There comes a time in every nature lover’s life when buying a pop up camper just makes sense. However, diving into a purchase as big as this one takes some planning. If you want a cozy home away from home that fits your needs, you’ll want it to be just right.
We’re here to shed some light on the ins and outs of buying a pop up trailer. We’ve got the pros and cons, as well as all you need to know about towing, features, and more. By the time you’re ready to invest in a travel trailer of the pop up kind, you’ll feel nothing shy of confident.
Top 10 Things to Consider When Buying a Pop Up Tent Camper
1️⃣ The Outside Temperature is an Issue!
We are talking both hot and cold temperatures will be a factor here. When it is hot and muggy outside, yeah you will feel it inside the pop up tent camper too. Of course, you will be protected from the sun in terms of getting a sunburn when you are inside the pop up camper, but you will not be shielded from the heat.
2️⃣ Outside Noise is an Issue While Inside Your Pop Up Camper
If you are a light sleeper, this will be an issue. Remember these pop up campers have very thin walls, hence the reason they are so easy to tow with most vehicles. Well, thin walls equal loud noises penetrating into your pop up tent camper.
3️⃣ Find Models Packed with Modern Features
Look for models that have full features for when the camper is expanded into their upright position. These would include: comfortable sleeping areas, cooking area, sitting area, and some even include showers and toilets.
4️⃣ Where Will You Store Your Pop Up Camper?
Another thing to consider is you may not have to pay to store your camper somewhere like you would if you bought a larger travel trailer camper or RV. If you are living in a neighborhood with HOA, you need to check their laws as many will not allow you to park your camper trailer on your property. This is a definite perk in favor of pop up tent campers!
5️⃣ Will Your Pop Up Camper Have Enough Storage?
Let’s say you are planning an extensive road trip. Can you take the pop up tent camper? Yes! Space is obviously more limited in it than compared to their larger travel trailer counterparts, but it is doable and with some ingenious storage and organizational planning, you and your family can enjoy a long adventure in this.
6️⃣ Heating and Air Conditioning are Available
Okay, this goes back to our #1 issue, but we have a solution to the problem. First, consider what type of camping you will be doing. Most folks who use a pop up camper usually camp during the warmer months so maybe only A/C is needed in your camper.
If you like to extend your camping season you can buy a pop up camper with a heated mattress! Boy, do I wish I had one of these when we were fishing in late fall and camping in our pop up camper!
Of course, when you are looking into buying a pop up camper, consider A/C units that are as compact as possible to avoid taking up too much space and weight in your tiny trailer. Also, consider a portable space heater.
7️⃣ Tank Size Matters
If you are camping at campgrounds that have showers then a shower inside your camper may not be important.
However, if you are going to shower inside your camper then you have to consider tank sizes including the water heater. Also, most pop up tent campers don’t have showers included, but they sometimes are available as an option you can purchase if buying new.
8️⃣ Foul Weather Camping Can Be Tough
Yes, rain is great for our planet, but when you are camping in a pop up camper, you may not be too happy to see this weather. Once your camper is set up you will stay dry inside but the wind could be an issue.
Also setting up and breaking down your pop up camper in the rain is no fun. But if you have a travel trailer or 5th wheel you have to set up and break down camp too so in my opinion it is what it is.
9️⃣ Pop Up Campers are Like Tent Camping in Some Ways
Okay, so if you want the real deal and not a glamping experience, then a pop up camper is the way to go. I consider this a bonus! I love the feeling of sleeping under the mesh tent end of a pop up and enjoying the fresh air and falling asleep while gazing at the fire…
It used to be that folding tent campers were so small they would almost force you to spend more time outside. But today’s campers have slide outs with dinette tables for 4 and couches inside which make relaxing inside your camper more comfortable than ever.
🔟 Rent a Pop Up Camper BEFORE You Buy One!
This is the number one tip we give to folks who ask me and Susan our advice about buying any type of RV. We always recommend that you rent before you buy.
We rented a Class C RV before we found the perfect RV for us and bought it. Neither of us ever owned a Class C RV before so renting one for a week really helped us to learn what features were most important to us. For example, we learned that we liked a dry bath vs wet bath, a queen sized bed rather than sleeping in the over-cab, how much storage space we needed, the tank sizes we would need (fresh, grey, black, and hot water tanks) and many other important details.
If we bought first and figured this all out later we would have lost money because RVs go down in value, not up. So the way we see it, we saved thousands by renting first so we could be very educated buyers.
