By Marian Black
The full responsibility of towing and setting up a camper alone can be intimidating for a woman. Don’t let it be. Cast out fear and take your time. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask a seasoned camper for guidance.
Here are a few pointers to make things go a little smoother.
Hitching up your camper
A good friend or neighbor with experience in campers can help a lot. Most skilled campers are excited to pass their wisdom to a new camper. It doesn’t matter if you think you look inept, ask them to direct you or just stand there and watch to make sure you don’t get in a bind. You may need to a friend to call a second (or even a third) time when being shown how to back into your driveway. The release on the tongue could also be jammed up from lack of regular use (e.g. over the winter time) and might not release easily from the hitch on your vehicle. If so, then lube up everything you can with WD-40 before using it and store WD-40 in your camper’s compartment, along with a hammer to loosen up any jams.
Hooking up your hitch to the camper tongue is a process made easier by another person directing you, as you cannot see the ball from the driver’s seat. When you pull reverse up to the camper with your vehicle, it is nearly impossible to hit the correct spot. A trick to do this effectively is to place a piece of tape dead center of your vehicle and, taking a long flag (like what would be used to mark a gas line), attaching this temporarily to the trailer hitch. This will allow you to get much closer with much less effort.
It is recommended that you practice backing up and maneuvering your camper in your driveway or in a large parking lot after-hours. A parking lot will give you plenty of space to make mistakes and figure out how to manipulate the camper into a spot.
When backing a camper, turn the steering wheel the opposite way you want the camper to go. If you want the camper to move toward the right, turn your wheel left until the camper turns enough, and then slowly follow it with your car. Don’t get frustrated, this is hard for everyone at first. Take it slow and you will get the hang of it.
One of the most important details to know about pulling a camper of any weight is to take your automatic transmission vehicle out of overdrive. Keeping a transmission in overdrive under a speed of 60 mph will create extra heat in your engine and transmission and produce heavy wear. Hauling your camper in D3 will use a bit more fuel but should keep your thermostat closer to normal. When on the expressway you can switch back to overdrive to save on fuel.
Before leaving on the trip
Two of the most important things to have are working lights and good chocks. Check your taillights, brake lights and turn signals before each trip. Purchase your chocks from a camper store. The chocks they sell in variety stores are geared toward a trailer parked in your driveway. A good chock made specifically for a camper will give you much peace of mind when your camp site ends up jutting out over a large hill.
At your campsite
Leveling your camper is another challenge. The jacks at each corner are designed for support and stabilization, not leveling. Once the weight of the camper is upon them you won’t be able to crank them much higher. You can level your camper from front to back by placing one inch boards on the ground then backing the camper onto them. You can use several if the campsite slants to the back. Boards should be cut long enough to allow for chocks to sit behind or in front of the wheels. Be sure to store them where they are easily accessible before set up. Small boards or small concrete squares or blocks can also be used under the corner jacks to add height when there is a dramatic slant at one end.
Like most things, it takes some practice to get the hang of it. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you can’t get it right. Most campers are of the friendly sort and more than ready to help a fellow camper in need.