My first experience with a trailer was when my family went to the King Dome in Seattle, Washington to check out the pop-up campers at their big RV show. Now, in 1976, RVing was just getting out of its infancy. Those pop-ups were essentially tents on wheels. And my father, a Chief in the U.S. Navy, didn't have the income to buy one of those fancy trailers that didn't require a crank handle (nor the Winnebego helipcopter...I still remember that bad boy!).
January is the toughest month, followed closely by February. Unless you’re one of those blessed snowbirds who have already flittered south for the winter, you’re like me—staring out at a white landscape at a large hill in the snow that somewhat resembles my travel trailer. If you’re like me and you also plant a garden (going with heirlooms this year—seed catalogs are another great way to pass the winter days), the next two months provide little in the way of work toward your aspirations.
But there are things we should be doing, though we seldom think of it.
Plan your Camping Trip
I love Michigan’s state parks. In our state, you can reserve your spot online 6 months in advance. Do the math. Six months from today is roughly July 4th. Yikes! It’s practically here. If your state is like mine, better hit the campground reservation site or you’ll be parked in the back row, with the state highway out your back door and the children’s playground out your front. I kid you not, there are people who get online at one minute after midnight to make sure they get the lakefront property at our favorite parks on the Great Lakes.
So sit down with the family in the next couple of weeks and plan out some trips. Public or private, it never hurts to call in those reservations early. Planning a longer trip to places like Washington, D.C. or Yellowstone? You’d better be on top of it now. If you want to get a tour of the White House, grab those spots now. There’s a minimum of a three month waiting list. Same with other popular attractions like the Statue of Liberty and any national park. Get the travel guide and decide on what you want to see. If reservations are available, get it done.
Inspect your Travel Trailer or 5th Wheel
As for the hardware, let’s slip on the boots and take a tromp out to our little home on wheels. Start with a rodent inspection. Your first clue will be a roll of paper towels you forgot that is no longer in a roll. And likely shredded. Check the dark corners for droppings. How you dispose of the critters is up to you. I like d-Con, but if you’re not in favor of poison or traps, better get busy plugging up those holes. Anywhere a water or electric line enters the underside of your trailer is a likely spot. And, of course, make sure there’s nothing available on the menu inside the trailer. I suggested to my lovely bride that we keep our cats in the trailer all winter. I was vetoed. It was worth a try.
Then we want to check for leaks. If it’s still below freezing this is a challenge, but normally you’ll get a brief thaw in January, and this is when any leaks will become apparent. Unfortunately, there’s little we can do to permanently seal them at this time of year, but you can rig up a tarp for the problem corner (always seems to be a corner). I’ve also raised or lowered the tongue jack to direct water away from the trouble spot. Usually I just find another one.
Order your Hensley Arrow or TrailerSaver now
If you’re considering adding any major equipment this year, like sayyyy…a Hensley Arrow sway control hitch or TrailerSaver air-ride 5th wheel hitch, this is the time. We get busy around the beginning of March. We always ship the same or next day of the order, and you’ll get your hitch within a few days to a week, but you’ll beat the rush and have plenty of time to get your new prize installed. Please leave yourself ample time to test out any new piece of equipment before the season arrives. Yellowstone is not the place to practice hooking up. Take a couple hours in your driveway to make sure you understand how the Hensley Arrow or TrailerSaver works. If you have any questions, of course, we’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you. Just call 1-800-410-6580. Leave a message on the after hours hotline and someone will call you back within ten minutes.
So, let’s not spend our January weekends wondering if we should take down the Christmas lights before May. Let’s plan, take care of a few maintenance items, and do whatever we can to ensure our summer is one to remember…in a good way. Laying in bed with a steady drip of rainwater colliding with your forehead is not the kind of memory we need.
Nothing is more confusing than deciding the proper 5th wheel hitch when you are using a “short” truck, meaning a truck with less than an 8' bed. The concern about using a short bed is that, depending on the trailer configuration, you may have a limited turning radius, which can leave you vulnerable to a costly accident, often busting out the rear window of your truck if you turn too sharply.
In a few months, thousands of potential RVers will be in the market for their first travel trailer or 5th wheel. Most know they'll need a trailer hitch, towing mirrors, and a nice collection of outdoor furniture. But few realize that trailer brakes don't operate on their own. Their first introduction to a brake controller comes when their dealer asks if they have one.
Weight distribution hitches are a popular topic among the travel trailer community. But there's a bit of confusion out there about the difference between weight distribution and sway control. Let's clarify this issue first.
Weight distribution hithces only transfer the tongue weight of the trailer from the rear of the tow vehicle to the front. They do not control trailer sway.
Sway control hitches control the side to side movement in the trailer. Most sway control hitches come with weight distribution as part of the package and most, with the exception of the Hensley Arrow and PullRite, rely on the weigth distribution aspect of the hitch to aid in controlling sway.
Shown is a typical weight distribution hitch without sway control.
I love the Allstate Mayhem Guy. If you haven't seen those TV commercials, they do a great job of presenting (in a human form) the types of unknown disaster that awaits the average driver. Here's one of them.
At the risk of boring you to do housework, I must breech the subject of weight distribution bars. For those with a keen eye (or too much spare time), there are three basic type of weight distribution bar, sometimes called spring bars.