Hitching up, Backing up, and Dumping

It’s funny how often the things that stress us most about a new a endeavor end up being so much easier than we imagined once the time actually comes. One of those classic ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’ scenarios.

Learning how to hitch up, back up, and dump the waste tanks are three common examples from RVing. I certainly worried about them when I was preparing to buy my Casita, and discussion about those three topics are very common online among prospective RVers.

And yet, you don’t see experienced RVers talking about it.

That’s because once you learn how, it becomes so easy that you just don’t think about it anymore. It seems odd to me to make themΒ the subject of a blog post, because it just comes so naturally once you get the hang of the lifestyle.

But, that assurance doesn’t help those of you on the other side of the fence who haven’t tried it yet, so here are my musings.

Reading a step-by-step tutorial isn’t going to be very useful, because you can’t imagine it in your head until you know what it looks like. The method I’ve found to work best is actually quite simple.

  1. Go on YouTube and look up videos so you can actually see what’s going on. Search terms like ‘how to back up RV‘ and ‘how to hitch a trailer‘ both turn up several good videos demonstrating the process on a variety of RV and trailer types. I have a video on YouTube demonstrating how to hitch up and dump tanks on a Casita and you can find that here.
  2. Once you pick your RV up, practice! The more often you do it the easier it gets. Before your first trip, take your rig to a large empty lot and spend an hour or two backing it up, and unhitch and hitch it a couple times. Go through the motions of connecting the waste hose and opening the tank valves. Refer back to YouTube videos if youΒ need to. Don’t worry about looking or feeling silly, this effort will pay off when you arrive at your first real camp and actually get to enjoy it because you’re not panicking about never having done it before.

Be patient with yourself and don’t worry about speed. The first few times you’ll be on high alert when you do these activities, and you’ll need to give it your full attention. In the early days, creating a list of steps and checking them off can help until you have the process memorized. Avoid distractions and don’t let anyone interrupt you (the only time I’ve ever gotten into trouble while hitching up was when someone started asking me questions halfway through). Kindly ask anyone who tries to engage you in conversation to wait until you’re done, and don’t let anyone assist – that usually just makes it harder unless you’re use to working together with that other person.

Once you get a routine down it’ll come faster until it feels like second nature. Before very long you’ll be wondering why you spent so much time agonizing over it. Happy camping!

More photos from Valley of the Gods, UT. Because it’s so pretty!

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37 Responses to Hitching up, Backing up, and Dumping

  1. Susan Chrest April 14, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    I still struggle with backing our fifth wheel up after a year. Driving it, setting it up and hitching it up, dumping tanks – no problem, but backing it in campsites? Still a struggle! I had no issue with our 28 foot travel trailer. I could back that trailer down narrow campground roads and into any campsite no problem! I shall prevail though and I won’t give up! Great article! πŸ™‚

    • Becky April 14, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

      That’s unfortunate Susan, most people I’ve talked to who’ve tried both say fifth wheels are easier to back up than trailers. How many times have you backed it up in that year? If it’s an infrequent thing that might explain it, it always takes me longer if I’ve been stationary for a couple months. You have a good attitude though, with the willingness to keep trying I’m sure you’ll get it. πŸ™‚ Glad you enjoyed this!

  2. Ingrid April 14, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    Great header shot. We loved Valley of the Gods but ended up boondocking at Goosenecks SP instead. Enjoy that fabulous view!

    • Becky April 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

      Thanks! The moment I saw the sun peeking under the clouds like that I knew I had my new header photo. I didn’t get out to Goosenecks SP this time, next visit!

  3. Luna April 14, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    I’ve driven and backed up quite a bit (work and play), so while I’m no pro, i knew I’d be okay as long as I wasn’t in any rush. However, having been raised to be polite, my biggest challenge was coming up with a quasi pleasant way to keep people from trying to (or sometimes almost forcing) help. Some people really do just want to help, and don’t take offense once they know you’d prefer to handle it on your own; but others seem to take it personally. I found it easy to cave at first. I developed a couple of repeatable phrases and practiced them, and that helped a lot.

    (Decades ago, I didn’t have these “scripts” – or the nerve to use them – and a “helper” basically backed me into the overhang of a customer’s garage, where I proceeded to rip part of it off plus damage the bus I was driving. Of course I had to take responsibility. After that is when I came up with my phrases so I could be polite yet firm about it when I wanted to take care of it myself.)

    • Reine in Plano(when not camping) April 15, 2017 at 10:14 am #

      Luna. What are your phrases?

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

      I’m sorry you had that experience Luna! I hope the damage wasn’t too bad.

