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Old 12-24-2016, 04:24 PM   #1
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Newbie Advice (Tow Hitch/Towing/Other Essentials)?

My wife and I are getting a new Basecamp next month, and a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. 4x4 as our tow vehicle. This will be our first trailer (after two years of vacationing with our dog in a small CruiseAmerica rental RV convinced us to take the plunge...). We are complete newbies, and have never towed anything before in our lives. So we are looking for newbie advice on any/all topics, and would love any suggestions that you may have for us.

Topic #1 for us is of course towing logistics, so we can get our trailer home and start using it (without being a total hazard). Our Jeep has the factory tow package w/ 2" receiver hitch and wiring, etc. What do we need in order to connect and tow the Basecamp (yes, we are TOTAL newbies...)? Any advice on learning how to tow a trailer, and maybe practicing with a U-Haul trailer before we get our BC?

We'd also love recommendations on other key equipment - such as a tow hitch lock for the Basecamp, a generator, will we want auto-leveling jacks, anything we'll want to consider for rear-view mirrors, backup camera, etc.?

We need to know pretty much everything, so please don't be shy with your ideas/recommendations! :-)

Thank you - and happy holidays!
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Old 12-24-2016, 05:15 PM   #2
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Newbie Advice (Tow Hitch/Towing/Other Essentials)?

Hi, and welcome to the forum!

You said you were getting a new Basecamp. If you are getting it from a dealer, they should give you an extensive orientation. Mine was more than two hours, inside and out, and included safely hitching and unhitching the trailer. If the first thing you're going to do is back it into your driveway, make sure you have plenty of daylight, and it would be helpful to stop on the way home in some empty parking area of a big shopping center or office complex where you can practice backing up without hitting anything. Just take it SLOW to avoid expensive crunching sounds. You have to think ahead more than you would in a car or a small motor home. I remember a time when I pulled into a Starbucks parking lot thinking I could circle around the place, only to find out it was a drive-through where my trailer wouldn't fit. Imagine the fun of redirecting a half dozen cars in line behind you out of the way as you back up in a semi-circle without really being very good at backing up yet!

Go easy on the new gear until you actually need it. Most dealers will throw in a starter kit of hoses for filling the fresh water tank and emptying the wastewater tank(s). A backup camera on your new Jeep would be helpful for hitching up. I've really found that another pair of eyes behind the trailer when I'm backing up is more useful than a backup camera on the trailer. I have one, but really end up using it more for an electronic rear view mirror than for backing up. Locks for the hitch on the Jeep and the coupling on the trailer are a good idea if you're going to leave the trailer unattended much. I don't see why you would need automatic levelers on a Basecamp, which is pretty lightweight. Eventually you will probably want a generator or solar or both, since the primary use of a Basecamp is as a ....basecamp, not a condo in a trailer park. You might want to start with solar. I would be 99% satisfied with that alone other than the few days when there is not enough sun to recharge the batteries. I usually don't travel where it is hot enough to require air conditioning, which would require a generator. You can decide if a microwave in the wilderness is important enough to justify a generator.

Sounds like you have enough experience traveling to know what you want, so the most important thing is to relax and enjoy the ride!
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Old 12-24-2016, 05:58 PM   #3
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If the new Jeep does not come with a factory installed brake control you will need one. It should be plug and play. Wiring harnesses/connection is located under the dash close to the steering wheel.
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Old 12-24-2016, 06:05 PM   #4
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Welcome to the Airstream Family!

I have the 16' Sport and the number one issue that I have had so far is figuring out what I need, want, and is mandatory to take along with me and where to put it all. The 16' Sport has limited storage areas and the Basecamp even less!

Don't go overboard on your tool kit. Know what you need for an emergency and don't take the kitchen sink with you. Also, figure out your kitchen and think of re-usability as well as limited water tanks (big issue) so make sure you have a plan prior to your first trip.

Most important of all? Enjoy it! It is small, agile and very easy to pick up and go and it LOVES to go on adventures.

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Old 12-24-2016, 06:29 PM   #5
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Get in a routine when hitching up. Get the trailer on the ball. Lock the hitch. Get the chains on. Third wheel up. Lights hooked up. Don't move away until it's all done.

Walk around the trailer twice. Antenna down, steps up, etc.

When backing up use the bottom of the steering wheel. Right and the trailer goes right.

