When it comes to purchasing a travel trailer or camper, one of the biggest deterrents folks have is the daunting task of actually having to park one. Is my vehicle big enough? What’s the optimal degree angle? Is my hitch set up correctly? Will my marriage survive this?! These are all common questions that come up as you familiarize yourself with the world of RVs and get ready to take one out for a spin. At South Thompson RV, we’re here to help guide you through the process and show you just how easy parking a travel trailer can be with the proper techniques in place!
Whether you’re towing a travel trailer or a fifth-wheeler, it’s ideal that your vehicle is a hefty one with strong towing capabilities. Always check your vehicle's specifications to find out the maximum weight it’s able to tow. Cross-reference this with the weight of your trailer to ensure they’re both in alignment. Most compact pickup trucks have a towing capacity of around 5000 to 7000-lbs. Full-sized trucks can usually carry a minimum of 9500-lbs and all the way up to 12,000-lbs. Depending on the model you choose, a typical travel trailer can be anywhere between 1500 and 9000-lbs. For example, this 2019 Surveyor travel trailer sits at just over 6000 lbs. In addition, you’ll want to factor in an extra 500(ish!)-lbs for all the gear you’re likely to bring along for your travel adventures!
When it comes to the hitch, you have three choices:
The rear receiver hitch,
The weight distribution hitch, and
The bumper hitch
Each type of hitch will determine how much weight you can tow. For example, as the name suggests, the weight distribution hitch is best for towing heavier trailers. For travel trailers, it's important to note that the hitch should be located under your bumper, as opposed to a fifth-wheeler, for example, which would require it to be in the bed of the truck.
Like all things in life, practice makes perfect, so it’s totally okay if you’re not a pro “trailer parker” on your first try.
When it comes to parking a trailer, more specifically backing one up, it’s all about geometry. But don’t let that scare you if you’re not a math wiz! The main concept you want to understand is usually the one that causes folks the most frustration. The trick is to turn your wheel in the opposite direction to the way you want the trailer to go - so if you turn the wheel to the right, the trailer will go to the left. The best technique to do this is by holding your steering wheel at the base rather than at the top like you normally would. This allows you to trick your mind into thinking your hand is moving to the left, for example, while the wheel is actually turning clockwise to the right! Once you get moving, you do want to correct this to the other direction to avoid trailer jackknifing.
Make sure you go super slow, and try not to panic or become easily frustrated, as this is what can typically lead to accidents. One technique that can work wonders is the "swoop." With this method, you drive towards your parking space from an acute angle. Once your vehicle is just at the nose of the spot, swoop away from it until the rear of the trailer is just past the parking spot. The trailer's rear will be in the perfect position to then steer clockwise and back up into the spot.
Other helpful tips include investing in a backup camera for your RV or having a person to help guide you. Both of these options offer an extra pair of eyes and make the process a lot easier! Backup cameras are an excellent help for backing into tight spaces, and typically come pre-installed with most modern RVs. Having a person act as a guide can also be quite helpful - just don't let it ruin your marriage! Pro-tip: communicate with each other over the phone to avoid yelling and miscommunication, which is often what leads to more frustration!
Choosing between a truck or an SUV is a common question when it comes to towing RVs. The short answer is, it all depends on the towing capabilities of your vehicle and size of your trailer. That being said, a truck is almost always the better towing vehicle as they tend to be more versatile in terms of towing capacity and the types of hitches they can handle. Mid-sized SUVs can typically tow up to 5000-lbs, sufficient for a trailer on the smaller side. But like we stated above, ensure you factor in another 500-lbs for the cargo you're going to carry inside. Full-sized SUVs can be pretty capable, with some having a capacity of up to 9000-lbs. For some individuals, driving an SUV is a lot easier than a pickup truck. If your SUV can handle a lot behind it, there's no harm in using one if you think you'll be more comfortable!
At South Thompson RV, we get lots of first-timers excited to explore our great nation in comfort and style. If you have any questions about parking travel trailers, campers, fifth wheelers, etc., our team can always offer helpful tips and advice when you come to check out what's on the lot! Browse our exciting inventory of all-new travel trailers and other RVs today!