Let’s Get Hitched
Once You Get It Down, Connecting, Driving, and Backing in Will be a Walk in the Park
Camping is a relaxing time to reconnect with friends, family, and nature. Yet, choosing the right equipment for your tow vehicle and trailer can sometimes be confusing, and the process of hitching up and towing can be stressful for some people.
It doesn’t have to be that way! Like any new hobby, it’s simply a matter of understanding the differences between products, getting the gear that works best for your needs, and then practicing until you are a seasoned pro. The best part is, hitching up and towing can actually be a lot of fun, and give you a great sense of accomplishment.
Make Sure Your Tow Vehicle Is Ready
The first step is to make sure that your vehicle is designed to tow in the first place. Most trucks and SUVs are, but you can find out by looking at the rear of the vehicle, beneath the bumper for a square hole called a hitch receiver. Hitch receivers are all rated to carry a certain amount of weight, and that figure is usually stamped or printed on the receiver somewhere.
Next, you’ll want to know the tow rating of your truck or SUV, as this will tell you how much weight your vehicle is designed to safely tow. If you’re not sure, we offer a tow rating finder, or your local RV dealership should be able to help.
Select the Right Hitch and Adjust How You Drive
Once you’ve chosen the trailer, the dealership will also help you select the right hitch for your setup and show you how to use it. This is important because the right equipment will help prevent trailer sway and bounce, providing a more comfortable and enjoyable towing experience.
Towing really isn’t a lot different from regular driving, except that it will take longer for your vehicle to accelerate and stop and, of course, there’s a trailer back there. So, it’s important to take all this into consideration when driving. For example, make sure to leave extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
When turning corners, remember that your side-view mirrors are your best friends. Towing a trailer will require you to swing wider when going into a turn (how wide depends on how long the trailer is) and watching your side-view mirrors will help you keep the trailer in your lane—or off the curb.
Take it slow your first few times and remember that practice makes perfect. You might consider driving around a large, empty parking lot to get the feel for your new rig and see the difference in the turning radius.
At some point, you’ll need to hitch up the trailer to the tow vehicle. Don’t worry! The most important thing is to relax and take your time. Many newer vehicles have back-up cameras that make it easy to see the trailer, while some systems even provide guidelines that can help you align the trailer with the hitch.
If your truck or SUV does not have a backup camera, RV retailers like Camping World offer a variety of rear-vision cameras that can help you hitch up by yourself—simply enter “backup camera” in the search bar. Of course, you can always enlist a friend or neighbor to help you back the tow vehicle up to the trailer as well. Two-way radios are a tremendous help and save you from the sore throat you get from screaming directions back and forth.
Backing Up With a Trailer
Once hitched up, another thing that makes some RVers nervous is backing the trailer into a campsite or driveway. This is because it is hard to know which way to turn the steering wheel in order to make the trailer go the direction you want it to.
Want to know a little-known trick that professionals use? Watch your side-view mirrors as you back up, then turn the bottom of the steering wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. It sounds crazy, but it works!
Here again, try it out in a large parking lot, maybe even set up some cones to represent your imaginary campsite. RV retailers also offer a variety of multi-view camera systems that will help you see the sides and back of the trailer if you need extra help.
If you have not yet purchased a tow vehicle, keep in mind that new vehicles, especially pickups, offer a wide range of backing systems that include several cameras that will help you see the sides and rear of the trailer when backing and when changing lanes. Super helpful! GM, Ford, and RAM all have their own versions, so make sure to ask a dealer about them when shopping.
With a little practice and the right equipment, you can confidently join the thousands of other RVers who enjoy trailer camping.