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Backing Up a Pop-up Camper

A future RVer asks....
(A General Overview and Some Good Backing Tips)

Please give me an easy lesson on how to back up a pop up tent trailer.

Bob replies: I'll try to muddle through this. I've been backing trailers for over forty years, but have to think hard about how to teach someone else.

Generally, it might be best to take your trailer and tow vehicle to a parking lot to practice. Choose a lot that is empty when you will be there, and get permission to use the premises. The back half of a church lot during the week might work well. Take along some things to be obstacles and to mark driveways etc. Wastebaskets, 5-gallon buckets, or even pieces of firewood stood on end will work.

Start by placing your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and by turning the wheel the direction you want the rear of the trailer to go while backing. Practice backing in a straight line, alternately watching the side mirrors to keep the trailer centered between the mirrors.

When you have straight mastered, set up your simulated campsite, so you will be backing into a spot to the driver's side of the vehicle. Practice backing in. When you get out of kilter, pull ahead to straighten out as needed.

Change your set up to the other side. This will be less visible, more difficult, and considered your blind side.

Practice both sides. You may need several practice sessions.

Here are some general pointers.

~ Shorter trailers will react more to the same movement of the steering wheel than long trailers.

~ Prepare for your backing by pulling over to the side of the road that you are backing into because the rear of the tow vehicle will swing out before following the trailer back around into the space.

~ Chose a person to guide you wisely. You both need to agree on the signals. The person guiding should be behind the furthest point of the trailer and be visible in the driver's side mirror. If you lose the guide in your mirror, stop until they appear again.

~ If there are more people around, only take directions from one person.

~ If things aren't working, or traffic is backing up, pull up out of the way or circle the campground and try fresh.

~ Pick a spot that is on the driver's side until you're proficient.

~ If someone is backing into a space ahead of you, stop several spaces back. Don't crowd them. Be patient. They can probably back better if they aren't rushed.

~ Look at the situation ahead. By planning your movements, you can avoid some difficult backing situations.

~ Try to reach your destination before dark. Seeing what you're doing is a great advantage.

~ Remember, even if the guide backs you into the river, a picnic table, a tree, or your neighbor's motorhome, the driver is ultimately responsible. This means if you are not sure where you are backing, get out of the vehicle, and go look for yourself.

There are RV driving schools out there with professional teachers that have the knowledge and patience to help almost everyone. Regular driving schools may help you learn backing, if they were asked.

Experience is a wonderful teacher. Practice backing up your pop-up camper, and you should get better at doing it.

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