user manuals for these items should stipulate their weight. If you no longer have the packaging but if these are recent purchases, if you search for the items online and then look for the ‘technical spec’ under the sales listing, you should be able to find the weight.

Box up smaller items

Sort your living essentials and personal effects according to the areas where they ‘live’ in the caravan. Next, place these items into appropriate boxes (or bags for clothing) and label each accordingly – e.g. ‘bathroom towels x6’, ‘pots and pans’, ‘under kitchen sink’ and ‘8 bottles of wine’. Weigh each box or bundle and make a note of the weight. Boxing up your items in the same way for each trip means you only have to go through this detailed ‘weigh in’ procedure once – although you would, of course, have to take into account the additional weight of extra items on future trips.  

Add up the combined weight of all your items to ensure it does not exceed your maximum user payload. If you have exceeded that figure or are close to it, remember that you can bring it down by carrying heavier items in the boot of your car. Note, however, that you must not exceed you car’s maximum weight limit either (check the car user manual for this).

Technique for positioning items within your caravan

Your aim when loading the caravan is ensure the unit is as stable as possible through even distribution of weight. Failure to do this increases the likelihood of ‘snaking’ – i.e. side-to-side movement (especially at speed, when being overtaken and in crosswinds). At worst, this can lead to loss of control and jack-knifing.

Armed with your list of items and their weights, follow this procedure for positioning them within the caravan:

  • Place your heaviest items at floor level, above the axle.
  • Medium weight should be stored no higher than window level and as close as possible to the axle.
  • Your lightest items should be stored safely in overhead lockers, or else towards the rear of the caravan.
  • You should ensure that no items are capable of moving around in transit; another good reason for boxing up your possessions before loading your caravan.

Once items are positioned, you should then ensure that the noseweight of the caravan does not exceed either your caravan’s noseweight limit, or the car’s towball limit. Check both user manuals for these weights. Caravan and trailer noseweight gauges can be bought from Halfords and camping gear suppliers for less than £20.

Finally: less is more…

Remember that the maximum permissible weight for your caravan isn’t a target to aim for. It’s always the case that the more you tow, the more work your car has to do to get from A to B – and the more fuel you consume. Optimal loading is about not exceeding those limits and positioning your possessions sensibly, but it’s also about only carrying what you need.  

For flexible protection that reflects your usage needs and the right level of protection for your caravan and contents, discover award-winning touring caravan insurance from Shield Total Insurance.



A generation 'y'er from Ireland, living his dreams and convincing you to do the same. Traveling through more than 90 countries around the world and showing no signs of slowing down

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