Our industry insider Steve Trossell takes a close look at winter covers and explains what to look out for and how to fit it on your tourer.
Twenty years ago caravan covers were a rare sight, but the arrival in 1994 of affordable, lightweight, non-abrasive fabrics that combine water resistance and breathability changed that.
Now the UK market for storage covers is measured in tens of thousands per year and is still growing. Sales of towing covers, which protect caravan fronts from dirt, flies and damage in transit, have also taken off in recent years.
The case for covering up
A trawl through forum threads and reviews of caravan covers reveals diametrically opposing views, typified by such comments as, “I’ve never had a caravan cover and don’t see why I need one” and “A great purchase. I don’t know how we could managed without it.”
The arguments for covering up are protection from rain-borne soil, tree sap, mould formation, UV degradation and improved security. Arguments against include inconvenience, paint or window damage, dampness and condensation – but regular users report none of these.
Two UK brands offer bespoke, made-to-measure covers costing between £250 and £450, and there are several brands of ready-made, imported covers from as little as £60 up to about £120. All make claims about water resistance, breathability and durability.
So what’s the truth? Should we cover up or not, and is it worth paying for a cover tailor-made in the UK? We went to Bradford, Yorkshire, the home of caravan cover manufacturing, to find out.
Made in the UK
Specialised Covers was formed in 1981 to make tailored indoor and outdoor covers for prestige cars.
The family business has grown progressively in that market and boasts such long-time customers as McLaren, Bentley, Audi and Mercedes. Founder and chairman Douglas Long saw an opportunity to diversify into leisure vehicle covers, and worked with suppliers to develop a fabric that was affordable and performed well. Production was brought in-house in 1996; eventually it grew to
about 30% of total sales.
The company now employs 50 people. The Shipley office and factory, which were designed and managed to meet the expectations of blue-chip clients, are impressively smart and orderlySpecialised Covers sells caravan covers direct to retail customers. The covers are tailored to fit each caravan’s size and shape and allow for aerials, flues and doorways. They are offered in grey, green and blue. A bank of more than 5000 patterns is held in stock and less well-known models are individually measured. Prices range from £250 to £420, with an average price of about £375.
Managing director Elliot Long explains about the exclusive fabrics the brand uses, saying: “We thrive on
innovation and we are always developing new products for wide range of uses. I talk to
our fabric suppliers most days.”
He emphasises waterproofness, strength and durability as key factors for caravan covers, and believes that breathability is a ‘given’ for the generic type of non-woven fabrics used by all suppliers.
“We use a polypropylene spun-bond fabric with three layers that are thermally bonded,” he says. “Its breathability is 1200g per square metre per 24 hours, and our evidence and customer feedback confirms that it works well. The fabric’s water resistance rating is 2000mm of static head; that’s actually waterproof, which we believe none of our competitors’ fabrics really are. A fabric that is only water-resistant lets water through in heavy rain; that has to be driven out again as water vapour and will leave soil behind.”
Elliot and Specialised Covers’ creative director, Katie Fishwick, are enthusiastic ab
out the role of good design in building the market, especially for towing covers. “We’ve been inspired by the latest caravan designs, such as the Swift Conqueror’s,” Katie said, “and just knew owners wouldn’t want to hide them behind plain towing covers. We created a tailored-fit, two-colour design that retains the caravan’s identity.”
Written by Steve Trossell
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