Have you ever wanted to get an RV, but thought the price was outrageous?
Maybe you like primitive camping, but you’re tired of sleeping on a thinly padded ground?
If you say yes to either of these questions, then maybe its time to skip over the fifth wheel trailer and consider a pop up trailer for your outdoor adventures!
With a compact size, easy storage, and inexpensive price tag, what’s not to love?
Before you start speaking with a sales rep, keep reading because today I’m going to cover everything you need to know about pop up campers. From the good, the bad, to the… soft?
Find out more below!
So… What Exactly Are Pop Up Campers?
A pop up camper (often called a pop up trailer, fold out camper, tent trailer, or just pop ups) is an RV travel trailer that folds down when traveling or in storage, and will expand or “pop up” when in use.
The main idea behind a pop up camper is to create an easily towed RV that offers a fun camping experience because of the living space expansion when the camper is in “full bloom”.
Most pop ups expand from the bottom up, which means the roof rises over the main body of the camper.
The body of the trailer will typically be hard-sided (meaning fiberglass or aluminum), with the pop up portion being canvas walls (or fabric) that can easily expand.
This helps keep the trailer lightweight and easily towed, which keeps fuel economy high, allows smaller vehicles to tow it, and helps you save money on storage because it fits in a garage.
When fully set up, these travel trailers offer a fairly spacious living space which can include multiple beds, a kitchen, and sometimes a toilet. Although this RV type will almost always offer basic amenities, and nothing beyond what I mentioned above.
This RV type is great for those looking to upgrade from tent camping and want an easy to tow trailer that doesn’t break the bank. They can fit into almost every national and state park, and can often be really fun for boondocking.
Popup Camper Quick Facts
Most fold out campers are between 10 feet to sometimes 30 plus feet. Although this length will come from when the pop up camper is fully extended.
Usually very light. Typically 2,000 – 4,000 pounds.
Often sleeps up to 6 – 8 comfortably.
Most pop up campers usually have 0 slide outs. The folding section kind of counts as it’s own unique “slide out”.
Fairly inexpensive. Between $3,000 – $20,000
Advantages Of Pop Up Trailers
Pop up campers certainly offer quite a few points to consider when thinking about your next RV. Let’s take a look!
Compared to other RVs on the market, pop ups are going to be one of the cheapest options, with teardrop trailers being another great budget option. A pop up camper will typically cost between $3,000 to sometimes $20,000+ depending on the amenities. The reason they’re priced like this is because of material. Many pop ups are going to be a fiberglass bottom which will typically hold a couple storage areas and your primary living space, then it’s almost always canvas material or fabric for the actual pop up section, with a hard roof usually. This compact size and cheaper material passes on a lower cost to you.
With few amenities, lighter material, and just a low overall weight, pop up campers make for an easy tow from almost any tow vehicle capable of pulling up to 5,000 pounds. This camping trailer is a compact package, and towing a pop is usually an enjoyable experience (i.e. not crap your pants stressful) because you don’t have to worry about heavy cross winds or semi’s rattling the trailer. If you have an SUV, it almost always has enough towing capacity to handle a pop up. You won’t need a huge truck, and I’ve even seen 4 cylinder engines pulling pop up campers up hill without significant problems, although I don’t recommend you tow a pop with little horsepower.
Pop up campers can fit into almost any garage or driveway. Compared to a full sized trailer, these offer significant advantages because of their low profile. You won’t need to spend money on getting dedicated storage with pop up campers which helps you keep exploring on new camping trips without breaking the bank. In fact, the typical pop up is used as an upgrade from tent campers because they just don’t want to deal with the hassle of constant maintenance and storage when all they want to do is just enjoy nature a little more comfortably.
Disadvantages Of Pop Up Trailers
While a pop up camper can offer a ton of benefits, there are quite a few disadvantages you want to pay attention to before pulling out your wallet.
When the weather goes south, a pop up trailer is not exactly where I would want to be. Sure, there are hard sided campers which can offer more protection from rough weather, but those are typically flimsy and almost every manufacturer will tell you not to extend your pop up in severe weather. This recreational vehicle will almost never have solid walls, and heavy wind WILL cause the fabric to rip right off. Remember, a pop up camper is basically a tent trailer with very little wind resistance, so tread carefully when exploring the great outdoors.
Pop ups don’t offer significant amenities. A basic unit will often include a small dinette or seating area, a one or two burner stove plus sink, and a couple of large mattresses (think a queen or maybe a king). Some models will include air conditioning and potentially a wet bath, although that’s fairly rare from when I can find. If your idea of RV lifestyle is a little more posh, then popup campers won’t be for you. Not to mention, internal temperature control is difficult. Just like hybrid trailers, you’re going to deal with condensation and a difficult time trying to stay warm or cool. It’s highly recommended you DON’T take off with your pop up camper during winter. I’ve heard they’re worse than just tent camping.
A pop up camper offers fairly insignificant storage space inside the camper, and very little outside either. There are a few models with built in storage space, but for the most part you’re relying on roof racks and your tow vehicle if you want to bring a lot of extras. If you’re normally a solo tent camper, then this travel trailer might fit your personality well, but if you have a somewhat larger family then bringing extras make the camping experience that much more fun. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pick and choose what you bring because most tent trailers just won’t offer the kind of storage that you’ll want or need. It definitely doesn’t have the storage capabilities of other options, like a toy hauler.
