Pop up campers when compared to other types of RVs are fairly inexpensive. On the used market you can usually find many that are in good shape. However like everything else pop up campers have their pros and and cons. In this article we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantage of owning one.
7 Pop Up Campers Pros
Let’s begin by exploring the pros of pop ups and go into a bit more detail about each one.
1. Affordable Price
If you are in the market for a new pop up camper you’ll be glad to know one can be purchased for less than 10K. When you compare that to the price of a travel trailer you’ll immediately see the cost savings. New travel trailers can start at 15K and go up substantially. For example the cost of an Airstream can go well over 100K.
If you decide that a used pop up is more to your liking chances are you can find one on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or RV Trader for less than 5K. Sometimes you’ll find one in the 1K to 2K range. However, at the low price point you’ll find the camper will need some work.
Fixing up a pop up has been done by many do-it-yourselfer. I recently wrote an article on 10 awesome pop up camper remodels where you can see what they have done to renovate their campers.
2. Small and Lightweight
One of the more attractive things about a pop up is that they are small compared to a standard travel trailer. This means you’ll have easy access in and out of just about any campground spot. In addition, the weight of this type of camper is typically less than 2,000 lbs.
For example the Rockwood 1980 Freedom Series has a GVWR of 1,896 lbs. When closed it measures 15′ 7″ in length, 84″ in width and is 5′ 6″ in height.
3. No Need For Huge Pickup
One benefit of owning a tent camping trailer is that you can tow it with just about any vehicle, even your family sedan in most cases. Obviously it depends on the weight of the camper. For example a Toyota Corolla can tow up to 1,500 lbs.
You’ll find popups that weigh approximately 1,000 allowing you to tow it with this car. A good example of a lightweight pop up camper is the Sylvan Go which has a GVWR of just 800 lbs.
Always check with your vehicle manufacturer and your RV dealer to make sure you are not exceeding the towing capacity of your vehicle.
4. Pop Up Campers Are Safer To Tow
Compared to towing a travel trailer or 5th wheel pop ups are much easier and safer to tow. Travel trailers and 5th wheels have a tendency to sway or fishtail if not loaded properly, if a distribution hitch is not used or if buffetted by high winds.
You can see what happens to travel trailers when you lose control in this video collection I put together.
Pop up campers have a low profile when folder making them more aerodynamics which eliminates many of the ricks associated with tow a much larger pull-behind.
5. You Are Not Totally Roughing It
In a pop up contrary to some opinion you are not roughing it out like you would if you were tent camping. Tent trailers though not as full-featured as a travel trailer or RV still have some amenities that make them comfortable.
Many pop ups have fresh and gray water holding tanks, range with oven, dinette, sink and faucet. Take a look at the Rockwood tent camper below.
Some have air-conditioning or are prepped for A/C, and you’ll also find a small BTU furnace to keep you warm in cold weather on some models.
The bottom line is you don’t have to do without some of the more useful features found on bigger travel trailers and RVs.
6. Tent Camping Without The uncomfortable Floor
Camping in a travel trailer or RV makes it hard to be “one with nature”. You are surrounded by solid walls, and isolated from nature’s sound. To experience that immersion we used to tent camp, but we a;; know that can be uncomfortable.
A pop up tent camper will give you the best of both world. On a tent trailer the beds are surrounded on three sides by canvas and netting. You can get the feeling of being in a tent, but you are sleeping in a comfortable mattress.
7. Garage Storage Saves Money
One of the biggest expenses of owning a travel trailer or RV is storage. If where you live doesn’t allow you to part it in your driveway, or you don’t own a place where you can store your RV you’ll have to pay for storage. (Get my free guide to learn more about expenses associated with owning an RV).
On average monthly storage can range from $100 to over $400 for a heated storage space. You can easily spend over $2,000 per off-season to store your RV.
In many cases a pop up camper can be stored in a residential garage saving you thousands of dollars per year in storage fees. Storing it in your garage will allow you to inspect it routinely, so it stays clean and ready for your next RV adventure.
PS: Here is an article I wrote about several RVs that fit in your garage.
7 Pop Up Camper Cons
We’ve talked about the pros of owning a pop up camper now we’ll tackle the negatives of owning a pop up.
1. No Bathroom
This reason alone will turn-off many people from ever owning a pop up tent trailer. Not having a bathroom as you would in a travel trailer or RV is a major inconvenience. Personally I don’t want to have to get up and walk outside to use the bathroom. Lots of folks feel the same way.
Now there are some pop ups that have a bathroom, but it’s not your typically bathroom. As a matter of fact it’s not a bathroom at all, it’s a toilet. A cassette toilet also known as a chemical toilet can be found in a small and very cramped cabinet inside some pop ups.
It will look something lke this:
Last update on 2021-04-15 / Paid Affiliate Link / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
2. More Money For More Space
Like I mentioned earlier you can easily find pop up that are affordable, but if you want something roomy and very well constructed it will cost you a lot more. For example an Aliner Expedition hard-sided pop up with toilet stats at around $27,900 for 2021 year model.
In essence the bigger, the camper, the more money it’s going to cost you.
3. Bigger Mean Heavier
One of the advantages of pop up is they can be towed with a small vehicle, however that advantage is nullified when you buy a larger camper. The Aliner Expedition has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 3,800 lbs which is way more than what most sedans or even a small SUV can tow.
With this type of GVWR you’re going to need a pickup or a medium to full-size SUV.
4. Limited Sleeping Capacity
Travel trailers and RVs can easily accommodate 5-8 occupants, depending on their size, however a popup due to its size has a limited sleeping capacity that usually does not exceed 4.
There are no sleeper couches on any of the pop up campers I’ve seen or research, and you are not going to find bunk bends either.
About the only way you can get more than 4 in a pop up is if some of your guest get sleeping bags and sleep on the floor.
5. More Maintenance
With a pop up tent trailer you are going to encounter more maintenance. First off is the tent canvas which needs to be well taken care of. It can rip, develop mildew and mold or just plain rot.
Also, if they get wet you’ll need to wait until they are completely dry before you can fold the pop up.
You also have the mechanism that raisers and lowers the pop up. It has moving parts that need regular maintenance (inspection, lubrication etc.) in order to keep operating properly.
6. Rarely Do They Tip Over, But…
Small pop up campers are light and when fully extended the tents and side can catch wind really easy. Now, that not to say the pop up tip over all time, as a matter of fact, it’s quite rare. However, should you encounter inclement weather i.e., strong winds, it may happen.
So even though it rarely happens you have to be cognizant of the fact that it may happen if condition are right for it to tip over.
7. Set Up and Tear Down is a Pain
Unlike an RV where you basically park and camp or pack up and drive away, pop ups require a lot more time to set and a lot more time to tear down.
Here is a time-lapse video of a family tearing down their setup in order to leave their campground.
Overall there are several pros and cons to owning a pop up camper you should consider. At the end of the day, regardless of the pros and cons, a pop up might be the best camper for you and your family.