Anyone can tow a camper trailer. The basics are pretty simple: swing a little wider on corners, keep an eye on your speed and leave a little extra room when you’re changing lanes. Ask the same person to back their camper into a spot and you’ll see a 6ft bearded man turn into a blubbering mess like he’s watching Old Yeller on repeat.
As much as we all like to beat our chests and pretend emotions are best left bottled up, the fact is reversing a trailer can fluster the best of us. Right is left, left is right, and trying to clear a tree with your tow-tug can result in sending your camper careening into a ditch. Not that I know anything about that, of course. So here are some quick tips I’ve picked up over the last decade of swinging trailers into places they have no business being, and some sage advice from world traveller Ron Moon.
ROUND PEG, ROUND HOLE
Know the size of your trailer and the size of the gap you’re trying to put it in. If it’s so tight you’re reaching for the tape measure, chances are it’s a terrible spot to camp anyway. This is more of a mental step that sets you up for the next point. If you know the camper will fit where you want it, it’s just a matter of turning a wheel in the right combination to get it there.
I’ve seen countless ‘how to reverse a camper trailer’ articles over the years and there’s one thing they all get wrong; disorientating the person actually reversing the trailer. As you go from your mirrors to over your shoulder your point of view of the trailer constantly changes from left to right and back again. By sticking to the mirrors you can lock yourself in the one mentality. If the trailer is going too far to your right mirror, then bring the right side of the steering wheel down and vice versa for the left. By using this method you don’t need to keep fighting the wheel, let the trailer naturally follow the path and catch it with small corrections when you need.
The easiest way to do this is to rely entirely on your mirror on the inside of the turn; it’ll always be able to see the trailer. Don’t try and put the trailer into the middle of a gap, look at the gap and realise if you’re 1m away from the tree on the inside you’ll be in the middle, then just worry about that tree.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM
Let’s get one thing clear: reversing a trailer is a mental game and the hardest part is not getting yourself flustered. No one will remember that time you took an extra couple of times to get the camper where it needed to be, but they’ll all remember the time you reversed over your kid’s bike while steam was pumping out of your ears.
Take your time, don’t be afraid to jump out to see what the trailer needs to do, and have as many cracks at the job as you need to. If possible, always swing the tow-tug around so you’re just reversing straight into the spot. If not jump out and plan how the trailer will need to swing to go in and stick to the plan. You’ll probably get a few chuckles but no one will care 10 minutes later.
TOP TIPS FROM RON MOON
Reversing is a skill that only gets better with practice and everybody who tows a van or camper needs to be able to go backwards, so practise people, practise!
Some people are gems at it; my father-in-law can reverse a trailer down a convoluted driveway like my dear ol’ mum threading a needle. I freely admit I’m not that good.
Still, I use my mirrors on most occasions, gripping the steering wheel at the bottom and turning the wheel in the direction the trailer needs to go as indicated in the mirrors. It works for me. Other people have other ideas. There is no right way or wrong way, just practise and get proficient at it.