Travelling With A Trailer Tent

Trailer tents are a lighter and less expensive alternative for those who are new to camping, allowing you to tow a load that is less than a caravan but still has everything you need for a camping trip.

Trailer tents essentially fold out of a trailer that you tow behind your car, and are assembled in much the same way as a tent, using poles and pegs to erect your shelter for the duration of your holiday.

What Types Of Trailer Tents Are There?

There are a number of different designs of trailer tent, all of which can be towed easily behind a car or RV:

  • Trailer Tent

Basic trailer tents are constructed of canvas, which can be folded out of the trailer and assembled much like you would in a tent. Often, they are driven to a campsite and erected on a pitch so that the outside can look like a huge tent.

Varying in size, trailer tents can be simple like a tent or have additional compartments for separate sleeping spaces inside, as well as external awnings for additional covered space for outside, perfect for when you need to dash inside if it starts raining.

  • Flip-top trailer tent

Flip-top trailers are quick and easy to set up once you get to the campsite, folding out from the trailer and providing shelter almost instantly with little need for pegging, and the trailer itself folds outwards to become part of the floor of the tent.

Extras such as awnings are available to provide more room should you need additional space during your trip.

  • Folding camper

Folding campers offer more facilities than a basic trailer tent, extending from a base unit that contains sleeping space, cooking facilities and a washroom with toilet – much like the base of a caravan.

The difference is that the unit will often be constructed of canvas, with awnings and extensions that open out to provide more internal space with no need for additional pegging.

So after deciding what kind of trailer tent will suit you, the next part before you set off on a journey is to make sure you and your vehicle are legal to tow the trailer en route to the campsite.

Checking You And Your Vehicle Is Legal To Tow

The first thing to check before you set off is whether you are allowed to tow the vehicle on your current licence, and the year you passed your test can affect your entitlement to be allowed to tow.

The combination of the weight of the vehicle and the weight of the trailer and its contents is known as the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) and is used to calculate the weight of that you’ll be travelling with as a unit.

If you passed your test before the 1st January 1997, you would automatically have C1 status on your driving licence. C1 classification allows you to drive a vehicle/trailer combination of up to 8.25 tonnes.

If you’ve passed your licence after the 1st January 1997, you’ll have B + B1 classification on your driving licence. This allows you to tow a trailer of more than 750kg, provided your MAM is less than 3.5 tonnes. If you want to tow heavier loads, you’ll have to pass an additional test to achieve C1 status on your licence.

Brakes Or No Brakes?

When selecting a trailer, there are two types to think about, those with brakes and those without. Whichever type you pick can affect not just the movement of the trailer, but also the risk factor when it comes to making your journey.

By law, trailers without brakes must not be loaded to more than half of the unladen weight of the trailer and must be driven with a degree of care. It is advisable to try not to exceed more than 85% of your total kerb weight when loading your car and trailer for a journey.

Check Your Weight

Check your vehicles’ kerb weight or ‘gross train weight’ by looking in your owners’ manual or logbook, alternatively, you can look for your vehicles’ VIN.

Look for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate on your vehicle, usually found under the bonnet or on the inside of one of the door panels. This will give you an idea of vehicle weight and the MAM of the vehicle, allowing you to work out how much you’re able to tow.

Kerb weight, or unladen weight, is essentially the weight of the vehicle when it’s not carrying passengers or goods – including oil, coolant and a full tank of petrol.

By ensuring you’re not overloading your trailer when you travel you can ensure a safer journey for yourself and your fellow road users.

Securing Your Trailer Tent

Because of their basic nature and build materials, trailer tents are seemingly less secure than caravans and motorhomes, putting users more at risk of theft and damage from weather conditions.

Taking out some trailer tent insurance is a useful way of ensuring that, should the worst happen, your tent and equipment will be covered.

Additional security features such as hitch locks and wheel clamps can help to deter thieves by keeping your trailer tent secure while pitched.

