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What You Need to Know About Pop-Up Campers

A pop-up camper, sometimes also called a pop-up trailer or tent trailer, is a type of RV that has a collapsible and expandable top that quite literally “pops up” when opened. When being towed or in storage, the top of the camper goes down. However, opening mechanisms can be deployed to extend the roof to full height when you get to your site. Typically, pop-up campers have extendable sides for extra sleeping space, too.

Keep reading to find out more about this fascinating fold-out transformer camper.

cait pointing at pop up camper

How Big Is a Pop-Up Camper?

Pop-up campers vary in size but generally are around 8 feet in length, though some larger models can be as long as 16 feet in length. For extra space, pop-ups often have slide-outs that extend the width of the rig. However, 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.

Additionally, pop-up campers can range anywhere from 700 to 5,000 pounds, depending on the dimensions and additional amenities. Small off-road adventure units usually have a sleeping capacity of 2 people. However, some larger units can sleep up to 12 people.

When shopping for a pop-up camper, you need to consider your vehicle’s towing capacity, your sleeping situation, and your budget. Prices can also vary from under $1,000 for small, used pop-ups that may need work to upwards of $28,000 for newer, larger units.

Hard-Sided vs Soft-Sided Pop-Up Campers

There are two options for pop-up campers: hard-sided and soft-sided pop-up trailers. Each type has its advantages.

Hard-sided pop-ups have plastic or metal sides, whereas, soft-sided pop-ups have a tent-like fabric top. The hard walls of a hard-sided pop-up are sturdier in inclement weather and can better withstand the wind, cold, and rain. Soft-sided campers can be more breathable in hot weather, but will often end up leaking or tearing. However, the canvas sides can be repaired or replaced.

While hard-sided pop-ups tend to be more private than soft-sided pop-ups, the plastic and metal sides do make them heavier than their soft-sided counterparts. Depending on what type of tow vehicle you have, this may impact which type of pop-up is right for you.

Lastly, 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.

What’s the Inside of a Pop-Up Camper Like?

The interior of a pop-up camper will depend on the type of model and style you get. 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. However, these simple pop-ups won’t have a toilet, shower, or powered water, so your camping experience will be more like a traditional tent camping trip.

Fancier 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 setup for all of your adventures.

What Is the Life Expectancy of a Pop-Up Camper?

Many things can impact how long a pop-up camper lasts, like the quality of construction, maintenance, and frequency of use. Generally, a quality brand of pop-up camper that has been regularly cleaned, checked for leaks, upgraded, and stored properly during the off-season can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years. However, some can even last up to 20 years if they are exceptionally cared for. Others will have a shorter lifespan if regular maintenance is not performed.

Advantages of Pop-Ups

With so many types of trailers and RVs to choose from, it’s important to have a clear picture of what camping in a pop-up trailer is like. Luckily, pop-up campers are one of the best trailers to camp in. There are many pros to pop-up campers, such as:

  • A lower price range than travel trailers and RVs
  • Often towable with larger sedans and smaller SUVs
  • Less weight and wind resistance make them easier to tow which improves gas mileage
  • Have a higher ground clearance so you go off-road to find the perfect boondocking spot
  • Large sleep capacity
Pop Up Camper - Should You Buy One?

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. You can even find multiple pop-ups that come with a king-size bed option. Other types of trailers don’t often have this ability. This extra sleeping capacity makes them great for family camping trips or bringing additional friends on outdoor excursions.

Disadvantages of Pop-Up Campers

While we think pop-up campers are great trailers for fun camping adventures, some aspects to them may not make them the ideal option for you. Some disadvantages of pop-up campers include:

  • A lack of insulation 
  • Less privacy in soft-sided pop-ups
  • Hard to set up if traveling solo
  • Require regular maintenance to ensure longevity and functionality over time
  • Limited storage space
  • Some don’t have bathrooms
  • Some don’t have air-conditioners

If you’re looking to RV full-time, a pop-up camper won’t be the best choice, especially because many do not have full bathrooms. However, while there are some disadvantages to pop-up campers, if you’re looking for a simple setup for weekend camping trips, a pop-up camper may be the right option for you.

partially opened pop-up-camper showing mechanism and how it folds

Are Pop-Up Campers Good For Camping?

If you’re trying to decide if a pop-up camper is right for you, knowing how they fare on a camping trip is important. Everyone has different things they prioritize while camping, and depending on those things a pop-up camper may or may not be the right rig for you.

Firstly, if you have a smaller sedan or SUV, have to park your trailer in a garage, or have a limited budget, the smaller size of a pop-up camper and the affordable price range makes them a great option for camping. 

Additionally, pop-up campers are good for camping if you’re open to a more bare-bones experience. While they provide more structure and luxuries than a standard tent, if you like to go camping in all seasons and weather, want a full bathroom, or require a lot of storage, a pop-up camper may not be right for you.

Still, pop-up campers are typically quick and easy to set up, although some 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.

pop-up camper in tow configuration

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!

Would you consider camping in a pop-up trailer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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