Harris Bucklin, a Small Boats Monthly subscriber, sent me this note after he had read our review of the iBall back-up camera in the January 2016 issue: “You gave me a great idea for using my GoPro with my cell phone.” If you have one of those little waterproof action cameras and a wireless connection to connect it to a smartphone, using it as a back-up camera is indeed a great idea.
Prior to using the iBall I had cobbled together a wide-angle rearview mirror from an auto-parts store and an articulated, suction-cup camera mount. It worked pretty well and didn’t cost much to make.
Following Harris’s lead, I removed the mirror from the cup mount and put the GoPro on in it instead. (That’s what it was originally intended for.) My smartphone has the GoPro app installed and its display screen serves as the camera’s wireless remote monitor.
The GoPro has a very wide-angle lens and with the camera mounted over the trailer ball I can see the trailer tongue approaching from about 15′ out and guide the ball back until it is directly under the trailer hitch. There are a few things about the GoPro that took some getting used to. The images can’t be flipped left for right, so having the phone on my dashboard doesn’t give me the image I’m used to seeing in the rearview mirror. Holding the phone behind me and looking over my shoulder keeps me from working at cross-purposes. The wide-angle view seems to make the trailer tongue speed up as it gets closer, so a slow approach over the last foot or two is best. There’s also a delay in the image that appears on the phone’s screen, so to keep the tongue from denting my license plate (yet again) I stop every inch or so and let the image catch up.
If you already have a GoPro, the phone app, and a mount, you can set yourself up with a trailer-hitch camera in a couple of minutes and then head out and use the camera to record your boating activities. If you don’t have the GoPro rig, a mirror system like the one I came up with or the iBall are less pricy ways to get hitched quickly without help.