Backing Up a Trailer – 5 Tips to Simplify This Task

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As of December 31, 2023, we are no longer camping much and I an no longer updating this website. I have left it online for the time being, knowing that people still find their way to my articles and find them helpful. Please note, however, that as time goes by, some of the information presented here (particularly on specific products) may become outdated and links may no longer work.
I've enjoyed eight great years of interaction with thousands of other small travel trailer owners. Thanks for all your support, and hopefully a few of us will meet again somewhere in the woods or on the road! - Denny

Are you comfortable backing up a trailer?

The video above really sums it all up, and provides a somewhat unique, but very effective solution to simplify backup up a trailer. It's definitely my #1 tip to making it a lot easier. But let me go back and give you some overview, then a few more tips!

By the way, the video was produced by Sean Michael. He has a great website called Long Long Honeymoon (often referred to as LOLOHO). It is full of a lot of great info and videos. Be sure to check it out.

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...

  1. really have any idea on how to approach it
  2. understand how to make the trailer go where I wanted it to
  3. know how to monitor my progress while backing it into place

Difficult site for backing up a trailer

Would you feel comfortable backing up a trailer into this site?

Here's what made it easier for me

After 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. Before I learned the Scoop, I discovered 3 other keys that made backup up a trailer a lot easier for me. Even with the Scoop, these tips make a lot of difference.

Tip #2: 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.

Tip #3: 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.

Tip #4: 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!)

Tip #5: My Final Tip to Backup Up a Trailer

I thought about having a camera on the rear of our trailer for a long time, but never found an easy, affordible solution. Finally, I stumbled onto one on Amazon. Since it's always easy to return things to them, I decided to give it a try.

A typical view when backing up a trailer using my rear mounted camera

Combined with the other tips, having the rear camera has been incredible. It has pretty much eliminated Fay yelling at me when I was about to hit something. In addition, it's nice to be able to see behind the trailer when driving on the highway.

The two things that made it feasible for me were:
- It's need for wire between the trailer and the truck.
- I found an easy way to mount it and get power to it with our Casita.

This may or may not be a good solution for you, depending upon your trailer. I wrote a detailed article about the camera I purchased and how I installed it. Check it out if this is something you are interested in. It will at least give you some ideas. [How I Installed a Rearview Camera on my Small Travel Trailer]

Bottom line...

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. - Denny
For more information or to purchase a product mentioned in this article, click the image below to access the related product page on Amazon. Thank you for supporting my sponsors and advertisers.
Backing Up a Trailer-Rearview Camera
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Are you a newbie?

If you are new to the world of Small Travel Trailers, here are the three most popular things for most newbies, here on my website. Please check them out and see if they aren't helpful to you:

  • RV Surge Suppressors – What you need to know.
    It's really important that you understand the risks and know how to protect yourself against bad electrical problems. Not only can these they cause a lot of damage to your trailer and electronic components, they can also be dangerous.
  • A list of products we use and like.
    All the camping and RV accessories can be overwhelming when you're first getting started. After trying lots of things, these are the items that have really worked well for us. The list may save you a few bucks on buying something you don't like or stuff you'll never use (I don't publish my long list of things we've purchased and wish we hadn't!).
  • My free Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers
    Over 100 pages, this guide is all about what we've learned since we got started owning and traveling with a small travel trailer.
Denny Johnson

Denny Johnson

After having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp. 
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
However, since moving to Tennessee, I've gotten involved with new hobbies (you can check some out on my personal website at and we haven't camped very much. So, at the end of 2023, I made the tough decision to stop updating this website.
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This article has been revamped and updated since it was originally posted.

27 thoughts on “Backing Up a Trailer – 5 Tips to Simplify This Task

  1. Great tips. Jim and I back up a bit differently. After years of him standing in back of the trailer (24 foot Argosy) and yelling directions, he now walks next to the drivers window and tells me which direction he wants the trailer to go and I turn in that direction. Works like a dream, with an added bonus of no more screaming!

