What to Check Before Buying a Pop Up Camper
Apart from this article where we study more than 40 points to check before buying an RV, we have this topic now more dedicated to the reality of the pop up campers, while that article is oriented in general to campers.
Pop up campers have become many families’ best friend when it comes to summer vacations or just simple get-away activities. Also known as tent campers or folding campers, pop up campers will literally “pop-up” and be ready to use, with a little help. They need a hand crank or even a hydraulic lift in order to lift the top portion of the camper, then the beds on each end will slide out and with that, they are almost set-up. I just bought recently a pop up camper so I made a checklist of what to inspect before buying a pop up for yourself.
I am sure that you also asked yourself the same at some point because a pop up camper is different from any other type of RV.
Look at the tires and the bearings: So the first thing you should be absolutely looking at when you go to buy your pop up camper is to look at the tires, so if you see any cracks or anything that does not look right on the tires.
Remember those things are going to cost you a few dollars apiece. Tires are not expensive. Usually, I think that most of them come with where you have to buy the rim and the tire so you are looking at about 60 or 70 dollars per side.
You have to grease the bearings every couple of years. Therefore it would help that if you ask the previous owner when was the last time the bearings were looked at and greased and properly packed. A quick assessment can save you a lot of time and future effort and you will not just show up the next morning with two flat tires.
Check the canvas: The next thing I want to talk about is your canvas. Remember that the canvas is the factor that distinguishes pop up campers and that a lot of times they are stored wet and you pop them up and unfold them. Therefore they can have mildew on them or some similar components. They get torn or cut, so just you want to have the canvas unfolded during your visit to the dealer or private seller and you want to look at the corners, every corner all the way around all four corners of the canvas because quite frequently, where it touches the corners it will rub as the wind blows and those are some of the spots that where you have to put duct tape on it.
I saw some people in many camping sites and I asked them about the canvas of their pop up camper, some said that they put seat belts on the inside. They take the seat belt straps and they glue them to the inside corner so when it is rubbing it does not rub the canvas, it rubs the seat belt or it rubs the duct tape. I put three layers on mine and seems to be working pretty well and then just made sure that the seams were in good shape. So the canvas, a key thing to look at in pop up campers.
Electricity and lights: So this is the next thing I would look at. I will make sure that all the electrical and the lights and everything work well. Ensure that you have the possibility with the dealer where you can plug it up and you can turn on the lights and the air conditioner. This is because you want to make sure that the air conditioner works, and that represents a big expenditure if it is not working. Therefore, when you are looking at these electrical devices and installation, remember to have it turned on. Sometimes it happens with some dealers that there is nowhere to plug it up because the adapters are different. In anticipation of these cases, you are required to have a small adapter to plug it in.
Cables to unfold the pop up camper: I want to go over one of the most important parts in pop up campers, and that is your cables. I think it is one of the most important parts because they are on the inside corners of your the pop up campers and they make the roof go up and down and it is basically just four pulleys a winch and some springs: If those objects pop, you will not be able to open the pop up camper and it can be expensive to fix and are time-consuming on your part to try to fix. In the inspection, the cupboards have to be removed. Here you will have to open the cabinet and lubricate all that part as part of ordinary maintenance.
Plumbing and water system: As with other RVs and campers for sale, it is important to talk about the plumbing and the water system in RVs, and of course, apply to pop up campers as well. Turn on the water and let it flow when inspecting the RV with the dealer. For me it happened that it started to leak everywhere, the drain was not working, the p-trap underneath the sink had a screw in it from when we were remodeling the pop up camper I guess.
The screw was there and as you can imagine, it blocked the p-trap and the water went everywhere so I have learned a crucially important lesson the hard way. Nevertheless, I consider that this is not something that you are inspecting pop up campers in the facility of the dealer or the garage of the private seller. It is not a big deal but requires attention.
Trailer ball size: Make sure that the trailer ball on your truck fits the trailer you are finally selecting. My trailer ball size is two inches, you have smaller and larger. You have to try them and seeing that it is not too big that it does not roll over or that it is too small and it does not even fit. This advice applies to pop up campers, but also to travel trailers and fifth wheels, of course.
