Monday, February 6, 2023


Simpler backing into your RV site

By Steve Savage 
Mobility RV Service
chris 論 on wikimedia commons

If you tow, I suspect you – like most of us – have suffered through the stress that comes along with backing into your space in the campground with everyone watching. The yelling matches between spouses can reach divorce-pending proportions, and discussions about the best way to communicate between the person driving and the person directing have been going on for decades.
My wife and I are no different than many of you and although we’ve been RVing now since the early ’80s, I rate myself about average when it comes to backing into a space at the campground. Sometimes I do “really well,” other times I do “oh well.”
My wife and I have finally discovered something that really works well for us and thought it might be worth passing on. To do this, you will both need cell phones and also have either a radio in your tow vehicle that can receive phone calls via Bluetooth or something like a Jabra that clips to the visor and does the same thing. For us it goes like this:
After we stop at the office and register, my wife calls my cell phone with hers and my radio answers her phone. Once that happens, we are linked and can talk hands-free when I back into the spot. Once we get to the spot, I get out of the truck one time to look over what I am trying to do. Then I get back into the truck and from then on, she is in control via her phone. She is the “quarterback,” so to speak.
Doing it this way it is very easy for her to move from side-to-side behind our fifth wheel and give me instructions. It also eliminates the driver getting in and out of the truck and makes it tons easier to get into a space after dark.
If you are already using walkie-talkies, think how much simpler it would be to talk hands-free while backing rather than having to “key” your mike, and how much easier it is use your mirrors for backing rather than trying to locate your assistant and interpret hand signals. Now, nothing I am suggesting here means you can’t use your mirrors just as you always did. It just makes it easier to communicate with the person helping you back in your spot when you can talk in “real time” instead of stopping to scream at each other.


Facebook Groups you might like
RV Electricity
RVing with Dogs
RV Tech Tips
Electric Bikes for RVers
RV Advice
RV Short Stops (NEW)
Towing Behind a Motorhome
. . . and the official Facebook page

Winterizing your RV this season? Amazon has a wide choice of RV antifreeze.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Conrad Gee
4 years ago

I find the best way to back my 26 ft toy hauler in is to set the driver’s side mirror to see the tires on the rig makes it easy. I drove tractor trailers for a living.

Robert Pulliam
4 years ago

One simple but effective way to control the steering of tow vehicle, place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, now which ever way you move your hand the trailer is going to back that way. Also pull far enough forward of the site to allow the trailer to begin the turn, it will travel back several feet before it responds to steering inputs. I have seen to many RV’ers stop a couple of feet beyond the site then turn their truck wheels all the way and then the truck/trailer jackknife, pull forward 8-10’ then start your backing, much easier.

Deb C
4 years ago

My husband and I learned how to back in a spot during our RV driving training. The best advice was to have someone outside and one driving, and the one driving has to be willing to take directions. This is why I back in the RV and my husband gives hand signals outside. He didn’t want to follow directions while driving, but he gives great directions outside (and I follow). I get kudos for backing in perfectly. Works great for our 37 Itasca Meridian. Can’t use voice or radio because diesel is too loud at the back.

4 years ago

I always pull in with campsite to my left. This way I can see what is necessary to back in properly spaced. Works for me and no blind spots.

Bob p
4 years ago
Reply to  James

What do yo do when the site is on the right? We are in a resort type campground that has one way roads and sites on both sides, our site is one of those. If you can’t blind side back I guess you’d have to go somewhere else, but nowadays if you don’t have reservations you probably won’t get in.

J Hyslop
4 years ago

One concern with using cellphones is that there is a delay of a few seconds. The signal has to go from the phone to the tower to a switching computer back to a tower and then to the receiving phone. This might be an issue in very close quarters or an emergency.

John Snell
4 years ago

It’s pretty simple once you’ve agreed on the verbal commands. Don’t say whoa, say stop. Whoa sounds like go. Right or left should be the same for both of you. You don’t need gadgets. I used to own a boat and pontoon storage business. Backing an RV is nothing compared to parking boats and pontoons 2 to 3 inches apart.

4 years ago

We used to have problems communicating while backing into a site. Now when we stop, she takes the dog for a walk and I get out several times and check my progress. When she returns from the walk, I’m set up.

4 years ago
Reply to  Alpenliter

Kudos to that.

4 years ago

Get an amateur radio license and two hand held radios. Very simple communication solution.
Otherwise, purchase a set of “FRS’ radios with VOX.
Read the book and practice with the radios.
If you are going to use hand signals, agree what the hand waving means. Or, learn the Army system.

4 years ago

One word regarding walkie-talkies — VOX!
Just in case there is no cell phone service.

4 years ago

Has anybody used a trailer dolly to back into a camp site?

Eileen Gross
4 years ago
Reply to  Ed

I would like to know this as well, I was just researching them and wondered if they were worth it??