      I’ve never had a problem gracefully turning down help, but I’ve known others who have and realize it is a real issue. You’re the first person I’ve talked to who has brought up having a script to fall back on when these potentially difficult situations arise and I think it’s a great idea! If you’re willing to share them I’m sure other readers could find them helpful.

  4. Jeff April 14, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    I have an old utility trailer my son learned to back up with. But before backing up that new rig, perhaps before buying it, I’d rent a trailer from Uhaul. And it does get easier. Well said Becky and yes that is an awesome Header!

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      What a good thing to teach your son Jeff! Glad you enjoyed this post (and the new header). πŸ™‚

  5. J&M April 14, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    What a timely post! We just picked up our first-ever trailer two days ago. The night before, I tossed and turned wondering how I was going to back it from the street into our driveway – a 90 degree turn going backwards. The thought tormented me for days.

    On the way home, I pulled in front of the house, dropped my wife off and told her I’d be back after a few hours of practice in an open parking lot a few miles away.Twenty minutes later, I’m back home ready to sink or swim. It was far easier than I’d anticipated. I won’t lie to you and tell you I looked like a pro but it went pretty smoothly and completely removed any jitters of having to do it again.

    And Becky, I guess this is a good time to tell you that you played a big part in inspiring us to do this. The thought of traveling around, seeing the country at a trailer’s pace, has been a seed in the back of our minds for a long, long time. Reading your posts and seeing the amazing photos of your ongoing adventure gave us the push we needed to finally get on with it. Keep ’em coming!

    John and Mayra

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

      Sounds almost exactly like what my first experience backing up Cas was like J&M. Boy was I nervous! I’m glad the parking lot method worked for you.

      It always gives me the warm fuzzies when people comment or write in to say how IO has helped them get on the road and follow their dreams. πŸ™‚ I’m so happy for you and wish you all the best!

  6. Barney April 14, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

    That was one of the best write ups I have ever read with advice for new folks. Thanks for writing it.

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

      You’re very welcome Barney!

  7. Shelly Sizemore April 15, 2017 at 5:08 am #

    This post could not have come at a better time, Becky. Honestly, this is all I have thought about (or worried about) the last couple weeks. I recently purchased a reliable tow vehicle and am now looking for the right trailer or pop up to start my weekend adventures. Thank you so much for this article πŸ™‚

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

      You’re so very welcome Shelly! I hated that feeling when I was shopping for my Casita, it ruined some of the fun. Glad this came at a good time for you.

  8. marijka April 15, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    Thanks! Saved this for help/inspiration when I get my own camper!! When I was about 14 my dad needed me to back up the tractor and old trailer into the barn. And my dad was a shouter – do this, turn left, slow down! He got me so frustrated that I hit the gas instead of the clutch while turning too sharp, and the big metal piece that holds the sideboards on the trailer gouged the tractor tire. In case anyone doesn’t know, tractor tires are VERY expensive (plus someone had to deliver it 45 miles out to our place) and I took off a big ol’ knob off the tire tread. Dad never blamed me and after a while our family joke was that we were lucky I didn’t knock down the barn! Anyway, I’ve been freaked out about backing up trailers of any sort ever since!

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:40 pm #

      Glad you and your dad were able to laugh about it after. Kind of reminds me of when my dad was trying to teach me how to drive – he was also prone to shouting directions too and trying to push me to do things more quickly than I felt comfortable doing. We also look back on it and smile now.

      I think the biggest thing for backing up a trailer is don’t try to rush. When you try to do it too quickly is when things go wrong. You’ll be great Marijka, glad you found this helpful!

  9. Reine in Plano(when not camping) April 15, 2017 at 10:27 am #

    Becky, good post and great encouragement for folks contemplating RVing.

    Let me hop on my soapbox for a minute and suggest that EVERYONE who camps needs to know these things, even if you’re not solo. Maybe the backing up isn’t as critical but EVERYONE needs to know how to strike camp, hitch up, and head on down the road. If you camp with a spouse, they could get sick or injured and you would need to take over. You don’t want to hitch up or tow for the first time in an emergency. Ok off soapbox now.

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed this Reine. And yes I agree. It’s good for both partners to be able to do every aspect of RVing, just in case.

  10. Jodee Gravel April 15, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    Now if that title weren’t on an RV blog it would really raise some questions :-)))))

    I’m one of those weird drivers who loves the challenge of a difficult backing-in site. Hubby is the very best director and can almost always get me in the spot in one try.

