How to Back Up Your Trailer Like an Expert

A man directs a driver backing up a trailer.

Towing an RV can be a nerve-racking experience for new RVers. What can be even more challenging is learning to back up a trailer, especially into a campsite. Today we want to help you back up your trailer like an expert. Let’s jump in!

Safety Tips for Backing Up Your Trailer

Getting your RV to your campsite is one thing, but backing up safely into your site is more challenging. Avoid damage and injury as much as possible with these tips.

Check the Surrounding Area for Obstructions

Being aware of your surroundings is crucial when backing up your trailer. Account for trees, poles, and other vehicles. 

When you arrive at your site, it’s helpful for the driver and spotter to get out of the vehicle and examine the area.

Look for any obstacles that may pose an issue with backing into your site. Don’t be afraid to ask neighbors to move vehicles if needed. 

Go Slowly

It’s easy to feel rushed, especially if others are watching or in line behind you.

Take a deep breath and try to relax. You’ll likely feel a sense of pressure with an audience watching, but remember that they’re probably not in a hurry and will offer you grace.

Slow is best. Mistakes happen when we try to rush. 

Make Sure the Driver and the Spotter Can See Each Other

Communication between the driver and spotter is essential to back up your trailer like an expert. The driver should not continue driving if they can’t see the spotter. 

One of the best ways for the driver and spotter to be on the same page is through two-way radios or cell phones.

We recommend a good set of two-way radios as there may be times when cell phone reception gets spotty.

A car door is open as they are about to reverse their trailer in the desert.

How to Back Up Your Travel Trailer Like a Pro

Learning how to back up your trailer like a pro takes practice. The more you can practice, the more your skills will grow.

Let’s look at a few bits of wisdom we’ve learned during our adventures.

Start with Your Hand on the Bottom of the Steering Wheel

The easiest way to back up a trailer is to place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Turn the wheel in whichever direction you want the back of the trailer to go.

If you want the back of the trailer to go left, you simply turn the wheel to the left.

If you want the back of your trailer to go to the right, you turn the wheel to the right.

Back in at an Angle

While pull-through campsites are great, they’re not always available. You’ll eventually have to back your camper into a campsite.

Take a deep breath and approach your campsite at the slightest angle possible.

Pull forward to give yourself a generous amount of room to maneuver your RV into the site.

Watch your RV’s tires and begin turning your wheel in the appropriate direction to maneuver the back of your rig into the site.

Be mindful of your angle when backing into your site. Make sure your angle isn’t too tight. This can cause damage to both your RV and truck.

Pull forward and adjust your angle accordingly. While it may impress the audience of campers watching you if you back in without pulling forward once, that’s not always possible.

ZigZag Back into the Campsite

When backing up, make minor adjustments, not major ones.

These little adjustments will mean making no more than a quarter-turn of your steering wheel. Anything more will result in significant zigzagging of your trailer, and you’ll feel out of control.

Minor adjustments help you to make a smaller zigzag pattern and remain in control. When all else fails, pull forward and give it another shot.

A truck reverses into a campsite with a trailer.

Helpful Tips

Let’s look at a few helpful tips we’ve learned from the many times we’ve backed into campsites. These are our tried and true tips for backing into your site!

Leave Room for Your Slides

When backing into your site, don’t forget that you’ll want to leave room for your RV’s slides. Discovering there’s no room for your slides means having to hitch back up and move your RV.

Adjust your RV’s placement side to side or front to back to account for these. You may need to position your RV so that slides are between trees or other obstacles. 

Watch Out for Fire Pits and Tables

Be mindful of obstacles like fire pits and campsite tables. These are easy objects to hit and can damage your RV.

Communicate with your spotter and use a camera system to keep an eye on your surroundings. If there’s ever a question, get out and look.

A few seconds to get out and look can save you from a costly repair bill.

Have Two People on the Job

Many RVers pride themselves on backing their RV into their campsite solo.

Using a spotter doesn’t make you any less capable; it makes you a safer RVer. Your goal is to back your RV safely into your campsite, not to impress a crowd.

The risk of damaging your RV is too high not to use a spotter. 

An SUV reverses with a trailer in the desert.

The more you back up your trailer, the sooner you’ll be an expert. Practice maneuvering and backing up at various angles in an empty parking lot. Learn how your rig handles and responds in different situations. What are your best tips for backing up a trailer?

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