pop up camper
AN INSULATED CANVAS CAN BE HELPFUL TO INSTALL IN A POP UP CAMPER; BUT IT CANNOT TRANSFORM YOUR TENT TRAILER IN A FOUR SEASONS RV.

19 Considerations Before Buying A Pop Up Camper

Pop Up Camper And Tent Trailers Main Features

Because of the canvas walls, a pop up camper is neither a four seasons RV nor a winterized RV: insulation of a tent trailer is very difficult. You can purchase an insulated canvas, but the effects are not the same as for those RVs constructed with solid materials such as aluminum, wood, fiberglass, and so on.

A pop up tent trailer or or pop up camper, is different from other travel trailers because it has awnings that unfold on either side of the trailer, allowing you to camp for a few hours or take a well deserved break from the long drive while also providing cool shade from the scorching sun. When you are ready to continue on your journey, the awnings can simply be collapsed. Unfolded, they take up very little space.

Although a pop up camper trailer sounds like a very good purchase as it is easy to find a suitable storage location considering its small size, it pays to do some research before you commit to buy one. If you are not too sure whether buying a pop up camper is the right thing for you or not, you could always rent one first. These tent trailers, as well as other RVs and campers can be rented from your local Outdoorsy and their prices are very reasonable. Renting first, will allow you to discover if a pop up camper or a traditional travel trailer will suit you better.

We have compiled a list of considerations you should know about tent trailers. Therefore, when you are considering seriously to purchase a pop up camper, this guide with important considerations will help you make an informed buying decision.

Air Out the Pop Up Camper Canvas After The Rain

Nobody wants rain when they are on an outdoor trip. Apart from rain playing havoc with your outdoor plans, it causes another problem for pop up camper owners. When it rains while your canvas are unfolded and open, they are going to get soaking wet.

You cannot prevent this because you will be using your pop up camper as much as possible. Therefore, you wil be unfolding the awning in the rain. You cannot compress it as much as possible to prevent it from getting too wet, because you wil be leaving inside and staying insode during the rain.

As the pop up camper will get wet anyway, you have to at some stage open it up in good weather and allow it to air out and dry completely. Do not fold it back when it is still wet, as the canvas will be affected by this excess of humidity. After the rain stopped, maintaing the tent traile open and unfolded until it dries completely.

You may in fact also have to do the same with the travel trailer itself, as it is possible that rain may at some stage pour into your pop up camper, depending on where the windows are situated.

The best sure is also prevention, so try and keep the inside of the trailer dry if at all possible by parking it under cover or even inside a garage until the rain stops. If it does get wet however, you have to air the trailer by opening all the windows once the rain is gone.

Do not skimp on this mandatory activity. Leaving the pop up camper or its awnings wet for an extended period will allow mildew and mold to grow, and this could ruin your tent trailer permanently.

Air Conditioning and Heating: A Pop Up Camper Is Not a Four Seasons RV 

Although the awnings, once unfolded, will provide shade and cover you well, the pop up camper may get pretty hot. This is because the canvas will not provide you a good protection against hot weather

Most campers are manufactured from wood, fiberglass, or metal, and the walls are fairly thin. This means that if you camp in of summer or springtime heat, the camper will get hot pretty fast, even if the trailer is parked in the shade. This situation happens even more in a pop up camper, as the canvas is very light and soft and will not protect you well in extreme temperatures

A pop up camper is not a four seasons RV. If you check our article about 4 seasons RV, you will notice that there is not a single pop up camper in our listing. We have already mentioned that tent trailers can get very hot, and if you prefer to travel in cold weather, it will get equally cold inside as the thin walls do not furnish the RV with a proper insulation.

You could however install an RV air conditioning and heating unit to your pop up camper. The roof cannot support as much structural weight in a pop up camper. Therefore, you should obviously use units that are as compact and light as possible so that you do not add too much weight or use up too much space. The RV air conditioner can also be embedded in the lower corners of the pop up camper.

If the temperature inside does not get overly cold or hot, you might not have to get a full air conditioner or heating unit as there are several other options available below.

Portable space heaters are great for road trips in autumn and early on in the winter, while small, oscillating fans will go a long way towards taking away the stifling heat in the trailer during summer or spring.

