How to Correctly Back up and Park When Towing a Camper

If you plan on towing a camper then driving with it attached to your rig can be tricky. When going forward, you have to keep the extra car length in mind and remember how wide to swing it when turning to ensure that you don’t hit anyone. And when driving in reverse, things can get even trickier. Here is how to correctly back up and park when towing a camper.

Backing up a trailer can seem counter-intuitive

A car with a camper trailer out in the desert.
A car with a camper trailer out in the desert. | Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the most challenging aspects of towing a camper is having to drive in reverse, especially if you can’t see out of the rearview mirror. Don’t worry, it’s possible, but it may require a lot of practice and nervous sweat to get it done. Unlike backing up a car sans a trailer, you actually need to steer counter-intuitively in order to get the trailer where you want it to go.

What this means is that if you want the trailer to go to the right, then you’ll need to steer the car to the left and vice versa. The trickier part is getting the correct steering angle in order to get the trailer exactly where you want it. The most important part is trying your best not to get into a jackknife situation where the car and trailer are in a 90-degree angle. In that case, you can end up causing a lot of damage to the car, camper, or anything else in close proximity.

Tips for backing up a trailer

Car towing a caravan is seen in Wdzydze Kiszewskie, Poland.
Car towing a caravan is seen in Wdzydze Kiszewskie, Poland. | Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When backing up a trailer for the first time, don’t be too surprised if it takes multiple times to get it right. But if you want to get it down a little quicker, here are a few helpful tips from Tiny Towable:

  • Survey the site first: Before attempting the parking maneuver, it’s a good idea to stop the car, get out, and survey the camp site or spot that you want to back the camper up into. By doing so, you can make note of any nearby obstacles and figure out your angle of approach.
  • Hold the steering wheel at the bottom when backing up: Since backing up a trailer or camper requires you to steer the car in the opposite direction of the trailer, one hack is to hold the steering wheel at the bottom when doing so. That way, the direction you turn the wheel is the direction that the camper will go.
  • Adjust the left-side mirror: Another tip is to adjust the driver side mirror to point down to where you can see the ground next to the trailer. By doing this, you’ll be able to see where the trailer will end up. Of course, seeing both sides are important, so adjust the passenger side mirror as well or have you passenger help you.
  • Learn to use the “scoop” method: The “scoop” method can easily make your whole parking situation a breeze if you can get it down. When pulling up to a camp site, instead of starting your approach parallel to the spot that you want to end up in, you merely need to angle your car and rig opposite of the spot, then pull forward, and then angle into the spot.

Here is a more detailed video demonstration of the “scoop” method:

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Practice makes perfect and a spotter helps, too

When backing up a camper or a trailer, the key to getting it right is to keep practicing and go slow. Not very many drivers are able to get it right the first time and considering there are many different sizes of trailers, there’s usually a steep learning curve when it comes to backing up. As such, have patience with it. Also, if you need more help, then enlist a spotter to guide you. Backing up a camper is tricky, but it’s not impossible.

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