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What You Need to Know About Pop-Up Campers

What You Need to Know About Pop-Up Campers

If you enjoy tent camping but desire more amenities, you might consider a pop-up camper. What exactly are pop-up campers, and are they right for you? Let’s find out together!

What Is a Pop-Up Camper?

A pop-up camper is a towable unit that is “compressed.” Meaning, the top goes down when not in use so that the trailer is low profile. When you get to your site, you deploy the mechanisms that extend the roof to full height. Typically, pop-up campers have extendable sides for extra sleeping space too. Think of them as fold-out transformer campers!

Pop-Up Camper Details

When shopping for a pop-up camper, you need to consider your vehicle’s towing capacity, your budget, and your sleeping situation.

Lengths range from tiny 8-foot trailers that resemble a tent sitting on a wheeled box to 32-foot trailers with motorized lift up tops. Some are even small enough for motorcycles to tow!

The number of slide-outs will also vary with each camper style. For example, some A-frame trailers don’t have any slide outs. Yet, others may have a lift up roof-line and slide outs on each end, as well as dormers.

The weight of these pop-up campers ranges from under 1,000 pounds to 5,000 or more. Prices can also vary from under $1,000 for small, used pop-ups that may need work to upwards of $28,000 for newer units. The sleeping capacity for the small off-road adventure units is usually 2 people. But some larger units can sleep up to 12 people!

Hard-Sided vs Soft-Sided Pop-Up Campers

There are two options for pop-up campers: hard-sided and soft-sided. Hard-sided pop-ups have plastic or metal sides. They tend to be more private and hold up better to wind, cold, and rain.

The soft-sided or tent-sided ones are lighter. However, they inevitably end up leaking or tearing after some time and are susceptible to mold if not aired out before folding up the sides. The good news is the canvas sides can be repaired or replaced. 

Hard-sided pop-up campers also include the “hi-low” type campers where the top goes up via a motor or crank, as well as A-frame trailers where the sides fold up to create a triangle roofline. Hard-sided trailers tend to be heavier to tow but more comfortable to set up.

Features and Amenities in Pop-Up Campers

Pop-up campers can be very simple. The basic models normally have a bed, a small bench or dinette, and a two-burner propane stovetop and icebox. The next level might have a hand pump sink with fresh and grey water jugs under the cabinets but no toilet, shower, or powered water. There might also be battery lights in some designs. 

The fanciest pop-up campers have multiple motorized, transformer-like slide outs or raise ups. They can also have leather interior features, full-sized showers with separate toilets, pump powered water, large holding tanks, and air conditioning. Some even have space for hauling toys like ATVs, bikes, or watercraft on the trailers’ front deck!

Pro Tip: Use this guide on How to Build Your Own DIY Pop Up Camper to ensure you have the perfect set up for all of your adventures.

Advantages of Pop Ups

Compared to other campers, pop-ups are generally lower priced. This is due to their size, simplicity, and fewer amenities. Most don’t have full bathrooms or complete kitchens. Additionally, the finishes tend to be more basic as an entry-level trailer.

Due to less wind resistance and weight, many larger sedans and smaller SUVs are quite capable of hauling these trailers. It’s likely that a vehicle you already own could tow a smaller pop-up. This means you can start camping immediately with less stress and less upfront investment. They are also easy to tow since they don’t buck wind, and this aerodynamic bonus means you’ll be purchasing less gas.

Some manufacturers even make pop-up campers for off-road adventures. These models have higher ground clearance, letting you go off-road to find the perfect boondocking spot.

Shockingly, due to how the beds unfurl from the trailer, pop-ups can sleep quite a few people in a smaller space than traditional campers. They often even have a king-size bed option, which is unusual in non-pop-up trailers. This extra sleeping capacity makes them great for family camping trips or bringing additional friends on outdoor excursions.

Disadvantages of Pop-Up Campers

There are a few drawbacks to pop-up campers. The flexible sides make them harder to heat or cool. This is due to the lack of insulation and increased potential for drafts in the seams. There is also less privacy in a soft-sided than a hard-sided pop-up trailer because you can see and hear through the tent windows.

Not to mention, the sides and the lift mechanisms can be finicky and hard to manage, especially for one person. They also require some maintenance and special care to ensure longevity and functionality over time.

Pop-ups aren’t great for full-time RVing, as there is a lack of storage space. Neither are they the best in inclement weather and taking them up and down frequently can be quite a pain. Some models don’t even have full bathrooms, which may be acceptable on an occasional weekend, but not for frequent or longer trips.

Is a Pop-Up Camper Right For You?

A pop-up camper might be right for you if you are just entering the camping realm, have a smaller sedan or SUV, have to park your trailer in a garage, or have a limited budget. 

If you are going camping in all kinds of weather, need a full bathroom, or require a lot of storage, perhaps a pop-up is not right for you. You also need to consider if you have the patience or ability to raise and lower the components. While many trailers are quick and easy to set up, others require significantly more manual labor.

Many people start with a pop-up to decide if camping is a good fit for their family. Then, they move up to a larger tow vehicle and travel trailer when ready. Fortunately, if you’re looking to experiment with RV camping without making a significant investment, there are numerous used pop-ups for sale.

Pop-Up Campers Create New Memories

Pop-up trailers have been around for years, and many campers have fond memories of them from their childhood. They are also a great option for making new memories! Pop-ups are an excellent way for folks with budget or towing limitations to get out and enjoy an adventure in the outdoors!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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