How to Backup a Travel Trailer Step by Step

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Learning how to back up a travel trailer is an essential part of owning an RV.  While towing a travel trailer on the roads is an easy task, maneuvering it and parking it in the assigned area of a campground can prove to be much more difficult.  

Anyone who tells you there is nothing to worry about when it comes to backing up and parking a travel trailer is either a pro, is lying, or has never parked a trailer in his or her life.  Especially for those new to the RV scene, backing up an RV be stressful and requires the help of others - your travel companion or someone from a nearby campsite - as well as having devices like a parking camera in your mobile home.  However, do not let this get you too worried. There are many things you can do and steps you can take to make it easier to back up your RV.

Below you will find some tips and suggestions to help you get your RV where you want it. Take your time, practice these tips, and soon you will no longer worry about backing up a travel trailer.

Check the Space Ahead of Time

Keep in mind that backing up a trailer requires prior movements of the towed vehicle to move the towed vehicle in the correct direction. You need a preconceived route, keeping in mind the direction of the trailer, the direction of the towing vehicle, any objects in the immediate vicinity of the driving route, and the relative motion between all the objects involved.

One of the best things you can do is check the area into which you will be attempting to back the travel trailer. This will allow you to identify obstacles or problems early in the process.

Study the Basics

Have a Spotter

Seek the help of a spotter. As mentioned before - a spotter can be your spouse, your child, a neighboring camper, anyone. It usually helps a lot to have more than one pair of eyes (yours!). Another set of eyes from another angle will help keep you and your vehicle safe and will really make baking up that much easier.

You must watch your spotter at all times when backing up. He or she should be able to tell you to go one way or another or tell you if you need to readjust the movement.

Generally, all you need to do is roll down your window, but you can always get a handy pair of walkie-talkies or keep them on your cell phone while backing up.  To avoid any surprises, it is usually a good idea to discuss your plan of attack with your spotter so you are both on the same page and there isn't any confusion when you start to back up your RV.

***KEY POINT*** The spotter must remember to look up! It's easy to focus on ground obstacles and forget to keep an eye on any branches or cables that may cause damage to your RV.

Slow and Smooth is the Way to Go 

No matter how you feel about backing-in your RV, you need to take things slow. Going slow will allow you to readjust if you need to. There’s often a delay from what your hands do on the steering wheel and how the trailer reacts. Going slow will let you account for that time.

It can be hard to take things slow if there are a lot of other campers or people waiting to get into their own campsite, but don’t let people rush you. When you rush something like backing-in your camper into your campsite, you are far more likely to either get the unit in the right spot or damage it by colliding with something. Slow and smooth is the way to go.

Adjust your mirrors

With a large trailer attached to your vehicle, it is very important that you can see behind. Make sure your mirrors are adjusted so that you can clearly see the rear of the trailer.  With the trailer right behind your vehicle, you may not be able to look over your shoulder and see anything other than the side of the RV.  Learn to use your mirrors!  One way to test this is to see how close you think you are to an object and then get out of your vehicle to see if your perception was correct.

Get Oriented

You don’t want to be backing up blind. When you park and are trying to look out the passenger side of the vehicle you’re going to have a way harder time of it.

When you pull up to your campsite, make sure it’s on the driver’s side of the tow vehicle. Then you can turn as you back-in and look right out the driver’s side window at the camper’s progress. 

Your spotter should also be on this side so you can easily see them. If you can’t back in this way, then make sure you utilize your spotter even more.

Try the Z-Method

The Z-method might sound difficult, but it really isn’t.

Imagine that you have pulled your tow vehicle and RV to the side of the road with your campground on your left.  With the Z method, you actually turn your tow vehicle a bit towards the right side of the road and move forward. This puts you on an angle across the road and points your trailer at the campsite space. It also makes the angle you have to take to back into the campsite less severe.  After getting in this position, you can turn the wheel and start backing into the camping space while keeping an eye on both your trailer and your spotter.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't turn the steering wheel too fast in either direction.
  • Go slow! In the event of something unforeseen, stop the vehicle and find out what to do before making any decisions.
  • It is easier to reverse with longer trailers than with shorter trailers.
  • In case the trailer begins to scissor movement (turn at an acute angle), stop the vehicle immediately. Go ahead a bit and try again.
  • One way to think about motion is that the rear wheels of the vehicle are the steer wheels for the trailer (imagine the trailer has four wheels, where the front steer wheels are actually the rear of the vehicle). So to get the trailer to move in the right direction, you will need to have the correct angle between the trailer wheels and the rear wheels of the vehicle. Therefore, first use the vehicle's turn signals to achieve the correct angle between the trailer wheels and the vehicle's rear wheels (by turning the steering wheel in the "wrong" direction), and then back up in the direction you actually are. want to go.
  • Check and secure the hook, safety chains, hydraulic jack and cable for the lights.
  • Don't be afraid to stop, go out, and look to see where you are. It is better to stop several times to check where you are to pay to repair damage to your trailer, truck or other things.
  • Stop immediately in case you go in a direction you don't want to go, go ahead and try again.
  • It is much easier to go back in an almost straight path, making slight corrections. Avoid trying to back up to your destination with a sharp 90 degree turn. If possible, access your destination through the street to get a straighter path. If there is room, move forward and turn across the width for a straighter path.
  • Although most modern trailers have built-in rear parking cameras, if this is not the case, invest in a backup camera.

Ask For Help

Learning how to live in an RV has a significant learning curve. You have to learn to efficiently organize a very small space. You have to learn to cook (and store food) in an incredibly small kitchen. You have to learn to manage your fuel and water resources so that you don't run out of any when you're camped out in the middle of nowhere. You also have to learn how to haul a caravan, dump your tanks, find affordable places to stay, reorient yourself to a new city every week, navigate sometimes maddening traffic jams, and the list goes on.

The great thing about the RV community is that people are willing to help.  Asking for help when you are learning how to back up a travel trailer is a great way to meet others in the community who are often very supportive and more than willing to share their tips and trick.

The more tips and tricks you learn, the sooner you will be backing up like a PRO - and the sooner you will be the voice of experience that will be able to share tip and lend a helping hand to other new members of the RVing community!

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