Off Road Camper Trailers You Need To Know About
As A Beginner Should I Get A New Or Pre Owned Camper Trailer?
As a beginner Research the type of space you need. Big kitchen, Do you want a shower inside, How big of a bed do you want. The list goes on and on. If I were to tell the old me, I would tell him to get a pre-owned camper trailer. I only say this because once you get a new trailer, you're going to get sold on upgrading things right away when you haven't hit the road. Best to start small and do the add-ons later on your adventures. Curious of what to worry about when your on the road? Don't worry we got your back. Check out our list of ideas and let us help brainstorm ideas for you!
Basically, buying used means you’ll spend less money — potentially thousands of dollars less — on a vehicle that may just be more road-ready. And besides, you can always upgrade your rig to match the latest fancy-pants model.
For instance, you don’t want to purchase a vehicle that’s too old, especially since many developed campgrounds actually have restrictions on the age of the RVs they allow in their campground. Anything over 10 years might just be too vintage for some luxurious resorts.
Plus, the older an RV gets, the more wear and tear you’ll find on its parts and pieces, which can mean a whole lot of expensive repairs for you down the road. If you don’t want to totally eclipse the amount you saved by buying used in the first place, it’s important to check the rig thoroughly for any signs of water damage and other issues before you sign the sales contract! Be sure to have a checklist or buying guide with you when you when buying a used RV, and if possible, look at the specific model’s owner’s manual to see what systems will need upgrades soon. This will help you figure out how many miles your rig should have in order for you to still get value out of the transaction.
How Experienced Are You With Driving Trailers?
When choosing a trailer there are various of sizes. Also, it depends the type of vehicle you are driving. The most common factor while driving is called "Trailer Sway". It's scary to be in a situation like that especially with wet and slippery roads. The first vehicle I used to pull my trailers was an Astro Mini Van. I chose that because there is a lot of space in a van much like a trailer (I had more room for cargo). The best and easy way to practice is to go to your nearest truck rental (Uhaul, Penske, etc), and hitch a trailer and practice if you and your vehicle can handle a trailer. Go to a National Park, Camp Ground, or Truck Stop and test your skills!
It’s actually pretty easy to drive a travel trailer. As you drive forward, the trailer will follow you in a very natural way. Provided your vehicle is rated to tow your trailer, you will not find it hard to go up hills, brake, or do most of the other things you would normally do while driving. That said, it isn’t without any special challenges or dangers. Let’s look at some of the potentially tricky parts.
This is easier than you might think. The trailer will naturally follow the path of your tow vehicle when moving forward. The only rule of thumb is that the longer your trailer is, the wider you want to turn. A long trailer can end up cutting a corner that was close to the vehicle. Just keep your turn as wide as the roadway reasonably permits, and you should be fine with nearly any right-angle turns. Curves and round-a-bouts are generally no sweat in a trailer.
Any turn sharper than 90-degrees can be an issue. You want to avoid those whenever you can, and if you can’t, take them as wide as possible. Trying to do a shimmy where you back up to get more turning room won’t generally work in a trailer. Backing up a trailer is a tricky business.
Finally, don’t take turns too fast. Trailers have a higher center of gravity than most vehicles. That means a turn that might be safe for a car, could tip a trailer over. Take it slow and steady and obey the recommended speed limits.
This is actually pretty challenging. And the bigger the trailer, the more tricky it becomes. You should practice when there is nothing to run into before you try it for real. The way a trailer backs up is not intuitive and simply takes getting used to before it feels natural. Take it slow and steady, and you should be fine.
My biggest tip for you here is to avoid situations where you need to back up under any kind of pressure. Thus, avoid doing it on the roadways, if at all possible. Stress and pressure will only make it harder and increase the chance of making a costly error.
Steep hills and mountain passes can be a challenge for some trailers. If you are pushing the boundaries of your tow rating, they can be a bit stressful. None the less, it’s usually not a real problem, so long as you know what to do. The main thing is to keep to the right if you are going to be slow going up the hill. If you are well below the speed limit, I’d suggest turning your hazard lights on to let other drivers know.
Coming down a hill is a bit more dangerous. But again, if you play it safe, there should be no problems. If your tow vehicle is capable of engine braking, this is a good practice. Engine braking is when you put your engine into a lower gear as you go down a hill and take your foot off the accelerator. The drivetrain will run the engine and the mechanical resistance slows your roll down the hill. It’s a good way to control your speed, and it eases up the wear on your brakes.
You may still need to apply your brakes as well, especially on a very steep grade. One thing you want to avoid is braking too hard while you are in a turn and going downhill. This can cause the trailer to jackknife and lead to an accident. Try to make sure you are at a slow enough speed going into the turn and then maintain that speed or gently decelerate. Keeping a nice, steady, controlled speed is the key to safety in this situation.
The main thing to keep in mind here is, that with a trailer, your stopping distance is longer. You want to maintain a good distance between you and the vehicle in front of you so that you have plenty of time to stop. Give yourself more room than you would normally allow and don’t trust the intuition you developed driving a smaller and lighter vehicle.
