In today’s article, we’ll talk about how to select the best reverse camera for caravans. If you want to get some tips on what to look for in reverse cameras and find out why you need to install one now, then we’re here to back you up (Get it? Backup? Like the camera…).
What are Reverse Cameras for Caravans?
One of the hardest things in life to do (other than taking care of a hyperactive toddler) is backing up a caravan. This requires coordination, skill, and most of the time, a little help from the wife/partner/friend. But what if we tell you that there is an easier way to park and manoeuvre your caravan/motorhome/rig/trailer than just relying on your towing mirrors and your spouse.
It can save you hundreds of dollars in repairs if you hit something when backing. It also makes driving more convenient and safe as you can also use these cameras when you are driving forward to check what is behind you or if anyone is trying to pass you. The best thing, though, is that it helps eliminate contentions and arguments that could happen when you “don’t follow” follow someone’s… instructions. These are reverse cameras, also known as back up cameras.
Do you remember the time when a reverse camera was considered a “luxury device” for cars, more so, caravans? Today, installing one has become an industry standard (and even part of the law in some countries like the US). This just reveals the importance now of reverse cameras in everyday driving, especially for caravans.
Yes, towing mirrors are required now. These are great, but there are still some blind spots while you’re driving on a highway or backing up in the garage. You still need help. And you need the peace of mind (most damage that occurs on a caravan is on its rear). We also believe that the best investments are those made for safety and convenience.
What screen will this display on?
First, let us give you some tips in choosing the screen display for your caravan’s reverse camera. Note that most stores sell the camera, display, wiring, and all that other good stuff together to install the system. However, if you want to upgrade or suffer a defect, you can replace them individually.
Our rule of thumb for caravans is, “the bigger the caravan, the bigger the screen with the highest resolution you will need”. A larger caravan or trailer makes it harder to manoeuvre. Therefore, it would make sense to purchase a camera that will ensure the images you see are as clear as possible, and thus helping you drive better.
A caveat, though – the screen should not block your view of your dash and what’s in front of you. So choose wisely.
At any rate, we’ll give you four (4) common display screens on the market today. Let’s explore them one by one:
1. External Monitor
These are the most common and widely used for caravans. They come in different sizes, but monitors ranging from 4” to 8” are the standard for caravan camera owners.
Those with these screens usually install them on the dash using the provided mount or stand. However, they come off sooner than later, whether they’ve been attached via tape or suction cups. The best thing to do is screw them on permanently. And there is also just something else to put on your dash and take up that room.
2. Rear-view monitor
If you don’t want to clutter up the dashboard, or you feel that an external monitor will block your view, then a rear-view monitor may be the display for you.
For some rearview monitors, you need to clip them on the rearview mirror. Others are direct replacements to your mirror above. Still, the view is convenient as it is the same mirror you look at when you backup, right? And once you have the caravan on the rearview mirror is not much use.
Most rearview mirror monitors require you to wire the power source through the rearview mirror light (the one usually above your head). So this provides a good option and if you are using an external screen we think it is a better option than the dash-mounted screen.
3. Head Unit
We think this is the best option.
If you prefer your reverse camera display somewhere else, why not consider your head unit. Modern head units have their own screen, and you can use them to output the images from your backup camera. This eliminates the need for an external monitor.
Usually, this will require the installation of an aftermarket head unit which we sell, but this gives you the option to have multiple cameras so you can have a caravan camera and a vehicle reverse camera.
The factory head unit at times can be used. This requires some cable matching, though. Still, for newer car models, taking out a head unit and installing a new one is something that is not hard to do.
4. Phone App
Lastly, newer reverse cameras for caravans can use your own mobile device (phone or tablet) as a display. Just download the app and connect via Wi-Fi to display the feed from your camera. Make sure you use a stable phone mount for this. You can also connect your device to an Android-based head unit to get a bigger and sturdier view
Using your phone as a display can be convenient. However, you are at the mercy of a reliable WiFi connection from the rear of your caravan to your phone and lower price units will struggle but higher spec WiFi cameras can be a good option.
Wired Vs Wireless Cameras? How do they compare?
Caravan reverse cameras can be classified into two: wired and wireless. The names say it all, but there is more to discuss here than you thought.
Wired Reverse Cameras
By far, the more popular type, wired reverse cameras offer a more reliable feed due to their more stable connection. However, you have to do more work to establish this connection.
What do we mean?
