How to Back Up a Camper

Backing up your travel trailer or fifth wheel can cause stressful and anxious moments when trying to navigate into a tight campsite or driveway. Have no fear! Pete’s RV-TV YouTube Channel Lifestyle Consultant Randy Murray is here to help sharpen your backing up skills.

For starters, always try to pull up to the camper’s final destination on the driver’s side. This allows you to get a better direct and mirror view as you back into a site or driveway. Before proceeding, park and get out of the vehicle to inspect your surroundings. Look for low lying obstacles such as stumps, branches, sink holes and drainage pipes. Inspecting your surroundings also ensures the camper is going to be set up in proper proximity to electrical, water and sewage hookups, and plenty of room to open slideouts.

Randy proceeds to demonstrate a backing up technique (with an Outback Terrain 299TBH) focusing on making the camper’s wheels the pivot point while steering, and then counter-steering as the camper begins to straighten. One of the best takeaways is to unhitch the camper and reposition the towing vehicle if your facing jack-knifing due to limited space for turning. It will save you the grief of pulling forward and back multiple times for minimal results (i.e. the scene from Austin Powers when he is trying to turn the golf cart around in the corridor of Dr. Evil’s lair!).

Video Transcript | How to Properly Use The Air Conditioner in Your Camper

Randy: Hey, guys. Randy with Pete’s RV TV here today. Today we’re on our way to the Lone Pine Campground in Malletts Bay, Vermont. We’re going to show you how to back up a camper and put it on the site. So we’ll be there in just a minute, and we’ll catch up with you then.

    Hey, here we are at beautiful Lone Pine Campground. They’re nice enough to let us use the site today. So, I’m just going to pull past my site. We’re going to be on site 31. I’m going to hop out and take a look at the site and see where I want to put this camper and then we’re gonna go right ahead back around the site.

    Okay, so what I’ve done at this point, and this is the easiest way to put your camper on the site, is I’ve driven past the site, and I’ve got the site on the driver’s side of the truck. I do that on purpose so I can see where the slide side of the off door-side of the camper is going, because that’s the side that we want to keep as far this way as possible to give us more real estate on the usable part of our site. So, if you can all, at all do that when you pull up to your campsite, try to keep the driver’s side on the, on the site’s side, not all the time you’ll be able to do that, but if you can it’s definitely going to work in your benefit.

    So, at this point I just kind of walk the site and see what I’ve got to, that I’ve got to avoid, or if there’s any trees in the way. We see we’ve got a big stump here. I see my power pedestals over here, so I’m gonna wanna keep my camper, keep in mind that I’ve got a slide that’s gonna go out, but I want to keep my camper as far this way as possible to give me as much real estate on that side, as I’ve mentioned before. So, this looks like a pretty open site, which most campsites are. We’ve just gotta contend with the stump there. My power cord’s gonna be in the back, so that’ll work out perfectly for me. So, I guess what I’m going to do now is just hop back in the truck, and see if we can negotiate this guy on the site.

    Hey, so I’m gonna pull ahead just a hair, and I’m going to kind of put the tail on my camper headed in the right direction that I want to back this guy up on. Now, very important at this point is remembering that our wheels are pivot point for our camper. So, that’s where the camper is going to turn, so I don’t want to watch the front of the camper or the back so much, I want to keep my eyes on the wheels. So, here we go.

    And sometimes when I’m driving a different truck, this truck’s working out pretty well, but sometimes I’ll even angle the mirror down so I can see the wheels a little bit better. Want to make sure I got nothing going on on the other side of me. I’m just letting the camper kind of do the job here, keeping an eye on both mirrors; and obviously turn the steering wheel the opposite way that you want the unit to go. And as you start getting close to where you want to be straight, that’s when you want to start counter-steering.

    We’re getting the unit on there pretty straight; nothing on the other side. Well, I think I’m gonna hit this one pretty good right off the bat. Now, if you’re finding that you’re not backing on straight, or you know, that the camper just keeps jackknifing on you a little bit, maybe don’t have enough room in front of the truck to get the truck out where you need it to to get you straight, you always can put the truck back in drive and pull forward and straighten the trailer out. So, if you’ve gone too far…too far past, and the camper’s going the wrong way, or the, the back end of the camper is gone too far the way you don’t want it to go, simply put the truck in drive and pull straight ahead, and that’s gonna straighten the unit out for you.

    So, we’re gonna just back this guy up here. And I think I’ve hit my mark. Now, this is the point where, if you’ve watched my leveling video, is where you want to get out and check the camper for level; so, that’s what we’re gonna do right now. Okay, so that first time went very easy because there’s not a whole lot of people in the park. So, now I’m gonna try to simulate a full park with cars and campers on my other side, and I’m gonna try to keep my vehicle on the road without going on the lawn over there like I did on the last pull-in.

    So, this time I’m going to start backing up a little bit sooner, so I’ve just got my camper kind of headed. And you can see, like with the camper headed, it’s gonna start to turn even with my truck straight. And the camper is just starting to turn more and more, so I’m gonna compensate just a hair now for it. Now, I’m really gonna jack-knife this camper, and try to swing this thing around. Now, I can start to turn my truck a little bit. So, I’ve stayed on the road for the most part, I’ve got my camper pretty straight, but you’ll see that the back end of the camper still wants to swing around because I don’t have enough room in front of the truck to get it to where I want to go, and this is where people mostly run into trouble.

    So, I’ve got a trick for this too. If I keep backing up my back end of my camper’s just gonna keep swinging where I don’t want it to swing. A lot people will go back and forth and back and forth and they never find that happy spot. So, what I’m gonna do at this point, is I’m just gonna stop the truck right here, and I’m gonna unhook the camper. Sounds crazy, but this would get you out of a pinch in a second.

    Okay, so as you can see we turned off the camera. I’m back … I unhooked the truck from the camper, I re-situated my truck, so now my truck is straight in line with the camper, and we can continue to back up on the site, and now we’re not gonna be jackknifing or having the camper off-angle on our site because I’ve now straightened the truck out, and that was out problem. So, I’m gonna hop back in the truck and finish backing up on the site, and we’re gonna be good to go here.

    Okay, so here we go. Back up for our final destination. If you got somebody with you, behind you to keep the, an eye out, not a bad idea. Think that looks good right about there. So, at this point I’m gonna get out and do a couple of the checks that I like to do just to make sure I’ve got enough room. That way we know we’ve got our stump here, so I’m gonna do my arm check. We’ve got plenty of room there. I’m right off my electrical box, my electrical cords gonna be here, so I’m within my 25 feet here. I think this looks like a great spot. I’m gonna run the slide-out out, and put, check the levels on the front of the camper, and see if we’re level and then we’re gonna take it from there.

    So, in a nutshell, a lot of people get intimidated by this, it’s a really simple process. Don’t care about anybody watching me. I’m just focused on what I’m doing. Does take a little bit of practice, you’re not gonna hit the mark on the first time out, but the more and more you do it, and the less you worry about other people watching you, the easier it’s gonna be for you. So, just follow my quick steps, make sure you watch your wheels, watch your mirrors, if you can’t get the camper exactly where you want, unhook the truck and re-situate the truck, and the next time you’ll be right on the site right where you want it.

    So, thanks again for watching Pete’s RV TV, with Randy today. New segment here for you, hopefully this’ll help with make your camping a little bit easier. Check out our other videos. Check out our YouTube channel, as well as our Facebook page. We’ve always got a great information on there as well. So, thanks again for watching Pete’s RV, and happy camping.

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