It’s time for a getaway. Your route is planned, and your gear is packed, but are you ready to haul your camper? Take a weight off and slow down to keep the ride smooth with these transportation tips.
Looking over your vehicle and camper is always a good idea before traveling. Make sure the camper is securely hitched and attached, check the tires’ air pressure and tread wear, and confirm brakes and turn signals are operating correctly. The signals should be visible on your camper for other drivers. Also, close and secure all vents, windows, doors and awnings to prevent damage. A swinging door can be a hazard and block your rearview.
Keep Your Balance
Weight is important to consider when moving your camper. Once you have confirmed your vehicle can pull the weight of your camper by checking your vehicle’s towing capacity in the owner’s manual, you should do the following before the scales tip. Empty all your tanks — fresh water, gray and black holding tanks — before taking off. This will lessen the weight and make the camper safer and easier to pull. You’ll also help your gas mileage. When packing the camper, be sure to place more of your items in front of the trailer’s axle until you find the best balance throughout. Do not overload the front, though; you want to prevent sway. A good ratio to follow is 60% of the weight should be in front of the trailer’s axle and 40% of the weight should be behind the trailer's axle and spread out the items evenly on each side. If you’re still unsure, consult the owner’s manual or call the camper dealer for specific guidance on your vehicle’s towing capabilities and the right weight distribution for your camper. You should also make sure items inside are secured so your possessions aren’t tumbling over. And remember: No passengers should be in the camper while you are transporting it. As your most precious cargo, you want your family and friends safely buckled in the front towing vehicle and not the camper.
The extra weight of the camper makes driving slower of the utmost importance. Sudden stops and turns will be difficult with a camper behind you. Use your turn signals, brake earlier than you usually would and be aware of your surroundings. Staying alert to other drivers can help you anticipate the best times to change lanes or if traffic is slowing up ahead. And make sure you can see! Add mirror extenders if needed so you know what’s behind you as well as in front. To stay alert, do not multitask with your phone or the GPS. You can designate a co-pilot for texts, navigation and playing your favorite songs. Your focus should stay on the road.
Parking can be a challenge because you need room for both your vehicle and camper. You will need at least two spaces, so parking farther away from other vehicles is your best bet. Giving yourself room will minimize the accidents that could occur if you are wedged next to other cars.
Spare tires and basic auto supplies, such as jumper cables, jack and tire iron and a fire extinguisher, should be packed away. Another good practice is to travel with a first aid kit and flashlights in case you are stranded. If you are driving in inclement conditions such as snow and ice, you should have emergency supplies ready in your vehicle such as blankets, food and water. Using snow tires when the streets get slippery can be an extra precaution as well.
Practice Makes Perfect
Lastly, you should feel comfortable when transporting your camper. If it’s your first time or you are still new to driving with a camper attached, practice driving in areas you know well. Being familiar with the traffic volume and traffic signal locations helps you grow accustomed to driving slowly and stopping earlier. Empty parking lots can be ideal for building skills in backing in and out of parking spaces. These suggestions will raise your confidence and let you know how your vehicle handles a camper.