First, you may need to allocate significant time installing the entire system – from mounting the camera and monitor to installing the wires and cables. You may also need to familiarise yourself with your vehicle and caravan’s electrical system to properly connect and power the system. Knowledge of the caravan’s trims, interiors, and all the nitty-gritty will come in handy too.
Another advantage we can say about wired reverse cameras are they’re better for longer vehicles and longer rigs. They’re also recommended for metal-skinned RVs or toy haulers/trailers with metal ramps. If you own any of these vehicles, a wired reverse camera could be the best fit for you. As anything like this or water tanks etc or anything else that is between the dash and the camera can cause issues with wireless cameras.
And did we mention that due to the stable and clear image that most wired reverse cameras give you, many people use them now as permanent rearview mirrors? Makes sense, as you have a better perspective of the view normal rearview mirrors provide.
Wireless Reverse Cameras
If you want to avoid the lengthy and complicated installation process of wired reverse cameras, then you should try out the wireless version. These cameras use Wi-Fi or/and Bluetooth technology to transmit images from your camera to the display of your choice. Most of these are also app-based.
The downside, though, is a less reliable connection and slightly worse image quality (due to the signal transmission). But, we’ve encountered newer wireless reverse cameras, and we could say that their standards are getting better over the last few years (which is always good for consumers).
You could also not remove the installation of all wires with these cameras, as you need to plug them into a power source from your vehicle (unless you go for a battery-powered option). Also, unlike wired reverse cameras, metal totally interferes with the signal here. Therefore, avoid this camera if you have a metal-made caravan or a trailer with metal ramps. They can still be used, but you need to use a high spec unit and mount it up high so that it gets the best connection to your receiver.
Finally, wireless reverse cameras cannot be made into permanent rearview mirrors (which is very useful, by the way). And, you need for them to connect each time to the Wi-Fi network so they can take longer to connect.
Still, these cameras are great devices, especially if you need to switch out the cameras to multiple caravans or trailers, or if you have a long vehicle (consider using a repeater if the signal becomes weak). Also, if you get wireless ones that are a complete package with a display and a camera, they will connect almost instantly when you go into reverse. Now that is convenient!
Additional factors to look for
With the types of screens and cameras in mind, what other factors should you consider before purchasing a reverse camera for your caravan?
Well, as promised, here are some of our tips:
Quality of camera
When we talk about the quality of a reverse camera for a caravan, we first consider the images it captures.
We suggest you get a reverse camera with CCD (Charged Coupling Device) image sensors for your caravan. It’s a bit more pricey than those with CMOS (Complimentary Meta Oxide Semiconductor) sensors. However, it gives you clearer, less pixelated images and works better even in low light.
Screen resolution should at least be 800 x 400. Depends, of course, on what screen you’ll use. Thus, as we suggested earlier, an external monitor is the best for caravans.
Also, your reverse camera should be equipped with infrared LEDs to enable night vision. You limit your camera to daytime use, right? You’ll thank me later after you realise the advantages of having a nighttime reverse camera for your caravan.
You can use infrared cameras, but the ones with LEDs provide the best night view as times the reverse lights on a caravan can provide poor light.
Field of view
There are reverse cameras that remain still, while some can move or rotate. But, whatever you select, we suggest it has a viewing angle of at least 130 degrees (or at least you see the edge of your bumpers).
- Camera kit – Once you purchase a reverse camera, it should include everything: the camera, monitor (if included), cables/wires, mounts, screws, and manual
- Durable – Made for the rugged Australian weather.
- Towing system integration – Automatically connects with your towing system, if you have any.
- Audio capability – Look for a camera with a built-in microphone so you can hear if someone is instructing you while backing up.
- Waterproof – See the IP level on the packaging, and the higher the better (IP68 is the highest at the moment).
- Camera mount – Where do you want to mount the camera: bumper, license plate mount, or another location on the rear?
- Parking lines – This could be useful in gauging distance to the object on your rear, but not all reverse cameras have this.
- Sun shield – Glare on a camera feed could be annoying or even hazardous in some instance, so make sure yours is fitted with a sun shield/visor
- Price – You could get a caravan reverse camera for less than $50 to as high as over $400, but the more important thing is to consider the quality of product you’re buying.
Our final word: Best reverse camera for caravans
A lot of people would say that a reverse camera is just optional. However, we say, keeping you and your family safe as well as saving money is a requirement from you as a driver and car owner.
Though not yet mandated by law, you should invest in getting one right now as safety and convenience (and fewer arguments with the wife) is totally PRICELESS!
If you have more questions with reverse cameras, you can check the article here, or you can contact us here.