      1. We use a walk-in talkie which helps enormously. We also walk about the site together so I know where he should go. My husband is excellent at backing up so I am fortunate.

  2. The scoop works great as long as you have enough room to manouver your vehicle that way. Unfortunately, all the state and provincial parks I’ve been in, have skinny little lanes populated by trees in odd spots, that prevent having enough room to perform the scoop. 😢 Leaving me to jiggle and joggle and continuously swear while trying to back my Trillium, with the notoriously short tongue, into the site!

  3. I use those balls to line up my hitch. Works great especially since I don’t have a a second pair of eyes to help me out.

  4. Your tips were as always , well thought out and clearly stated… something I have a hard time doing.. it always seems to take a bunch of words to clarify.. In any case a great addition to every trailer is the back up camera on your license plate.. and a wonderful thing to do for everyone in close proximity to your backing adventure is to have communication with your spotter ..and only use some tried and true succinct words.. like: come on , stop, left a little or a lot etc… what ever works. If you want to seem some radical arm-waving , cursing and screaming going on watch the couple on their first ever anchoring in a slight blow.. in a real crowded Harbor.

      1. No Joseph, it works fine from either direction. Just make sure you think it out well in advance before you get used to it.

  5. I like your suggestion to hold the steering wheel at the bottom when backing up since that will make it easier to control the trailer. My brother is looking for a trailer to rent to transport equipment and materials to the site of his new construction project in the next city over. Thanks for sharing this info I can pass along since I’m not sure he’s driven with a trailer before!

  6. I heard a little tip from another small camper blogger. It has helped me tremendously. Instead of yelling out directions of LEFT or RIGHT, which can be quite confusing if you are using your mirrors of have your head turned backwards. What is always a constant is DRIVERS SIDE, or PASSENGER SIDE, and it is always which way you want the camper to go. Especially helpful for those that have trouble with left and right.

  7. Thank you for explaining how to back up with a trailer. My husband and I have been really confused about how we can do this easily. We’ll be sure to keep this in mind while we get used to our trailer.

  8. Denny, great article. Another tip for almost fool proof hitching up the trailer to your towing vehicle. Couple-Mate, self-aligning, with guide wings. Works every time and you don’t need an extra set of eyes. Just need to make sure height of trailer ball is not too high or too low to avoid missing the “wings” and damaging the towing vehicle’s bumper.

  9. Before I unhook I place a brick right behind my driver side back wheel even with the tire , just back up to your brick and you are ready to hookup

  10. Useful – – thanks!! The bottom of the steering wheel insight is golden! My wife will Holler before I hit something, although she can’t see through the trailer to tell me the front fender of the Outback is about to get crunched. Oh, well. My biggest gain has been to get the T@b 320 pointed in the desired direction then start to correct in the opposite direction gradually, back & forth rather than a single, straight path. All input I have seen agrees that the small trailers are tougher to back up than the bigger ones. But my wife & I quickly abandoned the she-directs-while-I-drive model early on to save the marriage at the potential cost of some scraped equipment.

    1. You’re so correct David. As I’ve said before, the biggest challenge my wife I have if trying to work together on backing up, is to agree on how long 3 feet is!

  11. Excellent article as always Denny. I remember backing up the boat back in the day and the bottom line is it just takes practice practice and more practice. Fortunately Sophia and I worked pretty well together situating the trailer when we had to back up. One other tip I might add is GO SLOW!

  12. My favorite part of this article is when you said that suggestions and research could help you find the one that you need. Yesterday, my uncle told me that he was looking for a trailer that he would use for daily transportation of farm equipment for his farm, and he asked if I had any idea what would be the best option to find one. Thanks to this informative article, I’ll be sure to tell him that he can consult a trusted trailers service as they can provide more information about their trailers.

    1. I’m not sure how your comment applies to this article, but glad that something in it or on my website was helpful.

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