Towing and Setting up a Camper

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.

By Marian Black

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 wintertime) 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.

Camper tongue released
Camper tongue released
Camper tongue locked in
Camper tongue locked in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towing

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. Like anything else, towing and setting up a camper needs practice to get good at it.

 

Camper tongue - Camping for Women
Camper tongue

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 campsite 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 including learning towing and setting up a camper.

Guest Author

Marian Black lives in Brandenburg, Kentucky, USA and aside from being an avid camper is a creative writer and researcher who enjoys spending as much time away as possible in her camper van.

9 thoughts on “Towing and Setting up a Camper

  • September 28, 2020 at 9:02 pm
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    This is probably the best way to travel around right now. I haven’t been on a plane or a public bus since COVID started. But most of all, this is a great tutorial. I always thought that maintenance while on the road is difficult. I sometimes doubt my ability on these “car” stuff. But it’s good to know and learn! Thank you for the post, Marian!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2020 at 10:23 am
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    This is a very useful post and I never knew about towing and setting up camper. It is good you tipped us on purchasing good chocks, before starting. Also checking the functionality of all lights is a good tip. Also on-site, I know leveling the camper must be really difficult. As I am a beginner to do all this, I guess, I will go with expert campers like you. Asking help from expert fellow campers is the best way to go.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2020 at 1:17 pm
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    I have always seen the towing of campers but I had no idea about how it is actually done. I always thought it was very hard work and always forgo the idea of getting one. This is such an awesome read and I learned so much about towing the camper. Yeah having good lights is definitely useful when you have a trailer like a camper attached to the car.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2020 at 6:06 am
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    I love road trips and have been thinking of doing more camper van trips, but have always found the setup too intimidating. These are definitely some awesome tips – especially the practice driving one. (I definitely would’ve skipped that.) I don’t have a neighbor who’s experienced with campers so I guess you’re my Internet neighbor that I was looking for hahaa.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2020 at 4:20 pm
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    Nice tips. It’s been a long time since we had a popup camper. We switched to a toy trailer but sold that last year and are converting a Sprinter Van. Less work even though as you mentioned someone is always willing to help. Plus driving through LA with a trailer was always a nightmare. Great tip about chocks and levels, most new campers forget that part and end up with a bad experience.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2020 at 11:47 am
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    Tons of good advice here. For one, I am definitely hanging onto an experienced camper. There is loads that I don’t know as yet, like how to tow the camper. I might be good on-site but that is because most of the prep was done for me by someone else. Time I take it to the next level and organize it for myself.

    Reply
  • September 25, 2020 at 5:03 am
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    This is so very useful! I have been wanting to get a camper like this for the longest time, but not knowing how to get it hooked up and tow it properly has stopped me! I can definitely see how having someone who has done it and knows how it works would be beneficial. I don’t know anyone who does this frequently, so that is another challenge for me. But being able to read this makes me feel a little more comfortable. I might opt to purchase one in the near future!

    Reply
  • September 25, 2020 at 12:43 am
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    I have never been on a trip with a camper, but I’m still so glad to have seen this article because a friend is going for the first time with her husband in a few weeks. This will definitely be useful to them. From what I see, there are quite a few things to learn and practice before setting off.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2020 at 10:23 am
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    It is an exciting post, beneficial tips. I am glad that I do not have to take care of the camper myself because it is not easy; it often requires force. But with your guidance, it seems possible to do alone. I need to try. I agree that two of the most important things are working lights and suitable chocks. I check taillights before every trip. Good chock explicitly made for a camper are must-have, in my opinion.

    Reply

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