I need a pep talk! How to Camp alone

PhotomomPhotomom Posts: 1,930Member
edited November 2017 in Solo Travelers Hints & Tips
Back when I hoped to get my [email protected] in April, I reserved a campsite for this weekend at a state park around 90 miles from home. The occasion is a Geobash, which is like a rally, but for geocachers. My theory was that we'd have time to check out the camper, and I'd have time to learn to back it up.

So, DH cannot go, and I've had exactly one experience backing it up, not particularly well. I will say that geocachers are very friendly as a rule and if I can find one near my site I know they will help me. But I am still very anxious about driving there, backing up and setting up, and stopping for gas if I need to on the way home.

Ladies who camp alone, how difficult is it really? Tell me something to help me know that I can do this!
John and Henrietta, Late 2016 [email protected] S Max in Western New York


  • RatkityRatkity Posts: 3,398Member
    It's not hard. Just like getting to Carnegie Hall, tis practice-practice-practice. Go to a deserted parking lot and find the "sweet spot" in the steering of your vehicle where the camper butt-end will turn when you turn the steering wheel. Each TV/camper combo is different. A trick that someone taught me early on was when your TV wheels are dead-on straight forward, put your hand on the BOTTOM of the steering wheel. Move your hand (holding on the to steering wheel) in the direction you want the butt-end of the camper to move.

    There are many youtube vids out there and the Lo-Ho (Long, long honeymoon) folks have a decent one on backing up. 

    I've been backing up various tiny campers for >20 years. It still takes me several tries especially on days when I've traveled a lot, I'm tired and Harvey is being snarky about my driving skills ;).

    Relax, take your time. Practice. And if all else fails, when you check in the ranger station, you can ask if the camp host(s) or a ranger is available to help you.

    One reminder!! If you have that friction-sway bar installed by the dealer, PLEASE take it off before backing up. It will fold like origami if you jackknife the trailer.  
    2017 820R Retro Toy Hauler from 2015 Tabitha [email protected] from 2009 Reverse LG Teardrop (but a [email protected] at heart)
  • lazulibuntinglazulibunting Posts: 41Member
    You CAN do this! I travel alone. I'm 45 and single. I have had my 2005 [email protected] for a year. The first couple times I backed it up, I was surprised how easy it was. I can now back into my single wide S curve driveway without guide.

    A great hint I learned here is to put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Then move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. It works great. Do not turn the steering wheel too far. The short trailer needs just small adjustments. You could do a practice session in a parking lot with a couple orange cones, or coolers.

    Another great hint from a friend; right before backing, get your trailer lined up in the direction you want it to go. As you pull forward right before backing, turn your steering wheel to "prime" your back up line. Often, it's opposite of what you started doing.

    If you have someone to guide you, be sure you can see them in the drivers side mirror. Watch their directions, then turn and look over your right shoulder to see which way the trailer is turning. A couple times of this, you should learn the technique of backing, and will no longer need to look over your right shoulder.

    I have taken "Otis" out 5 times, 3 without any help backing. The only time I need to get out and look, is to see if I need to go further back a few feet. 

    Confidence! You can't learn without trying.

    Lazuli Bunting from Utah
    2005 Dutchman [email protected] & 2010 Toyota 4Runner
  • VernaVerna Posts: 4,639Administrator
    Piece of cake!  So what if you don't get it backed up the first time, just laugh, pull up and do it again, slower.

    I bought a boat in 1990 and I had never towed, let alone been in a motorized boat by myself. I wanted to fish from a boat, so I figured it all out. There weren't owner's forums then. 

    Photomom, you can do it, just ignore all of the naysayers and go for it.  I've found I can back up better without someone helping me, in a typical campsite. I just adjust, take slow movements, pull up start all over and get it done. 

    After all of your waiting and anticipation, you gotta go!
    Verna, Indianapolis, Indiana; 2019 [email protected] 400 Boondock Lite white/red; towed by a red 2015 Toyota Tacoma V6 TRD 4x4; [email protected] Administrator.  If not now, when?

