How to Back up Your RV

RV back up tips and tricks

The idea of backing up and parking an RV can be intimidating—especially to new drivers or people in new rigs. These large vehicles provide a home away from home but you first have to maneuver them into place. Anyone can drive and park an RV with a little knowledge and some practice. Here are some tips to help you gain confidence in your backing up and parking skills.

A pull-through site at Arizona Oases RV Resort, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Backing up basics

When driving a coach in reverse, turning the steering wheel to the left will turn the back of the rig to the left. Adjusting the wheel to the right will turn the rig to the right. When you’re backing up a coach with a boat or trailer behind it, however, it gets more complicated: the trailer will always move opposite of the way you turn the wheel.

Before you begin to back up, check that your side and rear mirrors are adjusted so you can see all around you.

A pull-through site at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go slow and stay calm

Driving slowly gives you more time to see how your vehicle moves and react appropriately. You’ll be better able to avoid accidents (like driving into a campsite electricity hookup pole) if you maneuver slowly. Plus, it’s easier to stay calm when your speedometer is below 5 miles an hour.

Related: Raise Your RV IQ with These Tips

A back-in site at Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Use technology

Owners of some newer RVs have the advantage of cameras and video monitoring systems that make it easy to back up just about anywhere. Read your RV manual to learn about any onboard systems.

A back-in site at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you hit the road, check your backup camera. While they’re very sturdy when built-in to the coach, dust or other debris may sometimes obscure the view, so it’s a good idea to turn on the monitors and make sure you have a clear view behind you.

A backup camera is meant to enhance your parking skills and give you peace of mind. Use your mirrors as well plus any other cameras to make sure you have a clear view of your surroundings.

Back-in sites at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parking and Maneuvering

Designate an RV parking helper

If possible, have a spotter outside of your coach to help guide you into the spot. They will have a better view of the ground and can watch for hazards that are difficult to spot from the driver’s seat.

Related: The Best RV Camping May 2022

If you’re driving solo, consider asking a fellow camper for assistance. Campsites are full of other RVers who have valuable experience that can help you. In most cases, other campers are eager to help.

A back-in site at Cajun Palms RV Resort, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let the spotter know how you want them to communicate. Which side of the rig do you want them on? Should they use gestures or words to explain how far you have to go and which direction to turn the RV?

Open the driver’s and front-seat passenger windows so it’s easy to hear the spotter. Most people prefer to have the helper stand behind the driver’s side of the RV where they are visible and have a good view of the situation. Never let the spotter out of your sight. If you can’t see them, they’re in danger.

Ensure they have a headlamp or bright flashlight if you’re backing up in the dark. This light will help you tell where the person is and serve as a tool to guide you into place.

Back-in sites at Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose your spot wisely

Gas stations, rest stops, mobile home repair shops, and some campsites feature pull-through spots. RV drivers can cruise straight into the parking area or designated spot without backing up. At campsites and resorts, these spots are often highly sought-after especially by overnight campers and may be difficult to obtain without booking well in advance.

A back-in site at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some places like big box stores have parking lots with two spots adjacent that you can treat as a pull-through parking area. Don’t hesitate to choose places with these wide-open parking areas especially if you’re not comfortable backing up your rig.

Select a parking spot that allows you to back up to the left whenever possible. This direction is easier to maneuver because your steering wheel is on the left and you can see easier than when backing up to the right.

Drive-in sites at Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Assess the RV parking site – G.O.A.L.

Many professional drivers follow an acronym called G.O.A.L., an acronym for Get Out And Look. When you reach a campground, pull over near your site and use your triangle blinkers to alert other drivers that you are stopped.

Related: 6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

Walk around the parking area or campsite to check for potential hazards. Look for low-hanging tree branches, rocks on the ground, and anything you could back into. If necessary, move potential obstacles like picnic tables in your way.

A back-in site at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know how many paces it takes to walk from the front of your RV to the back. Use this information to walk out your RV parking dimensions and understand how the rig will fit in the parking space. This quick step will also tell you how to aim your rig to back into the spot.

The right front corner of your RV is the most vulnerable to damage because it is a blind spot. Keep that in mind while envisioning how you will back into the space. Rely on your right convex mirror to watch for obstacles below your window sightline. Make sure your spotter pays special attention to this area.

A drive-in site at Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Back up

With your spotter visible, pull your RV ahead of the parking spot at a ninety-degree angle to the spot so the closest edge of the parking spot is about three feet past the back wheels. The rear wheels are the pivot point for the rig, so getting the correct position with the back of the RV is critical.

