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What Is a Pop-Up Truck Camper?

There are SO many types of RVs – travel trailers, motorhomes, fifth wheels, and more. But one of the coolest options that you might not be familiar with is a pop-up truck camper. This small RV is perfect for weekend warriors or people who want to travel without being held back. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Pop-Up Truck Camper? 

A pop-up truck camper has a genius design. When you are camping, it pops up vertically to give you a spacious living area. But when it comes time to drive, everything collapses. This low profile makes a pop-up truck camper aerodynamic, saving you gas money.

aerodynamic pop up truck camper driving on road

It also makes it easier to drive without feeling like you’re going to tip over. We’ve all seen those truck campers that seem ready to roll at any moment. With a pop-up camper on your truck, you won’t have to worry so much about that issue.

How Do Pop Up Truck Campers Work?

Pop-up truck campers slide into the bed of your truck and can be used with a range of truck sizes. Most pop up truck campers open and collapse using a manual system. Simply turn the crank, and your camper’s roof will raise in a few minutes. When you’re ready to hit the road or put your truck camper in storage, simply lower the pop-up portion, and you’re ready to go.

When you’re storing your camper, you need camper jacks. These will let you drive your truck under the camper. Then lower the jacks, connect the camper to your truck, and boom. You’re ready to go! Usually, you must remove the tailgate on your truck for the proper installation of the camper.

Hard-Side vs Soft-Side

There are two types of pop-up campers: one is a hard-side camper, and the other is a soft-side camper. Each has its pros and cons.

palomino pop up truck camper

A hard-side pop-up camper is heavier. And while the added weight can impact gas mileage, the obvious benefit is that your RV has hard sides all around. This can help with the wind, rain, break-ins, noise reduction, and temperature control.

A soft-side pop up truck camper saves a lot on weight. This may improve your gas mileage and ease of use. But the downside is, when you’re camping, it’s a lot more like living in a tent. The soft sides are not great for cold-weather as they let in cold air. They may also flap in the wind and be rather noisy. You may also be prevented from camping in bear areas that require hard-sided campers.

What Kind of Truck Do You Need for a Pop-Up Truck Camper?

There are pop-up truck campers that work with almost any kind of truck. Given their generally smaller size, you can probably find a pop-up camper that will fit your existing truck, whether it be mid-size or full-size. Even some flatbed trucks can work with a pop-up camper. If you’ve got a small pickup, though, you may be out of luck.

Given the added weight of a pop-up camper, your truck needs to have a rear suspension that is ready for the task. This means that depending on how big you go, you might need to upgrade your suspension beforehand.

How Much Do They Weigh?

You can get pop-up truck campers that weigh under 500 pounds and up to nearly 2,000 pounds. The weight you choose will also impact the truck you need. If you opt for a heavier truck camper, you’ll need a larger truck to handle the weight.

pop up north start camper

Remember, when you are looking at camper weight, the manufacturer’s website will list the “dry weight.” That means nothing added to the camper. Adding water, gear, and so on can increase your overall weight, so make sure your truck is up to the challenge before purchasing.

Benefits of a Pop-Up Truck Camper

There are many reasons to get a pop-up truck camper. They are much more comfortable, quiet, and spacious than a tent. They also offer amenities you can’t get with tent camping. Plus, you’ll be more comfortable with temperature control, ventilation, and a real bed. And the best part is, set up and take down is a breeze. No more standing in the cold trying to find out which tent pole goes to what side.

Compared to other RV options, a truck camper can also be a great choice. It offers many of the same amenities but is much smaller and lighter. It is easier to drive, park, maintain, and more. You’ll also save on gas by having a smaller rig.

Another advantage is you can take it almost anywhere. You can go off-road to find the best campsites, or drive into town and park wherever you want. Driving, in general, is much simpler with a pop up truck camper compared to most RVs.

pop up truck camper bathroom
Bathroom in a pop-up truck camper.

Lastly, you might be worried that a pop-up truck camper would feel claustrophobic. But actually, most models have extended ceiling heights of over 6 feet. You’ll have much more room than you would expect at first glance. 

Amenities in Pop-Up Truck Campers

Pop-up truck campers have a surprising number of amenities. They include a bed that usually sleeps two people. You can also expect a dinette and a small kitchen in most campers.

There are options to upgrade your truck camper to include even more amenities, too. For example, you could have a wet bath or outdoor shower, a cassette toilet, hot water, added storage space, and a larger stovetop. You can also outfit your pop up camper for off-grid living. To do this, you can add solar panels, battery banks, heaters, and larger water tanks.

You won’t have quite as many amenities or as much space as a larger RV. But you will surely have more amenities than a traditional camping tent!

Pop-Up Truck Campers: An Amazing Choice

A pop-up truck camper is an amazing choice. It gives you the luxury of amenities without the hassle of a huge RV. If you’re ready to kick tent camping to the curb, you’ll find a truck camper to be much more comfortable.

Or, if you don’t want to be held back by a large rig, a truck camper is a great option for off-road adventures. As long as sleeping and eating in a small space isn’t a deal-breaker, a pop-up truck camper might just be the way to go! 

pop-up truck camper off truck

On the other side of the truck camper spectrum are huge models you have to see to believe. Check out these 6 Largest Truck Campers That Will Blow Your Mind.

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

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 “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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don a meyer

Friday 29th of January 2021

I really like my pop up pickup camper

Mortons on the Move

Friday 29th of January 2021

Glad to hear it! :)