Are you comfortable backing into the campsite above?
For me, backing up a trailer and getting it parked at the campground was probably the most stressful part of getting started with a small travel trailer. In the beginning, I would backup and pull forward, over and over, and then I'd still end up having to pull out into the road and start over again. Eventually I backed in well enough to leave it parked, but it always felt like I just got lucky. Or in other words, it wasn't because I knew what I was doing.
Now that I've been at it quite a while, I look back and see that there were really three problems I had in the beginning. I didn't...
- really have any idea on how to approach it
- understand how to make the trailer go where I wanted it to
- know how to monitor my progress while backing it into place
We even have to back into a tight spot at home1
Here's what made it easier for meAfter our first few trips, I realized there must be an easier way. It had been purely trial and error up to that point, and quite honestly, way too much error. So, I started doing some research. I read other's suggestions and watched some videos. Eventually, I got down to 4 keys that made it a lot easier for me.
Begin by pulling up near the site, then getting out to look things over well before you start to back in.Determine where you want to end up (level area, hookups, convenience for setup, etc.). And in particular, take note of where there are any obstacles (like trees!) that you need to avoid.
Hold your steering wheel at the bottom, not the top while backing up.Backing up with your trailer requires you to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction of what you normally do when backing up without a trailer. In other words, if you turn the top of the steering wheel right, the trailer will go left. So, the direction you turn the bottom of the steering wheel is the direction your trailer will head. This might feel strange at first, but it will help get the trailer to go where you want it to go.
Adjust your left outside mirror to point down, so that you can see the ground next to your trailer.As long as you looked things over well in step 1, just focus on getting the left side of your trailer to end up where you want. (But be careful. You still need to keep an eye out for any obstacles. In my case, this is Fay's job. I keep my windows down and she stands outside and yells when I'm about to hit something!)
Learn to use THE SCOOP.This technique helped me learn how to get the truck and trailer lined up properly before starting to back up. While it's a unique approach, it really works! Sean Michael produced a great YouTube video to illustrate it. His video demonstrates the entire process of getting lined up right from the beginning. Furthermore, the video is a cartoon. So not only does it show you the technique, but it is also quite entertaining! It takes some practice to learn, but THE SCOOP made it all much easier for me.
Click the image below to check it out...
By the way, Sean has a great website called Long Long Honeymoon (often referred to as LOLOHO). It is full of a lot of great info and videos. Check it out.
One more tip...about getting hitched up
Here's one more tip that's kind of related to backing up.
If you have a newer tow vehicle, you might have a rear view camera. From what I'm told, they are a great help when hitching up. Unfortunately, my Tacoma doesn't have one. If you're like me, here's something that may help if you are struggling with backing up your tow vehicle and getting it in place to hitch up to the trailer.
Like many people, we started by having Fay watch the back of the truck and let me know how close I was getting. She'd try to tell me to go right or left and how far. After too much yelling at each other, I knew that there must be a better way for this too.
I purchased a set of these hitch alignment rods. They are simply yellow balls attached to expandable rods, with a magnetic base. They seemed kind of silly to me at first, but they really helped. To use them, you stick one on top of the hitch coupler, and other to the top of the hitch ball. Next, you watch them in your rear-view mirror, and keep them lined up as you back toward the trailer. Finally, when you are just about in place, the hitch will knock over one of the balls and let you know it's time to stop. I've since gotten pretty good at the backing up without using the balls, but these were a great help in the beginning.
Hitch Alightnment Rods make it much easier to get hooked up when you are still learning.
Are you a newbie?
If you are new to the world of Small Travel Trailers, you should also read my article about Dangerous Electrical Problems when Camping. It's really important that you understand the risks and know how to protect yourself. Not only can these problems cause a lot of damage to your trailer and electronic components, they can also hurt you.
If you're just getting started, it's going to take some practice. However, the tips above were the turning points that simplified the whole process for me. Each one made things much easier. Once I learned about and began to apply all of them, I started feeling like I was in control. At this point, the stress is gone, and I usually get it right on the first or second try.
As always, be sure to drop me note if you have any questions.