Make small adjustment when backing up. Most newbies overcorrect.

The best advice I got was "Start the trailer where you want it to go and follow it".

Don't back up unless you HAVE to.

Spinakerjohn
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Old 12-25-2016, 06:28 AM   #6
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"The best advice I got was "Start the trailer where you want it to go and follow it"."

I have heard that. I still have no idea what it means.
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Old 12-25-2016, 06:59 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWCHIEF View Post
"The best advice I got was "Start the trailer where you want it to go and follow it"."

I have heard that. I still have no idea what it means.

Probably the same thing as being told to "Just follow it on around now." I have no idea what that means either.
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Old 12-25-2016, 08:15 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by McDave View Post
Probably the same thing as being told to "Just follow it on around now." I have no idea what that means either.
True dat!
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Old 12-25-2016, 09:21 AM   #9
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I love the new base camp, congratulations!

The biggest mistake most people make towing a trailer for the first time is not have the right hitch and getting it set up correctly.

The base camp specifications list the tongue weight as 410 lbs. The tongue weight can be higher or lower. You should get the tongue weight measured with a tongue weight scale, after you have the trailer loaded for travel. Then get the proper hitch for weight distribution and sway control. As a minimum you should have some type of sway control.

Trailer sway is the biggest reason people quit towing a trailer or have an accident.
There is lots of articles on the internet about trailer hitch set up. Educate yourself to make the right decision.
There are some dealers that are good at this and some not.
Research first.
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Old 12-25-2016, 10:58 AM   #10
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Thank-you ! Great advice, I'm getting a new basecamp and am totally a newbie at everything at except "watching". My husband and I have shared 3 larger Airstreams so I know what "stand where I can see you means !"
Thanks,
jaz
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Old 12-25-2016, 11:54 AM   #11
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Happy Holidays, and congrats on your new "toy"!

There are several threads on this forums about check-lists. All good advice, although some of them are for much bigger rigs with tons of space for gadgetry and appliances.

Absolutely, your dealer/salesperson should take you for a test drive with some backing practice. When that's done, see if you can take your rig to a large empty parking lot-- maybe early on a Sunday morning. Just practice backing up straight and turning.

The biggest problem we've run into is having to back into a tight corner at some sharp right angle back-in campsites that were probably laid out in the 1930s. It is possible to turn too tightly and to jacknife, so be prepared to do a certain amount of back-and-forth stuff before you get it right. A small trailer can actually be touchier to back into a turn than a large one.

We were complete newbies to backing anything, let alone an RV, when we got Bambi I. We were old tent campers, whose idea of luxury was a slightly bigger tent.

One thing we learned is that if you get an offer of help from a fellow camper during a tricky back-in site maneuver-- to go ahead and take it. He will feel like a real hero, so you've made his day. 99% of your fellow campers will be incredibly helpful.

Just one other bit of advice for those of us who believe "small is beautiful" is to see how you can pare down the amount of stuff you think you need to bring with you. We've found REI and similar mountain shops to be good sources of lightweight, compact, non-breakable appliances and kitchen-type stuff. If you're old backpackers or long-haul travelers, you've got the concept. We've invested in packing cubes and tend to pack light, planning on periodic laundromats for longer trips. Closet space is limited, but a black duffle (gym) bag is a discrete way of carrying extra stuff indoors.

There is a long-running thread, mostly for Interstate owners but helpful to us, called "small space living" with tips on all kinds of compact, handy gadgets.
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Old 12-25-2016, 01:27 PM   #12
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And concentrate on making wide turns until you're used to it -- trailer radius will be inside tow vehicle radius.
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Old 12-25-2016, 01:28 PM   #13
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Zamp 120 watt solar panel. I highly recommend it. If you pick one up be sure to get the 15 extension and the port that mounts on the side of the battery box. Made in Bend, OR. Google for more info. Forgo the generator unless you need a microwave or are traveling in northern climes in the winter.
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Old 12-25-2016, 01:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWCHIEF View Post
"The best advice I got was "Start the trailer where you want it to go and follow it"."

I have heard that. I still have no idea what it means.
When you see someone proficient in backing up, the truck follows the trailer. Some one who is less proficient will have the front end of the truck going side to side and not following the trailer.

I'm am both types of backers at times. And I know when I'm in the groove and following the trailer.

Spinakerjohn
been backing up for 30 years.
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