RVs, trailers, and campers can be challenging to maneuver.
That’s why backup cameras are essential for convenience, confidence and safety. As you journey down the open road, it’s also good to know what you leave in the rear view.
What To Expect
- We’ll start with our Top Choices (the short cut)
- What’s important to consider in a backup camera system
- Wired vs. Wireless
- Other rear view camera set ups for specific situations
- Bird’s eye view of a basic installation
Last update on 2019-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top Pick Overall – Best Trailer/RV Backup Camera (Wireless)
Emmako Digital Wireless Monitor System
The Emmako is a high resolution, backup monitor for everything from campers to trailers to fifth wheels.
It comes with one 7 inch screen capable of splitscreen viewing, and toggling reverse guide lines.
Also, it’s seriously waterproof, with a IP69K Rating.
The camera’s lens viewing angle is 150 degrees (really good) and has a powerful night mode.
Emmaku HD 720 Range
Emmako boasts a camera range of 60 feet at low speeds and 80 feet at high speeds. They don’t actually define low speeds—though high is capped at 100 mph.
In terms of range, every wireless backup camera manufacturer will list their highest potential range. If you have more than 50-55 feet between the driver’s seat and your camera, a wired model is recommended.
More Emmaku Features
- 7 inch Monitor
- Wireless Backup Camera
- Charger Adapter Switch
- Power Cable
- 2 x Shorter antenna
- 2 x Mount Bracket
- Sun visor/Screws
- User Manual
Mounts and power are all included.
Only one camera is included, but the device can handle up to four cameras. (Giving you multiple angles and views.)
Beware – The signal can vary, you may experience a weak signal from time to time, depending on conditions. (All wireless systems are susceptible to this.)
*The price may seem high but upon comparison, it’s actually a great deal. (Look at the Furrion!) Besides, know you are paying for quality. Think of it as an investment in safety.
- 7″ 1080P resolution
- Night vision
- Easy Installation
- Wide lens angle
- Includes only one camera
- Complaints of lower signal range
What To Consider When Choosing A Backup Camera System
First things first – check the desired range for your rear view camera system.
Note: Range is only a factor when considering a wireless system.
Range coverage for every system varies greatly. But they are limited. We couldn’t find a system with a maximum range over 150 feet.
Anything over 100 is considered great, and we recommend a range of at least 40 feet.
Your desired range will be determined by use. Start with the size of your RV, (see here for averages), or combined length of tow vehicle and trailer. Once you determine total length, add at least ten feet to find your target range.
Surface Mount or Flush Mount Cameras
Rear view cameras fall into one of two categories: surface (standard) mount of flush (keyhole) mount.
Surface mount cameras can be attached to any flat (or nearly flat) surface. These work well on larger vehicles and are often seen mounted high on the rear end of RVs, busses, and commercial vehicles.
The angle down provides sweeping views and allows for good depth perception.
Flush mount cameras are more common on passenger vehicles, pick-up trucks, and SUVs. The camera is mounted through a hole in the body of the vehicle.
This provides more of a street level view of the area behind the vehicle and maintains a very low profile.
Camera Count & Split Screen
Many systems can connect to up to four cameras. The display offers split screen and can sync to multiple cameras.
Multiple rear view cameras is a great, helpful feature for added safety. One wide-angle camera makes a world of difference; two adds even more.
Be careful! Most sellers only include one camera, even if the system can connect to multiples.
Backup cameras need to be waterproof.
Most cameras are mounted outside the vehicle and exposed to the elements. There are many forces at work on the systems parts. Of course there is rain, but also, snow, ice, salt, oil, grime, dust, and high pressure washers, just to name a few.
Not only will you rely on the system even more when these elements are in play, you also want the cameras to be durable and dependable under all conditions.
And, there is even more to consider…
The camera will only be as strong as its cables and connectors. Avoid RCA connectors for exterior installs. They are not weatherproof.
Look for connections that screw in place. They will be waterproof, solid and won’t come unplugged.
Leaks could affect more than just the image. In extreme cases they could lead to a short where the camera stops working altogether—so let’s get waterproof.
Always choose “waterproof” over “water resistant”. (Whatever it means, resist resistance.)
This isn’t the place to skimp.
We highly, highly, recommend getting a camera with infrared or night vision capability.
You won’t get a good quality picture in low light or total darkness without it.
Night vision is often overlooked and misunderstood as a luxury feature, but it is crucial for safety. (After all, it is much easier to see in daylight – why not have a tool that can help when it is most needed.)
High quality cameras that are equipped with night vision, have infrared LEDs that automatically turn on when background light is too low to produce a high quality picture.
Ideally, you want the camera’s infrared LEDs to light the entire field of vision. The number of LEDs isn’t necessarily important, but the camera’s light output and sensitivity will determine its performance and capabilities at night.
Note: Night vision illuminators should provide at least 10 feet of illumination. 20 to 30 feet is recommended and high end cameras can shed light up to 50 feet beyond the camera. (Claiming to light beyond 50 feet is probably just sales hype.)
Don’t compromise on safety. You will drive at night, even if you don’t plan on it. (Disregarding the rare case of night vehophobia).
Many rear view camera systems have the ability to switch on automatically when you put your vehicle in reverse. You want this. When available, it’s a simple one-wire connection from the receiver to your backup light circuit.
