How To Back Up a Travel Trailer

Travel trailers are used for many purposes, from a weekend getaway to an extended camping expedition. They can be towed with anything from a compact car to a semi-truck and come in all shapes and sizes.

When using a travel trailer for the first time, backing up can seem somewhat of a challenge. This is how to back up a travel trailer a lot easier:

  • Practice in wide-open areas before you attempt to back into tight gaps.
  • Learn how the trailer moves and reacts when you steer.
  • Back up slowly.
  • Constantly adjust the trailer to keep it straight.

Now there’s of course a lot more to it, and in this article, we are going to go through everything that you really need to know about backing up a travel trailer.

While reading won’t necessarily make you a pro, we are confident that if you follow our tips and practice, practice, practice, then you will be much more likely to be moving that trailer around with ease.

You will even be able to back into the tightest of spots.

Practice, practice, practice

As we said, you can’t expect to hook up a travel trailer to your vehicle and be backing up like a pro right away. It is impossible. It is going to take a lot of practice.

Remember, when you have a travel trailer on the back of your vehicle, you have extra weight there. Your vehicle is going to move in a slightly different way. The travel trailer may move in ways that you didn’t expect it to move.

When you first get a travel trailer hooked up to your vehicle, we recommend that you find a nice open area that you can practice in.

How to back up a travel trailer

Learn how the trailer reacts

The real skill with backing up a travel trailer comes from knowing how the trailer moves and reacts to input. Once you have nailed this, everything else will fall into place.

Move the steering wheel when you reverse. If you move the steering wheel to the left, you will notice that the trailer moves right. If you move the steering wheel to the right, then the trailer will move to the left.

Basically, the trailer is always going to move in the opposite direction to your vehicle’s steering wheel.

During your practice sessions, you may notice other ways the trailer moves. Remember these.

If you can understand how the trailer moves, then you are going to find it so much easier to correct your travel trailer’s movements.

You will be able to keep the travel trailer rocking from side to side, and you stand a much better chance of keeping it straight as you reverse into a position.

Go slowly 

It is important that you go slowly when you are backing up a travel trailer. This way you will be able to correct the movements of your trailer, as well as stop to assess the situation and then correct.

If you back up quickly, there is a strong chance that your travel trailer will jackknife.

This isn’t good, because once that happens, it is going to be almost impossible to move the travel trailer. And you also have a strong chance of damaging your vehicle as well as the trailer.

This is something that is going to apply every time that you reverse your travel trailer from here on out.

You will never get good enough with backing up a travel trailer that you will be able to speed into a parking space.

This is because every situation is different, and the slightest movement in your vehicle can drastically change the direction in which the travel trailer is moving.

Make constant fine adjustments

As you are backing into a space, keep your eyes on the travel trailer in your side mirrors. Notice how it is moving.

Since you know how the travel trailer responds to the movements of your steering wheel, it should be easy to make changes to the way in which your travel trailer is moving.

If you notice that your travel trailer is swinging a little to the left, then move your steering wheel to the right. If you see that your travel trailer is swinging slightly to the right, then move the steering wheel left.

Because you are (hopefully) going to be backing into the space slowly, it should be easy to correct those small movements. This means that you should have no issues keeping the trailer completely straight. 

If you need to straighten out the travel trailer, don’t be afraid to travel forward with your vehicle a little bit. Give yourself some space to straighten things up.

Never continue to drive backward if your travel trailer is veering off heavily in one direction. You are going to find it tough to correct yourself.

Final thoughts on backing up a travel trailer

Backing up a travel trailer isn’t as difficult as you may think. Even if you have never driven with a trailer attached to your vehicle before, we can assure you that with a bit of practice, everything is going to go perfectly.

Just go slow and pay attention to the way that the travel trailer is moving.

If you can do that, everything else will just fall into place.


What should I do if the trailer starts to jackknife?

If your trailer starts to jackknife, you will need to take emergency measures.

This usually involves turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the one that the trailer is swinging in. You may also need to hit the brake pedal hard. Do whatever it takes to get the travel trailer under control as quickly as possible.

Can I speed up while backing up a travel trailer?

We don’t recommend speeding up when reversing a travel trailer. This is because every situation is different, and you never know what could happen.

The best thing to do is go slowly and make constant corrections so that you are always keeping things under control.

What if I can’t straighten out the travel trailer?

If you find that you can’t straighten out the travel trailer, the best thing to do is pull forward and start again.

It is better to pull forward and have another go than it is to continue trying to reverse while the trailer is veering off in one direction.

I’m having trouble seeing behind me. Any tips?

If you are struggling to see behind you, we recommend getting someone to help you. This person can guide you into the space by telling you when to turn and when to stop.

If you don’t have anyone to help you, then you could always invest in a reversing camera system. These systems make reversing with a trailer much easier.

How to back up a travel trailer – Video