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Filed under: Comfort at Camp, Preparation & Readiness, Safety on the Road

ONCE IS ENOUGH! – Mistakes We Have Made so You Don’t Have to.

April 19, 2011 by · 12 Comments 


Thankfully, the ten mistakes below were not all made by me.  Rather, these ten oversights were recently shared by a group of veteran RV’ers that had assembled around a community campfire.

#1. While preparing the trailer at a National Park camping site for travel down the mountain parkway, I forgot to crank down the rooftop TV antenna.  This, of course, made the trailer much higher than the 13’ clearance of a tunnel up ahead.  As we entered the tunnel, I heard a crunching noise. Lesson Learned: Always check to be sure that your TV antenna is cranked down before leaving your campsite.  The result can not only be the replacement of an  antenna but some rather expensive repairs to your rubber roof membrane.

#2. Once when coupling the fifth wheel to the truck I became distracted by a visiting camper that was curious about the characteristics of our tow vehicle.  I completely forgot to check that the jaws on the hitch had locked around the fifth wheel pin.  When I pulled out the trailer came loose from the hitch and crashed down on the truck bed.  Lessons Learned: (1) Never allow distractions while hooking up the trailer to the hitch.  (2)  Body shops charge a lot of money to fix the crushed sides of a pick-up bed.  (3)  Paying the extra $200 for a “Bed Saver” on the hitch is a worthwhile investment.

#3.  We were towing a travel trailer down Interstate 85 at 60 mph, I was passed by a motorist that was blowing his horn and pointing to the back of the trailer.  It was a few more miles down the road before we could safely pull off at a rest stop. The two bicycles on their carrier, which was bolted to the sewer hose bumper of the trailer, had been dragging on the pavement for quite a few miles.  The wheels were scraped off as were the pedals. Lessons Learned: (1) The sewer hose bumper on a trailer is not structurally strong enough for a two-bicycle carrier load.  (2) A rear-view camera can help to monitor what is going on behind the camper.

#4. After leaving a campground in Georgia pulling a travel trailer, we drove another 300 miles to Fort Wilderness.  When I walked back to retrieve my sewer hose the cap on the end of the storage compartment was missing – along with the sewer hose.  Apparently, I had forgotten to replace the cap at the previous campground.  Lessons Learned: (1) Always be sure the caps on your sewer hose container are tightly in place.   (2) The cost of a replacement sewer hose at a resort park camp store can be extremely expensive!

#5. We hurriedly left home on the way to a club rally.  In our rush I managed to get the 7-way trailer light connector into the socket but did not push it in far enough for the swing-up lid to secure the plug in place.  The trailer end of the cord fell out of the socket and began to drag on the pavement as we proceeded down the highway.  Of course, we did not have any turn signals, brake lights or even working brakes on the trailer.  After a rather scary attempt to stop for a traffic light with no trailer brakes we pulled off to see what the problem might be.  We discovered a disconnected plug and cable from the camper that had been damaged beyond use.  Lucky for us, an auto parts store near-by had a replacement plug.  Lessons Learned: (1) Always double check to be sure the connector plug is secure  (2) Carry the tools needed to replace a damaged connector.

#6.  We were all hitched up and had just pulled out of the campground onto the highway when we were suddenly thrown forward in our vehicle seats.  The seat belt dug in tightly, leaving a red abrasion across my wife’s shoulder. As I made the right turn out of the campground, I pulled the pin out of the trailer’s breakaway switch, locking up the trailer brakes.  Lesson Learned: (1) Always leave enough slack in the breakaway switch cable to easily make turns.

#7. I happened to glance back in my outside rear view mirror when I noticed the left front landing jack pad on our fifth wheel trailer rubbing on the pavement.  Realizing that I could easily ruin the entire jack leg I pulled over on the shoulder of the road to correct the problem.  One of the spring-loaded pins that hold the front landing jack pads up on our fifth wheel trailer was not locked.  As I reached down to grab the pad on the leg to raise it up, I was severely burned.  Lessons Learned: (1) Metal that has been rubbing on the pavement will be red hot.  (2) Double check to be sure your landing jacks are securely locked in place.

#8. We were setting up our trailer on a slightly inclined site at a State Park.  I raised the front jack to lift the trailer off of the hitch ball when all of a sudden it began to roll backwards.  There was nothing I could do as I watched in horror as the camper proceeded to roll down the incline and toward another camper.  Lucky for us there was a hole in the driveway that caught the front camper jack foot and stopped the trailer.  The jack was bent beyond repair, but it saved us even greater damage.  Lessons Learned: (1)  Always chock your trailer wheels before uncoupling from your tow vehicle.  (2)  You cannot catch a runaway trailer by grabbing hold of the door handle.

