5 often over-looked camper trailer tips you need to read!

Guest Author, written by Amaan Butt

Road tripping season is in full swing as we roll into this August, 2022. All across America, nature lovers and outdoor-enthusiasts are loading up their campers, hitting the road, and heading into the beautiful, wild spaces in our country.

But to someone who’s never camped in a travel trailer before, the thought of packing up a trailer and hitting the road might sound more daunting than exciting.

If that’s you, don’t worry, it’s okay!

When I first started adventuring in campers and travel trailers, I had no clue how much there was to learn. It took many years of camping misadventures and learning by trial and error before my trips became smooth and mishaps became fewer and further between.

Lucky for you, at this point, I’ve made most, if not all, of the classic newbie-RVer mistakes and have compiled this list of trailer camping tips and tricks to give you the upper hand.

1. Get to know your trailer

Purchasing a travel trailer is a very exciting time. When you buy yourself a trailer from any custom RV manufacturer or any other source, you are buying a key to the great outdoors and an escape from the hustle and bustle of regular life.

But before you go rushing to tow your new toy into the woods for your first RV camping adventure, there is a lot to learn about and familiarize yourself with in your home away from home.

black truck pulling a camper trailer in the mountains

Learn how to haul a trailer

Driving while towing a travel trailer is not the same as regular driving.

It takes most people more than a few trips before they are used to driving long distances while towing their trailer. This is because when your vehicle is hitched up to a trailer, there are a number of unique forces acting upon both the camper and your vehicle as you drive.

Trailer sway is a common and dangerous phenomenon that occurs when side forces like gusty winds hit a trailer and cause it to begin fishtailing behind the tow vehicle. If handled improperly, trailer sway can flip both your RV and tow vehicle, resulting in damage to your rigs and injury to yourself and others. RV parts such as weight distribution hitches and anti-sway bars are available to help minimize the risk of trailer sway.

Drive slowly when taking corners and driving on rough roads. RV drivers have been known to lose control of their rigs when driving too fast on sharp curves or through road construction zones. There’s no need to race to your campsite. Keeping things slow and steady will ensure you and your crew reach your destination safely.

Practice reversing

Reversing with a trailer is notoriously difficult to learn and can take a long time to master. So don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this task at first! I promise that with time and practice, you too will learn how to back up a trailer like a pro.

I suggest driving your trailer to the biggest parking lot you can find in order to spend some quality time practicing. Try to bring along a friend or significant other to act as your spotter while you practice. This will more accurately simulate reversing into a campsite because it is typically best practice to have someone spotting as a trailer is reversed into parking spaces.

camper and truck at the campground

Get comfortable driving on rough 4×4 roads

Many of the most beautiful and secluded (non-RV park) campsites are only accessible via old logging and 4×4 roads. This off-grid camping is often referred to as boondocking (find out more here). These backcountry roads can be narrow, bumpy, and filled with rocks and sharp corners. Similar to freeway driving, driving on 4×4 roads will take time to master and should be practiced.

Know how to use your RV systems

Travel trailers have a number of systems that are important to familiarize yourself with before your first adventure.

Practice properly dumping both the gray water and black water tanks at an ordained dumping station. Also learn how to fill your fresh water tank and how many gallons it holds.

Read the RV’s user manual and watch some YouTube tutorials on RV electrical systems to learn electricity conservation techniques and how to troubleshoot electrical problems. Batteries are expensive and can require specialized care. Learn how to care for them before they leave you dead in the water.

2. Properly equip the camper trailer

While camping, gear is everything. Having, or not having, the right gear can quickly make or break a camping trip.

The following list has been personally developed over years of forgetting choice pieces of gear and regretting it.

Making a habit of re-checking all these supplies is a super smart thing to do yearly… perhaps add this to your spring-time opening of the camper, and grab this checklist while you’re at it!

Emergency Kit

While uncommon, becoming stranded without aid or services can happen due to breakdowns or rough weather.

Keeping an emergency kit in your camper can save your life. Your emergency kit should include these items:

  • three days worth of non-perishable food and water,
  • manual can opener,
  • water purification system (filters or tablets),
  • headlamps with extra batteries,
  • space blankets,
  • hand warmers,
  • first aid kit,
  • portable power bank (fully charged),
  • sturdy gloves,
  • road reflectors,
  • air horn for signaling help,
  • and duct tape.

Important note: your emergency kit needs to have three days of food and water for every person traveling. So, an emergency kit for a family of five will need 5 times as much food and water than a kit for a solo traveler.

First Aid Kit

Your RV should have a large, well stocked first aid kit for daily use. Use this kit for everyday bumps and scrapes, while saving the emergency first aid kit for true emergencies.

Pro-tip: Buy way more band-aids than you think you will need, trust me.


Camping can be messy. It’s always a good idea to have a few spare towels on hand.

Parking Equipment

Keep leveling blocks and chocks in an easy to access compartment so when you reach your campsite, you can quickly level the rig and securely park it.

Remember: Never unhitch without the tongue jack down, and wheel chocks in place.

Basic tool kit

Load a spare tool box with a wrench set (standard and metric sizes), assorted screwdrivers, assorted pliers, a hammer, electrical tape, duct tape, and some spare fuses.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Most RVs and camper trailers come stock with these pieces of safety equipment, but don’t assume yours does. Make sure your rig is fully equipped with the proper number of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and check their batteries before every trip. Keep a stock of extra batteries in the trailer.

12 Volt Air Compressor

Nothing is worse than being 10 miles deep on a backroad and discovering that a leaky tire has deflated over the weekend. 12V DC air compressor to the rescue! This nifty device should be able to top your tire off with enough air to drive to the nearest tire shop.