Trailer sway is one of the special dangers of towing a travel trailer. The phenomenon is best described as the trailer and tow vehicle wiggling back and forth. What happens is that something pushes on the trailer, and it, in turn, pushes on the tow vehicle. The back and forth reaction makes the sway action grow stronger until it causes a catastrophic crash.
The best thing you can do to deal with sway is to avoid it happening in the first place. Step one is to make sure you have good weight distribution on your trailer. Bad weight distribution lowers traction and amplifies the swaying. The second is not to drive in high winds. Because your trailer is bigger than your tow vehicle, the wind pushes unevenly on them. That makes the trailer move more and starts the sway. The bigger your trailer, the more sensitive it is to the wind. Finally, don’t drive too fast. The faster you go, the more dramatic the sway, and the harder it is to get under control.
The cause of sway that is hardest to avoid is people passing your trailer at a much higher speed. A big semi zooming past you will hit you with a wake of air that can set the sway in motion and take you by surprise.
If you do start to feel a sway, do not try and correct the sway by counter steering. This actually enhances the swaying. You want to stay calm and get back to going in a straight line. Here is how you can stop sway.
The best thing to do is to use the manual trailer brake on your brake controller. This causes the trailer to engage its brakes, pulling back on the tow vehicle, forcing them into a straight line. You should practice this kind of braking in a parking lot or the like, so you can execute it calmly and know what it feels like. It can be a bit jarring. If you have your brake controller such that it applies the trailer brakes a bit stronger than the tow vehicle brakes – something I recommend- then for minor sway, you can use the regular brakes with some success. I generally do that first, but if it fails, I quickly hit that manual brake.
If braking would be dangerous, say because there is someone right behind you driving too close, your other option is to temporarily hit the gas while steering straight ahead. This causes the tow vehicle to pull harder on the trailer, yanking it straight. The problem with this second technique is that the faster you go, the stronger the swaying forces can become, so you might just make the situation worse. Still, keep that as an option in your toolkit of reactions.
In nearly every state, slower-moving and larger vehicles are required to keep to the right lanes of the highway whenever possible. It’s better for the overall flow of traffic, and it is generally safer. The one challenge this can present is when there are many on and off-ramps on the right lane. A trailer, due to its size, can be harder to merge with other traffic.
Many drivers don’t get that your acceleration and deceleration are more limited. If I am in a really dense part of the highway, I’ll take the next lane to the left to try and ease up on the constant merging. Provided there are at least two lanes to my left, I feel this is a reasonable compromise in this particular situation.
When picking a lane, you can observe what commercial truck drivers are doing and follow their lead. They drive the same roads constantly and tend to know which lanes provide the smoothest travel while still obeying the legal requirements. Not every trucker sets a good example, but they are often the most experienced highway drivers on the road.
Take It Easy
I’d tell this to nearly any driver, but with towing a trailer it is especially true. It’s much more important to arrive in one piece than it is to arrive in time. Every trailer has a speed at which it becomes unsafe. Excessive speed can easily cause trailer sway, and it makes any situation that comes up harder to react to. You are not in a race, and there is no prize for getting somewhere the fastest. Stay safe and drive at a speed where your trailer is safe to maneuver.
If you feel you are too slow and are blocking other drivers, the correct response is not to go faster than you feel safe, but to find a place to pull over and let the other drivers pass. If you have a big train behind you, this is often a legal requirement. The rule of thumb is that five cars on your tail is enough to pull over for.
When you do need to change lanes or make a turn, be sure to give other drivers sufficient time to react by using your turn signals early and often. Try to be patient and give folks the time needed to make space for where you need to go.
Can I Boondock With My Camper Trailer?
Considering the restrictions so many cities have on pitching a tent wherever you like—or even parking an RV in your own yard—many people have a hard time believing boondocking can be legal. Luckily, as long as you stay in places where dry camping is allowed and follow proper etiquette, boondocking is completely legal.
Boondocking is more than a funny word: it’s a totally rad way to hit the road! Essentially, “boondocking” is when you utilize free camping without amenities or hookups. The term is most popular in the RV and Camper Van community.
You can’t just park anywhere and call it boondocking, though. It takes a little know-how and practice before you really get the most of our boondocking.
Every day, campers and travelers choose to escape the crowds of campgrounds for some off-grid exploring. There’s a wide range of camping available under the term “Boondocking.” It can range from setting up camp in the backcountry, to parking at Walmart.
In certain respects, boondocking is a simpler form of camping. You free yourself from the reservation process and fees but lose the luxury of a developed campground.
Boondocking is also a handy way to just park and sleep. If you are on a tight schedule and just need a spot to crash for the night, parking in a free lot overnight is a handy way to save you time and money.
Depending on why and how you’re looking to boondock, there are a variety of options for free and cheap camping.
If you plan on boondocking often, think about investing in external batteries that are charged, a composting toilet, a freshwater tank, and solar panels.
It’s normal to feel a little hesitant when boondocking, especially when you start. There’s a variety of factors to consider when deciding if a location is safe for boondocking.
- Walmart Parking Lots
- Truck Stops/Rest Areas
- Visitors Centers
- Trail Heads
- Apartment Complexes:
- National Forests
- Holiday Inn
- Marriot Inn
- Winco/Safeway/24 Hour Grocery Stores