The alternative is to manually turn on your rear view system every time, which is a pain and ultimately, not as safe.
Mirror Image Capability
Look for camera systems that include mirror image capability.
This feature allows you to see the image as it would appear in a rear view mirror. Because we are all used to this view, it is easiest for most of us to process and leads to the safest operation.
Power source will probably not be an issue but it bears mention. Most rear view camera set ups work on a standard vehicle operating on 12 Volts DC. Most likely, this will be yours.
But a handful of specialty, commercial, and military vehicles use higher voltage and will require a voltage regulator. (Not a big deal, but we thought we’d help troubleshoot those rare situations.)
Wired vs. Wireless
Time for the great debate!
Both wired and wireless camera systems have their place but please consider the following:
A wireless system transmits a video image through the air.
Imagine. Video image is captured between moving vehicles, converted to radio signal, sent flying through the air, converted back to video, and displayed on your monitor, and often during imperfect conditions. Lots to go wrong.
A variety of sources including high power radio and TV antennas, electrical transmitters, and cell towers, can all cause some level of interference or disruption in a wireless signal before you see the crystal clear image you hope to see.
So a wired system will always be more reliable. Having said that, wireless gets better all the time, and does have advantages in price and installation.
Put simply, you have a choice, and your decision depends upon your situation. But don’t forget, safety is at the heart of this conversation.
|Reliable Signal||Signal Problems|
|Difficult Installation||Easy Installation|
|Price (Professional Installation?)||Often Cheaper (No Wires)|
The Case for Wireless (When Wireless Makes Sense)
Wireless backup cameras are good for smaller RVs with a shorter distance for the signal to travel.
If you can manage navigating without a camera, wireless is a great option as an added convenience and safety measure.
Consider traffic density. If you are only driving in rural areas where you have plenty of time and space to back up and maneuver, a wireless rear view camera system can be a helpful addition.
Other advantages to wireless are easy installation (no wires), fast set up, and lower price.
When Wireless Puts You at Risk
Highway travel at high speeds and in weather—both of which have the potential to interrupt your signal.
If your particular set up covers a long distance and is prone to blinds spots, you may want to consider a wired system.
The Case (Situations) for Wired
Wired backup cameras are more reliable. It is a fact; a high resolution signal traveling through a wire is much less likely to be interrupted than a wireless signal.
If you have a larger RV (say, over 55-60 feet), then a wired camera is your best choice.
In general, if signal strength or disruption is any concern, err on the side of reliable. Get a wired backup camera for your trailer, RV, or other vehicle.
Downside to Going Wired
Reliability comes with a cost. A wired system will be more dependable but they usually cost more. Your system may also require a professional install which adds to the cost and time to get up and running.
Last update on 2019-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The monitor, for both wired and wireless systems, will either plug into the cigarette lighter or have a more modern plug/power source—that’s the easy part.
The camera is where it becomes more complicated because it will be wired to the brake/reverse light.
- you select reverse in the vehicle’s transmission,
- back up light goes on,
- triggers power supply to the camera,
- you see the image at the monitor
In this configuration, you have to wire the camera to the brake light. These next two sections and videos explain how to do it, plus the full wiring to the mount.
If you’re not particularly handy, a local auto repair service can easily do this at a reasonable price.
For RVs so large they don’t have a rearview mirror (not travel trailers, etc), this section is for you.
It is required by law for all vehicles under 10,000 pounds to have a backup camera. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made this a requirement for all new cars starting in May of 2018 (Source).
Since the majority of RVs predate 2018, many do not include backup cameras.
Fortunately, many RVs are pre-wired—you just have to add the camera.
Check your manual to locate a panel that hides the wires and is printed recommended cameras (though any will do). Search for your camera here.
James and Ashley from The Chick’s Life – RV Travel demonstrate how to get the information in the video below.
For Trailers & Travel Trailers
Stony Ridge Farmer does a great job explaining what it takes to set up a backup camera. His method works for almost any situation.
Emmako makes the best all-around backup camera. It’s wireless and easy to install for a great price.
For larger vehicles, Furrion makes a great system. It’s effective over longer distances and high speeds.
Learn more about the difference between wired and wireless.
For wired cameras, Fookoo makes a great system. It’s reliable over longer distances and high speeds.
No. Normally they are activated by reversing and turn off when you shift gears.
They do not record because there is no need to—it would only add to the cost.
It is extremely easy to install a wireless backup camera. You can and should do it yourself—it should take about 10-30 minutes.
The monitor is fixed to the console of your car and the camera will have instructions about where to attach it, often with just a few few screws. Because it’s wireless, you don’t have to worry about wires!
Absolutely. The added safety from a backup camera completely outweighs the cost.
Even if you think you can see well enough, if you think you are safe enough, a backup camera adds safety.
They help when reversing, changing lanes, and the rest of the time you’re in your vehicle, staying aware of your surroundings.
There are two kinds, surface and flush. Surface cameras attach to the center-top of the trunk of your vehicle, angled down to see the road behind your vehicle. Flush cameras look through a hole in the body of a vehicle.
Wireless rear-view cameras are easy to install and are cheaper. However, they are less reliable (at high speeds, etc). Wired backup cameras don’t get interrupted, but often cost more than wireless.
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Main Image Credit: Photo by Elijah Hail