  • jkjennjkjenn Posts: 4,532Member
    Sometimes I nail it, sometimes I spend 15 minutes doing it. The other night I was backing into my very narrow driveway with a car parked into the adjacent driveway spot (shared driveway in a brownstone) from a very narrow alley and my friend said he couldn't believe how good I was at backing up. I did it the next night after picking it up from being serviced and did it even better. In my mind, these were flukes, but it does get easier with practice.

    I don't really care what people watching think. Each time I do it, I will only get better. Just go. If it takes you a half an hour, you will learn a lot. If people watch and laugh, who cares? You are more likely to get too many, "helper" to come and give you direction. Tell them to just indicate which direction the rear of the trailer needs to go. Don't let them tell you which way to cut the wheel or other things - it will just complicate things.

    Jenn Grover | 2015  [email protected] S Max Silver/Turquoise Trim | 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk v6 | Nights spent in [email protected]: 165 | Pittsburgh PA

  • source3source3 Posts: 140Member
    I find it helpful not to turn my head and only use side view mirrors.  And do not overcorrect.  I have towed a lawn service trailer almost daily for 23 years and could parallel park that trailer. A little practice goes a long way.  Had to backup a friends trailer today at a construction site.  Tight fit on an incline.  I almost made him back it up as he just bought a [email protected]

    Also remember what is above the roofline.  Do not want to take out a branch with the trailer.
    Andrew P. - KC5ZYF
    [email protected] Outback S Max
    2006 Lexus GX470 (Toyota Land Cruiser 120)
    Durango, CO

  • RedufresneRedufresne Posts: 100Member
    I recommend practicing with hitch and unhitch, too.  That's the hardest part and we JUST got our greased and worn enough so I can do it by myself now.  Im talking the coupler of the hitch, used to be way too tight for me.
    [email protected] [email protected], the 2016 Max S Outback, pulled by Bane, the 2014 Honda Ridgeline.
  • JodellRJodellR Posts: 67Member
    Agree with the above comments. Just smile, use tiny movements to help get the feel of it as you back up slowly. People will offer to help, but I knew i needed to figure it out alone. You got this!
    2015 Yellow/White [email protected] Max S, 2015 Navy Blue VW Tiguan TV, 2 yr English Bulldog navigator
  • moosemamamoosemama Posts: 26Member
    I was so nervous taking ours by myself, too.  I actually checked out satellite photos of the campground and found our exact site so I could have a plan of how I wanted to line up to back in.  Then, very small adjustments and it went exactly where I wanted.  Beginners luck, but I was so excited!  After I unhooked, I decided I wanted it back about four feet and since I was on a level site, I just pulled it into place.  Another advantage of the [email protected]!  (I wouldn't do that without a helper if you are not level.)  Good luck!  
    AZ - 2016 [email protected] Outback Silver/silver
  • Roadie_ORoadie_O Posts: 49Member
    I'm a fellow geocacher (yay!) and I know you will have a lot of support. There is no shame in admitting you're brand new to towing this and need a bit of guidance, and the fun you'll have will totally outweigh any frustration you experience in your first try. Go have a good time!
  • BatHusbandBatHusband Posts: 17Member
    I wouldn't worry about it.  The others are right.  Practice.  If it makes you feel any better, on our first trip to Ohio from Gettysburg I planned out every stop.  I'm talking miles per gallon, where I could turn off with out having to back up, Google maps images, everything.  It was an amazing spreadsheet.  I finally realized that everyone at the campground has had to back up a first time as well.  Most people will be glad to help you.  Now I only look like I'm 1/2 drunk when I try to park.
    [email protected] [email protected], the 2016 Max S Outback, pulled by Bane, the 2014 Honda Ridgeline - REDuFresne's husband.

