Travel Trailer at the Campsite

Travel Trailer at the Campsite. Photo by Steve Humphrey

While the description of a travel trailer may also fit a 5th wheel trailer, there are differences. Today we will focus on the bumper drawbar type travel trailer.  This type of caravan is available in a variety of lengths, generally ranging from 12 to 35 plus feet or so.   It is a popular choice RV as it comes in many sizes, floorplans and is priced very affordably. There are, however, three common travel trailer issues that are faced by the owners.  They are as follows:

  1. Weight and Balance – While the trailer’s weight and balance is manufactured as road ready, it does not account for the user’s loading of personal equipment and supplies. Unlike the 5th wheel design, the hitch weight of the tongue must be about 10% of the total trailer weight.  Too heavy a load may over-stress the hitch and tow vehicle.   This may seriously compromise the tow vehicle’s handling.  Not enough weight may cause “Tail Wag”, the trailer to swing left and right. So, correct placement of supplies, equipment, and liquids such as water, propane and holding tanks, must also be considered.  Leveling the trailer for equal trailer axle loads for towing requires using the correct ball height.  This is accomplished by selecting the correct drop insert needed to attain the desired height.
  2. Coupling Up To The Trailer – This is more difficult than a 5th wheel type as you are not able to view either the tongue or ball while backing up to it.  There are many devices such as mirrors, cameras, etc. that are available to aid in this task, however, using a spotter to help direct you is probably the simplest and most common.  Good judgment in this maneuver can be learned over time.
  3. Backing Into a Campsite or Storage Space – This is far more challenging than an over-the-axle mounted 5th wheel axis.  The leverage from the rear wheels to the ball multiplies the trailer’s reaction even with a small steering movement.  A tendency of “chasing” the trailer, that is to say, over-correcting in both directions, is a common issue.  Practice will help many to become very proficient at this maneuver, while some may never quite completely master it.  Be sure to use a spotter during this event.

Most newbie owners soon become very proficient at handling all the aspects involved.  It just may take some time to build the skills and confidence to make this all look easy.

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12 comments

  1. Sharon Jackson

    We have a 5th wheel, we don't have any of these problems, ours are more with the trailer itself.

  2. No matter what you are pulling it needs to be loaded right and as far as hitching up and backing goes practice makes perfect be it a 5th wheel or travel trailer. 5th wheels are generally higher (2 ½ to 3 ft. higher) thus can blow over quicker than the lower travel trailers (pull behinds) with the same length and 5th wheelers are more apt to hit low hanging things like low bridges, trees and so on… Not to mention the extra wind resistance when pulling it.

  3. Dennis Gryner

    I'm trying to figure out what the issue the author is trying to bring to light. Of course there are problems with all of these trailers. Pick the type you like and learn how to handle it.

  4. Jeffrey Courtice

    Can't believe I wasted my time reading that…

  5. Jeffrey Courtice

    Can't believe I wasted my time reading that…

  6. How about a jack that can handle the weight of your trailer,a Tire that isnt cracked from sitting,tools to fix anything that breaks,Fuses,duct tape,maybe a hose clamp and wire?I carry alot of this stuff when I camp.If you cant back your trailer up,you shouldnt be pulling it!!! If you cant hook it up,you shouldnt own it!!! As for balance,well its your life your playing with if you dont have enough tongue weight!!!

  7. How about a jack that can handle the weight of your trailer,a Tire that isnt cracked from sitting,tools to fix anything that breaks,Fuses,duct tape,maybe a hose clamp and wire?I carry alot of this stuff when I camp.If you cant back your trailer up,you shouldnt be pulling it!!! If you cant hook it up,you shouldnt own it!!! As for balance,well its your life your playing with if you dont have enough tongue weight!!!

  8. Stan Godard

    Dumbest article I've read in a long time.

  9. Bruce Grasty

    same here.

  10. No matter what you are pulling it needs to be loaded right and as far as hitching up and backing goes practice makes perfect be it a 5th wheel or travel trailer. 5th wheels are generally higher (2 ½ to 3 ft. higher) thus can blow over quicker than the lower travel trailers (pull behinds) with the same length and 5th wheelers are more apt to hit low hanging things like low bridges, trees and so on… Not to mention the extra wind resistance when pulling it.

    -1
  11. Joanne Berlin

    I am with Jeff and Bruce. Waste of reading time. You need to address real problems, not something that even idiots know about. How about storage issues, set up issues, frozen tanks, etc. If you can't tow or park it, don't buy it.