You can scroll down towards the bottom of the article to browse pop up camper rentals near you!
6 Types of Pop Up Tent Campers to Know About Before You Go Shopping
Basically, we have six main types of pop-up campers in the RV industry: tent-trailers, high wall campers, A-frames, teardrop campers, high low campers, and popups for motorcycles. Here is a quick rundown of each:
1️⃣ Tent Trailers
Folding tent trailers can “pop up” on the sides, creating extra tent space for sleeping but that’s all. No other features with this style. The soft top also goes by tent trailer or soft-sided pop up camper. Like a tent, the walls are made from canvas. Each side can pop up or out when need be. It’s versatile, and truly has the feel of sleeping in a tent. (a good or bad thing, depending on who you ask).
2️⃣ High Wall Trailers
High Wall Campers are the same as tent trailers with the two exceptions they have higher walls and a hard top. Keep in mind, this model will be heavier than the first option for towing. This camper is also known as a high wall or hard-sided pop up camper. The roof is crafted from fiberglass while the walls expand upwards. They tend to be more spacious than the softer alternatives. However, the hard roof and sturdy frame add a bit of additional weight.
3️⃣ A-Frame Campers
A-frame campers are a very popular option as often times they are more durable and easier to set up. But one drawback is they have decreased living space inside. Due to its convenient “A” shape, it tends to be a breeze to set up and break down. On the other hand, this also means less interior space. For folks who don’t need much room, A-frames are a great option.
4️⃣ Teardrop Pop Up Campers
Teardrop pop up campers are popular because typically they are the smallest in size and are therefore easier to tow with most vehicles. Reminiscent of its name, the teardrop camper is small and extremely towable. It usually comes with room for two and a little kitchen in the back. Sometimes, teardrops come as telescoping pop up campers. In these cases, the trailer literally multiplies in size electronically.
5️⃣ Hi Low Campers
Hi-Lo Campers are lesser known and thus could be harder to find. They use a telescopic hydraulic lift system and are very unique in their design.
6️⃣ Motorcycle Popup Camper
Motorcycle popup campers are perfect for attaching to the back of your motorcycle and hitting the open road. There are many manufacturers to choose from! Regardless of which option you chose from above, pop-up campers are a step up from tent camping without going all in on a larger RV. Having your own bed, kitchen, and even a possible toilet are obvious perks of jumping into a pop-up camper purchase.
Advantages of Pop Up Campers
It’s clear that there are plenty of pop up camper pros. The benefits are as far reaching as the great outdoors that surround you. Here are a few that you may not have thought of, either:
✅ Affordability – Pop up camper types and styles are diverse. And, those seeking to invest in one can easily find a model within their budget. If you are looking for an affordable recreational vehicle, pop up campers a great option. And, buying a used pop up camper can even be more affordable!
✅ Weight – Pop up campers can be surprisingly lightweight, so your existing vehicle may be able to tow one behind you. While there are definitely heavy pop ups out there, that’s not always the case. Should you want an easy-to-move camper, it can be all yours.
✅ Towability – You don’t have to buy a new vehicle that can tow your pop up camper. Instead, buy a pop up camper that your vehicle can tow! There are so many kinds of trailers with a range of weight options. Make your pop up trailer purchase adapt to your towing needs.
✅ Easy Storage – It’s all in the name. A pop up camper pops open, and it also collapses. Some even break down small enough to fit in your garage. Now that’s some serious storage capability that no RV can compete with! And you will save money if you can store your pop up at home rather than paying for storage somewhere.
✅ Features and Amenities – When it comes to features, pop up campers have come a long way. Think things like air conditioning and heat, toilets and showers, running water and kitchenettes. Whatever amenities you need, you’ll find a model that fits the bill.
✅ Adventurousness – Pop up trailers are literally made for nature lovers. I grew up camping in tent campers and I love the feeling of sleeping in a tent when in a tent camper. To me, it’s like being in a pop up camper tent! All the while, you remain protected from weather and wildlife (mosquitos included). It’s really the best of both worlds. And you can keep most of your gear in the pop up so you can more easily take off on a weekend adventure or longer!
Disadvantages of Pop Up Campers
Nothing is perfect, not even your beloved pop up trailer. As with anything, there are disadvantages to consider before purchasing a tent camper. Here are the cons you ought to be aware of:
⛔️ Price – While it may sound like we’re going against what we said about affordability, we’re not. Just like there are inexpensive pop ups out there, there are expensive ones too. Prices vary depending on what model you want and if the camper is new or used. To counteract this con, we recommend that you buy used. Also, define your budget and stick to it. And always do your research before committing to a purchase.
