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Our Fifth Wheel RVing Experience: Everything You Need to Know

We were a little unschooled when we got our first (and current) camper, a fifth wheel, not in the whole RV thing, but in this specific type of RV. We had a pop-up, a small bumper pull camper, a 27-foot pull camper, and a motorhome.

Not only that, but we thought we had learned a lot – and we did. Though each rig has its own characteristics and quirks, we mostly learn by doing. So here is a bit of what we have learned so far about our 5th-wheel travel trailer.

Our personal experience from road-tripping across the country in our fifth-wheel trailer

First, we got a 1993 Ford F250 XLT, gas V8 4WD truck. It already had a 5th wheel hitch installed in the bed. So we were happy to get a puller with everything we needed. Then we found our 5th wheel camper and had to drive 150 miles to pick it up and get it back to base.

We assumed that the two would fit together well enough to get back home. However, it turned out we were mostly right. When we hitched up, there was a slight tilt at the front of the camper, but not enough to worry about. When we got new tires later that were a size or two smaller, it made the tilt even less noticeable—something to think about fixing in the future, but not an emergency for now.

In addition, we only thought about the matching heights issue again one day outside of Hardin, Montana. We broke down while traveling and watched a tow truck load our F250 on a flatbed, and a big Chevy diesel hook up to our 5th wheel and take us all back to town.

We had a hub problem on the truck that we needed to fix, so the roadside assistance got us into an RV park for the night and the truck to a garage. As they were pulling away with our camper, I noticed that it was sitting pretty high on their plate and tilting back quite a bit, but it was a short trip.

When we arrived at the park, they backed it in, and I set up as usual with my 6-inch stack of 2x4s, albeit quickly. We were sitting relatively level and had other things to think about in the meantime.

Fifth wheel RV trailer parked and leveled on a campground
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How we backed up our fifth-wheel camper effectively

After we had repaired our truck the next day, I backed it in and went through the usual procedure of connecting with the camper. Everything was OK until I got to the part where you retract the electric front jacks to lower the camper onto the 5th wheel hitch plate.

It went all the way down (the jacks going up, of course) and then unexpectedly stopped. Then I noticed that there was still weight on the blocks under the jack feet, and they couldn’t be removed by hand. Apparently, the different heights of the trucks meant that the setup was different, and now I had a dilemma.

After a period of head-scratching and heated discussion, I decided that there was only one thing to do – drag the camper off the blocks very slowly and carefully. I didn’t want to ruin my jacks, but short of getting another truck in front of the camper, I didn’t know what else to do. 

Fortunately, it was a simple process, and the feet slid off the blocks with just a little tug from the truck, and we were on our way. However, it got me thinking about the height situation. There are so many variables here that it can make your head swim, and that’s what happened.

I thought about how lucky our truck’s hitch closely matched the camper without adjustment. The hitch is designed to be unbolted and then raised or lowered on the bed, but it looks like it would be too much either way.

Undoubtedly, the height of the blocks used under the jack legs makes a difference, but you want it to be stable, not towering on foot-high limber. Learn how to back up an RV trailer like a pro.

Final Words

The camper itself can be raised by lowering the axles into a different position, thereby extending the height of the camper from the ground. Obviously, all of these things matter, which is why RV dealer sites talk about matching all the variables when you buy from them.

For more details on this, check out the guidebook from KZ RV.

They’ll set it up perfectly so that everything is at the right height, and you never have to worry about it. Unless, of course, you have to have your camper pulled by another truck. Which I can guarantee messes up the whole thing

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