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Last Update: 11-01-03

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The Nitty Gritty of Caravanning

By Ken and Maureen Hay

Published by Indian Ocean Books


Ken and Maureen live in Mandurah, Western Australia (email:

In 2000 they purchased a caravan to tour Australia while on long service leave. The intent was to sell the caravan when the trip was over. They still have the caravan and use it whenever possible. They fell in love with the caravan lifestyle.

The trip around Australia was their first serious attempt at caravanning. Starting off with little experience they soon found themselves on a steep learning curve. They made mistakes, and learned from them; they saw others make mistakes and learned from them. Ideas came to mind and they tried them out - some worked, some didn't. The simple fact of living in a caravan and seeing this great country of ours was a tremendous experience.

As in all pursuits, as experience increases so does confidence and ability. Ken and Maureen have brought together the mistakes, learnings and experiences of that trip, and others, and compiled them into their book - The Nitty Gritty of Caravanning.

Authors Maureen & Ken Hay
Maureen and Ken Hay

The intention is to share all of this information with others so that they can avoid the mistakes and benefit from the experiences.

The book is not a travelogue. It is a compendium of information that every intending and beginning caravanner needs to know. Neither is it a manual. It is written in an informal, relaxed style with as many points as possible illustrated with anecdotes and experiences. As one reader has reported, "It is as if you were sitting with us telling us all about it."

Ken and Maureen launched the book at the Perth Caravan Show in March 2002. Without any advance publicity or advertising they sold many books. Doug and Denise McIvor gave it an excellent review in their weekly caravan column in The West Australian on 30 March 2002. Caravan World published another, highly complimentary, review and recommended it to caravanning beginners on page 18 of their May 2002 issue.

The first chapter discusses the issues involved in buying a caravan. It dispels some of the myths and guides the reader through some of the pitfalls and traps. The need for a budget is emphasised and a list of essential items the beginner doesn't think of is provided. They all cost money and impact upon the budget.

The second chapter discusses a host of basics such as checklists for hitching van to vehicle, checking into caravan parks, reversing and parking the caravan and getting it level.

Chapter Three discusses what to take on a caravan trip and draws a distinction between a couple of weeks away at the coast and the "Big One" - the trip around Australia. Money, pets, clothing, kitchenware, food and many others subjects are covered.

Chapter Four is devoted to the technicalities of hitching van to vehicle. The types of mechanisms available are discussed and an emphasis is placed upon seeking expert advice. The various acronyms that confuse many in this subject are defined and made simple.

The intricacies of annexes are discussed in Chapter Five. Erecting them, securing them and how to stop them flapping are explained in considerable detail. Emphasis is given to securing roll-out awnings safely for travel.

A range of issues are discussed in Chapter Six - On The Road. Communication from CB radio to mobile phones and e-mail; spare fuel and water; things that drop out of trees; caravan heaters and toilets; changing tyres and even the use of credit and fuel cards.

Chapter Seven is devoted to overtaking. That is, what the caravanner should do when being overtaken and when overtaking. This is a subject that often frightens the beginner but the advice offered should take much of the apprehension out of these every day activities.

Australia's roads and road rules are the subject of Chapter Eight. The worst section of Highway One is described and some discussion devoted to the perennial road works.

The Perfect Caravan Park is the title of Chapter Nine. There is no such thing as a perfect park but the analogy is used to discuss the various issues around caravan parks and the wide range of standards the traveller comes across. Rubbish disposal and ablutions receive due attention as does the personalities of park staff.

Chapter Ten is devoted to Horror Stories - experiences and stories of events when things have gone horribly wrong. Caravan doors feature strongly as do roll out awnings. Even theft and burglary are featured and advice given on how to prevent them.

Meeting people is one of the joys of travelling and caravanning is no different. Chapter Eleven is devoted to people and discusses the good and the bad. Most of the people you meet in caravan parks are good people.

It seems odd, at first, that Chapter Twelve is devoted to Television. But, using a TV in a caravan is different to using it at home. Every time you arrive at a new place you need to tune the television anew. This is not usually realised by the new starter - Ken and Maureen learned by experience.

Chapter Thirteen is devoted to Health Matters. Ken is a retired doctor and therefore well qualified to advise caravanners on the health aspects of caravanning.

Similarly, Chapter Fourteen is devoted to First Aid. It is not a first aid manual but discusses the most likely injuries the caravanner could experience personally or witness in others.

Finally, in Chapter Fifteen, Maureen offers a selection of simple, healthy recipes she uses in the caravan.

The book's appendix offers a list of contacts with addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and web sites where available. There is an extensive index.

The book might best be summarised with Caravan World's penultimate paragraph. "Caravan World recommends the Hay's book and predicts that it will quickly become a well-thumbed fixture on every caravan bookshelf".

The Nitty Gritty of Caravanning is priced at $24.95. It is available at newsagents in Mandurah, Hudson's Caravans in Mandurah, Caravan Parts of WA in Welshpool Road, Perth and by mail order from Indian Ocean Books, PO Box 301, Joondalup. WA 6919. Order online here.