⛔️ Weight – If you want a camper with tons of amenities, you must be okay with added weight. The more stuff you have, the more you’ll be towing. So long as you have a truck or SUV that can carry it all, it’s no problem. Just remember to keep weight in the back of your mind, and you won’t have any issues.
⛔️ Limited Luxuries – Even the most luxurious pop up camper has its limitations. For example, it’s rare to find a model with both a toilet and a shower. You’ll often have one or the other. Kitchens are quaint, and dining areas are small if present at all. If this bothers you, perhaps you’re more of an RV person.
⛔️ Limited Sleeping Space – Pop up trailers typically sleep 2 – 4 people. If you enjoy camping with your entire family, this may not work for you. Most people are okay with the limited space, though. It all depends on your preference.
⛔️ Maintenance – Buying a pop up camper isn’t a one and done thing. You have to take care of your trailer diligently. Watch out for any tears in the canvas and take precautions against mildew. If it rains when you are camping you will have to collapse wet canvass. When you get home you will need to pop it back up and let it dry out before collapsing again before storing it. You may also want to invest in a good pop up cover for storing your camper. It’s like owning anything; you have to be careful.
⛔️ Set Up – Some people find the process of setting up and breaking down a camper to be tedious. It can take time to learn how to do it swiftly and efficiently. So long as you have patience, you should be fine.
Buying a New vs Used Pop Up Camper
There’s one serious decision you need to make before buying a pop up camper. Do you want a brand-new model or a secondhand camper?
Buying new means you will get the latest technology and engineering. It also means no repairs or damages to deal with. You don’t have to worry about getting ripped off, either.
On the flip side, buying a used pop up camper helps you save money on your cozy camping space. It also opens you up to a world of floorplan options. Should you choose to go the used route, there are some things worth knowing:
Just like with a new model, you’ll want to know how much your vehicle can tow before buying a used camper.
- Know your budget before you begin searching for a used pop up camper.
- Before heading to ad sites like RV Trader, make a list of must-have features. Also, include things you might want but aren’t necessities. This will make the process of sifting through used listings much simpler. If a camper doesn’t have what you’re looking for, it’s out. For example, will you need a pop up camper with a bathroom? Or do you want to have an awning for your pop up?
- Take size into consideration. If you’re a family of four, you probably shouldn’t be looking at two-person pop ups. Also, know your tow vehicle weight limits.
- How will you use your pop up? Will you need a pop up camper for off road or are you planning to stay on the blacktop.
- Look for any damages in a used trailer. It’s best to avoid leaking roofs, worn canvas walls, rotting floors, bent frames, and other red flags. If you’re handy, just know what you’re getting into before you commit.
- Set the camper up completely and check the lift system before purchasing. Also, test all the features to make sure they work. If they don’t, determine how much it would cost to fix. Literally, try everything and make sure it works. Try the water faucet and bathroom, try the stove, connect it to some electricity and turn on all the lights. If it has a brake system, take it for a test drive and make sure it rides and brakes ok.
Patience is a virtue! The process of buying a quality pre-owned pop up may seem a bit tedious. However, trust us when we say that you’ll thank yourself later.
How Much Can Your Vehicle Tow?
Whether buying new or used, you need to know how much your vehicle can tow. By figuring this out in advance, you can pick a pop up that fits your current lifestyle. Fortunately, pop up campers vary tremendously in weight and size. There’s no question that you’ll find one meant for your ride.
The first step is to determine the maximum towing capacity of the vehicle you plan to use to tow the pop up. Look up your vehicle’s VIN, or refer to the owner’s manual. Make sure you’re eyeing the right trim, drivetrain, and more.
Next, keep in mind that you don’t want to get a camper that reaches this maximum all the way. This is partly because you’ll be loading it with gear prior to departure, which adds weight. Give yourself some wiggle room for trailer payload.
You should buy a pop up camper that when fully loaded is still 10 to 20 percent lower than the maximum tow weight your vehicle can haul so you don’t overload the engine. The buffer zone for tow weight has another purpose, too. Say you encounter powerful winds or inclement weather. You definitely don’t want to be riding the edge at times like this. Higher altitudes and a greater number of cabin passengers also can limit your vehicle’s capacity.
Lightweight towing capacity begins at about 1,500 pounds. Midsize cars can manage around 3,500. SUVs can reach 5,000 to 8,000 pounds. Pickups offer a wide range of towing capacities from 7,000 and 34,000 pounds.