3. Pack methodically

Getting prepared and packed for a trip in the RV can be a hectic time. There’s always so many things to collect and pack, food to prepare, and last minute runs to the grocery store.

Being thoughtful and methodical while packing can help to ease the stress of preparing for your next RV adventure.

Use Totes

Gear is easily misplaced. This was the very first lesson I learned when I started traveling in RV’s in my early twenties. In order to combat my tendency to pack gear away and forget where I put it, I started using totes as my primary organizational system.

Now I have a designated totes for all of my camping gear. Cookware and spices? Kitchen tote. Blankets and pillows? Bed tote. Snowboard boots and helmet? Ski tote.

After I use a piece of gear, it goes right back in the tote it came from. This helps to ensure I always know where my stuff is, and keeps storage compartments clutter-free.

Read more on camping packing and organizing here

Make a Pile

My preferred method of keeping track of all the gear I am going to bring camping is to make a large pile of all the gear as I collect it from around the house. Nothing gets packed into totes or the trailer until everything is collected.

This way, as I gather gear I can easily see what I have collected and what I have yet to grab. It also helps the packing process when I do eventually load the trailer. Tetris-ing everything into place is a lot easier when you have the whole puzzle laid out in front of you!

a pile of camping gear and packed tubs

Using a camping packing list for this process is also super helpful! Grab this free camping packing list here!

Don’t Forget!

The following pieces of gear and pre-trip tasks are commonly forgotten amongst my friends and I:

  • Bottle opener
  • Sufficient number of blankets
  • Wine corkscrew
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Filling propane tanks
  • Filling fresh water tank
  • Buying ice for coolers

4. Be a Good Neighbor

The vast majority of RVers spend their vacations staying in one of the tens of thousands of RV parks across the USA. RV parks provide a peaceful and safe environment to kick back, roast a few marshmallows and make some new friends.

But when proper RV park etiquette is ignored, potential new friends can quickly turn into disgruntled neighbors. If your next trip to an RV park will be your first time at an RV park, keep these points of etiquette in mind.

Respect personal space

Most RV parks don’t have physical boundaries separating one campsite from the next. Because of this, it can be all too tempting to cut corners and occasionally take a few steps across your neighbor’s campsite.

This is a major faux pas amongst RVers. People appreciate having their space respected and need to be able to trust in some degree of seclusion and privacy at their campsite. Consistently walking through a neighbors site without permission is a pretty easy way to show them you don’t respect their personal space.

Note to families: Children are notorious for running a bit wild at campsites. If you are bringing children to an RV park, impress upon them the importance of respecting campsite boundaries.

Keep noise down

These days, most RV parks have pretty strict quiet times and people take these quiet times very seriously. There’s nothing wrong with playing music and having boisterous conversations during the day, but once quiet hours hit, make sure you and your crew tone it down.

This is especially important to remember when having a late night campfire. Campfire’s stories and jokes tend to increase in volume as the night wears on and it can be easy to lose track of how late it is and how loud the party has gotten.

Be courteous with waste

Letting piles of smelly garbage bags pile up at a campsite isn’t cool. Even if you don’t mind, your neighbors might suffer from the smells wafting off an untended trash pile.

Campsites littered with trash will also attract critters like raccoons and mice. If mice are consistently attracted to your campsite, one might eventually decide your warm RV would make a great new site to build a nest.

As you create waste, make sure to properly dispose of it in the RV park’s dumpsters.

Camping in bear country: If you camp where bears live, leaving garbage out and around is also a huge risk to both you and the wildlife and you can even be fined for this! Learn more about bear safety here.

5. Shut down camp at night

A lot of chaos can occur at night while people sleep. After years of waking up to all sorts of interesting morning problems, I’ve developed a checklist of tasks to accomplish before laying my head to rest.

Batten down the hatches

I truly can’t count the number of times I have fallen asleep to a perfectly clear, starry night, only to wake up several hours later to the sounds of a storm raging through the campsite.

Trust me when I say that this is not the ideal time to remember you left the RV’s awning open. Heavy winds, rain, and snow can all potentially damage camper awnings and table umbrellas that have been left open overnight. So before heading to bed, strap down and close anything that might be liable to damage from a storm.

Put food away

Raccoons and mice and bears, oh my!

Food left out and open all night will almost certainly attract hungry animals. Most scavenging animals that live near campsites know that the buffet opens at midnight. Around sundown, they will head to the edges of campgrounds to wait for people to head to sleep. Once the campground has quieted down, they strike!

So pack your goodies away in critter proof containers. If you are camping in bear territory, consider buying a bear-proof box to keep your food in.

Drown the fire

Smokey the Bear was right, it is up to us to prevent forest fires.

I’m consistently shocked at how much water it can take to truly extinguish a campfire. Several times while camping I have woken up and been ashamed to see last night’s fire still smoldering in the pit. Luckily I haven’t started any major fires… knock on wood.

These days I bring a large 5 gallon water jug specifically for dousing fires. Depending upon the size of the blaze, 2-2.5 gallons usually seems to do the trick.

Always ensure your campfire is 100% extinguished before retiring for the night.

campfire at a campground

Ready, Set, Camp!

Armed with this knowledge on the do’s and don’ts of trailer camping, I hope you feel confident hitching up your rig and taking off into the wilderness.

So…. go do it!

And, as always, happy camping!

Written by Amaan

Writer, artist, & adventurer

Amaan has spent most of his adult life working and playing outdoors. During his early twenties, he became a ski bum and began building campers in the beds of pickup trucks in pursuit of freedom and adventure. He became an RV technician after ten years as an artist and carpenter in Washington State. Writing is his way of continuing to explore the world and pursue his passion for creativity and artistry.

black truck and RV camper trailer

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