Driving Abroad

If you’re looking to drive your trailer tent to a campsite within the EU, you must ensure you have prepared not only your trailer but also your documents for the journey. Compulsory documents include:

Much like travelling with a caravan or motorhome, the following bits of equipment are needed to drive within the EU legally:

  • GB stickers or a GB number plate
  • Extending mirrors
  • Headlight stickers or adjusted headlight beams – fit these on the ferry
  • Warning triangles and high-visibility jackets
  • First Aid Kit and Travel Pack
  • Toolkit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare bulbs

If you’re stopping at campsites in Europe, be sure to look into membership to services such as Camping Key Europe, which will offer discounted pitch prices at campsites throughout the EU, including at high season.

By taking the time to check all aspects of your vehicle, your trailer and your documentation before you embark on your holiday, you can ensure a safe journey to and from the campsite, which will lead to a happy holiday for you and your family.

Travelling With A Trailer: Weighing It Up

Trailers are used for a number of different purposes, allowing us to transport materials of all shapes and sizes (within reason) and also more cumbersome items such as boats, bikes and even horse boxes.

Whether you’re towing a caravan or boat for a holiday or just making use of a trailer as part of moving house, you need to make sure that you’re towing safely, and there are a few things to check before you set off, most importantly to do with the weight of your load, commonly known as Maximum Authorised Mass:

What Is Maximum Authorised Mass?

Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) is the combined weight of your vehicle, the trailer you are towing and the additional weight of the load you are carrying.

Depending on your licence type, you are legally allowed to carry loads of up to 3.5 tonnes combined, so it can be worth thinking about how much you want to transport in the first place – especially when it comes to caravans or taking equipment such as surfboards and bikes.

Do I Need A Special Licence To Tow?

Depending on what you want to tow depends on what sort of licence you will require. Usually, when you pass your driving test, you will receive a Category B licence which entitles you to drive cars and other small

What you can tow will depend on when you passed your test and there are three main periods at which changes took place, so it can be worth cross-referencing your licence to make sure you can tow legally:

Before 1st January 1997

Drivers who passed their test before this time are entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to a total mass of 8.25 tonnes – this includes the combined weight of your vehicle, the trailer and the load you are carrying.

From 1st January 1997

Drivers who passed their test after this time and who carry a regular B category driving licence are allowed to tow vehicles of up to 750kg, provided the total weight of the car, trailer and load do not exceed 3.5 tonnes.

From 19th January 2013

If you’ve passed your Category B driving test fairly recently you will be able to tow small trailers of no more than 750kg, or if you want to tow larger loads you must ensure the combined weight does not exceed the MAM of 3.5 tonnes.

What about Heavier Loads?

If you are looking to tow loads heavier than 3.5 tonnes, either on a regular basis through work or when you take a caravan or trailer away on holiday, you’ll need to apply to upgrade your driving licence to a Category B+E to be road-legal.

If you want to tow heavier loads, you must apply to upgrade your license further to a Category C1+E licence, which when passed will allow you to drive combinations of up to a MAM of 12 tonnes, this is particularly important if have a larger vehicle or if your business requires you to carry heavier loads.

Size Matters

Overall size can also be a factor in how much you are able to safely transport behind your vehicle, and different vehicles will have different specifications when it comes to how much they can tow:

The maximum length of a trailer of up to 3.5 tonnes is 7 metres, while the maximum width limit for any vehicle towing a trailer is 2.55 metres.

Check your cars’ manufacturers handbook and look for a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), usually presented on a plate located under the bonnet or on the inside of the drivers’ side door.

This plate should tell you what is known as the Gross Train Weight of the vehicle – which is essentially the weight of a fully loaded car and trailer combination.

If you are unable to locate a VIN number on your car then it is not advisable to use the vehicle for the purposes of towing.

Be Prepared

If you are towing a trailer of any size, you must also ensure that you have the relevant safety gear in mind to assist you and that your trailer is in good condition for travel, here are a few things to check before you set off:

  • Mirrors – you must check to see that you have a clear view of the road behind your trailer and that if you’re towing a caravan you have some towing mirrors fitted to your vehicle before you travel, for not doing so could lead to penalty points on your driving licence.
  • Towbars – these can be car-type dependent and must be ‘type approved’ in order for them to be used, make sure to check that your car is able to use one before you buy, and much like with tyres be sure to search by your car type to find the best match for your vehicle.
  • Brakes – if your MAM is over 7.5 tonnes, you must ensure that your trailer’s brakes are working correctly and be in good working order before you travel.
  • Number plate – you must display the same number plate of your vehicle on your trailer as well

By taking the time to make sure that your trailer and vehicle is not overloaded and that all your safety features have been checked, you can ensure that your journey goes smoothly and without a hitch.

