It is not always possible to place a trailer where you want it using a car or truck. Sometimes there is not enough place for the vehicle, and you may have to detach the trailer before moving it. Anyone who owns a caravan or a tent trailer has been in such a situation, and therefore it is natural for new owners to wonder if they would manage to maneuver their trailer by hand.
It is possible to move a caravan, tent trailer, and any other type of trailer by hand, provided the conditions are right. Factors include the trailer’s weight and size but also the surface conditions and your strength. Using a trailer dolly will make the process easier and less risky.
Let’s look into what it takes to move a trailer and what you can do to make it easier.
Factors Affecting If You Can Move a Tent Trailer by Hand
It would be great if I could just post a simple table or a rule of thumb for how hard (or easy) it would be to move a pop-up trailer by hand. Unfortunately, there are too many factors involved for meaningful generalized rules. Instead, let us go through each of the factors and why they matter.
- Trailer weight: A pop-up trailer weighs between 600 pounds for a light tent trailer up to 4,500 pounds for a large pop-up camper. Caravans weights from 1,700 pounds to well over 8,000 pounds. Most adults can push a vehicle of around 4,000 pounds, meaning a typical adult should be able to pull even a large pop-up trailer, whereas a larger caravan would be much harder to manage.
- Ground surface: While you may be able to pull even a big camper under the best conditions, this will change significantly if the surface is soft. A wet, muddy surface can make it very difficult to move even a light trailer than it is on gravel or asphalt – not to mention sand. In contrast, pavement or any other dry, hard surface makes it a lot easier to move a tent trailer.
- Slope: We can push heavy objects on wheels because we only have to overcome the friction of the axle. But on slopes, you will also have to overcome gravity, and even a slight slope makes it a lot harder to move the trailer. Slopes also pose a safety risk if you lose the grip or the pull of gravity turns out to be too much to manage.
- Your strength: Of course, a very strong person can manage a much bigger trailer than a smaller person. But be careful not to overestimate your strength, as even a very strong man is no match for the gravitational force. A trailer on a slight slope may look easy to maneuver until you pick it up and start pushing.
Plan the Process and Stay Safe
Instead of just grabbing the trailer and start moving it, consider your options: Is moving the tent trailer by hand realistic in the specific situation, or do you need to find another solution? Is it a safe location, and are you sure the trailer will not roll should you slip? Are all cables disconnected, etc.? Always ensure there is no risk of injury to persons or property.
Have a plan of what to do if something goes wrong, and you will have to let go. Having to let go on a slope may cause it to roll. It may be a good idea to have another person standing by with wheel chocks ready, in case you need to keep it from rolling.
Ask for Help
In most caravan and camping parks, there are usually many people willing to lend a helping hand. All camping and pop-up trailer owners have at some point been in a situation where they needed help, and most are more than happy to pay it forward. Asking your neighbor for a little help with moving your trailer (when needed) in place, is almost expected, and often someone will offer a helping hand as soon as they see your situation.
So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Two people can move a trailer much faster, easier, and safer than one.
Use a Dolly or Mover
A mover or a motorized dolly will make moving any trailer much easier. A handheld dolly is affordable, takes up very little space, and makes the trailer safer to manage. Instead of bending down and moving the trailer while in an awkward position, you can stay upright and get a better view of the situation.
Electric motorized dollys are even easier to use. They are more costly but will make moving the trailer by “hand” easy as pie. The solid tires also provide a good grip of the ground and keep your trailer from slipping under all but the worst conditions. If you have a bad back or feel uncomfortable about moving the trailer, an electric dolly is highly recommended.
Backing up the Trailer
Many people avoid ever backing up up their trailer. If you are not used to pulling a trailer, it can feel uncomfortable and counter-intuitive having to turn left when going right and vice versa. Besides, it can be difficult to see if you are about to hit something (or someone) when backing a trailer.
But backing a trailer is not as difficult as it feels the first few times, and with a little practice, you will feel even more comfortable moving it with your truck than by hand. Also, don’t worry if it takes a little longer the first few times, or if you need go back and forward several times. As in most other aspects of life, we don’t perform well under stress, and having a bit of trouble placing your trailer on the right spot is no reason to get stressed. You are on vacation, after all.
If part of the reason you prefer to move your trailer by hand is related to fear of backing it by car, consider practicing in a safe location. Like a parking lot or an empty small road. Practice moving around obstacles, and you will soon feel much more comfortable.
If you are in a situation where you need to back your trailer and cannot practice beforehand, consider asking for help. As mentioned, most trailer owners are more than happy to help. Most experienced “trailer backers” are proud of their skill and pleased for an opportunity to show off a little while at the same time helping their fellow man. Why not offer them the opportunity and perhaps get a few tips along the way?
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