    May the flames from the bridges I have burned light my path going forward.
  • cbarnhillcbarnhill Posts: 288Member
    Photomom-I am a solo traveler and, after a year, I still have trouble backing up and I have been on many trips. That being said, I don't worry anymore. I will get it into the spot eventually. Just keep pulling forward and try again. Good news: if the spot is level, you can get it partially in and move it by hand the rest of the way. Many times, I get it in and then make hand adjustments for the best view or to make it closer to table or equipment. (This makes the tab the envy of all RV owners). Fueling up-I really sweated this, but I haven't found a station I couldn't get into or out of.  The loves, TA, flying Js are especially easy. Take a picture of the hitch hooked up and practice it once yourself before you leave the dealer. Remember you can move the tab easily by hand to line up with the hitch. Everyone has a first time and you'll do fine. You will be so proud of yourself. 
    Cindy with my 2015 MaxS (Puppy) and my 2015 Subaru Outback (Boo)
  • NomadNomad Posts: 7,216Member
    "Remember you can move the tab easily by hand to line up with the hitch" <- If you are on an asphalt or concrete slab. If not, you can still (usually) wiggle it an inch or two to get it on the ball if you get the TV relatively close. <- Not meant to scare you :-)

  • webcrawlerwebcrawler Posts: 133Member
    I asked my wife once if she knew how to change a flat tire.  She said yes.  Both her brother and mother taught her how to do it.

    Her brother taught her how to use the jack and the lug wrench.  He had her practice all the technical detailes.

    Her mother taught her to stand there and cry until some changed it for her...

    The only reason I bring this up is that someone will likely be happy to help you if you really get into a tough backing situation and there is no shame in asking for help...

    That being said I am sure you can do it your self.  Just find and empty part of a parking lot and practice for s little while and you will be fine...
    Kennesaw, Georgia

    2016 Silver/Black [email protected] [email protected] S with Scuba Black interior.  2015 Lincoln MKC AWD 2.0L Ecoboost tow vehicle. Tekonsha Prodigy wireless Brake Controller.
  • RZRBUGRZRBUG Posts: 901Member
    edited May 2016
    Some gas stations have drainage troughs between the street and their parking lots.  If you try to pull straight across these, some of them are deep enough that you could drag the tongue jack.  I usually try to pull in at an angle and cross these dips very slowly.  There have been one or two that I bypassed because the drop was obviously too steep for the trailer.

    When you are pulling into the station, just be sure there is plenty of room to pull through and exit.

    Larry & Booger - 2013 [email protected], 2012 GMC Sierra

    Happy Trails Y'all

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  • NomadNomad Posts: 7,216Member
    What RZRBUG says - Take those at an angle or you may not only drag your jack but drag your gray water valve and break it. I broke mine but still don't know if it was a drain trough in this town or a gas station entrance.

  • Nerdy1Nerdy1 Posts: 60Member
    Photomom, don't worry!  We have had ours just for a few months, and we are still very much in the OMG how do you back this thing into where I want to go.  It is somewhat of comedy routine with two dogs hanging out the window and my trying to get my husband to follow my instructions.  So far, we normally take 2 times to get [email protected] where we want her. So just keep smiling, you will get the hang of it.  The first night we had to drive 2 hours to our home, the wind was howling (~45-50 mph) and it was getting ready to snow.  It was the first time I had towed a "large" trailer.  I was nervous as well, but she handled like a dream!  No problems.  So don't worry, take your time and enjoy!

    [email protected] - 2016 Outback Max S in New Mexico towed by 2016 Toyota Highlander (soon)
  • NomadNomad Posts: 7,216Member
    "my trying to get my husband to follow my instruction" <- I see the problem right there :-)
    On the flip side though, I've watched many a husband trying to follow worthless instructions and felt for him.

  • Tabaz Tabaz Posts: 1,373Member
    I bought two orange traffic cones at HomeDepot ($10 each).  Found a huge empty parking lot and placed the cones far apart and practiced backing in between the cones.  After a while, start moving the cones closer together.  Before you know it, you'll be able to back into a standard parking spot.  I now use the cones while boondocking in tight areas.  Much easier to see than green trees and green bushes.  Plus, I put them at the entry of my camp area when I leave with my TV.  Love those cones!
  • PhotomomPhotomom Posts: 1,930Member
    Driving was fine but I was disappointed to get only 12.2 mpg through the Southern Tier of NY. Overall mpg up to 14.3 for the whole trip which still seems low. I kept speeds between 55-60. 

