Top Tips for Backing In Your Travel Trailer
What to keep in mind when getting your towable RV parked at your campsite.

By: Brian & Becca Roy

Backing up your camper doesn't have to be hit or miss! I know we don’t want to HIT anything backing up and we definitely don’t want to MISS the perfect spot for setting up camp. Here are some tips and tricks we employ to avoid any nicks or dings while backing our rig up safely and accurately each time (with and without a spotter).

What to Keep in Mind Before Backing In

When you just get to the campsite that you’ve been looking forward to (maybe after a long drive or even after a long wait); remember, now is not the time to rush things. We don’t know about you, but doesn’t it feel like all eyes are on you when it’s time to do everyone’s favorite part of towing a travel trailer … backing it in? 

Deciding on an angle to approach the spot, surveying the space, and most importantly, taking your time, are key. Here are the steps we take before our arrival and when it is time to back up our travel trailer.

Plan the Best Approach Before Your Arrival

We often utilize campground photos as well as satellite imagery prior to arriving so we can plan our approach based on how our site is situated. 

Check Campsite Before Backing In

Upon arrival, we will stop and exit the tow vehicle to identify any of the fixed structures as well as the movable ones that may be in our way (think: picnic table, fire ring, grill) and move or mark them depending on the situation. 

Recently, we visited a narrow campsite that required all the preparation that we employ and we would like to share some of the challenges we encountered with you.

  • Power pedestal: These are often higher than the bottom of your travel trailer as well as the slide, so parking where your slide will not interfere, and you’ll be able to plug in, is a must in the planning phase. 
  • Water hookups: On this last trip, we also had to maneuver around the water hookups as they were elevated and in close proximity to the pedestal. 
  • Picnic tables: If movable, we like to move these out of the way and to where we want them to be for the duration of our stay. This ensures one less thing to do after setting up and one less obstacle to avoid when backing up.
  • Trees: This may seem like a given, but when it comes to tight spaces, being cognizant of the natural landscape when backing up will enable you to line up your slide or awning perfectly and allow you to fully extend it without damaging your rig. Keep an eye out for low hanging branches as these can be an unwanted surprise if not noticed!

Helpful Note: Having a tape measure is handy, but simply counting steps and knowing your slide’s extended length and width will assist in ensuring you have plenty of space to clear these obstacles. We carry a magnetic flashlight that we will put on the power pedestal to illuminate these hazards and help guide us in, if arriving during low visibility times.

Consider Installing a Backup Camera

We love that our Winnebago Micro Minnie is wired for the Voyager backup camera and took full advantage of this prior to our first outing by installing a plug and play camera. It was as simple as removing the cover, plugging the camera in, and replacing the screws! This allows us to ensure we respect the site by staying on the designated pad without overshooting our spot or backing into any hazards.

Top Tips for Backing In Your Travel Trailer

When traveling together as we do, we treat every aspect of our adventure like a team sport. Some of the tricks we employ are as follows:

Learn Standard Hand Signals

You don’t want to see your spotter doing the hokey pokey behind the camper while you are backing in. Being unsure of what your spotter is trying to relay could be a recipe for disaster. This is why we employ standardized hand signals to make the process much easier. 

Becca will use a large, double arm wave as I back up and will use a fully extended arm to indicate which way I may need to edge towards. As we get closer to the final spot, a dual extended arm signal that is slowly drawn in tells me how close I am to my final spot with a single closed, raised fist indicating I have reached where I need to stop and drop the camper. 

Whatever works for you and your spotter is fine, but make sure you have a set of standardized signals to communicate clearly between one another.

Utilize Tech With and Without a Spotter 

Sometimes it may be hard to hear your spotter so using cell phones is a good option, as long as the driver can be hands free. Otherwise, if it’s not quiet hours, the spotter can speak clearly and loudly enough for either the driver to hear you with the windows down or for the backup camera’s microphone to pick up the sound as our Voyager has this capability.

When camping solo, I like to rely on the technology that we have with our camper. In addition to illuminating the campsite and marking the hard-to-see hazards, the backup camera comes in especially handy when my spotter isn’t traveling with me. (Note: At some campgrounds, they may have a staff member available to help take on the role of spotter, if needed.)

Practice Before Your First Trip

We’re no experts at backing up and have had both those “nailed it” first time experiences as well as what feels like the comedic movie scene of Austin Powers trying to turn around, but we’ve had our fair share of practice over the years. 

If you are planning to take your trailer out on your first trip, we would recommend practicing in a large, open space (such as a parking lot) to familiarize yourself with the dynamics of backing up a travel trailer. This was how we did it when we were new owners of our Winnebago Micro Minnie and it helped us immensely when getting the feel for our travel trailer.  

Browse this helpful content from the Winnebago GoLife blog to learn more as a new towable owner:

  • Traveling Robert gives an overview in this video of important travel trailer basics you should know.
  • For safety tips on preparing your towable for travel, read this list
  • This article offers checklists for setup and takedown of a travel trailer.
  • If you want to tow with an electric vehicle (like we do!) here is an overview of some tools that will help.

Planning and taking your time go a long way in every situation. So, when you find that perfect spot for your next excursion, remember how to avoid both a HIT and a MISS! If you have more helpful tips, please share them in the comments.


Comments on this post are moderated, so they will not appear instantly. All relevant questions and helpful notes are welcome! If you have a service inquiry or question related to your RV, please reach out to the customer care team directly using the phone numbers or contact form on this page .

User commented on April 21, 2024 7:21 PM
Put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and then you can move your hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go.