However, I believe that these portable options do not suffice, as a portable heater or a portable RV AC unit will occupy a huge space in the pop up camper. Therefore, the conclusion is that in a tent trailer, calefaction in winter and a cool protection in summer is more difficult to achieve than in a classical travel trailer or fifth wheel.

Generators

Pop up tent trailers have a basic light structural construction and we have already mentioned that the walls and ceilings are actualy is a very thin canvas that you will unfold in the camp site. This means that you will hear the generator all the time while it is running. Therefore you will put the generator outside the pop up camper and link it with the RV through a cable.

In any case, although you will probably get used to the constant sound and it will eventually fade into the background, it could still be a nuisance. It is disturbing also for the rest of the RVers in the camp site, sometimes deparated from you only by a short distance.

If you are considering buying a pop-up trailer, be aware that this is something that you will have to learn to deal with. However, the requirement of having a silent generator, will apply for any kind of RV and not only for a pop up camper.

Small Size For Folding And Storing

You will be able to get pop-up trailers in many different sizes with the lightweight frame being a common design feature. They generally do not require much towing capacity, and another advantage, is that a pop up camper will easily fit into a garage.

Being able to put it in your garage while not using it has a number of benefits.

It makes it easy to have a spur of the moment backup plan for the weekend as you can simply hook the trailer to your SUV or truck and get on the road with the minimum of hassle.

Being able to store the pop up camper trailer in your own garage will also save you lots of money. For bigger trailers, SUVs and motorhomes, owners often have to rent storage space when they are not using the vehicle. Although this does not make sense for a small trailer, you might not even have space for store it at your own place, in which case you will have no choice but to rent space.

A Pop Up Camper Is Lightweight

Although a pop up camper has thin walls, as mentioned before, this does also present an advantage as it means that these type of trailers are very light. This is an advantage in terms of the requirement for lower towing capacity in your tow vehicle.

If you are only getting recently into RV ownership and camping, bigger motorhomes may be daunting due to their sheer bulk and driving one of these could be tricky, especially if you have never done it before.

You will have to change your driving style and consider things like starting to brake much earlier than normal to give the RV enough space to get to a stop, and make much wider turns to cater for the longer backside of the vehicle.

If you however drive a SUV or truck and towing a pop up camper, you do not have to worry about any of these things. Although you will have to make some minor adjustments to the way you drive, these changes in your driving style are not nearly as big as would be the case with a larger RV.

Pop up tent trailers are much easier to maneuver compared to bigger motorhomes such as class A RVs and other large and heavy RVs like fifth wheels. You will however still get some idea of what needs to be done when driving a bigger vehicle without having to worry about the weight.

A Bathroom Is A Problem In A Pop Up Camper

I have an article about small campers with bathroom, because in the comment section, there were readers asking for very tiny RVs that also have a fully fledged bathroom. We delivered that article here. As you can read in that piece of content there are no pop up camper RVs there. A fully installed permanent bathroom, or a wet bath will be very difficult to install in a tent trailer.

You might we wondering how you are going to handle ablutions while camping with your pop up tent trailer.

It is not a problem when you stay at campgrounds or RV park reserves for a while, as these normally have some type of common toilette facilities available. If you have however decided to follow the road less travelled and are cruising through the wilderness where civilization has not really reached, so to say it, you might have a problem.

Nevertheless, owners have somehow succeeded in fitting a small bathroom in pop-up trailers. Due to the limited space, one way of doing this is to install a toiler with a storage shelf that can be folded down over the toilet when it is not being used. This is referred to as a cassette toilet.

You will however have to install some type of water system for a bathroom. You could also fit a shower in a pop-up trailer, but you might have to do without a toilet in that case. Alternatively, you could use a small, plastic toilet that has to be dumped manually.

The other option is of course to invest in a bigger pop-up trailer which will make it easier to fit a bathroom, but that will obviously cost a lot more. Consider these difficulties in a bathroom installation, or a wet bath installation, when you study the possibility to purchase a pop up camper.

Small Floorplan And Living Room

You will be able to do long road trips for many days or even weeks by using a pop-up trailer, but do not expect miles of space that you can use to stretch your legs. This is because a pop up camper will normally have a small floorplan .

