As lots of first-timers discover, maneuvering an RV camper is very different from handling a car, an SUV, or even a pickup truck.
This is especially true when it comes to how to back up an RV, which is something that will inevitably become necessary on any trip, at the very least when you need to back into your spot at a campsite and possibly at several points on your journey to get there.
If the driver is stressed or nervous while trying to back up their RV, or hasn’t taken the time to find out what the best way to do so is, the end result can be more problematic than simply a crooked parking job, it can lead to damage to the RV, damage to the surrounding area and even injury to the driver, any passengers and those in the immediate area.
While all of this sounds scary, when it comes to how to back up an RV camper it is not as difficult – or as dangerous – as you might think.
By following the steps below, and taking things nice and slow, you should be able to back up into even the tightest spots without an issue.
Backing Your RV Into a Campsite in 7 Easy Steps
1. Plan Your Approach Carefully
As you prepare to back into a parking space, or your spot in the campground, ideally you need to be as close to the side of the road where you want to park as feasible.
When you can come close to the edge, you’ll have more room to work with.
When backing up your RV, you may be able to choose the direction you want to approach from; if this is the case, make your approach so the area you need to back into is on the driver’s side.
That way, when you do back in, you are trying to do so through blind spots.
2. Check Just What is Behind You
It’s very important that you know what obstacles might be behind you, and you need to see more than your mirrors might show you.
If you don’t have a good RV camper backup camera you’ll need to get out of your vehicle, or roll down your windows and do a thorough visual check.
The last thing you want to do as you back into your camping spot is hit the electric pedestal or run over the firepit!
3. Adjust Your Mirrors
Instead of doing the usual look-over-the-shoulder maneuver you probably use when driving your car, when backing up an RV camper, use your mirrors.
Plus, when you look simply over your shoulder, you’re likely to see nothing but your camper.
What does the front of the trailer matter? It’s the back end you are concerned with right now.
As you back up, keep the same proportion of the RV showing in each mirror, which will help ensure that the trailer stays in a straight line.
It’s also helpful to see your trailer tires in your rearview mirror. When backing up and turning the RV, properly positioned mirrors give you the best opportunity to get a clear view of your progress.
4. Get a Spotter
If you don’t have a backup camera on board, or its viewing range is limited, you really need a spotter.
In fact, even if you have a camera, a spotter is helpful, as they can quickly shoo away any children or pets that might suddenly dart into the path of your RV as you back it up.
A human spotter is also almost always going to be a better judge of the space you have than you are, even if you are monitoring your progress via your mirrors or a camera.
You can manage without one if you really have to, but if there is a passenger available to do the job, or perhaps even a helpful fellow camper if you are backing into your camp spot, their assistance will make your life a lot easier!
5. Keep Your Hands on the Bottom of the Steering Wheel
Keep your hands on the lower half of the steering wheel instead of the 10 and 2 o’clock positions generally employed when driving your car (which is not as safe as you might think, by the way).
As a result, when your spotting buddy instructs you to go left, all you have to do is turn the steering wheel to the left.
If you use this unusual underhand grip on the steering wheel, your brain will not make the usual instinctual inputs it does when you are driving your car. As a result, all you will have to remember once you start backing up your RV is to turn your steering wheel in the direction you would like the RV to go. Do you want the trailer to turn left? Turn the steering wheel to the left at the bottom. And vice versa.
6. Making the Cut
You are now ready to reverse your RV.
Start backing up by cutting the wheel as far as possible to the opposite side of the road from your spot.
The trailer will begin to swing into position, and your RV will begin to move across the road.
Remember that your camper’s pivot point is where the tires are. You won’t have to travel far to get the trailer moving in the direction you want.
7. Execute the S Turn
You’re almost there when the trailer swings into the spot: just start turning the wheel back towards your spot to follow the Camper around and straighten everything out.
This is also the most likely point at which you may encounter a problem. For example:
- You’ll end up on the far side of the spot if you start turning back too soon.
- You could jack-knife if you start turning back too late.
If you’re not comfortable with your camper’s location, move forward, straighten it out a little, and try again.
Because small modifications are what you need, it’s easy to over-correct. If you go off course, don’t try to straighten the vehicle out with big swings. Simply come to a halt, straighten your back, and begin again.
Don’t be afraid to repeat the ‘run’ a few times to find a good position. No matter how good you are, some backup maneuvers take several approaches!
If you are more of a visual learner, this video may help you better understand what we have been discussing here.
Is it Worth Installing an RV Backup Camera?
If you have made it this far you may be wondering if buying and installing an RV backup camera will be worth the effort and expense involved. In most cases, the answer is that yes, an RV backup camera can be very helpful.
If you do install a good RV backup camera you will have a secondary rear view that is not as limited as your mirrors, and if you are towing your RV, an RV backup camera will offer you a view that you, as the driver, can’t really get any other way if it is placed correctly.
This having been said, an RV backup camera is not a magic wand, and while very helpful, you’ll still need to have a good grasp of the basic RV backup process we’ve just described here. And you will still need to stay calm and alert to what you are doing at all times.