    Our one rule is no arrivals after dark – so far we’ve been able to adhere to that.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Why We Have a JeepMy Profile

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

      Haha! You have a dirty mind Jodee. πŸ˜‰

      I hate arriving after dark too. I’ve only done it once or twice since hitting the road and definitely avoid when I can!

  11. Rene Kipp April 15, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    I’m fine at forward driving. Ron has always been our back-up driver. Although he does the tank dumping I have the knowledge to do it myself. We have worked out the kinks for hitching up, for the most part, unless we’re tired… Definitely a great idea to arrive during daylight too.
    Rene Kipp recently posted..Amazing Works Of ArchitectureMy Profile

    • Becky April 15, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

      It’s nice to have a partner with different strengths so that duties can be split by whose best at them. πŸ™‚

  12. MB from VA April 16, 2017 at 5:21 am #

    Thanks Becky. I needed that. πŸ™‚ I do worry about stuff like that. But then I think to myself….But Sue and Becky do it. It truly does help to remember that you two had never done it before you began your full time RVing life either. I am still going back and forth between a trailer and a slide in truck camper. Mostly, because during my years of traveling out there for a couple of weeks at a time, I saw some roads that made me long to go down them and “see where they went”. My 4×4 with a truck camper may have a better chance of getting back out. And I did wonder after reading your Valley Of The Gods post…..did you drive all the way through? I was there several years ago with just my truck. Some of the washes looked as if they would be difficult to get across if you were towing a trailer because of the close “up-down” nature. Just wondering how it went for you. BTW….Valley Of The Gods is one of my favorite places! I dream of setting up camp at the place I stopped for lunch. Have a great day! And thank you for the information and encouragement! πŸ™‚

    • Becky April 18, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

      You’re welcome MB! Both options are valid, I’m sure you’ll figure out the right answer for you with time.

      Nope, I didn’t go all the way down the road, didn’t even go down to look. Had enough going on that I just never got around to it Sure is a pretty place though huh? Glad you enjoyed it and hope you get to camp there soon! Take care!

  13. Linda Sand April 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

    Having neighbors watch me try to back a small tent trailer into our garage was embarrassing enough to make me learn to do it right. πŸ™‚

    • Becky April 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

      Haha! I guess that’s one way to get motivated Linda. πŸ™‚

  14. Judy in WV April 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    Here are more warm and fuzzies comin’ at ya, Becky. I’m starting full time camping in a travel trailer at the end of June and your post & videos address my biggest concern. Thank you so much for providing this information–it is so encouraging! Your blog has helped me to make this jump into full time rving. I can’t wait to get started!

    • Becky April 18, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      So glad to hear it Judy, you’re welcome! Best of luck to you, June will be here before you know it, and by the end of the year I bet you’ll be quite competent at backing up and hitching!

  15. Gerri & Mike April 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    Good advice!! I practiced a lot with our Casita and got pretty good with it. I still have to stop and think about it before backing up. Now we have an Oliver and I haven’t tried it. We’ve been stationary due to some health restraints but will be moving soon. I’ll have to try then. The Oliver is a bit larger than our Casita was.
    Beautiful header!!
    Gerri & Mike recently posted..An Easter TraditionMy Profile

    • Becky April 18, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

      Thanks!

      Olivers aren’t a whole lot different from Casitas, I’m sure you’ll do fine. I hope the health issues are resolved soon so you two can get back on the road. Take care!

  16. Tommy From NC April 19, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    One thing that has helped me backing a trailer is to put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want to go to the left move your hand to the left, if you want to go to the right move your hand to the right. This helps with out having to figure out which way to turn the wheel to get the trailer go where you want it to. Enjoy your site!!!

    • Becky April 21, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

      Good tip Tommy, thanks for sharing!

  17. steve paquette April 21, 2017 at 7:39 am #

    Can anybody help me out with something. I am just headed out as a full timer, but Im thinking of the winter months. Where is the best place to go for the winter months? I really dont like Fla so where else could I go? Just thinking ahead.

    • Becky April 21, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

      I’m assuming you want warm weather Steve? California, Arizona, and Texas are three other popular places to stay in the winter.

  18. Matt June 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    I think my biggest question with especially a smaller tow camper like the Casita is how easy would it be for someone to steal it? How often if you just need to run into town for a quick trip would you ever leave it somewhere? Probably safe in a park but if you are boondocking…I don’t think I could ever leave it out somewhere where it could get stolen or broken into. So…maybe just the hassle of having to reassemble everything is a concern…whereas something like a Sprinter van is all-inclusive and goes with you everywhere.

    What do you do?

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