Even bigger tent trailers will feel a bit squashed when compared to your home. That is simply the way it is. One way to overcome this lack of space is to simply park on a campsite and spend most of your time in an ancillary tent that you will unfold beside the pop up camper. This will allow you much more room to breathe.

So to conclude this point, bear in mind that floorplans in pop up camper vehicles, are not ample at all. Although the life will not be super luxurious, rustic types who thrive on spending time outdoors will not find that much of a problem: see if you are one of them before deciding to purchase a tent trailer.

Tow Rating Required 

We already explained that a pop up camper, is a very light RV thanks to the fact that the walls are manufactured with a thinner fabric. We have an article to explain thoroughly the towing capacity.

It is logical that a more powerful SUV or truck will be able to tow a bigger and heavier trailer. This is known as the vehicle’s tow rating.

To find out the towing capacity of your vehicle, check the owner’s manual provided by the manufacturer of the pop up camper, or if you do not have one, the manufacturer’s website should give you the tow rating of your specific vehicle’s make and model.

Although you might have friends or family that have been camping and towing for many years, do not trust what they think your vehicle will be able to tow. This is at best a guess on their part and if you take their word for it, you might run into problems when you suddenly find out that your vehicle cannot tow the trailer you just bought! Always retrieve the exact tow rating for your vehicle from the manufacturer specifications.

Once you know what your vehicle’s tow rating is, you can determine the size of the pop-up trailer that you’ll be able to tow with it. Never buy a trailer that exceeds your vehicle’s tow rating.

Remember that you have to cater for a lot of extra weight that will be added from gear, extra passengers, and extras that you put on the trailer like a toilet, shower, refrigerator, and bed. i also explain these different types of weight in a technical article.

If you buy a trailer that is close to your vehicle’s tow rating limit, you will quickly exceed the limit with the extras and you might not be able to tow it. I explain in an article the different types of weight and how they affect you.

Using Water Heaters In A Pop Up Camper

If you decide to add things like showers or stoves to your trailer, it will be very handy to have warm water in the trailer, but a pop up camper will not offer a lot of space available. Although you could boil the water in  pots, this is time-consuming and a device that preheats water is much easier and quicker.

You will be able to fit a hot water heater in the trailer, although you probably will not have space for both that and a heater/AC.

Insulation In A Pop Up Tent Trailer

I explained already, that a pop up camper is not a four season RV. Your possibilities to insulate a tent trailer are very limited.

One way of doing this in a classic travel trailer, will be to add layers of insulation to the floors and walls. This will not only keep heat in the trailer when it is cold, but will also act as noise insulation to reduce the noise from the generator mentioned previously. You can also purchase a four seasons RV like the Arctic Fox, that is furnished from the manufacturer already well insulated.

Another popular customization is to fit storage cubicles and shelves wherever you can find suitable space on your trailer. These can be added both to the flooring and to the walls. You can after all never have too much storage space.

But in a pop up camper, the aforementioned insulation process is not suitable at all because your walls are simple a couple of canvas attached to the structure of the tent trailer. You can purchase “insulated canvas”, that are thicker than normal canvas. However, in my experience, this does not help too much and is not a compensation for the lack of insulated and protected walls.

Collapsible Items

When you start buying gear and items for a pop-up trailer, you have to constantly think about “collapsible”.

Collapsible items encompass a wide range, including things like collapsible seats, pop-up tables, mini fridges that double up as storage space and beds that fold up and can be pushed against the wall.

You will be able to get very creative if you want to fit as many amenities as possible into a pop up camper trailer, especially if it is a small one.

No matter how much you manage to cram into the available space, realistically you are going to have to leave some of your stuff at home. That is the way things are so think carefully about what is most important to you, and what you can leave behind.

Rent A Pop Up Camper Before Buying

By now you might have reached the stage where you definitely want to buy your own pop-up trailer. Remember that renting a pop up camper to try it out first is still always the best option.