    Backing was horrible but I was able to find a nearby teenager to help manhandle the trailer almost into the spot I wanted. Then I realized it wasn't level so I had to hook up and try again. Obviously need more practice. 
    John and Henrietta, Late 2016 [email protected] S Max in Western New York
  • Nerdy1Nerdy1 Posts: 60Member
    Oh, you guys so stick together, PXLated!   :)  But we are taking her out to practice some more this week in the Gila Wilderness.  Hopefully the winds die down.
    [email protected] - 2016 Outback Max S in New Mexico towed by 2016 Toyota Highlander (soon)
  • NomadNomad Posts: 7,216Member
    No sticking together about it - just simple observations :-)

  • RZRBUGRZRBUG Posts: 901Member
    edited May 2016
    So, during my last camping trip, the couple next door were preparing to leave.  He's going to back up to the trailer while she gives directions.  

    She says, "Roll your widow down so you can hear me."  
    He says, "OK.  Let me know when I get close."
    He starts to back up while she's yelling, "A little more!  A little more!"
    Then there is a loud bang as he backs into the trailer, after which she yells, "Stop!"

    Me?  I duck behind the truck and die laughing. That was not the end of the rodeo, but it was the funniest part.

    Larry & Booger - 2013 [email protected], 2012 GMC Sierra

    Happy Trails Y'all

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  • ericnlizericnliz Posts: 4,096Member
    I'm still laughing RZRBUG! I wish I could tell you how many times I've seen and heard that very same conversation with the same results. I will have to tell you the really funniest one was the when the first bang happened, [and after a few choice words were exchanged] they switched places, and lo and behold, another "BANG" ! I had to go for a walk because I was laughing so hard I was crying!   
    2016 [email protected] MAX S-aka: [email protected]
    TV: 2006 Chevy Avalanche LT Z71 aka: WhiteWolf, or 1972 Chevy Custom10 P/U aka: SnarlingWolf
    Spokane, Wa.
    Eric aka: Lone Wolf  with,
    Ruger aka: Adventure Companion

  • RZRBUGRZRBUG Posts: 901Member
    ericnliz, that is the reason I try to graciously decline any help when I'm backing.  I'm not real good at it, but adequate.  "Help" just confuses me.  Switching places with the same result? Yeah, too funny.  Thanks for the laugh.

    Larry & Booger - 2013 [email protected], 2012 GMC Sierra

    Happy Trails Y'all

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  • IrishCamper74IrishCamper74 Posts: 226Member
    edited May 2016
    My husband gives me ground crew hand gestures, you know, the crew who assists airplanes in and out of their gates?
    Been together 18 years and he still doesn't understand that I'm not a pilot like him.... :confounded:
    I like RZRBUG's cone idea. I'm def borrowing that! :wink:

    Light a campfire and everyone's a storyteller. ~John Geddes

    2017 [email protected] CS, silver with green trim.
    TV: 2017 Honda Ridgeline.
  • NomadNomad Posts: 7,216Member
    18 years - bout time you got your wings isn't it :-)

  • IrishCamper74IrishCamper74 Posts: 226Member
    Ha! He wishes!
    It is wicked fun to fly with him, when I get the chance.
    ....but there's math involved.......so I'm out! :lol:
    Light a campfire and everyone's a storyteller. ~John Geddes

    2017 [email protected] CS, silver with green trim.
    TV: 2017 Honda Ridgeline.
  • NomadNomad Posts: 7,216Member
    But the only math that counts is altimiter steady or positive = good. Negative = bad (unless landing of course) :-)

  • IrishCamper74IrishCamper74 Posts: 226Member
    see.....already too much =)
    I work in television for a reason, point, focus, shoot, shade, route & light.....no math!
    Light a campfire and everyone's a storyteller. ~John Geddes

    2017 [email protected] CS, silver with green trim.
    TV: 2017 Honda Ridgeline.
  • CorbinpiloCorbinpilo Posts: 21Member
    My math isn't great and I fly jets for a living. That's why we have calculators. 
    Chris & Gina 
    2015 [email protected] S Max Sofitel 
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