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What Is a Pop-Up Truck Camper?

Do you want a camper that comes with amenities for comfortable camping, but isn’t a massive rig that makes it hard to get to remote places? Pop-up truck campers are a great option for weekend warriors or people who want to travel without being held back. 

Today, we’re breaking down all you need to know about these rigs and sharing the best pop-up truck camper brands on the market. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Pop-Up Truck Camper? 

A pop-up truck camper is similar to a regular truck camper in the way it fits onto the truck bed. However, the camper collapses down when it is not in use, and as the name suggests, pops up vertically when parked. The low profile makes a pop-up truck camper aerodynamic, saving you gas money, but still allows for a spacious living area when in use.

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.

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.

aerodynamic pop up truck camper driving on road

Hard-Sided Pop Up Truck Camper

A hard-side pop up camper is heavier, and while the added weight can impact gas mileage, having standard RV walls has its benefits. The hard walls help with temperature control against both hot and cold temperatures, the wind, and the rain. They are also sturdier which helps prevent break-ins and provides extra noise reduction.

Soft-Sided Pop Up Truck Camper

A soft-side pop up truck camper has fabric siding similar to a tent when it pops up. This saves a lot on weight and may improve your gas mileage and ease of use. However, 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.

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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 rise 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.

palomino pop up truck camper

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.

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.

Pop Up Truck Camper Features

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. Remember, when you are looking at camper weight, look for the dry weight number to make sure your truck is up to the challenge before purchasing.

pop up north start camper

Pop-up truck campers have a surprising number of amenities like

  • A bed that usually sleeps two people. 
  • A dinette and a small kitchen.
  • A wet bath or outdoor shower.
  • A toilet.
  • Extended ceiling heights of over 6 feet.

Pop up truck campers can also be fitted for off-grid living by adding solar panels, battery banks, heaters, and larger water tanks. Of course, 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.

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 have 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.

Benefits of a Pop-Up Truck Camper

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.

pop up truck camper bathroom
Many pop-up truck campers come with a bathroom.

And even though they are smaller than some rigs, you can still enjoy 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.

You can also go off-road more easily in a pop up truck camper 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.

5 Best Pop Up Truck Camper Brands

There are many amazing truck camper brands out there, but these are our personal favorites. These brands are known for producing quality rigs that will take you on epic adventures. 

Northstar

Northstar is a family-owned and operated business that has produced quality, dependable rigs that last for decades. The company makes four different hard sided pop up campers that can fit multiple different trucks. 

Northstar truck camper
Northstar truck campers are great options for the outdoor enthusiast.

The 600SS is built to fit smaller trucks and has a dry weight of 1,258 lbs. It is 12’2” in length and comes and starts at $27,175. The TC650 fits full-size ultra short beds that are 5′ 6″ to 5’ 10″ and standard short beds that are 6′ 4″ to 6′ 10″. It has a base dry weight of 1258 lbs and starts at $28,475.

The 650SC can fit full-size 5′ 6″ to 5’ 10” ultra short bed trucks and 6′ 4″ to 6′ 10″ standard short bed trucks. It has a base dry weight of 1650 lbs. and starts at $29,995. Lastly, the 850SC has a floor length of 8’ 6”  and a dry weight of 1785 lbs. It is self-contained with a toilet and interior shower.

Overland Explorer Vehicles

Overland Explorer Vehicles produces three types of pop-up campers: pop-up slide-in campers, pop up removable flatbed campers, and pop-up chassis mounted campers. These campers are built to conquer rugged terrains and are engineered for durability, featuring locking roof support/hinges at both ends. They are made with powder-coated aluminum extrusions, OEV™ Gen 4 composite materials with high insulation values, and fire-rated four-layer soft walls for safety and comfort.

Palomino

Palomino makes truck campers through three sub-brands: Backpack Truck Campers, Real-Lite Truck Campers, and Rogue Truck Campers. Palomino truck campers are economical truck camper options because they’re more lightweight, mass-produced, and basic in their offerings. We broke down each sub-brand that Palomino offers to help you decide if you should go for a hard-sided or soft-sided Palomino pop-up.

Palomino truck camper driving on road
Hit the road in style in a Palomino truck camper.

Ovrlnd Campers Custom Build

An Ovrlnd pop-up camper is custom-made for you and your truck. While there are some truck models they don’t accommodate, this brand works with almost every type of truck to ensure you have the perfect rig to fit all of your needs. These pop-ups mount to your truck’s bed rails which keeps the truck bed open for extra storage or living space. The customizable nature of these rigs makes them ideal for an epic off-road adventure. 

Hallmark RV

Hallmark RV makes truck campers for both heavy and light-duty trucks, flatbeds, and trucks with various bed lengths. They make 10 different models, all made with a molded fiberglass exterior frame and molded fiberglass composite roof. We took a closer look into the different models in our article about why Hallmark RV is so popular.

Hallmark campers range anywhere from $26,995 to $54,995. However, these are also customizable and have plenty of optional upgrades that you can choose from which may increase the cost.

Pop-Up Truck Campers: An Amazing Choice

A pop-up truck camper gives the luxury of amenities without the hassle of a huge RV. If you’re ready to kick tent camping to the curb, a truck camper is a great way to upgrade to a more comfortable camping experience.

Truck campers are also 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 can be a great way to get off the beaten path. 

Pro Tip: 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 Hwy.co 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! :)