You have probably navigated through websites and checked NADA standard prices. Just considerer that NADA prices have to be balanced with several other variables. Which are these variables not mentioned by NADA but that help to define the correct pop up camper prices? Take a look at the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) pricing and moreover, all the many variables that influence the price. This is a handy resource where you can first check out the latest prices for a pop-up trailer. You could also use this article as a resource if you want to upgrade from a travel trailer to a fifth wheel, for example.

I again recommend always go first for a pop up camper rental before buying. You can rent in places like Outdoorsy or Camping World, for example. Although pop-up trailers do not cost as much as other RVs do, you should still expect to pay anything between several hundred or even thousands of dollars. If the trailer you want is outside your budget, consider buying a good used one or renting.

Buying Used Pop Up Campers: Perform Due Diligence

There are owners that want to get rid of their pop-up trailer for less than a thousand dollars. Check out Outdoorsy, Camping World and RV Share groups to find these deals.

Do however remember the saying that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is easy to make a pop up camper look great on pictures while it might be barely functioning in real life.

This can be done by using a picture of a different trailer than the one on sale, or by using photo-editing software that will make a trailer look a lot better than what it actually is.

We recommend that you always see the trailer in person before handing over any money or sealing the deal. This advice is useful and valid for all RV types and not just when you intend to buy a pop up camper.

Major Repairs Required And Due Diligence

One of the reason why we recommend that you personally see a trailer before buying it is that it might require major repairs.

Please understand that I am not saying that all second hand trailers that are available for a reasonable or even cheap price are a scam. There are in fact occasionally very good deals to consider. We are however saying that there is a possibility of it being a scam, so be careful and do not handover any money until you have done your diue diligence scrutiny properly.

Things to watch out for when checking out a trailer before buying it include the lift system not working, trailer frames being bent, soft spots in the floor and roof, wood rotting in the floor and roof, a cracked roof, or canvas awnings being ripped. If you find any of these defects, it might be better to look for another trailer. However, if the only problem of the pop up camper is a ripped canvas, you would be fine just replacing the canvas.

Although it might be possible to hire someone to fix such problems, or even do so yourself, you will have to spend money on it and might not end up with a good deal or save any money at all.

pop up camper
CARRY ALWAYS A DUCT TAPE TO PERFORM URGENT PATCHES IN THE CANVAS OF YOUR POP UP CAMPER.

Minor Repairs And The Canvas

The reality is that secondhand trailers are not likely to be in mint condition, especially if it has been used for a couple of road trips. If the repairs required are relatively minor, it might still be very worth your while going for the deal and buying it.

Patching up the canvas, making some small repairs, or ignoring minor dents in a metal wall, are not major problems and should not cost much to fix.

Pop Up Camper Remodel

When you have purchased a trailer and it is functional, you might want to start thinking about how you want it to look. We have an article dedicated to RV remodel ideas, that can be helpful for you.

Wooden or even metal walls can be painted to bring out the style you want. Similarly, carpeting and rugs can be used not only to make your trailer look cozy and homely, but also to add warmth and some measure of insulation for times that it will be cold.

Using pressure mounted curtain rods is a great way to get curtains up for some measure of privacy and keeping the sun out, while pillows can be used to bring in splashes of color to create a comfortable ambiance.

The pop up camper will serve as your home while you are travelling and, as it is your own, make sure you have all the comforts you need and are able to fit into the space.

Enjoy your Experience

The main purpose of having a pop up camper is to have lots of fun.

This does not mean that you will not have to work hard to get things up and running. You will have to budget, do research and remodel, putting your heart and soul into making your trailer as perfect for you as it can possibly be. Once the groundwork is done, the trips outdoors will build special memories and create magic bonding experiences that will make all the effort well worthwhile.

Do Not Be In a Rush To Buy Or To Rent A Pop Up Camper

If you have spent many hours doing research online while trying to find your dream pop-up trailer, and you simply cannot manage to match your dream to your budget, do not give up!

Simply pause for a while and keep on trying some other time. Finding a trailer that is perfect for you and your unique circumstances might take a while, so do not settle for second best or a deal that you may regret later on. Be willing to wait for as long as it takes.

Practice Parking 

Trying to back up a trailer without having practiced it first can be tricky. Find an open space like an empty parking lot, and practice reversing with your pop up camper using traffic cones as markers. in a pop up camper this will be easy as it will be completely collapsed during parking and storage.