Main Features Of Pop Up Campers
Before we get into what features most pop up campers will offer, we need to touch on a couple distinctions. In fact, there are 2 primary sub-types of pop ups which will help you get a better understanding of the space. These include:
- Soft Side Pop Up Camper
- Hard Side Pop Up Camper
Let’s quickly break down these two differences…
Soft Side Pop Up Camper
This is the more prototypical “pop up camper” that you may or may not have seen before.
This recreational vehicle will have canvas walls that extend and from sleeping areas (usually 2 different queen beds) and is basically tent camping with a hard bottom.
When I speak about not handling bad weather, I’m speaking about soft side pop up campers. Not only will they have a difficult time handling any weather outside of sunshine, you can’t expect any privacy or security. With nothing but fabric, you’re going to be heard (and hear!) by everyone.
Hard Side Pop Up Camper
In contrast to the soft sided pop ups are the hard wall pop up campers. These tent trailers offer actual fiberglass side walls and roof (usually an A roof) which will rise and lower depending on if they’re in use or not.
This pop up camper type is going to offer better amenities and is typically larger in nature. Most might even offer a full sized fresh water tank, ac unit, and a wet bath.
One thing to pay attention to is the increase in weight which might require a small truck for towing.
With those differences out of the way, let’s go ahead and touch on the primary features of a standard pop up camper. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about the soft side pop up campers.
Right off the bat, what you’ll notice with pop up campers is the look and feel will come off a little cheap. Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s because the material needs to be lightweight, handle moisture (due to the canvas side walls), and durable. With that being said, you will typically see a very small dining table (dinette) that usually fits about 2-4 people. The standard furniture will often need replacing or upgrades. There is not often any couch or extra sofa/chair that comes standard in a pop up camper, although there are floor plans with a gaucho bed. Remember, the living space is really more of a way to get out of the sun.
There are not going to be many pop ups with a bathroom. At best you’ll find a pop up camper has a toilet that’s hidden underneath the bench, but it wouldn’t be considered a “bathroom” per say. These are camping trailers, and really they’re meant for just sleeping more comfortably than in a tent. Often with a pop up camper you’re relying on the campsite to provide the shower and bathroom (which can actually be very nice!).
In terms of a kitchen, you can typically expect a one or two burner stove, a small sink, and sometimes a fridge. In fact, quite a few floor plans I looked at showed a fridge. A fairly neat aspect with most campers I looked into was a swivel stove which was where the stove top could be used outside the camper. I thought this was neat for the tent trailer. Don’t expect a microwave or oven. Those are not often included. Overall, you can expect at least the essentials for a kitchen with a pop up camper, but much less options when you compare it to other travel trailer types.
I think this is where pop up campers shine. For how small they are, these guys offer multiple beds for sleeping areas – usually either 2 queens or a queen and a king – plus a small bed from the dinette area can be found in a lot of floor plans. For such a small travel trailer, there’s a lot of space to comfortably sleep multiple people.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pop Up Campers
Here are some of the most asked questions we’ve gotten (and what we’ve found on the internet) about pop up campers!
Is It Possible To Live Full Time In A Pop Up Camper?
Personal opinion, no. You’re gonna have a tough time, unless you’re a solo camper or just a couple. Got kids? I wouldn’t risk it. You’re going to be fighting an uphill battle with temperature control – try running your air conditioning in a pop up camper while in Florida in August, not happening – and don’t even think of cold weather with a tent trailer. Sure if you’re a tent camper and looking to upgrade to the RV lifestyle, then this might work, but again you’re probably better off getting a hard shell travel trailer compared to a pop up camper.
Are Pop Up Campers Waterproof?
Meh, I don’t think so. Sure, when they’re new I bet they’ll last through a couple rain storms. Over time though? Doubt it. Given all the issues hybrid trailers go through, pop up campers are no different. Holes and tears happen all the time with pop ups and even if you use seam tape or sealant, you’re fighting against fabric which will deteriorate over time.
How Long Will A Pop Up Camper Typically Last?
I’ve heard a decade is about the length of time you can expect before you really start considering a new RV option. Remember, when you take your pop up camping, you’re subjecting it to a lot of wear and tear. It is fabric after all. Now, hard shell pop ups will typically last longer from what I’ve been told.
Is A Pop Up Easy To Tow?
Yep, just about as easy as they come. They’re a light weight camping trailer with a compact size that tows easily by almost any vehicle. Whether it’s a small SUV or truck, as long as it can tow about 4,000 pounds then you should be good to go. Plus, you get better fuel economy!
Is It Easy To Control Temperature In A Popup Camper?
It’s difficult, especially if the unit doesn’t have any air conditioning. Even then, you’re fighting with fabric that allows air to pass through much easier than an insulated hardshell.
If you’re a solo (or couple) weekend warrior, looking for a lightweight RV that can help you upgrade from the tent life, then consider a pop up camper.
These rigs aren’t going to blow you away amenity wise, but they also won’t require you to sell your house and all your things to go camping in comfort (looking at you class A peeps).
With multiple beds, a decent living area, and the ability to be towed by almost any vehicle, a pop up camper is a great way to dip your toe in RV life.
Go on. The water is mighty nice!