I love helping people get started camping, especially those jumping in alone. Many people write to me expressing a desire to join in all the fun. When I ask what is stopping them, the most common reply I hear is a fear of towing. I understand and want to help put your mind at ease. I have a few steps to overcoming a fear of towing.
- Get in the proper headspace.
The first step to overcoming a fear of towing is to get in the right headspace. Towing is something that can feel like skydiving to a beginner. It seems like something extraordinarily courageous thrill-seekers do, not us common folk. In reality, over one million people a year take to the roads in an RV. It is actually a pretty common practice. That should bring any would-be tower comfort. No extraordinary skill set is needed to partake. I remind people all the time that if any exceptional skills were required, U-Haul would not give little trailers to anyone walking in the door in possession of a valid driver’s license.
- Do not let other people set limits for you.
Sometimes well-meaning people project their own fears on to us. They are afraid and, rather than break it down to discover what is stopping them, they create an untrue narrative that allows them to stay in their comfort zone. Generally speaking, misery loves company and they want others there too! Towing is a skill set like driving a car, riding a bike or mastering anything you ever set out to learn. There are do’s and don’ts and tips and tricks that you will learn, practice, and eventually form a muscle memory for. The day will come where it no longer seems like a big deal. It is just what you do. Turn off the nay-sayers and trust your gut.
- Get started online.
To get started learning about towing head over to YouTube and type in “Learn to Tow a Trailer.” You will find so many videos and watching a variety of different ones helps you learn the “language” of towing. There are two parts to the process, the hitch set up and the actual towing part. Having knowledge of the components of a towing set up will help you feel confident when you go to purchase your own setup. While watching the YouTube videos you will also begin to learn the principles of towing. How wide to make your turns, when to pivot to get out of a gas station without jumping the curb, and how to back into a campsite. All of this will help you once you are behind the wheel yourself.
- Rent a U-Haul
When it is time to get behind the wheel and put these lessons to the test, start by renting a small U-Haul trailer and practicing around town during low traffic times. Most U-Haul or trailer rental places have small utility trailers that you can rent for extraordinarily little money. They will help you set it up and you can get the feel close to home and without an expensive RV behind you. Ask a friend to ride along to give you encouragement.
- Get a towing mentor.
Find a friend who knows how to tow and ask them to let you ride shotgun while they tow. When I took my youngest daughter on a road trip I used the time to explain what I was doing and why. I always scan the road anticipating changes in the traffic flow – merging cars, lane shifts, unexpected slowdowns. I explained why I was changing lanes, speeding up, or slowing down to keep traffic flowing. Before you ever get behind the wheel you need to learn the situational awareness necessary for every responsible driver. You can learn a great deal from someone with a lot of towing miles under their belt.
- Choose a small RV when starting out.
When you are ready to hit the road, choose an RV that is smaller. Lightweight towables have all the bells and whistles of their bigger counterparts but are easier for newbies to handle. If you want to go larger once you have some experience, you can do so with confidence.
- Have a reputable RV dealer install your hitch system.
Make sure you purchase your set up from a reputable RV dealership that will make sure your RV and tow vehicle are a good match. They will know what you need and make sure it is professionally installed. They will also teach you how to hitch and unhitch on your own. Having a properly installed set up will bring you peace of mind.
- Make a video of your hitching and unhitching process.
When they are teaching you, make a video of the steps so that you can review them later. It is also a good idea to write out the steps and create a checklist to follow so you do not forget anything.
- Start Slow and camp close to home.
When you are getting started, it is best to stick to campgrounds close to home. Travel there at off-peak traffic times and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. RVers are always happy to help others. Also, don’t be afraid to just stick with pull throughs while you are on the learning curve.
Tackle towing at your own pace. You only need to make yourself happy and, what we want in the end, is a bunch of happy campers. Towing is something you can master and once you do, the open road calls you to adventure!!
Janine Pettit is the founder of GirlCamper.com, the largest multi-media site for female campers in the country, and the Editor-in-Chief of Girl Camper Magazine, a print & digital publication focusing on every aspect of the camping lifestyle.