By Jim Twamley
A novice RVer with a 5th wheel pulled in next to us one day with a sparkling new $60,000 unit. Pulling in, he almost sheared off the utility pedestal. He spent the next 15 minutes pulling forward and backing up into his pull-through site until he had it where he thought he wanted it. After what seemed like a long time, a loud exchange erupted between the husband and wife: “What are you doing? You can’t pull forward!” “What do you mean? What’s it gonna hurt if I pull forward? … and on it went. It took him well over an hour to get it all hooked up. Not bad for a newbie — I hope this didn’t cause a divorce.
Before you pull into a spot, whether it’s a pull-through or a back-in, you need to do a visual calculation of where you are going to place your rig before you proceed. I usually stop, get out and survey the spot before I pull in. Please don’t get in a hurry when positioning your rig into your campsite. Don’t take all day, but also don’t be intimidated by someone waiting while you back in— It’s an RV campground and the RV etiquette book says they must wait patiently until you are safely off the road.
Before you pull into or back into your campsite look for low tree branches extending over the site. If you have a large rig and back under a tree branch, you could tear your roof, rip off an air conditioner, vent or solar panel. I’ve passed up nice camping sites and driven back to the office to request a different site just because a tree limb was too close for comfort. After I’ve done a visual inspection of the site, I like to identify exactly where I will put my street side (port or driver side) front wheel of our 5th wheel (this is the side of your rig where your hook-ups are located).
Determine where you want to position your RV relative to the hook-ups. Is there a power pedestal where my slideouts will extend? I don’t want to bump into a power pedestal or a post with my slides. Nor do I want to have to put an extension on my electric power cord if I can avoid it. I also want the sewer drain to be relatively close to the sewer hook-up, but that’s not always possible. Try to position the sewer drain on your rig uphill from the sewer hook-up at the site. Making sewage move uphill is a challenging task — don’t try it unless you have a macerator.
After all these determinations (which only take a few seconds once you’ve done it a few times), I usually mark the ground with a visual marker, showing where I want to line up the wheels of my coach. You can use anything as a marker — a rock or stick — just as long as you can see it with your mirrors. Or you can have someone stand two feet off to the side and two feet behind (for a pull-through) or in front (if a back-in) where the wheels will eventually rest. You do this because you may need to level your RV and you need the two feet in order to pull up on the leveling boards. Self-leveling motor coaches skip this step unless you’re on a slope.
Once I have the rig at this point I check to see if it’s level. If I need to level one side or the other, I put the leveling boards in place prior to pulling forward (or backing) into the final stopping position. We also use handheld radios when backing into a site, and Marilyn can tell me when the wheels are on top of the leveling boards. Before we extend the slide, I double check that we’re not going to hit any obstacles. If you are not 100 percent sure you will clear the obstacle, measure and reposition the rig if necessary.
Following this procedure, or something like it, will give you confidence in your parking ability and actually make setting up faster. It will also set the tone for a happy camping experience!
photo: Jim Twamley