Trailer Owner’s Manual

9 Arriving at Camp

9.1 Choosing the Campsite

Pull-through sites are often available, but if there is a wide open back-in site then it may be useful to go ahead and practice backing into the easy site before you one day are forced to back into a harder campsite. For information on how to back up the trailer, see Section 9.2 (Backing into the Site).

Campsites which are not level can add some complications:

  • • Backing uphill can be harder on a transmission and/or clutch since reverse gears are often not as strong as the first forward gear.

  • • On any hillside, it is especially important to fully secure the tow vehicle and trailer to prevent them from rolling away. See Section 9.3 (Securing the Tow Vehicle) and Section 9.5 (Securing the Trailer) for details.

  • • Leveling the trailer may require extra blocks below the stabilizer jacks in order for them to reach the ground. See Section 9.6 (Leveling).

Other things to watch for when choosing a campsite:

  • • Locations of sign posts which may be hit while backing into the site. These are often very close to the edge of the parking pad.

  • • Overhanging tree limbs.

  • • Neighbors with slide-outs which are too close.

  • • Location of the picnic table.

  • • Location of the campsite utility connections.

9.2 Backing into the Site

Backing the trailer is often required to back into a camp site or garage, and is sometimes required on the road to do a U-turn to reverse direction. Any of these cases requires extra care to avoid damage to the trailer, tow vehicle, nearby objects, or other vehicles.

Things which can help back a trailer successfully include:

  • • Good wide tow mirrors. The trailer will swing out a ways, and a larger mirror will help to see what is happening.

  • • Reverse lights. Extra bright reverse lights may be installed to assist in nighttime parking. See your dealer for details.

  • • Flashlights. At night, a flashlight may be placed on the ground at the back of the parking pad to help see where you want the trailer to end up. Put the flashlight at the edge of the parking spot, on the same side as you will be looking as you turn in the trailer, so that you can see the light and place the back corner of the trailer right next to it. A light can also be placed next to any objects you wish to avoid, such as a campsite number post or a picnic table.

  • • An assistant. Have someone stand near the back but also OFF TO THE SIDE so that they do not get hit. Roll down the side windows so that you can hear their warnings. Have them yell if you are about to hit something.

Figure 11: Backing Up — Danger Zones


Backing the trailer is a skill which can be acquired with practice. When starting out, try the following:

  • 1. Use the hazard flashers.

  • 2. Secure the vehicle, then get out and look around before starting, taking note of the positions of any nearby vehicles, campground sign posts, picnic tables, trees, and so on.

  • 3. Remember to watch the trailer tire, the back corner of the trailer, and also both front corners of the tow vehicle. The front end of the tow vehicle will be swinging around in a wide arc while backing the trailer around a corner, so be sure to pay attention to the front of the tow vehicle to avoid hitting anything.

  • 4. Pull forward a bit past the parking spot, and near the middle of the road. This gives room on both sides to swing the front of the tow vehicle while backing up.


    • • Look at the parking pad for obstacles.

    • • Stop in the middle of the road with the trailer just past the parking pad.

  • 5. Turn the bottom of the steering wheel a bit in the direction which you want the trailer to go. If you will be backing to the right, turn the steering wheel somewhat counter-clockwise so that the bottom of the steering wheels moves to the right. Do not turn the steering wheel all the way, just part way. After backing up a little bit, the tow vehicle and trailer are bent compared to each other. The more you back up, the more the trailer will bend inward. Be sure not to go too far or the trailer will be sideways and “jackknife” with the tow vehicle.


    • • Turn the bottom of the steering wheel into the direction you wish to go.

    • • Back up a bit.

    • • Watch the front corners as the tow vehicle swings around!

    • • Stop when the trailer has bent part way into the turn.

  • 6. Once the trailer has bent into the turn a nice amount, turn the steering wheel back to straight, then a bit further the other way so that the front of the tow vehicle follows around the curve without causing the trailer to turn tighter still. At this point, the tow vehicle follows the trailer without causing the trailer to bend in more, and you could continue backing up with the tow vehicle following the trailer in a full circle if there were room.


    • • Turn the steering wheel the other direction.

    • • Back up a bit.

    • • Stop when the trailer is almost aiming straight back, but not quite.

  • 7. When you want the trailer to begin to straighten out, turn the steering wheel even more the other way to straighten out the tow vehicle and trailer and undo the curve while backing up.


    • • Turn the steering wheel even further, to undo the bend at the hitch.

    • • Back up a bit.

    • • Stop when the tow vehicle and trailer are aimed straight back.

  • 8. When the tow vehicle and trailer are straightened out and facing back into the parking pad, continue straight back with the steering wheel aimed straight.


    • • Turn the steering wheel straight.

    • • Back straight back, making minor adjustments to the steering wheel as needed.

    • • Stop when parked in desired location.

    • Set the parking brake and transmission to secure the vehicle.