Experts suggest you put one hand on the six-o’clock spot on the steering wheel as the trailer will be turning in the same direction in which you turn your hand. Also practice hitching your trailer to the vehicle with which you will be towing, remembering to connect both the electrical connections and the safety chain. Set up the camper many times until you are able to do it in minutes. This is excellent practice for when you have to deal with bad weather at a campsite.

Organize Everything Beforehand

One of the keys to enjoyable camping with a pop up camper is to be organized. Determine how high the internal space is with the tent trailer folded down, and buy storage bins that are watertight and can be slid into the space.

Store similar items per bin, e.g. clothing in one and cooking utensils in another. When opening the trailer at a campsite, move the bins to under the bed on the outside to keep the inside floor space clear. A folding hamper can be used for dirty clothing while a trash bag can be used when it is full.

Ensure to pack the bag so it can be accessed easily when you get home so you can pop the dirty washing straight into the washing machine. Although you may be tempted to take shortcuts when packing up, do not do this. It will be easier to find what you are looking for at the next campsite if it is packed where it is supposed to be.

Pack only clothing that you are sure you are going to actually wear. If you decided to leave your favorite bathrobe, pack warm pajamas that you could wear wear to a bathhouse in the midnight hours. Do not take expensive items that could easily be damaged. Only take basic toiletries like soap and a hairbrush.

Essential Accesories For A Pop Up Camper

One must-have item for setting up your pop-up trailer is a bubble level. I recommend to have one in other article related to the most important RV accessories you need from the beginning.

If the ground is uneven, it could lead to a trailer that is tilted, resulting in possible damage to the fridge and making walking inside tricky.

Check the level and set the jacks before opening the trailer, making sure the trailer is level. Build up a small tool kit that contains basics such as duct tape, screwdrivers and a socket wrench set. Make sure you have extra bulbs for the lights of the pop up camper, spare batteries for your torch and an electrical multi-meter to troubleshoot electrical faults. The duct tape can be useful for small repairs and patches on your canvas.

Pop Up Camper Final Considerations

Because of the canvas, a pop up camper is neither a four seasons RV nor a winterized RV: insulation of a tent trailer is very difficult. You can purchase an insulated canvas, but the effects are not the same as for those RVs constructed with solid materials such as aluminum, wood, fiberglass, and so on.

Using a pop-up trailer is an ideal option for anyone who wants to experience the RV lifestyle, but are not yet sure if they really want to commit to a bigger, expensive vehicle. These trailers are towed by a SUV or truck, which makes traveling a lot easier than would be the case with a larger RV.

A pop-up trailer is however small, has just a canvas as a wall, and do tend to get hot, especially during summer and in hotter areas of the country. New owners will also have to learn to get by with smaller amenities such as kitchens, toilets and beds.

If you do however manage to cope with those challenges, pop-up trailers can provide you with a heck of a lot of fun and adventure.

If you are new to the RV scene and are thinking of getting yourself one, it makes sense to start off with a trailer that you attach to your vehicle. This allow you to get a feeling for towing, parking, and driving an RV without having to incur a massive cost.

A very popular trailer option for beginners is a pop-up tent trailer. Although these have lots of room for storing all your camping equipment, it can be used for much more.

A pop-up trailer is a lot smaller than an RV and you will always have limited space.

Although hard-sided camper travel trailers provide better protection from any type of weather, this will not allow you to experience Mother Nature up personal and close and your experience will be more like being at home or in a hotel. The experience is different in a pop up camper.

As these tent trailers are so small, you have no choice but to spend a lot of time outside and really get a feel for camping life. Open those canvas on a warm afternoon or while the stars are popping into the sky at dusk. This applies too for teardrop campers.

Enjoy the camping lifestyle around a crackling fire roasting those hotdogs or marshmallows. Telling ghost stories around the fireplace at night creates special memories, but do make sure you also have some spare batteries available for flashlights.

If you have difficulty in choosing between things like for example a portable RV fridge or a heating/AC, there are other options. At the end of the day, you can customize your trailer any way you want to suit your specific needs the best.

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Alexander Beliavski
I am Alex, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I have also worked as an RV designer, As a consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems and I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.