Back-in sites at Bellingham RV Park, Bellingham, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Slowly drive backward while turning the steering wheel so the RV aims directly into the spot while slowly continuing backward. While moving, straighten the vehicle and come to a stop when your spotter indicates to do so. Don’t hesitate to pull forward and realign to ensure you have plenty of space to open your RV doors and engage slide-out sections.

Related: 30 RV Hacks and Tips for a Successful Road Trip

Back-in site at Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Backing up a large RV may be intimidating but practice makes perfect. Take some orange traffic cones to a large parking lot to practice on a day when there’s minimal traffic. Set up the cones to imitate parallel parking and backing up to a campsite waste station. Practice regularly until you’re confident in your skills. Eventually, it’ll become second nature and you’ll be confident maneuvering your rig into even the tightest of sites.

Worth Pondering…

It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.
—Claude Bernard

Finding the Right RV Site

There are many different factors to consider when looking for the right RV site

The RV site is an important part of the travel experience. A good site can contribute much to a great road trip and a poor site will deter from the overall experience.

Drive-in site at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic views are a plus. There are few things more relaxing than soaking in a beautiful landscape. It’s helpful to know what to look for when choosing campsites so here are some campsite selection tips to help you on your way.

Choose wisely, consult guest reviews, and consider the following six things:

Drive-in sites at Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1) Size and Configuration

Most RV parks offer several types of sites.

Pull-through sites: Do you drive a big rig and desire a site that’s easy to navigate? A pull-through site allows you to enter and exit a site without unhooking the toad or backing up. This type of site is especially ideal for RVers who are overnighting with plans to travel the next day. Some parks with long pull-through sites offer the convenience of two sewer connections from which to choose to accommodate different RV configurations.

Back-in site at Mission View RV Park in Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Back-in sites: Backing an RV into a site is one of the less appealing chores in the RV lifestyle but it’s worth it once the vehicle is in “park” and your awning is unfurled. If you’re a privacy-craving camper who plans to hunker down for several weeks or more, a roomy back-in site may be preferable.

Drive-in sites: Some of the newer parks offer drive-in sites. This is particularly appealing for RVers with a Class-A motorhome. The site may face a river, fountain or water feature, or scenic vistas like the sites offered at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona (see photo above) or Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Alabama (see photo above).

The Lakes RV and Golf Resort in Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2) Power Hookups

Make sure you’re able to feed your RV’s appetite for electricity. If you’re tent camper or tow a folding camping trailer your power requirements will be minimal. Motorhomes and larger fifth-wheels and travel trailers usually require 50-amp service for all of their appliances and new technology. Select the type of site based on your RV’s electrical requirements.

Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3) Water & Sewer Hookups

Keep in mind that sewer service may vary at RV parks. Some waterfront sites don’t offer sewer but the inconvenience may be worth it for the view and your proximity to water recreation. Most campgrounds in national and state parks do not provide sewer connections but will offer a dump station.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4) Location, Location, Location

Each site in an RV park has its pluses and minuses. A site near the clubhouse and pool is convenient but the foot traffic and noise may pose an annoyance. The same for sites near the playground or a dumpster. Study the park map to get the lay of the land. If the RV park has an adjoining golf course and you’re itching to hit the fairway, you probably want a site that’s a short walk from the tee box. Then consider The Lakes RV and Golf Resort in Chowchilla, California (see photo above); Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona (see photo above); or The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, California (see photo above).

Columbia Riverfront RV Resort at Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5) Site Amenities

Consider the amenities that you like in an RV site. Fire Rings and picnic tables are musts for some campers. Do you have room to unfurl the awning, fire up the barbecue, and watch the big game from your exterior TV? If you’re camping in the height of summer, look for a shady site. If possible, choose a north-facing site so that the summer sun has limited penetration into RV living quarters and your refrigerator is in the shade.

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort in Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6) Site with a View

How important is the view to you? Do you want to wake up to the view of a scenic river like the sites offered at Columbia Riverfront RV Park in Woodland, Washington (see photo above) or Two Rivers Landing RV Resort in Sevierville in Tennessee (see photo above)? Or do prefer high desert vistas like those available at Verde Valley’s Rain Spirit RV Park where you can see the red rocks of Sedona and beyond? Or mountain views like those at Eagle View RV Resort in Fort McDowell, Arizona or Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia. Finding a site with a view can add an extra magic ingredient to your trip.

Irvins RV Park in Valemont, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finding the right RV site may be one of the most important decisions to make as you plan your next road trip. Before you book online or over the phone ensure you have a site that meets your needs. This may be one of the most important judgment calls to make on your trip.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden