What Makes the Best Pop-Up Camper?
Pop up campers have got more and more popular in the last few years, and it’s not hard to understand why. They’re smaller than a travel trailer, or a full RV, and offer way more space and luxury than a tent. For many people, pop up campers really are the best of both worlds.
You can sleep out, under the stars, and then cook breakfast for yourself the next morning on your little stove! How luxurious! To help you figure out whether it’s worth the investment for you, and the best pop up camper for you, we’ve put together all you’ll need to know about the best pop up campers.
What are pop up campers?
But first up, let’s start off with a break down of what a pop-up camper really is. Pop up campers tend to be more luxurious than a trailer, as once parked, they can be expanded, or popped up. There are lots of different types of pop up campers on the market, and they range in price points, although they are sometimes just as expensive as an RV. So to figure out whether it’s worth the investment, let’s delve a little deeper.
With pop up campers, the trailer body usually well insulated, meaning it’s a great option for winter camping or camping trips in colder climates. From the trailer, there are fold-out walls which can be constructed out of canvas or water-proof plastic.
Depending on the model of these “pop up” parts of the pop-up camper, Some form of heating is usually fitted in pop up campers. If there isn’t a heater in the pop-up camper you’re looking at, it’s probably worth looking at another model. Or, for our top picks of tent and camping heaters, if the model is cheap enough to warrant the extra expenditure, check out our complete buying guide here.
Pop up campers also usually have a kitchen unit as a permanent feature of the trailer body, often coming along with a refrigerator. There’s also often a water tank, or fresh water tank, a water heater, and a water pump. Each model of camper trailer comes with their own unique cabinetry for extra storage space, and countertops, some have stovetops and faucets.
Some models of pop up camper even include a bathroom, with an electric flushing toilet and a hand basin. If you’re looking at some models with a shower and some without, worry not, as there are many other portable shower options for camping.
For most models of pop up campers, the sleeping areas normally fold out either side of the trailer, often creating a bigger space inside than even very large tents. It also often means that you can spend the night sleeping in nature, in a real bed, with all of the support for you and your back that you would get at home!
With the sleeping areas going out to each side, this usually gives space for a row of seats on each side in the trailer, and room for a central table. If you need even more room, especially if you’re going camping in a big group or with a family, extra storage or sleeping accommodation can often be provided by a tent that fits under the bed extensions of the pop-up camper.
One of the benefits of choosing a pop-up camper is that it can offer you far more space when parked than a trailer, but is just as easy to transport. It also takes up just as much space when in storage, in your garage or parking lot.
But the added benefit of a pop-up camper, with the tiny footprint, is that you can get just as much luxury, and sometimes even more space, than an RV! Often pop-up campers are braked with 12-volt lighting and incorporate gas and water services and mains electrics. What more could you ask from a portable, glamping experience?!
What should I consider if I’m planning on buying a pop-up camper?
If you’re thinking about, or have decided to purchase a pop-up camper, there are a few things you need to consider, to find out which could be the perfect model for you. These include considerations about the function and durability of the pop-up camper and all of the extra features you may need or want from a model. Let’s take a closer look:
Will it be convenient?
For your camper to be convenient for you, you need to make sure that it works with your car. Check the sizes of your car, and the manual, to see how heavy or large your trailer can be. You not only need to make sure that your camper can easily be towed with your car, but also that after arriving at the campsite you can unhitch it easily, to take your vehicle anywhere you want to go.
Think about how the camper will sit in the campsite, or wherever else you’re setting up camp. Will it need extra space, for example, to peg down guide ropes for your awning? If you have any specific specifications about how big your pop up camper should open up to, remember to factor this into your buying decisions.
How easy will it be to repair?
Often repairs associated with the floor of the camper can be a real pain in the neck because they can cost a lot. We would recommend going with a trusted brand, and preferably one that can offer you free or cheap repairs, or that it’s easy to buy replacement parts from for cheap.
You also need to look at the quality of the canvas used, for the extendable sides of your pop up camper. These should be made from a really hardy material and should be waterproofed enough to survive you in any weather condition.
The next thing you should check for when considering how easy it will be too repair your pop up trailer, is the material and construction of the roof. Make sure that you’re investing in hardy materials, and good insulation, to keep you toasty and warm on winter camping trips!
You also need to consider the lift system of your buying option. This is something which needs to function perfectly and last for years because otherwise, it can be really expensive to repair. Consider oiling the mechanism regularly, to stop it from rusting.
If you’re looking to buy a used pop up camper, you must also check for any bent frame, and make sure to avoid any campers like this, as it can cause sagging or leaking in your camper.
Will my pop up camper survive the elements?
As with all outdoor gear, your pop up camper needs to survive the elements. We’re always saying that your camping and hiking gear should be ultra-durable and hardy, and this principle certainly doesn’t fall down when it comes to pop up campers. Protection, when looking at pop up camper options, is a key feature firstly because when you’re set up at a campsite you never know how quickly the weather is going to change.
If you’re looking for a more primitive camping experience, or for most campsites, there are lots of different weather eventualities that your pop-up camper will need to protect your from. It must be able to protect you from the heat of the sun in the summer, providing you with some nice shade for your group to share a picnic under. And it needs to be hardy, extremely waterproofed fabric, to protect you from the rain, or windy in colder climates.
Will it be user-friendly?
User-friendliness is a mother big factor in finding the right pop-up camper for you. With most models, you can easily prepare and set them up, often making them far easier to set up than setting up a tent. For setting up a pop-up camper, usually, all you need to do is slide the napping region out and roll up the roof and you are done. However, not all models work like this.
We would recommend going to visit a friend with a pop-up camper, to really figure out how the setup works and whether it’s user-friendly enough for you. It’s also a good idea to go to a showroom, or your local outdoors shop, to have a look at their pop up camper options. Make sure you try out the setup process before you buy, to make sure it suits your unique needs!
Will I be able to store my pop up camper easily?
When you are not using your camper, obviously you need to be able to store it. As we all know, camping gear can take up a huge amount of space in our homes or garages, especially if you have a big RV. One of the benefits of pop-ups is their ability to fold up very small and be really storable. Most of the pop-ups on the market today have the capability to fold up into a four feet tall box, making storage a dream!
How many people is it possible to sleep in a pop-up camper?
The type and model of pop-up camper you choose depends hugely on the size of the group that you usually go camping with. Despite the small storage size of many campers, and how quick and easy they are to use, they actually offer a huge amount of interior space, and a lot of room for you and your loved ones to sleep soundly! Most pop-up campers come with comfy mattresses, and some are even doubles.
This is a perfect option for families or couples: as we all know, sometimes going camping as a couple can be hard. If you’re using a blow-up mattress together, you’ll probably end up in the morning with it slightly deflated, and you both pushed flat against each other in the middle. But with pop-up campers, camping as a couple is a dream, with your portable and comfortable double bed!
The beauty of pop-up campers is that you can create a home and sleeping arrangements for over 4 people in just a matter of minutes! So not only do you have the extra comfort to sleeping in tents, far off the forest floor in your comfy bed, it’s also far quicker and easier to pack away than a tent.
What features and amenities do I want?
Pop up campers have the ability to completely transform your outdoor adventures. They can leave you feeling like an adventurers snail, all you need to set off is your pop-up camper, and you have your home on your back! Depending on how much ‘glamping’ you want on your camping trip, there are a few different amenities and features which can be included in your pop up camper. All you need to do is figure out ifs you need or want them!
Floor plan: Considering the floor plan of your dream pop up camper is very important. You need to work out how much space you and your group, or family, need on a camping trip. How do you want the interior organized? Where should the seats be? Where will you eat? How much space do you need to store all your belongings? All this should be considered when you’re thinking about the floor plan you need in your pop up camper.
Kitchen: Most pop-up campers come with a sitting area, often with a table and chairs for you to enjoy a meal if it’s raining outside. If you arrive in a rainy campsite, and you haven’t had enough time to set up your shelter, then you can enjoy the company of your family or group inside without having to worry about getting you or your kit soggy! Consider what you need in your kitchen. Depending on how much you cook, what kind of equipment you use, how independent you like to be on camping trips, and how many you’ll e catering for, make sure to opt for a pop-up camper that will meet all of your cooking and dining needs.
Most of the kitchen areas in pop up campers consist of a refrigerator, sink and 3 or 4 stoves. This means you’ll have running water to wash the dishes, you could even add a kettle or a toaster if you want even more of a customized kitchen.
If you’re buying a pop-up camper with a full kitchen, we’d recommend spending a little extra and getting a small freezer too. Then you could even load it with meals you have prepared earlier, making cooking for a group on the move a breeze! Or in the summer, you’ll be surprised how much some extra ice in your drink can refresh you. If you want a fridge free option, look at our recommendations here.
Toilets: Smaller pop-up campers are often light-weight and sometimes are not spacious enough to provide you with a bathroom. If you want to, you can always carry with you a portable toilet, that you can easily use within the pop-up camper. Bigger pop-up campers usually come with their own waterproof toilets. This is because the bathrooms in pop up campers are usually wet bathrooms, to save on space, so the toilet is in the same space as the shower stall.
One benefit of this, obviously, is that wet bathrooms are small and compact. They’re also easy to wash, as you just wash everything all at once. We would recommend wiping off the entire bathroom after every shower, to keep it looking ship-shaped.
You’ll need extra space in the rest of the camper to store toiletries and towels or bathrobes, as these, and anything else in the wet room, will all get wet while it’s in use. It’s possible to find a pop-up camper with separate shower and toilet facilities, but these are much rarer, and take up more space obviously.
Heating and cooling system: All great pop-up campers will come with a heater and a cooler, to keep you toasty and warm in the winter, or to cool down after a long hot day hiking in the summer months. Make sure to fully research what kind of heater is installed in the campers you’re looking at, to ensure that they’re sturdy, and last the test of time. If you want to go for a more basic pop-up camper, and buy the heater and cooler yourself, there are many portable camping heaters and coolers on the market.
There are many different models of pop-up camper on the market for you to choose from using the advice above, and some of our favorite brands and camper models include: Rockwood, Coachmen, Jayco, Livin Lite, Quicksilver, Livin Lite Quicksilver, Viking, Sylvansport go pop-up camper, Jayco Jay series sport, Quicksilver Tent Camper and Forest River Flagstaff.
As we have discovered, there are many benefits to using a pop-up camper. Pop-up campers are fully towable, you can use them, like RVing, with hookups. There are also many different floor plans available on the market, each with a different sleeping capacity, offering a variety of sizes of living area for off-road living space. Don’t forget to take with you any extra ad-ons you might need, such as a fifth wheel, propane, and lots of extra food supplies!
A pop-up camper can make your outdoor adventures truly luxurious! Your first time, and all the ones after will feel like a real treat. These small campers aren’t just a tent trailer. They are so much more. With hot water, slide outs, air conditioning from your air conditioner on the high wall, and a luxurious double bed – what more could you want? With all the convenience of an RV, combined with the easy set up of a pop-up tent, we think that once you’ve camped in a pop-up camper, you’ll never look back.
Bonus tip: To learn more about the experiences people have had on their pop-up camper journeys, watch this awesome video below!