By Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you’re anything like us, finding a level spot to park the RV can be a pain in the neck – and other portions of the anatomy. You’ve got the rig slotted in your designated spot, and you jump out of the cab to check those levels. Oops! A little too high on the left. Back to the cab, jump in, pull ahead, change the angle of attack. Stop. Jump out, run back to the trailer to check the levels. Nuts! Overshot it! Back to the cab, jump in, pull back, change angle of attack…. Pretty soon, you’ve run off all those extra calories from lunch, and then some. It can be a pretty tiring experience.
Enter Hitch Pitch, the nifty 21st century method of checking your trailer leveling. It’s kind of like having somebody ride on your trailer hitch and tell you when your rig is close to level, eliminating that “jump out, run back, jump in” drill. Instead of having to listen to somebody shout, though, the report comes to you in the cab, “spoken” as it were, from your smartphone or tablet. Yep, Hitch Pitch is a clever electronic device that utilizes a Bluetooth connection to tell you, via an Android or Apple app, just how close you are to level.
Here’s our new drill, as used in a wide-open boondocking site. Once we’ve established the “Yeah, just about here” of siting, the little Hitch Pitch transmitter (a couple of inches square that stands less than an inch high) is stuck down on the A-frame of the trailer via a magnet.
If you like, you can put the Hitch Pitch anywhere in or on your rig – some folks stick it inside the refrigerator to get that vital piece of equipment level. Push the button on the transmitter and a blue LED flashes. Bring up the Hitch Pitch app on your device, select it, and return to the steering wheel.
Hitch pitch puts a visual display on your device, giving you a representative view of the front or back of your rig. A display at the bottom of the picture indicates just how “far off” from level the rig is, for example, “RAISE LEFT 2.0 in” means your right side is down in a hole a considerable amount. Pulling ahead or back a bit may just even up the score.
At the same time, a pitch angle indicator advises if your “nose” is up, down or level. If we’re planning on unhitching, the pitch isn’t too much of a deal for us, as we know that we can easily adjust that with our tongue jack. If we don’t plan on unhitching, knowing the pitch is pretty important.
You can also set the app to provide a sound verification – it’s an audible beeping that gets faster the closer you are to level. In any event, if we can’t find a suitable spot where we want, we’ll just get as close as we can then use the information from the read-out on the Hitch Pitch app screen to tell us how much we’ll need to block up the offending side. Once we’re unhitched, we flip the app screens to one that displays a bubble-level view. Now we can adjust the “fore and aft” pitch until we’ve leveled the rig to our liking.
The folks at Hitch Pitch provided us an evaluation model and we’ve taken it out on a couple of expeditions to put it through the paces. Our first trip saw us put in at an RV park where we had an assigned non-paved site. Having Hitch Pitch in place made a huge difference to us, as in the space of just a few feet in our assigned parking area, the difference in the left-right roll of the land would have meant real frustration if it meant climbing in and out of the cab to get that site’s sweet spot.
Instead, we just backed up and then went forward while a spotter kept an eye on the app screen. A couple of feet farther ahead put us close enough to level that we easily handled the difference by adjusting the stabilizer jacks. On one side, the jacks simply rolled down snug, and on the “low” side, we gave a little more nudge. No, we don’t advise doing serious leveling with stabilizer jacks – you run the risk of damaging the jacks, but a bit of lift can still be safely given, provided you aren’t too far out of level.
On our second run, we found ourselves on a BLM dispersed camping area. With nobody in the copilot seat, the driver in this case rolled to what appeared to be a suitable spot. After stopping, the driver eyeballed the information from the app then pulled forward or back, stopping each time to check the display. It’s better to be safe and keep an eye on where the rig is going, rather than watch the screen while you drive, hence the handy aspects of the audible “you’re getting closer” beeping function.
Another handy function, particularly for fifth-wheeling folk, is a function that allows you to “save tilt angle.” Let’s say you’ve found the ideal spot for your rig and have raised the trailer on its landing gear high enough to be able to pull the truck out from under the trailer. By bringing up the side view of the trailer on the app, a quick click of the “save tilt angle” will memorize the angle of the trailer. Pull the truck out, level the trailer for use, and when departure time comes, simply turn the app back on. Now raise the fiver on the landing gear until the side view screen shows a green-colored background – your trailer angle is set correctly to simply back the tow vehicle and couple the hitch. Sweet!
Our rig has a definite “personality” that manifests itself in strange ways. If we moved the Hitch Pitch transmitter to various spots around the trailer’s A-frame, we found we’d get different results displayed on the app screen. No, it doesn’t appear that this is a fault with the Hitch Pitch but, rather, some peculiarity of our trailer itself. The same thing was true inside the rig. One spot on the floor might show being “out of level” while another showed all was good. After we used a two-foot carpenter level and it told us that we’d established a good solid level, we then found the “sweet spot” on the trailer A-frame, and marked it so we could always put the transmitter on that spot. Unless you’ve got a particularly nasty-spirited trailer, we’d think you wouldn’t have to go through those initial conniptions to smooth out the way.
There’s no need to worry about keeping up with changing batteries on this device. A built-in battery is charged via an included USB cable. A couple of hours of charging provide 20 operating hours, and believe us, it won’t take long to get your rig safely leveled, so you’ll have plenty of use before a recharge is required. Hitch Pitch includes a rubber plug for the USB port on the transmitter, so while you won’t want to make your RV a submarine, it’s safe to use in the rain. And when you’re not using your Hitch Pitch to square up your RV, the device can be used with a companion app, Level3D, an application that has functions for carpenters, engineers and DIY homeowners for leveling and analysis.
Here’s a YouTube video on Hitch Pitch.
When you’re ready to buy, you’ll find the Hitch Pitch for sale on Amazon.com for about $80. Yes, we heard one RVer grumble about how he could buy a lot of bubble levels for that amount of money. But speaking from the part of the guy who has to jump in and out of the rig on sore joints, that same $80 could be spent on Ibuprofen, but I’d rather not have the pain and frustration to start with. We like Hitch Pitch, and we think you will, too.