#9. We have a rather extensive printed check list that we go over just before we pull out with the camper so that we are sure all of the steps have been completed.  One item we neglected to put on the list was securing the travel lock on the refrigerator door.  We arrived at our campsite only to discover spilled milk, broken eggs and other refrigerator contents scattered all over the floor. Lessons Learned: (1) Locking the refrigerator door needs to be added to the checklist.  (2)  Broken eggs that are still in the carton can be used to make a nice dinner omelet.  (3)  It takes a lot of paper towels to clean up spilled milk and broken eggs.

#10. The GPS insisted that the next road to the right was the entrance to our campground.  As we swung our truck and 30 foot trailer onto the new road we immediately began to wonder what we had gotten into.  The road was dirt and deeply rutted.  Add to that a recent downpour that had created slurry of red mud.  There was nowhere to turn around as the situation progressively became even worse.  Finally, we arrived back on a hard surface road that led to the campground entrance. Lessons Learned: (1)  The GPS will pick the shortest route, even if it is a dirt road. (2) Always preview GPS routing prior to your planned trip and compare it to a reliable area map.  (3) Red Georgia clay does not easily wash off of campers, trucks or clothes.

What lessons have YOU learned that need to be added to this posting?

Please share any you might have in the comments section!

One more commen from us:  We are finally back on the road after a long winter sabbatical.  We landed at the Holiday Trav-L-Park in Virginia Beach Sunday night.  The weather is beautiful, the beach is beautiful, and the jets flying overhead from the Oceana Naval Air Station are truly sounds of freedom.  That’s what all of this is about – freedom to live and explore this great country and all of it’s majestic beauty (even if diesel fuel is now $4.00 a gallon).


Do you camp with a pet?  Please visit my No Pet Add-On Fees website at or by clicking on the blue highlighted and underlined text above for information regarding camping with pets in Virginia State Parks.

Private e-mails can be sent to:  RandynNancyageeatgmaildotcom (substitute a @ symbol for the bold at and a period . for the bold dot when entering the address into your e-mail program).


12 Responses to “ONCE IS ENOUGH! – Mistakes We Have Made so You Don’t Have to.”
  1. Always make sure your road side assistance policy is up to date and renewed before you leave for a long trip. Ours was up to date last summer, but if it hadn’t been then we would have been forking over $600 for our car to be towed out of Yellowstone National Park and to the nearest service station in West Yellowstone! Ouch!

    That was a very very expensive tow job in a massive diesel tow truck that day! Luckily I had packed snacks for our children…Rice Krispie treats come in handy while sitting in the cab of a diesel tow truck being gingerly navigated by a midwestern college student who had never seen mountains til he arrived at Yellowstone a few weeks prior!!!

  2. eric says:

    One little lesson we learned: Our GMC pickup may be rated for FlexFuel (E85 gasoline)…. but don’t tow with it! Our first major trip we barely made 160 miles before running out of gas and sitting on the road for 2 hours waiting for gas to come from a gas station 50 miles away (there was one 2 miles away, but we couldn’t see it!)

  3. Mike says:

    While on the road, I monitor the brake controller as well as dashboard guages. If the lights on the controller aren’t right, the trailer wiring is not right. I learned this the hard way.

  4. Julie says:

    When sliding in the dining room side slide of your BRAND NEW travel trailer, make sure to check and see if the feet of your dining room table are completely on the carpet, otherwise the next time you slide out the slide you might find huge gashes in your flooring like we did. Luckily, we were able to cut a piece of flooring out of our back storage area that matched the pattern, otherwise it would have been a very costly floor replacement!

  5. Jack says:

    When leaving our last camp site, I turned to sharp and the tail end of my TT scraped the side of the electrical hook-up. Luckily not much damage was done. Make sure to pull far enough straight before turning because the part of the trailer behind the rear wheels swing out farther when in a turn.

  6. Janet says:

    When unhitching for your tow vehicle ALWAYS unplug your electrical first. The brakes on the trailer don’t set until you are unplugged. We changed our routine and almost died of fright when the trailer started to roll downhill backwards. Once the plug pulled out the camper stopped… thank goodness!!! It didn’t go far, as the plug is not that long but our blood pressure went through the roof until we figured out why it happened.
    We almost lost a sewar hose when the loose bumper cap fell out too.

