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Helpful Caravan Related Terms

Hints & Tips

If you have made the decision to get a caravan, you may be shocked by the amount of styles, sizes, types and prices within the market. Aquaroll - A proprietary design of fresh water container. Basically a barrel with a handle to allow it to be pulled along the ground, rather than needing to be carried. Often used as a generic term for such devices.

Awning - A tent-like structure of fabric over a supporting framework, which can be attached to the side of a caravan or motor caravan. Provides shade, as well as additional living, sleeping or storage space. Caravan awnings may be full length or less commonly 'porch' (i.e. covering only the area surrounding the door) and are not free-standing. Motor caravan awnings are usually either retractable into a container attached permanently to the side of the vehicle (rather like a large roller blind) or are free-standing (like a tent) to allow the vehicle to leave the awning on site while out for the day.

Awning Carpet - A term used to describe the groundsheet in an awning usually referring to those which are porous, and hence less damaging to the underlying grass.

Awning Length - The dimension which determines the size of awning required to fit a particular caravan. Usually stated as the total length of the roof and the sides, as measured around the awning rail, and not simply the horizontal length of the structure.

If you have made the decision to get a caravan, you may be shocked by the amount of styles, sizes, types and prices within the market. Aquaroll - A proprietary design of fresh water container. Basically a barrel with a handle to allow it to be pulled along the ground, rather than needing to be carried. Often used as a generic term for such devices.

Awning - A tent-like structure of fabric over a supporting framework, which can be attached to the side of a caravan or motor caravan. Provides shade, as well as additional living, sleeping or storage space. Caravan awnings may be full length or less commonly 'porch' (i.e. covering only the area surrounding the door) and are not free-standing. Motor caravan awnings are usually either retractable into a container attached permanently to the side of the vehicle (rather like a large roller blind) or are free-standing (like a tent) to allow the vehicle to leave the awning on site while out for the day.

Awning Carpet - A term used to describe the groundsheet in an awning - usually referring to those which are porous, and hence less damaging to the underlying grass.

Awning Length - The dimension which determines the size of awning required to fit a particular caravan. Usually stated as the total length of the roof and the sides, as measured around the awning rail, and not simply the horizontal length of the structure.

Awning Rail - The slot around the periphery of the caravan side into which the awning is threaded to provide its main attachment to the body.

Battery Charger - Required to keep a leisure battery charged. Most caravans and motor caravans include a charging facility which operates from via the mains hook-up, and also have the ability to recharge from the motor caravan's or towcar's alternator while travelling. Less commonly, solar panels, portable generators or even small windmills are used to provide power for recharging.

Berth - A sleeping place. Usually used in the context of 'number of berths' e.g. 'this is a four berth caravan' means a caravan which provides sleeping accommodation for 4 people.

Bunk - A sleeping place, usually higher up than a conventional bed. Often (but not always) this can be folded or removed to provide additional living space.

Butane - A type of liquefied petroleum gas commonly used in caravans and motor caravans. Usually stored in blue gas cylinders.

Camper Van - See Motor Caravan.

Caravan - A trailer for living in! Must meet the requirements for construction and use of road vehicles, so that it can legally be towed on public roads. Also known as touring caravan, trailer caravan, tourer or 'van. Since The Caravan Club includes members with motor caravans and trailer tents as well, we often tend to use 'caravan' as a general term for all these categories of vehicle.

Caravan Holiday Home - A form of caravan which is transportable, but which does not meet the requirements for construction and use of road vehicles, and which cannot therefore be towed on public roads. Usually rather bigger than a touring caravan, and intended for seasonal or long-term accommodation. Also known as static caravan or mobile home. These caravans are outside of the scope of activities of The Caravan Club. Contact instead the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (Opens in a new window).

Caravanning - When we talk about caravanning, we usually mean the activity associated with a touring holiday, although the vehicle you stay in could be a motor caravan or trailer tent, and not just a touring caravan. We don't generally mean holidays based in static caravans, nor tent camping.

Cassette Blind - A roller blind which is fitted as part of the window assembly, often along with a flyscreen, thus giving a neat installation.

