A problem I see at campgrounds, and that I get asked about frequently, is how to back a trailer into a campsite. Backing a trailer is perhaps the most nerve-racking part of owning a travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer. For some RV owners just the thought of backing the trailer prevents them from taking trips and enjoying their RV. Based on my observations at campgrounds backing a trailer has probably contributed to more than one failed marriage too.
If you tow a trailer you more-than-likely have heard different versions of the “best” or “easiest” method for backing a trailer, like:
1) Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go.
2) Use walkie-talkies.
3) Look out the window, over your shoulder, and back-up.
4) Just use your mirrors.
5) Use a spotter at the rear of the trailer and watch their directions in the mirrors.
These backing techniques might work for some people, but the fact of the matter is they don’t work for most.
To be proficient at almost anything, like backing a trailer, requires practice but all the practice in the world won’t help if you don’t have a basic understanding of how it is done in the first place.
I learned to back trailers in the military, but working for an RV dealership is where I became proficient at backing trailers. We rearranged the entire sales lot about twice a month, moving and backing trailer after trailer. Eventually I was put in charge of organizing and setting up numerous RV shows where travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers had to be backed within inches of walls, obstacles, and other RVs.
To do this successfully, time and again, required a bullet-proof backing technique and a few general guidelines. Let’s start with the basics.