Pop Up Campers Pros And Cons
Pop Up Campers Pros
- Reasonably priced. Imagine a portable (small) house, big enough to be comfortable to sleep a family and at a price that is attractive. The pop up campers are the most reasonably priced in the towable camper category, thus they are very popular among first-time buyers who have families that love camping but would like to stay on a budget.
- They weigh less than most campers. Most pop up campers have canvasses or “soft sides” which helps in lessening its total weight. This makes it easier to tow and take to far places and does not require a truck with a large towing capacity. Most of the available vans or SUVs in the market can tow pop up campers with ease. So this topic is important if you are worried about the camper weight.
- Safe while being towed. Since the pop up campers have a low towing profile, there are almost no adjustments needed in terms of safety precautions while driving with pop up campers in tow. Since the pop up campers have this low towing profile we mentioned, there is no need to adjust or install special side view mirrors as the pop up campers will not obstruct the view of the driver while driving.
- Better sleeping comfort and safety. Unlike tent camping, pop up campers still offer the outside camping feel but with better protection from the elements. The hard roof and waterproofing provide total protection from rain or even misty weather. At the same time, you can still have your nice taste of fresh air while you are on the inside as its sides can be unzipped manually.
- Portability and location friendly. Pop up campers can be used almost anywhere, even in off-road terrain. You can set-up camp anywhere you please with this versatility.
- Friendly for family time. Tent camping may give this kind of feel as well but nothing better than a pop-up camper as it has more room to fit in the whole family without the feeling of being cramped up inside. This is one of the best ways to have quality time with the family, but with a better respect for space at the same time.
- Better storage space. Since the pop up campers are absolutely not too tall when folded, it can be easily stored in most average-sized garages. This then creates more storage space in the area.
Pop Up Campers Cons
Like any other product, a pop-up camper also has its own downsides, and they are the following:
- Manual setup will be longer and tiresome. You may need to do some more work than any other campers in order to set up pop up campers. Unfolding, sliding and even cranking it up the sides will require an additional effort. But this applies only to pop up campers where the unfold is performed manually with a crank.
- Limited amenities. It is the drawback of being economically priced as the pop up campers tend to sacrifice some amenities in order to have a competitive price.
- Not so sturdy and moderate to severe weather. Due to its lack of structural support, you may feel a little bit of turbulence when experiencing a storm while you are inside pop up campers. This is something I do not like of pop up campers.
- Lack of privacy. Pop up campers are intended to provide more quality time with each other, not apart from each other. This means total privacy is not guaranteed.
- Sleeping amenities are not as comfortable. Again, in pop up campers amenities may be compromised due to its economical price, so it should be considered and accepted that sleeping amenities are also included in the compromises and in the list of cons.
Amenities to Consider
Considering there are quite a number of different brands of pop up campers out there, there may be some variations or additional amenities that differ from other brands. Some of them can be seen from one pop up camper model while some of them are not. Here are some examples of those amenities:
- Air-conditioning unit
- Bathroom (small and has limited walls for privacy)
- Cable TV hook-up
- Bike rack
- Electric brakes
- Hard wall shower
- Heated mattress
- Vanity mirror
- Closet (wardrobe hanger)
- Refrigerator (sometimes with freezer)
- Water heater
- Window shades
- LCD TV
- Ceiling/wall fans
- Fire extinguisher
- Screen room
Pop up campers are a nice upgrade in comparison to a camping tent mainly because they are more comfortable to sleep in and provide better protection from the outside environment. It has more diversity in terms of comfort due to better space provisions and more room to work with. Though there are also some disadvantages. Pop up campers are a viable option for people who would like to have a comfortable camping experience but cannot shell out large amounts of money for it. They last for years and are still usable after quite some time.
It is therefore recommended to buy pop up campers for couples and even individuals who would like to have quality time with each other by way of camping or taking a getaway vacation. I would not recommend it for a family. Instead of a family, I would recommend a fifth wheel, or a class C RV if they have small children.
Pop up campers have the ability to provide enjoyment with the great outdoors without the extra hassles of camping, by keeping a safe distance from unpleasant things that can affect someone while on their much-needed vacation.
With that being said, a pop up campers are viable options to use for get-away vacations and is still an attractive camper to buy, specifically for first time buyers who will be eager to buy something for their comfort while enjoying a camping vacation.
I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development 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. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where 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.