Cassette Toilet - A form of chemical toilet where the waste holding tank can be accessed from outside the caravan, and can be removed for emptying without having to transport the whole toilet to the emptying point. The most popular form of toilet on modern caravans.

Chemical Toilet - A self-contained toilet, where the waste material is held in a sealed tank for periodic emptying. Special chemical fluid added to the tank helps to break down the waste, and keeps the system free of unpleasant odours. Modern examples are far more acceptable to use than the infamous 'bucket-and-chuck-it' systems of years past….

CRiS - The Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme. A voluntary scheme which registers caravans in a similar manner to how motor vehicles are registered. Allows you to check the legitimate right to ownership of the seller of a secondhand caravan, and helps in the recovery of stolen caravans. A similar scheme called MINDER operates for motor caravans.

Drinking Water - Fresh water for drinking and washing etc is stored in an internal tank or external container. Most touring caravans use external containers (usually an Aquaroll), while most motor caravans use internal tanks, although there are exceptions to this.

Driving Licence - A full car licence is normally all that is required to drive a motor caravan or to tow a caravan. Certain restrictions apply to those drivers who have received licences since 1 January 1997, however.

Drop Plate - A fixture which allows the height of tow ball to be lowered to improve compatibility with the caravan hitch height.

European Standard - A standard controlling the design and construction of particular aspects of caravans and motor caravans - e.g. payloads requirements, ventilation or gas systems. While it is not usually a legal requirement for a manufacturer to follow such standards, they would generally be considered to represent 'best practice'. Often abbreviated to 'EN'. The relevant standards have been adopted by the UK as British Standards, or 'BS ENs'.

Flyscreen - A mesh screen which can be placed across the door, windows or roof light to help prevent insects getting in.

Folding Caravan - A caravan where the upper parts of the walls can be folded flat and the roof lowered to give a trailer which is easier to tow and to store. Also known as rigid folding caravan. See also pop-top, folding camper and trailer tent.

Full Service Pitch - A pitch which has individual provision for fresh water supply and waste water disposal, in addition to mains electricity and sometimes television aerial connection.

Gas Cylinder - Pressurised container for the storage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas.

Gas Bottle Locker - Compartment for the storage of gas cylinders. Usually sealed from the habitation area (although not always on some motor caravans).

Generator - Some caravanners use a small portable generator to provide mains electricity, particularly if frequently using sites without hook-ups.

Groundsheet - A lining for the base of a tent or awning which shields the occupants from the ground. See also awning carpet.

Guy lines - Cords attached to the outside of an awning or trailer tent to stabilise and tension the fabric.

Hardstanding - A pitch which has a hard surface made of gravel, asphalt, concrete etc instead of being grass.

Hitch - The mechanism which allows a caravan to be attached to a tow ball.

Hitch Head Stabiliser - A form of stabiliser which is built into the caravan hitch, and which works by applying friction directly to the tow ball.

Hitch Lock - A security device which prevents the caravan hitch being connected to (or in some cases, removed from ) a tow ball.

Hook-up - A facility on pitch to connect a caravan or motor caravan to the mains electric supply.

Jack - A device for raising the vehicle so that a wheel can be changed, for instance. Not to be confused with corner steadies, which although they are sometimes referred to as 'corner jacks' are steadying, not lifting devices.

Jockey Wheel - Small wheel at the front of a caravan used to support the forward end of the caravan while it is not hitched up. Allows the caravan to be manoeuvred by hand, or 'jockeyed' into position.

Kerbweight - The empty weight of a motor vehicle as defined by its manufacturer.

Levelling - The process of ensuring that a caravan or motor caravan is level when set up on a pitch. Important for comfort, and also to ensure the correct functioning of the drinking water and waste water systems.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas - The fuel used to power the fridge, water heater and space heater in most caravans, when mains electricity is not available, and battery power is not sufficient. Two types are commonly used - butane and propane. Usually abbreviated to LPG.

Mobile Home - See caravan holiday home.

MOT - The annual test required for motor vehicles. Caravans do not currently require an MOT. Motor caravans require the same MOT as a car ('Class IV'), although their size and weight can sometimes mean that this has to be done in a test bay for commercial vehicles.

Motorhome - See motor caravan.

