A few hours after setting our Hybrid Camper and 4WD at Wauraltee Beach, I see a fairly new Mitsubishi Triton come down the beach access ramp towing a fairly substantial semi off road caravan.
With the speed and confidence that they arrive, I assume they’re locals and are familiar with the beach, and where you can drive, as you don’t drive onto a beach with a caravan unless you know what you’re doing, right?
This thought soon evaporates, when I see them try to turn on the beach a few hundred metres up, and start to sink. Hmmm. Can you tow a caravan on the beach?!
Now, you should know that I didn’t take any photos of this particular occasion, as it wouldn’t have been appropriate, but here’s a photo of us bogged on Perlubie Beach towing our Hybrid Camper instead.
I wander over carrying Cooper (who’s knee was still sore at this time, and he can’t walk), and on the way a 4WD from a nearby camp also heads over. As it turns out, the couple who were bogged had never driven on a beach before, and were just down from the Riverland for the weekend.
Fortunately they’d stopped very early on (instead of spinning the wheels and getting properly bogged), which meant a recovery was relatively simple. We dropped some air out of their tyres (not deflated at all), and with some traction boards and a light pull they were on their way again.
Can you tow a caravan on the beach?
So, clearly you can tow a caravan on the beach, but should you, and what do you need to know?
Firstly, if you don’t have a proper 4WD, forget it. You won’t make it 5 metres on most beaches in Australia without one.
WA has some seriously soft beaches, and the idea of towing a caravan onto the large majority of them is absolutely ludicrous. Sure, you can do it on Cable Beach in Broome, but you can literally ride a push bike on that beach.
Many beaches in Australia will have you sunk to the axles with just a 4WD if you don’t let your tyres down properly, and that’s without towing a caravan.
Caravans are heavy and very unhelpful
If you’ve towed any trailer off road, you’ll know that even a 1 tonne camper trailer is a huge hindrance for driving in anything soft, and a caravan is far worse. In anything soft, you need a suitable tow vehicle, and the right tyre pressures. Get either wrong, and you’ll be in for a world of hurt.
A 4WD on its own with the wrong tyre pressures on a soft beach is going to struggle to drive along, let alone trying to drag a 2 – 4 tonne caravan behind you, which just wants you to make you sink to the chassis rails.
Don’t go on a beach with a caravan unless you know what you’re doing
I want to re-iterate this. If you have a caravan, you may (and also may not) be able to take your caravan on some beaches, but its incredibly risky if you aren’t very well aware of tyre pressures, how to drive, tides, how sand changes when it gets warm, your vehicles capabilities and what the conditions are like.
We’ve discovered a lot of beaches are quite hard in the Eastern States, but in WA there are very few that you can drive on without dropping your tyres, and that means towing a caravan on them is going to be a major struggle too.
Tyre pressures are king
I cannot over emphasise the importance of low tyre pressures. This is your one, and only real lever when it comes to towing on a beach, and running tyre pressures that are suitably low makes all the difference.
How low you go on both the tow vehicle and the caravan will depend on the tyres you’re running, and the weights on each tyre, but you should be able to get down to around 30% of your road pressures if it gets really soft, and you might even be able to go lower.
On our Isuzu Dmax, we’ve been down to about 10 PSI, and would go even lower if we had to. On the single axle camper that weighs in at around 2.2 tonnes, I’ve gone down to below 20 PSI, and that normally runs around 60 PSI on the road.
If you get stuck, go as low as you can, and don’t underestimate the difference dropping a few PSI can make, especially at the lower end of the scale.
The tow vehicle makes a huge difference
There are certainly better 4WD’s for towing caravans on a beach, and I’m not so one eyed that I won’t mention this. Anything with decent clearance, power and torque is going to do much better than a lower vehicle running a fairly mild motor.
That means a 200 or 300 Series Land Cruiser, Y62 Patrol, or tuned 79 series is going to do a lot better than a standard Isuzu Dmax, or Toyota Hilux. The power makes it much easier to get some momentum going (and continue it), and that’s most of the battle won.
It’s always a risk
Ultimately, you can tow caravans on some beaches in Australia, but many will put you in a very difficult, and potentially dangerous situation. My advice is to go onto beaches you are 100% confident in, and not to take vans onto softer beaches without a substantial backup plan. You’ll only do it once. I promise!