Get Some Extra Protection

Because towing trailers and caravans can be a delicate operation for both yourself and other road users, it can be worth securing some additional trailer insurance in order to help protect yourself and recover costs incurred as a result of accidents caused by third parties.

RELATED: What To Do If You Break Down With A Horse Box

What To Do If You Break Down With A Horse Box

Breaking down is something that every motorist goes through at least once during their driving careers, and whether it’s changing a tire in the pouring rain or waiting for the breakdown man to arrive, it’s never a pleasant experience.

Breaking down while towing a trailer or caravan can be particularly hazardous, largely due to the cumbersome nature of what you’re towing. Location can also play a part, for while you can make use of the hard shoulder should you find yourself in difficulties, breaking down on country roads can present its own set of hazards.

If you’re transporting animals such as horses, breaking down can be a stressful experience for them as well, and spooked animals could cause problems for other road users should they panic and become loose, either as a result of an accident or in the event of a sudden breakdown.

What Should I Do If I Break Down?

In the event of an emergency whilst driving, the most important thing to remember is to remain calm, and ensure that you get yourself to a safe place by doing the following:

  • Pull as far to the left as you can and turn your steering wheel to the left, ensuring that you put it in full-lock
  • Turn on your hazard warning lights immediately and leave your sidelights on as an indication to other road users
  • Ensure that you and your passengers exit using the left-hand side doors of your vehicle and remain in a safe place – usually behind a barrier and on a grassy verge by a motorway – until help arrives
  • Put on reflective jackets if you have them, and if you break down on an A-road ensure that you deploy a warning triangle at least 50 yards behind your vehicle in order to warn other drivers of your situation
  • Phone your breakdown service if you use one, either using your mobile phone or a nearby payphone if you break down on an A-road

What If I Don’t Have Breakdown Cover?

If you break down on a motorway then you should locate your nearest emergency telephone if you can’t make use of a smartphone. Many breakdown providers now make use of apps in order to pinpoint your location and deploy help your way, but in areas of bad signal, this may not be possible, so an alternative might be needed.

Look for the blue signs along the edge of the motorway and for the orange booths which contain a phone with a direct connection to the Highways England (formerly Highways Agency) or the police, these are free to use and can be vital to those who break down.

What About My Animals?

If you’re travelling with animals, either in the car or in a trailer, it’s important to keep them calm and under control. Dogs should be put on a leash and kept under control whilst waiting for the breakdown services, but with larger animals such as horses and cattle, it can be a bit more difficult.

Ensuring that your animals remain calm is important while you wait for help is vital to not only ensure their wellbeing but that of other road users. Many modern horse trailers will have side entrances to allow access for trainers to enter and ensure the animal remains calm, but make sure that you only enter the trailer when it is safe to do so, as a frightened horse can be unpredictable and may even cause you injury if not approached with care.

You should ensure that they also have access to food and water throughout the journey and that your trailer also contains tack for when you need to bridle up and move the animal, either to get them to a place of safety or when you arrive at the stables.

Having some breakdown cover can help to get your vehicle roadworthy as soon as possible. A mechanic may be able to fix the problem on the spot, or if not make sure you are towed to a nearby garage to await repairs, but it can also be worth having some on what you’re towing as well.

Should I Insure My Trailer Too?

You must ensure that you have some level of horsebox insurance in place before you take one on the road, these policies can ensure that not only will your trailer be moved to a place of safety, but that your animals will be taken care of as well.

Many horsebox insurance policies will offer the following features as standard:

  • Roadside Assistance and Roadside Repairs
  • Recovery and transportation of your animals to nearby stables or a home address while you await repairs
  • Puncture Assistance

Owning and transporting horses can be an expensive business, but by making sure that your transport is covered with some horsebox insurance you can ensure that you can get back on the road to your event or grazing field as quickly as possible following a breakdown.

If you still need more information, you can download a free Horsebox and Trailer Owner Guide from