Noseweight - Also known as static vertical load. That part of the weight of the caravan which is supported by the rear of the towing vehicle via the tow ball.

Noseweight Gauge - A device for measuring noseweight.

Noseweight Limit - The value of noseweight which must not be exceeded. Towing vehicles, tow bars and caravan hitches all have noseweight limits, and the lowest figure from any given combination is the one which is the limiting factor.

Number Plate - Trailers, including caravans and trailer tents, must display a legal number plate showing the same registration mark as their towing vehicle.

Pitch - A designated area of a caravan site allocated for the use of one outfit. Most sites will be arranged with defied pitches, while many CLs (particularly those without mains hook-ups) are not. Also the natural tendency for a caravan (especially a single axle one) to rock about its axle, particularly when towed along an undulating road.

Propane - A type of Liquefied Petroleum Gas commonly used in caravans and motor caravans. Usually stored in red gas cylinders. Preferred for all year round use, since it can be used at lower temperatures than butane.

Rigid Folding Caravan - See folding caravan.

Road Tax - Caravans do not currently pay road tax.

Seasonal Pitch - A pitch reserved on a Caravan Club Site for the exclusive use of a Club Member for a set period. Only limited number of seasonal pitches are available on selected sites.

Single Axle - A caravan with a single pair of wheels on one axle. See also twin axle.

Stabiliser - A safety device which helps prevent instability by controlling the ease with which the caravan hitch can pivot about the tow ball.

Static Caravan - See caravan holiday home.

Storage Site - A facility where caravans and motor caravans may be stored when not in use.

Tow Ball - That part of the tow bar to which the hitch attaches.

Tow Bar - The framework added to a towing vehicle to support the tow ball, and to distribute the loads resulting from towing safely throughout the towing vehicle's structure.

Towing Bracket - See tow bar.

Towing Mirrors - Additional rear vision mirrors added to a towing vehicle to provide a greater width of view to see past a caravan.

Tourer - See caravan.

Touring Caravan - See caravan.

Tracking Device - A security device which enables a vehicle to be located in the event of it being stolen.

Trailer - A road vehicle designed to be towing behind another vehicle. Caravans and trailer tents are both legally considered to be 'light trailers', and as such have to meet the legal requirements for such vehicles as defined in the construction & use regulations and Lighting Regulations.

Trailer Tent - A hybrid between a caravan and a tent. Most consist of a rigid base unit, similar to the lower part of a caravan, with an upper structure made partially of fabric. This unfolds from its travelling position of being stored in the trailer part, to give a vastly increased living space, once some assembly and setting up is carried out. Generally lighter (and cheaper) than most caravans, and hence ideal for those with a smaller car, or who are trying caravanning for the first time. See also folding camper.

Twin Axle - A caravan with two pairs of wheels, on two axles which are located close together. These are usually the larger, heavier caravans, where the second axle helps carry the greater weight more easily, and also makes a longer caravan more stable to tow. See also single axle.

'Van - An abbreviation of caravan. Often used to refer to both caravans and motor caravans.

Vehicle Identification Number - The manufacturer's unique serial number for an individual vehicle. Cars and motor caravans should carry a VIN. Caravans are not obliged to, but most of those sold in recent years in the UK do as a result of the CRiS voluntary registration scheme.

VIN - Abbreviation of vehicle identification number.

Warden - The Caravan Club employee (and Club member!) who is in charge of an individual Caravan Club Site.

Waste Water - Water which has been used in the kitchen or bathroom area. This should be collected in an internal tank or external container for later disposal at a designated emptying point on the site. Most caravans use external containers, while most motor caravans use internal tanks, although there are exceptions to this.

Water Heater - Gas and/or electrically powered device to provide hot water for washing etc.

Water Filter - A device to remove impurities from the water system of the caravan or motor caravan.

Water Pump - Since caravan and motor caravan water tanks and containers are kept at a low level, a pump must be used to circulate water around the system.

Weighbridge - A device capable of weighing a vehicle. Frequently operated by local authorities.

Wheelbase - The separation between the front and rear axles of a vehicle. Motor caravans are sometimes available with a choice of wheelbase options to give different interior layouts.

Wheelclamp - A security device intended to stop one of the road wheels rotating.