105 days of full time caravanning went by before I had my first proper go at towing our caravan Josephine. For 100 of those days we had been caravanning around Tasmania with Daryl towing up and over mountains, along windy roads, through sunshine, rain and wind, over sealed and gravel roads. He did so without incident or complaint although some of those Tassie mountain roads put poor Walter to the test!
Since being on the road I have learned from conversations with other travelers and reading comments on the internet and social media that it is not unusual for women to be hesitant about towing and for their male counterparts (where there is one) to be accepting that they are primarily responsible for the towing of their caravan or camper trailer. Further it is fairly clear that women often lack confidence, are fearful of what could go wrong and assume men are better experience and skilled to do the job. When in reality the lack of confidence and fear could be overcome by doing what the men do – tow. It really is only by doing that confidence and skills can be gained and improved.
We have met some women that tow, often though theirs are stories of having to tow because their male partners are no longer able to drive or they found themselves traveling solo. As one lady traveller said, after her husband could no longer drive for medical reasons, it was she and her husband stayed at home or she towed. She chose the latter.
For the record, it wasn’t that I never drove during those initial 105 days, I drove any time we were unhitched. Hitched, Daryl drove and unhitched, I drove. Fair, reasonable and workable. Still a voice of logic in my head kept insistently telling me there was no real reason I couldn’t tow. I repeatedly replied, why should I? Daryl was doing a brilliant job of it. The response was always a roll of the eyes (my inner voice and I share this trait) and a why not?
So why not? I couldn’t really come up with any reasons other than my fear of a huge disaster happening caused by me being behind the wheel. What disaster, you ask? The one where I am driving, the caravan starts to sway violently, causing it and the tow vehicle to veer in front of oncoming traffic where they both flip onto their sides into the path of a semi trailer carrying flammable liquids and a group of cars carrying families with children, all who crash into us and everything explodes into fire. Mayhem and lots of dead people. That disaster!
Anyway I am a pretty logical, task focus, sensible kind of person and eventually I put aside the images of the inevitable disaster and used rational thinking to ascertain that:
- I am a competent confident driver with a very healthy respect for the road rules and the dangers of the road.
- I understand that my actions on the road can either improve my safety and that of others or not. I always chose be a safe respectful driver.
- That I would continue to apply the above two points to my driving if I was to tow.
Further I reasoned I should tow:
- Sharing the Responsibility & Equality
Daryl and I are doing our travels around Australia together. We are equal partners and we share the decision making, the chores and so forth. It seems only fair and reasonable that towing is something we both do.
- I Can Do It Myself
I am one of those people that likes to know she can do something for herself. Its not about not having to rely on others its just about having the know how if I need it. I think its about having the choice to do it myself if I so want.
- Skill for Life
Learning to tow is a skill and given my love for traveling it is a skill I could be using for at least 40 years.
I often hear the first time women find themselves towing is because of an emergency. These are very often stressful situations and have them towing without someone with towing experience to give guidance or reassurance. These women found themselves successfully towing and surprised at their own abilities but given the choice they would have preferred to have done so under better circumstances. I could only see reason with what they said.
- Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone
Life begins outside our comfort zones, right? We learn more and achieve more by challenging ourselves. Towing has been one way while traveling for me to step outside my comfort zone.
So I started towing and here are my tips to get you started:
- Do A Towing Course
This I have not done myself however I have heard only positive feedback from both women and men including those who had previously towed for years. I am considering doing a course myself in the future.
Please note these are not towing tips, these are tips based on the steps I took to slowly build up my willingness and confidence to tow our caravan.
- Have a Supportive Tow Partner or Friend
Daryl and I came to a few agreements before I had my first proper go at towing and these were very helpful for me. We agreed:
- I only had to tow for as long as I felt comfortable, even if that ended up being only a few minutes. This was especially important as we were on roads neither of us had been on before and there were going to be some conditions like steep windy roads (which Tassie has many) I was not ready for.
- He would be nothing but encouraging.
- I only had to tow when I wanted to; there would be no conversations where he complained he had to do the towing and I wasn’t doing my share, at least not until I had a fair number of towing hours under my belt.
- First Tow A Very Short Distance on a Quiet Road
My first two goes at towing were both under 5kms on very quiet gravel roads and were weeks apart. I chose the gravel roads because I felt any other drivers I may encounter would more likely be understanding if I was towing under the speed limit. I felt less pressure to be driving at speeds I wasn’t ready to do.
These short tows were beneficial to me as they gave me the opportunity to learn what it felt like to move off with the extra weight of the caravan, how much extra pressure the accelerated needed and how quickly and how much longer it takes to come to a stop, what I could see in the mirrors and how much further I had to turn my head to see in the towing mirrors, importance of adjusting the tow mirrors and to get an idea of how the caravan follows behind.
Also these planned short tows meant I could stop towing within a short distance before my confidence took any kind of hit.
- Tow 30 Minutes and Increase With Each Additional Tow
My first go at towing for any real length on a proper public road was in the highlands of Tasmania. Yes I was surprised too but the stretch of road had wide lanes, it was surprisingly fairly straight and as a bonus the road had been resealed but the roadworks were still officially underway so the speed limit was 40 and 60 km/h. I ended up towing for about 30 minutes at which time Daryl took over as we did the steep decline out of the highlands.
That was me done for a few days. I was proud I had had a proper go. Soon enough I got back behind the wheel and each time I have towed for longer distances. The most has been a little over an hour as this is as far as we ever travel between campgrounds.
- Towing Regularly and in Various Conditions
Starting off on good fairly flat roads in sunny weather and with little to no traffic is the ideal place to begin towing. It does however over time become necessary to challenge yourself to tow in less than these ideal conditions if you really want to increase your confidence and skills.
I have made it a point to tow when it has rained, in high winds and other conditions that make me feel nervous. I would rather do it while I know I have Daryl to support me and while I am not stressed or under pressure of something like an emergency.
I also made it that I would tow regularly by towing for the first part of any trip we did. Sometimes this was 15 minutes to the shops and other times its been up to an hour. Steadily over a few weeks my towing hours and kilometres have added up and my confidence increased.
- Advisory Speed Limits
As I have towed and so has Daryl we have learned that the yellow advisory speed signs that we used to scoff at as being too slow in a car, are on the money when it comes to the speeds you should be doing on bends. I follow them religiously when I tow and found that they have helped to make the experience less stressful.
So fellow female travelers with a caravan or camper trailer if you are not already, get out and start towing. However you get started and build your confidence and skills is up to you, just do it. While I haven’t towed in all conditions yet I am feeling less worried about doing so and that “disaster “ doesn’t play on my mind so much. That is not to say I no longer think an accident could happen, rather the knowledge accidents can and do happen is there but it is no longer debilitating or making me fearful of doing. Next is reversing and that will be a whole other story.
Also as a side note now that I am towing fairly regularly DaryI had improve his navigation skills so we both have gained new skills!
Best of luck and if you see us on the road please give us the towing wave. For reasons I don’t really know I get a real kick out of getting a small wave from a fellow tower!