Backing up a travel trailer feels counterintuitive and is often very frustrating for newbie RVers. Here are some RV pro tips from the RV Lifestyle community…
All RVers understand that learning to back up an RV, especially a travel trailer, is no easy task! It may come quickly to some more than others, but it is still nerve-wracking for those new to RVing.
Recently, RV Lifestyle member Lisa reached out to our community to ask for tips on backing up a travel trailer. She wrote:
“Looking for some tips on backing into spaces. We are newbies and have a 32 ft travel trailer. Our first attempts with the truck when we brought it home were stressful and took forever! LOL! Looking for some advice or tips we can follow. Thanks!”
When Lisa asked for advice, she got it! From technology helpers to good old-fashioned advice to practice, our RV Lifestyle community shared what has worked for them. And I’m sharing what they said with you now.
We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases at no added cost to you. Thank you for your support. You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.
RV Pro Tips: Backing Up a Travel Trailer
There is no one way to back up a trailer. The biggest takeaway from all of the Facebook comments is that when you find something that works, stick with it!
You may want to try out several different ways to back up a trailer to discover the “go-to” strategy that works well for you. So, let's get started. Here are a wide variety of tips and advice for backing up a travel trailer…
Practice Before You Camp
Many of our RVers commented that when in doubt about backing up your rig, you should practice, practice, practice. After all, practice makes perfect!
A few different people suggested buying some orange cones and going to an empty lot to practice. You could go to a church lot or a school that is not in session.
Place the orange cones out to mark a faux camping spot and practice backing up! Over and over again. There’s a good YouTube link below on how best to do this.
Better yet, you should do this in conjunction with some of the following suggestions…
Use Your Mirrors
RV Lifestyle member Tyrone said “use your mirror. And have a helper guide you.” This may seem like obvious advice but many newbie RVers find themselves wrenching around to look over their shoulders.
Another person went further with this suggestion saying that when using your mirrors, watch for the trailer to appear in one. Then turn the wheel the opposite way so that the trailer will follow suit and stay behind your tow vehicle.
Try Out Hand Signals
Some RV enthusiasts encourage picking out some hand signals to use with your backup partner. Choose and practice using hand signals ahead of time. That way, if you do not have access to technology when backing up, you will not be stuck screaming at each other.
Use Walkie Talkies or Cell Phones
There were many suggestions regarding the use of technology to aid you in backing up a travel trailer.
Several people suggested using Walkie-Talkies to speak with a partner to help you back up. This is great advice for those camping in an area that does not have cell reception.
Others said to have your backup partner call you on the phone to assist you as you back slowly in.
While using technology is a great idea, other people warned against it. They said not to rely on technology in case it does not work for some reason. They suggest using hand signals or other strategies that do not require something that may break.
Get a Back-Up Camera
Another great technology suggestion is to purchase and use a backup camera. This device gets attached to the rear of your trailer to give you a better view of the area you are backing into.
Mike and Jennifer's RV Lifestyle hat collection
Who needs a hat? You do! Dad hats aren't just for dads. This comfy one's got a low profile with an adjustable strap and curved visor. Just the thing to wear on your next RV Lifestyle adventure.
Use the Opposite Rule
Backing up a trailer is counter-intuitive. You want to make sure that you turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction that you want the trailer to move!
If you want the trailer to turn right, you have to turn the steering left. This can be really confusing and tricky at first, which brings us to our next tip…
Grab the Bottom of the Steering Wheel with One Hand
Lots of commenters had the same idea- to steer the wheel using one hand. In fact, others said that this is a useful tactic and that there are some good YouTube videos that can aid in understanding this one.
Basically, you can grab the steering wheel at the bottom, using only one hand. By using only a single hand at the bottom, you can steer the trailer with less confusion.
Whichever way you move that one hand is the way that the rear of the trailer will turn.
Make Small Adjustments
Another excellent suggestion is to make small adjustments as you go. Pick points in your mirror and keep the position as you move the vehicle slowly. Then move it slightly to a new point.
With practice, backing up like this will become second nature!
Use Front Wheels as Your Gauge
Rv Lifestyle community member Chuck said that the front tire of your tow vehicle acts as the steering wheel for the rest of it. But when towing, the rear tire becomes the steering wheel for your trailer.
It is just a good thing to remember so that you can focus on the counter-intuitive movement of your trailer and steering wheel. Backing up can sometimes feel the opposite of what has become a natural driving habit.
Back In From the Driver’s Side
Lastly, one of our RV Lifestyle members suggested that backing in from the driver’s side is a lot easier than coming in from the passenger side. If it is possible, back in when you are in closer proximity to the camping spot!
Watch YouTube Videos
A different community member, Jacqueline, suggested watching YouTube videos with many others echoing this sentiment.
She said, “There are some good YouTube videos with good tips on how to back up.”
The good news is that there is no shortage of videos! They also show varying techniques. So if one does not feel right to you, you can try out a different strategy.
Check For Pull-Thru Sites
One RV Lifestyle member suggested that you can always look for places that have pull-thru sites. While that may not always be possible to find, this is a helpful tip for new RVers until you build your confidence.
If you camp for your first few times using a pull-thru site, it can give you more time to practice your backing up skills.
Get Out and Look
If you have trouble seeing the progress you are making while backing up a travel trailer, get out and look! You will have a feel for how much to turn your wheel to continue to inch into a spot.
This is very helpful for sites that have drop-off areas or uneven terrain.
Be Patient and Go Sloooooow
Camping is supposed to be a time to relax and enjoy your time. This can also go for getting your camp set up!
You do not need to be in a rush when backing up, so slow down and take your time.
Mike and Jennifer Wendland's Yellowstone Travel Guide
At the top of every RVers bucket list, it is a place so majestic, so wild, and so big that it calls us to return, to explore, to get to know the diversity of its land and animals over and over again.
Everywhere you look are waterfalls, fast-moving rivers, geysers, sheer rock faces, towering lodgepole pines, all framed by mountains under the bright blue cloudless sky.
It’s spectacular for those who love the wilderness and getting up close and personal with it. Enjoy Yellowstone for RV travel.