Bob p
4 years ago
Reply to  Eileen Gross

If there isn’t a car on it, it could be done but very difficult. The greater the distance between the hitch and axels of the towed vehicle the easier it is to back. I drove semis over the road and it is much easier to back a 53’ trailer than an 8’ uhaul. With a car on a dolly NO! When you back the car/dolly the car will start to drift to the side, unless you’re use to backing a 4 wheel farm trailer, forget it, even if your have backed one the length of your motorhome wheelbase will prevent you from chasing the dolly.

4 years ago

Is there a way to do the backing-in as a solo RVer using enough aftermarket exterior cameras and sensors? Without having to hop out of the MH repeatedly or rely on well-intentioned volunteers who direct you into a hazard or obstruction?
Special antennas/sensors on four corners of roof to detect overhanging branches, plus wide-angle side and back cameras and sensors to give full view of terrain. The new Ford trucks advertise their camera and sensor system which lets a driver quickly back into any spot. The same system (plus roof protection) would be ideal for RVs, yes?

Lori Singels
4 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Hi, Liz: As a “mature” solo RVer of 12 years, what I’ve learned (and there are detailed directions on RV sites) is that your backing radius depends upon your overhang beyond your right back tire. If you can learn to place that RBT (in my case usually three feet) beyond the edge of your driveway (dirt or paved), you can usually hit it spot on as you back slowly and crank the steering wheel all the way to the right. It does take practice, but it has almost eliminated that darn getting in and out every two feet of backing. Just practice. Then you can walk proudly and smugly get out of the RV to connect.

4 years ago
Reply to  Lori Singels

Thank you, Lori. I will give it a try.

Jay French
4 years ago
Reply to  Liz

I use a commercial grade camera & monitor that also has voice mounted on top adjusted to give me a birdseye view extending 75 feet.
With the voice I can hear my wife speaking & also watch hand signals.
Won’t leave home without it.

Bob p
4 years ago
Reply to  Liz

If you noticed that Ford system is only on the F-150 and would be cost prohibitive on a motorhome. It would be less expensive to take a RV driving course.

Mike Sherman
4 years ago

I work in a campground and occasionally offer assistance to those trying to back into a space after dark. I don’t speak to them, I don’t interrupt them, I just show up, stand in front of the RV and shine a very powerful flashlight to the rear along the sides of the RV. They always appreciate the light. Also, the driver should always roll down both the driver’s and passenger’s window….witnessed a man pulling into his pull-thru site, during daylight, and scrape a pole for about 10 feet, all the while his wife standing outside screaming “STOP! STOP”. It was a brand new Airstream. Almost made me cry!

4 years ago

When someone tries to direct me into a spot I ask them where my wife wants the rig to sit. They tell they don’t know so I say then how about she directs me into the space. No argument from anyone so far. Been 30+ years.

Tom Gutzke
4 years ago

My wife directed me with hand signals for years. She was spot-on. Looking at me in the mirror from the rear of the RV she would point which way the back of the RV should go. Both hands meant VERY sharp. Thumb meant a little bit. Rarely did I have to re-position. She’s now in a wheelchair and can’t maneuver like she used to so I use the GOAL system – Get Out And Look. Back up a foot or five feet. Stop, get out, and look. Worked fine for the past ten years since her leg amputation. Occasionally i’ll pay extra for a pull-thru. Still enjoying RVing.

Steven Scheinin
4 years ago

I used the author’s method of backing up, but found there is a fraction of a second delay over the phone. I can hit something in that fraction. We find hand signals are best. Rule #1: the rig does not move unless I see my wife. No exceptions.

4 years ago

cell phone to radio works… two cell phones would work just as well and provide same hands off. Make sure you have walkie-talkies for the times you are out of cell phone service.

Bob Godfrey
4 years ago

Since we have an older (2000) 40′ motorhome with a Spartan chassis which has a terrible turning radius we have an agreement and that is that I never attempt to negotiate a parking place without my wife in sight at all times directing me. We have had park personnel actually tell me to “watch me not her” which I immediately ignore since the attendant has no interest in our rig but my wife sure does and she is also much better and safer with her directions. We have and occasionally use walkie talkies but actually hand signals work best for us.Reviewing the site beforehand definitely helps too.

Mack & Mary Ellen
4 years ago

We have a system that works very well for us.
Before backing in (41 ft 5th wheel) we look over the site to spot where we want the steps to be and check for utilities, clearances and any obstructions etc.
Now I can pace off to the spot where the left rear trailer needs to land and place a marker there (an 8″ square piece of bright orange plywood)
We get on our cell phones and she watches to be sure I don’t hit anything, or anyone, while I aim for the marker. Only communication needed is: STOP! STOP! STOP! if something is wrong
Also, it’s understood that I will stop automatically if I cannot see her in one of my mirrors.

Dr4Film ----- Richard
4 years ago

The BEST and most fail-safe method of backing in an RV is taught by a friend of mine named Ron Jones of About RVing. Here is the link.

Judy G
4 years ago

This reminded me of the one time I trusted a ‘volunteer’ at a park to assist me in backing my fifth wheel in. He assisted me in running into the picnic table!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.