Backing Up a Trailer Solo Gets Easy with Practice
Are you intimidated by the thought of backing up your trailer by yourself? If you are, you’re in good company because nearly everybody who can effortlessly back a trailer into a campsite on their own was nervous at first too. We’ll walk you through the process of backing a trailer with great tips that will make it a lot easier. The thing is, backing up a trailer is just like anything else that you’ve ever done: It can seem tricky at first. However, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
1. Find a Big, Open Space To Practice
Backing up a trailer without a spotter is actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. However, it does take patience and practice to build your skills so you can confidently back your trailer by yourself. The best place to start practicing is in a big, open area, like an empty parking lot, where there isn’t any danger of actually hitting an object. The goal is just to get a feel for how your trailer handles when it’s being backed up in a safe environment where you can build confidence.
2. Set Your Mirrors Correctly
It’s really important to set up your mirrors correctly before you try to back your trailer anywhere. If you have a travel trailer or a fifth wheel this may mean adding towing mirrors to your existing mirror setup.
3. Roll Down Your Driver’s Side Window
Rolling your driver’s side window down will allow you to look over your shoulder as you back your trailer. This will give you a much better view of where the trailer is going than a mirror would, allowing you to make any necessary adjustments as soon as you need to.
4. Choose a Driver’s Side Campsite
When you’re new to backing up your trailer, it’s usually easiest to back into a campsite on the driver’s side.
5. G.O.A.L. (Get Out and Look)
Once you’ve picked out a campsite, you’ll want to get out and do a quick survey of the campground. Take note of the location of obstacles like overhead branches, trees, picnic tables, and fire pits. Get out and look anytime you need to reassure yourself that the trailer’s not going to hit anything. It’s better to check too often than have to deal with damage to a tail light or wall.
6. Set a Traffic Cone
Now is a great time to mark the trailer’s pivot point with a traffic cone (or other marker) on the campsite driveway. If you are backing your trailer into a driver’s side campsite, you’ll place your traffic cone about a foot in from the right front corner of the driveway. If you don’t happen to have a traffic cone handy, you can always just use whatever is handy. After your first three successful sessions of solo backing, you’ll probably be able to “wing it” without using a marker.
7. Stay Focused on Backing Your Trailer
You might notice that other campers openly stare while you’re backing your trailer into a campsite. Once in a while, someone might even offer to help. If you’ve been practicing your backing skills in an empty parking lot, you won’t need any help. Instead, you can graciously instruct them “Please just stay where I can see you and let me know if I’m going to hit something.” This way you’ll get to focus completely on backing your trailer while they get to feel like they did something constructive with their day.
At some point in your trailer-backing career, you’re going to accept the fact that watching someone back a trailer into a campsite is sometimes the best entertainment in the campground. What you do with this knowledge is up to you.
8. Pull Forward
Your goal here is to align the passenger side of the tow vehicle and trailer about a foot from the edge of the road until the front axle of the trailer is in line with the traffic cone that you placed in the previous step.
9. Place Your Hands at the Bottom of the Steering Wheel
Want to avoid doing mental gymnastics when you back your trailer? Having your hands on the bottom half of the steering wheel allows you to turn it in the direction you want the trailer to go. It’s so much easier than having your hands on the top half of the steering wheel and turning it the opposite way you want the trailer to go.
Try having your left hand at “8” and your right hand at “4”. (You can thank me later!)
10. Get Your Trailer Headed Into the Campsite
Turn your front wheels to the right and pull forward. This will get your trailer headed into the approximate direction of the campsite you’re backing into. You’ll need to adjust the angle of the trailer from here.
11. Straighten Your Wheels and Back Up Slow and Steady
Turn your steering wheel counterclockwise and back up a few feet as you watch over your shoulder or in your driver’s side mirror. With your hands at the bottom of your steering wheel, turn it in the direction you want the trailer to go. At this point, you’ll want to make subtle adjustments to your steering to get the trailer pointed right into the spot you chose in your walkaround. After this point, your tow vehicle will be following the trailer, more or less. Beware of oversteering.
12. Once the Trailer Is Backing Straight Into the Campsite, Stop.
Now is a good time to get out and walk around the back of the trailer to double-check and make sure you aren’t going to back into a firepit, picnic table, branch, or other object that could potentially damage your RV. Because it’s always better to double-check and be safe than it is to explain how you damaged your beautiful RV to an insurance claims agent.
13. Move the Traffic Cone to Where You Want the Back of the Trailer
While you’re out looking for obstacles to avoid, pick up the traffic cone you set. Place it where you want the rear driver’s side of the trailer to wind up. If you have a bike rack on the back of your trailer, you’ll want to allow room for it.
Master the Art of Solo Trailer Backing with Confidence
Backing up a trailer solo may seem like a daunting task at first, but with the right techniques and plenty of practice, you’ll soon become a pro. Remember, the key to successful trailer backing is preparation and focus. From setting your mirrors correctly to choosing the right campsite and using markers, each step is crucial in ensuring a smooth and safe process.
Don’t let the stares of other campers distract you; instead, use it as an opportunity to showcase your newly acquired skills. And always, always double-check for obstacles before making that final push into your campsite. With these tips in hand, you’re not just backing up a trailer; you’re backing it up with confidence and precision. So go ahead, take that solo camping trip you’ve been dreaming of—now you’re more than ready for it.