Backing Setup Maneuver
Backing a trailer onto a campsite is seldom fun. I learned this backing setup maneuver years ago from a tractor trailer driver. It takes little practice and it will help make you a much happier camper. It takes less than five seconds to complete and, obviously, works best on straight roads of reasonable width. You will need to determine one spot (*) on you tow vehicle or trailer; I will explain as we proceed.
Step One: Always approach your campsite with the campsite on the driver’s side of your tow vehicle. This way you can look out the window or in your mirror to see where you are going while backing up. If you approach from the passenger side you are going to have visibility problems.
Step Two: As you approach your campsite, pull over as close as possible to the edge of the left side of the road. By the time you get to the near corner of the campsite your whole rig should be in a straight line behind you, parallel to the side of the road. (Yes, I am well aware that you will be on the wrong side of the road.)
Step Three: As the selected spot (*) on your tow vehicle comes even with the far corner of the lot, turn your wheels quickly and sharply to the right. Almost immediately, before you reach the other side of the road, turn your wheels quickly and sharply to the left so your tow vehicle ends up parallel to the passenger side of the road. Stop immediately – do not try to straighten out the trailer.
* This is the spot on your vehicle or trailer at which you initiate the above maneuver in order to end up in the best possible position to back in. This spot remains “constant” once determined. (You will soon get the hang of making minor adjustments automatically, much at you do when pulling into someone else’s driveway with your car). The exact position of this spot will vary according to the “geometry” of your setup. (The turning circle of the truck, the distance between the front and rear wheels, the distance between the truck axle and the ball, the distance between the ball and the pivot point on the trailer - all will vary from truck to truck and trailer to trailer.) I generally find it to be near the middle of my driver’s door, but that is just for my setup. It can vary quite a bit, according to the parameters outlined above. Don’t worry, it is almost intuitive for most people and, if needed, can be learned very quickly with a couple of traffic cones and an empty parking lot.
Step Four: Look out your window. During the maneuver, your trailer angled across the road and the rear end is now pointed into the lot at something like a 45 degree angle. (I told you not to try to straighten it out. J) You can even see the whole driver’s side of the trailer by sticking your head out the window. Get out and look around. At this point it will be obvious to you if you initiated the right turn (Step Three) too soon or too late. Adjust the spot (*) accordingly.
Step Five: Notice that your tow vehicle and your trailer now form an arc, pointing back into the campsite. (The position should be similar to the one you would be in if you had just pulled the trailer off of the lot to the left and had stopped when the wheels of the trailer had just cleared the lot.)
Part Six: The rest of what you need to do is obvious. The good news is that you are now set up to execute your final backing maneuver. (Placing your spotter at the rear corner of the trailer will allow you to always have them in view and for them to see everything that is behind you.)
Happy Camping! ///// Richard D.
2006 4x4 Ford 250 SD / 2007 Flagstaff 827 FLS
One very patient wife and one furry child who travels with us. Forty-two years of trailering and camping, and I still have a blast.