How Much Do Pop Up Campers Cost?
The option for affordability is one of the main draws of pop up campers. They tend to be much cheaper than their travel trailer or fifth wheel relatives. This becomes especially true when you go down the pre-owned avenue.
Say you’re intrigued by a new pop up model. For the very basic model, you may pay as little as $4,000. However, larger or more feature-packed models can cost as much as $25,000.
As with anything, luxury is always an option. If you want a brand-new pop up that includes upscale features (and higher cost), you can find one. Features like a heated mattress or a modern entertainment center are available in modern pop up floor plans.
Perhaps a used pop up is in your future. The cool thing about this category is that the price range is unlimited. Say you find a new model that’s just out of your budget. Try buying it used because you will save a bunch of money. Remember, pop up campers, and all RVs for that matter, depreciate about 20% in the first year alone! So, for the best price, buy used. And for the most up to date features and amenities, buy new.
Pop Up Camper Features and Amenities
There are so many different pop up tent trailers to choose from. As a result, there are many features and amenities that can be yours. These things range from rustic to opulent, from basic to upscale, and simple to savvy. It’s always good to know what you can get before going ahead and buying.
- Water Tank – This gives you access to fresh water for your sink and toilet, even in primitive campsites.
- Air Conditioning – Like tents, pop ups can get pretty hot under the sun. Air conditioning can be a serious life saver.
- Lift System – This system helps you easily maneuver the camper’s frame. You’ll want a good one.
- Bathroom – Some tent trailers come with a toilet. It can make life really easy in the backwoods.
- Shower – Not all campers come with showers, but the ones that do are great if you stay in campgrounds or sites with no facilities.
- Hot Water Heater – Want to take a hot shower or have hot water to wash the dishes? A hot water heater will do the trick.
- Storage Space – Having a place for your clothes and gear will help keep you organized. Campers with defined storage spaces feel more like home. This amenity is easy to find and makes a world of difference.
- Entertainment Center – Watching a movie in bed is a pretty cozy feeling. An entertainment center in a pop up camper makes this possible.
- Heated Mattress – Now we’re talking! This is a more luxurious feature for folks camping in cold weather climates.
Despite the vast range of options available today, you may not find the perfect pop up. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t add amenities after buying. Is it possible for you to add a toilet yourself? Can you construct a storage space for your belongings?
Ask yourself these questions, and get creative. In the end, you have an ideal pop up camper to look forward to. Enjoying the comforts of home in the great outdoors? Yeah, that speaks for itself.
Does a Pop Up Camper Need Brakes?
The short answer is – maybe. Some states require trailers over 1,000 pounds to have brakes and in other states, the limit is 2,000 pounds. But have you ever hauled a heavy trailer with no brakes and tried to stop? It’s a bit of an eye-opening experience. You will be surprised how big of a difference you will feel if you don’t have brakes. So, I recommend making sure your pop up has a brake system installed.
AAA has a great web page that covers the trailer brake laws for every state and Canada. It’s worth the read before you buy a pop up camper.
Rent a Pop Up Camper Before You Buy One
The pop up camper life works for many people, but not everyone. In actuality, the best way to know if this type of outdoor accommodation fits your needs is to try it on for size. That’s why renting a pop up camper before purchasing one is such a good idea.
Interested in renting a camper for your next getaway? There are two online resources that are worth checking out. Both of them help match users with pop ups and other recreational vehicles in their area.
Outdoorsy is a great place to find popup camper rentals. Filter your selections based on the dates you’re traveling, the number of people who will be camping, your budget, and more. Sift until you find a pop up camper that checks all your boxes.
Browse Pop Up Camper Rentals Near You!
Make an Informed Buying Decison on Your Pop up Camper
So you’ve decided to take on ownership of your very own pop up camper. That’s an exciting adventure and one that will bring you closer to the outdoors you love. With the right guidance, you’ll be able to find a trailer worthy of your hitch.
By educating yourself on the basics, you’ll be the leader of any pop up sale. Brief yourself on the advantages as well as the disadvantages that come with pop up life. Know the different types of campers as well as the details on buying new versus used. Know your weight and budget limitations, and go for the features you love.
At the end of the day, you can rest your head in a pop up camper all your own. To us, that’s well worth the while.
Do you have any advice about buying a pop up camper? Please share in the comments below.
And, for even more information about pop up campers check out these articles below.