How to Back Your Motorhome or Trailer into a Campsite
If you own and use a motorhome, trailer, fifth-wheel, or even a small pop-up, one of the things you will need to often do is back your rig or camper trailer safely and accurately into a campsite or tight parking space.
At times, especially with a motorhome, it can be really hard to determine exactly where your tail end is and precisely where your rear wheels are sitting. This is a simple three-step procedure that you and your navigator can follow together to put your rig in just the right place the first time, every time.
Preparing Your RV
To prepare your motorhome, you need to go to an office supply store and buy a package of brightly colored (red, orange, etc) stick-on dots.
When you get back to your rig, do the following:
- Go to the driver's side of your rig and measure from the center of the left-rear drive tire to a point that is approximately eight-feet forward of that point on your rig's body.
- This is the critical alignment point for your rig to start its turn into your site.
- At that point, place one of the sticky dots onto the side of the rig near eye level for your navigator who will be guiding you into your campsite or parking site. Make sure it is easily visible. This is your reference point for step one of the parking process.
- Repeat this on the passenger side for those rare instances where you will be required to back into your campsite from the opposite side of the street.
Step #1: Define a Line into the Campsite
You and your navigator will need to communicate with each other at certain points in this process, so you can either use walkie-talkies or hand signals. The navigator must be outside the RV and directing the driver into the parking site during this whole process. And, of course, the navigator must always move around so that the driver can always see them during this process.
- Your navigator must define a line into the campsite that is one foot inside the edge of the campsite where your rig’s tires will end up, as shown above. Note: When establishing this line, make sure that once you are backed in, your slides will clear any vertical obstacles like trees, power stands, etc.
- Your navigator should stand on this imaginary line at the front edge of the campsite and hold their arms straight out in front of themselves to indicate the street edge of the campsite.
- Once your navigator is in place, you, the driver, should pull your rig slowly forward, keeping the body of your rig almost touching your navigator's hands, until the navigator drops their arms, indicating that the dot is right where their hands were (see the image above).
Step #2: Pull Forward
The driver should turn the rig's steering wheel fully to the right, then pull forward until they have crossed the street as far as possible, then stop, as shown in the picture above.
On a typical width street, this should put your right rear tire on your imaginary line at the corner of the campsite.
Step #3: Back In
First, turn the rig's steering wheel fully to the left and back it up until the front tires are on the line. Then simply straighten the steering wheel and back straight into the campsite, as shown in the image above.
This process works great for the novice driver until they become more comfortable with their rig. Use this procedure, and you will take a lot less time getting into that narrow site. Of course, while backing up, the driver should always use their rear camera and mirrors to assure that they don't hit anything else on the site.
After you are properly aligned, have your navigator move you forward or backward until:
- Your slides and your awnings will not hit anything when opened
- Your service center (sewage and water line) and power cables are accessible and within the necessary distance for easy hookup.
Tips on Backing up a Trailer
With trailers, it is very simple to determine how hard it is to back them into a campsite or parking place. It comes down to just observing the distance from the hitch to the axle of the trailer. If this distance is very short, like with a pop-up camper or very short solid body camper, when you try to back up, the trailer will react very fast and to the extreme when you turn your auto/truck steering wheel. So always move slowly, and turn the wheel only slightly when you do adjust your alignment.
If your camper is a nice long trailer or a fifth wheel, it is, relatively, much easier to back up and park than a shorter trailer.
The other thing you must master is the art of turning your auto/truck steering wheel in the opposite direction that you want the trailer to turn. Once you get that down, you will have it made.
The key bit of information that I can give you is to simply go slowly. Take your time, and you will get into that site smoothly and often on the first try, just like the old pros.
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Don Bobbitt