  • 9. If the trailer is turning much too tight and is about to go off the pad, or is about to “jackknife”, then aim the steering wheel to go forwards to the middle of the pad, and pull forward a bit to straighten out the trailer.


    • • If the trailer bends too far and “jackknifes”, STOP! The trailer may hit the tow vehicle.

    • • Aim the steering wheel forward.

    • • Pull forward a bit to straighten out the trailer.

9.3 Securing the Tow Vehicle

Once the trailer and tow vehicle are positioned in the campsite parking pad, the tow vehicle and trailer must be secured to prevent them from rolling away. Secure the vehicle every time you leave it for any reason.

9.4 Testing the Campsite Utilities

Test any campsite utility connections before setting up the trailer, in case you have to move to another site.

Check any water faucet for operation and distance to the trailer.

Incorrect wiring or voltage can damage the trailer’s components. To check the campsite’s electrical system:

  • • Open the campsite’s circuit breaker box.

  • • Turn off all the electrical circuit breakers.

  • • Plug an electrical outlet tester into the socket which will be used to power the trailer. This may require a 30 A to 15 A adapter. See Section 9.7 (Connecting to Shore Power) for details.

  • • Turn on the breaker for the outlet and verify correct wiring for hot, neutral, and ground lines using the lights on the outlet tester.

  • • Remove the tester and plug in a 120 V ac meter.

  • • Verify voltage is in the range of 110 V ac to 130 V ac.

  • • Remove the ac volt meter. Once the trailer is set-up, the meter may be plugged into an outlet to verify voltage stays within the correct range throughout the day.

9.5 Securing the Trailer

Secure wheel chocks firmly between all trailer tires and the ground to prevent the trailer from rolling away.

If a tire is on a leveling block, try to use the leveling block’s built-in chock (if there is one) on the down hill side of the tire, and add an additional chock on the uphill side as well.

In some cases, it might be more useful to reverse the chock to gain contact between the tire and the ground.

A BAL trailer leveler doubles as a very secure wheel chock.

Small circular chocks exist for the hitch jack wheel, but the jack cannot hold much sideways force, and so these jack chocks should not be relied on to hold the vehicle.

For more information on wheel chocks, see Section 5.7 (Leveling Tools and Wheel Chocks).

9.6 Leveling

Once you have decided on a camp site, the trailer should be leveled, both left-to-right and also front-to-back. Left-to-right level affects your sleeping position and also which way water will flow on the counter-top. It can be useful to cause water to flow towards the backstop of the counter instead of dripping off the front of the counter onto the floor. Front-to-back level is important to avoid damaging the refrigerator. See your refrigerator’s manual for details.

A recommended method for leveling the trailer is as follows.

  • 1. Level the trailer side to side first, by driving the low side trailer tire onto a wooden plank or any of the commercially available plastic ramps or stacking blocks designed for this purpose. It can be easier on the transmission to position the leveling ramp such that you will drive forward onto the ramp instead of backwards. Another option is the BAL trailer leveler, a device which holds onto the wheel on both sides and lifts it up with a screw jack. Use a bubble level on the back bumper to verify left to right level. For more information on leveling tools, see Section 5.7 (Leveling Tools and Wheel Chocks).

  • 2. Use wheel chocks on both tires to hold the trailer in place. See Section 9.5 (Securing the Trailer).

  • 3. Temporarily keep the safety chains connected to the tow vehicle in case the trailer tries to roll away.

  • 4. Disconnect the electrical connection to the tow vehicle.

  • 5. Disconnect the trailer from the tow vehicle hitch, while the safety chains are still connected.

    • (a) For a diagram of the hitch assembly, refer to Figure 8 (Hitch, Draw Bar, and Receiver).

    • (b) Attach the wheel to the trailer’s hitch jack.

    • (c) Lower the hitch jack until the wheel is touching the ground. Do not lift the hitch yet.

    • (d) Unlock and remove the safety pin on the trailer’s hitch latch.

    • (e) Lift the hitch latch to disengage the trailer hitch.

    • (f) Use the jack to lift the hitch off the tow vehicle’s hitch ball.

    • (g) If the trailer tries to roll away, use wheel chocks to secure the trailer.

    • (h) Once the trailer is secured, disconnect the safety chains.

    • (i) Before lowering the trailer to level it, the hitch ball must be moved out of the way. Either drive the tow vehicle forward, or unlock and remove the draw bar’s pin and remove the draw bar.

  • 6. Use the trailer hitch jack to level the trailer front to back. Use a bubble level on the hitch frame to verify front to back level.

  • 7. For a folding trailer, raise its roof before deploying the stabilizer jacks, since the jacks can slightly twist the frame and make it harder for the roof latches and pins to align with the side walls.

  • 8. Deploy the stabilizer jacks to secure and stabilize the trailer. To lower the scissor/stabilizer jacks, crank counter clockwise with the jack handle provided with your trailer.

