At the Campground - Setting up a Small Travel Trailer

Much of the information on this site is only my opinion. Use it at your own risk. -Denny
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You've Arrived...Now What???

If this is your first trip, you will have a lot of things on your mind.  Setting up a small travel trailer at your destination is not difficult, but be sure to take your time until you get used to what's involved.  This is another place where a good checklist will help.

Pulling into your campsite

This is one of the times when you'll really appreciate having a small travel trailer rather than a large RV or fifth wheel. You will often see big rigs struggling to get parked, but you will find it's pretty easy once you get a little experience. In the beginning, you just need someone on the outside to guide you a bit.

There are two basic types of campsites...

  • Pull-through
    These sites have an entrance and an exit allowing you to simply pull your rig into the site when you arrive, and pull straight out when you leave. You never have to back up. Some of these sites are roadside, but most often you pull in from one road going through the campground and pull out onto another one.
Setting up a small travel trailer - pull-through campsite

Pull-through campsite - roadside

Setting up a small travel trailer - pull-through campsite

Pull-through campsite - between roads

  • Back-in
    Back-in sites are common in most state and county park campgrounds. You have to pull forward in the road and then back into the campsite. Sometimes it's easy, but sometimes you need to carefully back in between trees. I had to go to a big parking lot and practice backing up with a small travel trailer in the beginning. Eventually I got the hang of it and now it's pretty easy when we are on the road and setting up.
Setting up a small travel trailer - back-in campsite

Back-in campsite

Campground map with both pull-through & back-in sites

Campground map with both pull-through & back-in sites

Backing up your trailer

Unless you are already a pro at backing up with your trailer attached, be sure to checkout this great video by Sean Michael. The "Scoop" was the answer I needed to learn how to simplify backup up.
(Be sure to also checkout Sean's other great videos here.)

Always have someone standing behind the trailer to the driver's side to guide you. Make sure you can hear them and see them in your mirror. The first time we went camping with our current small travel trailer, I was backing straight into a large tree. Thankfully, people at the campsite across from us saw me and yelled!

When you turn your steering wheel right the trailer will go left. When you turn the wheel left the trailer will go right. Place your hands at the bottom of the steering wheel, instead of at the top when you are backing up with a trailer. This will seem a little more natural because your hands will go in the same direction as the trailer.
Picking the spot to park your rig

Before you pick the exact place to park within your site, get out and look it over. Pay particular attention to the following.

  • Slope of the ground
    You want to park somewhere that is as level as possible. Look at the ground for bumps, holes, and slope. Picking the best place you can will reduce your need to level the trailer once it's parked.
  • Location of water, electric and sewer hookups
    Make sure you park close enough to the water, electric and sewer hookups. If you are using sewer, parking close enough to keep your hose short will usually help it drain better. All of the hookup connections on your trailer are on the driver's side. Most of the campgrounds you stay at will have the hookups on that side too. Once in a while, however, you'll stay somewhere that has hookups on the wrong side. This usually occurs if they are trying to share the hookups between two sites.
  • Location of fire ring and picnic table
    If you are going to have a fire, keep your distance from the fire ring so that you minimize any smoke getting into the trailer. Position the trailer so that it will be convenient to the picnic table if possible.
  • Space to park your tow vehicle
    If you are going to disconnect from the trailer, be sure you leave enough space so that your tow vehicle is not sticking out into the road.

Once you've figured out where you want to park, carefully put your rig into place.

Getting Everything Setup Outside

Get out your checklist! You should have a checklist that you've tailored to your needs, and you should refine it until the process becomes routine. (Click here to download a free copy of my Small Travel Trailer Checklists to use as a starting point in creating your own.)

Campground Hookups

The Basic Checklist Steps

Here are some basic steps to get your started. Be sure to develop your steps based upon your rig.
  1. Level trailer side-to-side
  2. Chock wheels
  3. Disconnect trailer from tow vehicle
  4. Move tow vehicle out of the way
  5. Level trailer front to rear
  6. Put down stabilizer jacks
  7. Hookup water, sewer, electric and gas
  8. Spray around everything that touches the ground for bugs
NOTE: If we're just setting up for an overnight stop, we usually cheat a bit and may actually skip all most of the above steps!
IMPORTANT! Two things you should always do to protect your trailer at the campsite:
  • Check the electric power before you connect. We've found several campsites where it wasn't wired correctly and could possibly damage our trailer. When we've found a problem, the people in the campground office were always happy to move us to another site. We use a combined Surge Suppressor/Circuit Analyzer.
  • Water pressure varies substantially from campground to campground. If it's too high, it can cause plumbing leaks in your trailer. Be sure to use a Water Pressure Regulator on your fresh water hose.
Be sure to see my Products We Like page for the devices we use.
Here's a link to a blog article I wrote on How to Avoid a Bad Electrical Hookup When Camping.
DENNY TIP From experience, I can also tell you that it's a good idea to check the inside sink spouts before you turn on the water. Our kitchen spout was loose and when we turned the faucet on, water sprayed all over the place.