  7. My husband and I went camping once in our pop-up on a lovely lake. We decided on a spot that was on a rise about 20-30 feet from the water. He backed it in and unhooked from the vehicle. He proceeded to pull out the beds and set up the camper. This is always stressful for me as I am ususally the one to set up while he is at work and I have my own routine and as most marrieds people who camp know men don’t take well to direction. So I left him alone. He then proceded to get in the vehicle and go to the office to pay. I was left alone at the site so decided to get the interiorr set up. I went in side and crawled up in the back bed to make it. Well my bed turned upside down! It took me several seconds to realise the trailer had tipped backwards as he had forgot to put down the jacks, I’m still not sure how I got out of that bed and propelled myself to the other end. While all this was going on I could here a scraping noise. When I reached the other end of the trailer it slammed down and the scraping stopped. I quickly exited the trailer to see that we had slid several feet towards the lake, he had always forgot the chocks. I was fumming. He soon drove up and got out of the car. Then he put the finale nails in his coffin when he asked me “why did I move the trailer/”

  8. Professor95 says:

    Oh My Gosh, Veria!! That sounds like an event my story characters “Bob and Marge” would have in their travels.

    You wrote, “I have my own routine and as most marrieds people who camp know men don’t take well to direction. ”

    OK – I must forsake my gender and agree. I am also one of those men, but I am trying to erase those habits and listen more frequently to what Nancy tells me. I just can’t deny that she is right (most of the time). :)

    Thanks for adding your story. I loved it.

    Randy (Prof95)

  9. June Malonee says:

    My wife and I have a check list we use for inside and outside of the travel trailer. We mistakenly did not turn off the hot water heater and burned a hole in the tank, Costly!!!! Ok, so the list was not a final list as we had once thought! We went to a State Park recently, our favorite place. Got there, set up. It was HOT, we are in Oklahoma and it has been over 100 for months. So, my wife goes in to get the A/C going to cool things down. The A/C is not coming on. The thermostate is flashing E2, E2, E2!~ We get out the book, what is an E2? The error codes in the book are E1, E4 and E5…. We had to leave the campground and go home. We were unable to determine what the problem was. Called the RV dealership the next business day and told them, E2. Well, he said, oh, this is what you do. Get a towel wet, wring it out, put in the fridge get it cold, drape it over the thermostate and “trick” it into thinking it is cooler inside than it really is. Apparently, this is a new (safety?) device on newer (ours is a 2010) that ….. well we never did find out what the saftety part of it was, or why it is even on there to begin with. But, I went out a few days later and tried this “technique”, and indeed it did work.

  10. Mike says:

    More on the sewer hose…the “caps” on most have two little rubber “posts”. These are supposed to fit into unseen little receptacles in the hose carrier, and thus “semi-lock.” Unfortunately, they can also be installed at 90 degrees, and there are no receptacles, so the cap can slide out more easily.

    Secondly, many of us use end caps on the ends of the sewer hose so water (you did rinse the hose, right?) doesn’t drain from the hose on the ground as you exit the park. Unsightly and somewhat unsanitary, even when rinsed. However, in the morning the hose is cool. Later in the day, the hose heats, the air inside expands, and guess what, the hose pushes off the cap, starts to exit, the wind catches it and pulls it on out. I actually watched this happen once. My solution is to put little holes in the hose end caps in the middle where they are above the water, and where they will let expanding air out without expanding the hose.

  11. Ron says:

    I could fill this column with misadventures we’ve encountered in our RV’s. One that I’ve encountered that no one has mentioned so far, is surprisingly easy to do. The fifth-wheel trailer we had at the time, and the one we have now, both have the city water connection and the black water tank clean out connection side by side. I’m talking about the device that sprays water inside the tank as you drain it, so you can more thoroughly clean out the tank. Well, we were on a group trip and had just pulled in for the night at an RV park. I was hurriedly setting-up and eager to get inside for dinner. When we travel with my brothers and/or my brother-in -law, there always seems to be a contest to see who can get set -up the quickest. After finishing everything (or so I thought) I was enjoying the meal that my wife had prepared when my brother called to ask about all the water that was dripping from the underside of our trailer. News like that is never a good sign, and so I jumped up to see what the problem was. I discovered that the toilet was overflowing and water was running down the hall and soaking up the carpeting. Outside, I discovered the problem — I had mistakenly connected the city water supply to the clean-out connection. The black water tank quickly filled up and ran out over the top of the toilet, along with the other contents of course. Ugh… /The camp ground staff was kind enough to lend us a vacuum, but I spent hours cleaning up. The water had also gotten into the storage compartment below. To prevent future problems, I keep the clean out connection capped.


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