  • 9. Once the trailer is known to be secure against movement, remove the safety chains from the tow vehicle. Once the trailer is level, you can mount a bubble level permanently on the tongue of your trailer to aid in future leveling.

9.7 Connecting to Shore Power
Selecting the Campground Power Outlet

Campgrounds may have several sockets available for connecting your trailer, each with its own circuit breaker (on/off switch). See Figure 12.

Use the socket which matches your trailer’s electrical cord, or use an adapter to connect to a different type of socket if necessary.

For information about the limits of each kind of power socket, see Section 10.8 (Power Limits).

Figure 12: Campground Power Outlet Types



(a) 15 Amp



(b) 30 Amp



(c) 50 Amp

Extension Cords

If at all possible, park the trailer close enough to the campground electrical power post that an electrical extension cord is not needed. If absolutely necessary, a heavy-duty extension cord must be used. For a 15 A circuit, the electrical cord must have at least 14-gauge wires, and it should have 12-gauge wires if a longer run is desired. For a 30 A or 50 A extension cord, only a cord designed as an rv extension cord should be used, and it must have 10-gauge or thicker wires inside.

Connecting to the Campground Power System

To connect the trailer to the campground power:

  • 1. If you have not yet done so, be sure to test the campsite power system before connecting your trailer. See Section 9.4 (Testing the Campsite Utilities).

  • 2. Turn off the campsite circuit breakers.

  • 3. Disconnect the trailer’s 12 V dc electrical cable from the tow vehicle.

  • 4. Connect the trailer’s 120 V ac electrical cable to the campsite outlet.

  • 5. Turn on the campsite’s circuit breaker for the outlet which you are using.

  • 6. If necessary, switch the refrigerator from 12 V dc to 120 V ac. See Section 9.9 (Fridge Changeover to 120 V ac Electric Power or LP Gas).

9.8 Turning on the LP Gas

The lp gas tanks must be opened to use the gas powered furnace, water heater, stove, or refrigerator. See Section 10.7 (LP Tanks) for instructions for opening the tanks.

9.9 Fridge Changeover to 120 V ac Electric Power or LP Gas

Once arriving at the campsite, switch the refrigerator out of 12 V dc mode, to either the 120 V ac or lp gas mode.

The lp gas option often has a choice of high/medium/low flame power, in which case you will have to guess which level to use depending on the outdoor temperature. Use a stronger flame on warmer days.

The 120 V ac option, if available, often has a thermostat setting. Use a higher power for warmer days.

The 12 V dc option is only for use while towing. It is not as powerful as either the lp gas or 120 V ac electric options, and it does not have a thermostat control. The 12 V dc option will quickly drain the battery unless the trailer is connected to either a tow vehicle with a running engine, or the trailer is connected to 120 V ac power from the campsite or a generator, in which case the converter will keep the battery charged. In either case, using the 120 V ac or lp gas option will be much more efficient.

9.10 Connecting to Shore Water

Water may be filled into the fresh water tank, as seen in Section 6.1 (Loading Water), in which case the water pump must be on to use the water, and the water tank must be filled on occasion to prevent it from running empty.

Water may also be connected to the city water connection, which bypasses the water tank, as seen in Figure 13. Be sure to use a water pressure regulator as shown. While connected to the city water supply, the trailer’s water pump is not needed, but the water tank is not filled.

Figure 13: Shore Water Connection


9.11 Opening the Trailer

Consult your trailer’s owner’s manual for instructions on raising the roof and opening the trailer.

9.12 Starting the Water Heater

Water heaters are available with either a manually-lit pilot light or else an electric-start ignition.

Manual Pilot-Light Ignition

This style of water heater has a knob with settings for off/on/pilot, and a lever which controls the thermostat.

To light the manual pilot light:

  • 1. Slowly open the valves on the lp tanks. See Figure 15 (LP Gas System).

  • 2. Turn the water heater’s control knob to pilot.

  • 3. Gently try to keep turning the knob further still, so that you are holding the knob all the way at the end where it stops.

  • 4. While holding the knob against the pilot stop, apply the lighter flame at the position marked ‘X’ in Figure 14.

  • 5. Apply the flame so that the tip of the temperature probe is in the flame. This causes the control to allow gas to come out at the pilot line.

  • 6. If air is in the line, you will hear air hissing out of the pilot gas line, but the pilot will not yet light. Continue holding the knob past the pilot position while applying flame to the probe tip.

  • 7. Once the pilot is lit, continue holding the knob for another half minute to allow the probe to absorb additional heat.

  • 8. Turn the knob towards the on position until the water heater lights.

  • 9. Adjust the temperature control lever to a medium position.

Figure 14: Lighting The Manual-Start Water Heater Pilot


Electric-Start Ignition

Several types of electric-start water heaters are available. Do not attempt to light an electric-start water heater by hand. Consult the water heater’s owner’s manual for details of how to start an electric-start water heater.