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For many folks, camping involves having a travel trailer. These rigs vary in size from small teardrop campers that can be towed by a car to massive fifth wheels that require a diesel pickup to pull them.
Whatever your specific travel trailer, there are some things you need to think about before you hit the road for the first time.
In this guide, learn a few of these essential tips so your travel trailer camping experience is a good one.
Camping With a Travel Trailer: Read the Manuals
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I’m no fan of reading manuals, but brushing up on how all your travel trailer’s systems work – from electrical to plumbing to the furnace – is critical for a comfortable and stress-free trip.
Your trailer should have come with manuals for everything (even the fridge!), so you’ll need a few evenings in your armchair to get through them all.
If reading all those manuals isn’t your thing, at the very least watch some YouTube videos about the specific make and model of trailer you have, just to get some insights into things like turning on the water pump, how to light the stove, where the fuse box is, and so on.
photo by welcomia via iStock
Then, go through your trailer top to bottom, inside and out. Learn what every switch does. See what’s behind every door. If something doesn’t make sense, Google it. And if something doesn’t work, see if you can figure out why – and if not, call a professional. It’s better to resolve any issues when you’re still at home rather than when you’re on the road!
Pro Tip: Also be sure you understand how to appropriately hook up the trailer to your vehicle. This includes getting the ball and receiver together, attaching chains, and attaching the electrical connection. Once everything is hooked up, test the brakes, blinkers, hazard lights, and check the running lights around the trailer to ensure they all work.
Practice Towing Ahead of Time
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If you have little or no experience towing a trailer, it can be a stressful undertaking. Again, it’s better to practice now than be stressed out over it on the road.
It’s safe to assume that you towed the trailer to your house from wherever you bought it. That’s a great start. Now it’s time to get more practice in different situations.
Practice backing up and parking. Get comfortable making tight corners. Pull into a gas station and fill up your truck with your trailer hooked up. Get out on the highway, too, and get a feel for how much time you need to accelerate (and stop!).
You can’t practice towing the trailer in every possible situation that will present itself on your trip. But the more you practice now, the more confident you will be later.
Pro Tip: If you have family or friends that have a travel trailer, see if they want to come along with you on your first time out. Having someone with experience to give you tips and advice will be a huge comfort to you as you travel.
Don’t Forget Leveling Blocks and Wheel Chocks
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While KOAs and other established campgrounds have nice, level parking for your travel trailer, off-grid camping presents some leveling challenges.
Fortunately, you can easily level your trailer by using leveling blocks or even pieces of lumber. Leveling the trailer is important not just from the standpoints of comfort and safety, but also to ensure all the trailer’s systems operate as they should.
Whether you’re off-grid or in a campground, you’ll want wheel chocks to help keep the trailer where you want it.
photo by Onfokus via iStock
When you park the trailer, put wheel chocks in place first, then lower the trailer’s landing gear. Then disconnect the trailer from your vehicle and lower each of the landing gears so your trailer is stable.
Pro Tip: The trailer’s landing gears are for stability, not for leveling the trailer. Use your leveling blocks or lumber to get the trailer level from side to side, and the landing gear to level it from front to back. Then extend each landing gear only to the point that you feel some resistance.
Camping With a Travel Trailer: Become a Storage Jedi
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I remember when I got my first travel trailer being so impressed with the abundance of storage it had.
There were tons of kitchen cabinets, a huge linen closet in the bathroom, cabinets in the bedroom, storage under the bed and dinette, plus storage bays underneath.
Well, I quickly realized that there’s a reason there’s so much storage – because you need it! You’re taking absolutely everything you might need for your trip, so even though your camper might have loads of storage, you’ll likely find that you use it all.
This means being smart about how you store things…
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I suggest using clear plastic totes for a lot of your stuff, particularly the items that go in the storage bays under the trailer. Not only do these totes keep all your stuff neat and tidy, but if you get the clear ones, you can actually see what’s inside each one (you should label them too, of course).
Put seldom-used items in the underneath storage, along with large items like camping chairs that won’t easily fit inside the camper. Additionally, anything that goes inside the camper should have a home where it can’t escape as you drive down the road.
Pro Tip: Develop a packing list as well. Even a simple checklist will help ensure you have everything you need for your trip.
It’s Time to Camp!
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Of course, there are plenty of other tips for your first time camping with a trailer, but these will at least get you headed on the right path.
Camping with a travel trailer can be wildly fun, but it is a lot of work. But like many things, the more work you put in ahead of time, the easier things will be for you later on!
What are your favorite tips for camping with a travel trailer? Let us know!