Pop up campers are considerably cheaper compared to travel trailers and small RVs. Even if you can get by with a relatively cheap camper, though, you still have to pay for insurance and other maintenance. In short, the costs can add up fast.
Would your investment be worthwhile or should you look for another type of trailer? Being as educated as possible will enable you to make smart financial decisions. In this article, I will provide tons of information about pop up campers. I even divided the info into a neat pros and cons list for you.
You can then weigh each factor listed and decide for yourself if a pop up camper is right for you.
The Pros of Pop Ups
1. It’s Hard to Beat the Price of a Pop up
On the lower end, you can get a new pop up camper for four figures. Admittedly, said four figures may be closer to $8,000 or even $9,000. When you consider that the starting price for a new travel trailer is $11,000 (and can be as much as $35,000), you’re getting a good deal by purchasing a pop up.
If you go used, the savings are even more considerable. In super-rare cases, you could nab a used pop-up camper for between $1,000 and $2,000, but don’t expect this. More reasonably, you’ll likely pay somewhere to the tune of $5,000 and up.
2. These Campers Boast a Compact Size and Weight
The average pop up is smaller, leaner, and more lightweight than many other trailers. On the smaller end, you can get a pop up that’s as little as 700 pounds. If you go for a mid-sized trailer, then it may push 1,000 pounds, but not by much.
3. You Can Tow a Pop Up with Almost Any Vehicle
One of the biggest benefits of a pop up camper’s compact size is for towing. No matter which vehicle you have, you can probably tow a lighter pop up. SERIOUSY. Even motorcycles and ATVs are fair game if your camper is light enough.
There’s no need to go out and buy a pickup truck or SUV for the sole reason of towing a pop up camper. Most standard cars can pull a lightweight or midweight pop up. As always, check your car’s towing capacity before you set up your rig.
4. Safe Driving Is Easier with a Lighter Trailer
When you’re towing a trailer that’s thousands of pounds, there are a slew of risks you must be aware of. One of these is fishtailing, also known as jackknifing. This is where the trailer begins moving independently of your towing vehicle. It juts out at sharp angles not unlike the average folding pocket knife, hence the nickname.
Jackknifing or fishtailing can cause a lot of damage. Not only can your out-of-control trailer hit other vehicles and motorists, but it can take your towing vehicle with it. You’re now being spun out of control. Worse yet is you’re at the mercy of other vehicles on the road.
Another issue with heavier trailers is what’s called trailer swing. This is also sometimes referred to as trailer slew. If the road is even a little slick or slippery, then trailer swing can occur. When it does, the trailer moves from one side to another. The movement is less erratic than jackknifing for certain, but it’s still a dangerous scenario.
5. Running Water Works in a Pop Up
Many people think that living in a pop up camper is roughing it. It’s true that you don’t get as many modern luxuries as you would in a full-sized travel trailer or an RV, but it’s not all bad. You’re not giving up every amenity.
For instance, you can still enjoy running water. The freshwater holding tank in your pop up camper will certainly be smaller than that of a travel trailer or RV’s. While that does mean you get less water and will have to refill the tank more often, you don’t have to go without running water entirely.
6. There’s Also Air Conditioning and Heating in Most Models
You also don’t have to live without air conditioning and heating in your pop up camper, at least not typically. Admittedly, neither system is going to be very sophisticated. You also aren’t going to have large units in a pop up like you would in an RV. That means fewer BTUs and thus less cooling and/or heating potential.
Why isn’t this in the cons section then, you ask? Because there are workarounds to decent AC/heating in your pop up. You may use external heating and/or cooling units. If you’re traveling in especially hot or cold areas, then portable HVAC systems can be your best bet for staying comfortable.
7. You’ll Truly Get Back to Nature
These days, it’s hard to immerse yourself completely in nature. The kids have their smartphones and, even though you’re trying to leave tech behind, you have an itch to check your email. Modern travel trailers and RVs ensure you’re always connected with outlets, USB ports, DVD players, TVs, and the like.
If you want to disconnect for a day or even a weekend, then a pop up camper is one of the best vehicles to do it in. The tent-like sides of most pop up campers are akin to erecting a good, old-fashioned tent and sleeping in nature. Of course, you get more amenities than you would with tent life, like a small kitchen, indoor sleeping with mattresses, and maybe even a bathroom. Having a pop up camper truly is the best of both worlds.
8. Some Campers Can Stay in Your Garage
Unless you live in a warmer state, then very soon, it’ll be time to say goodbye to your trailer until the spring. Most RVers will keep their vehicle at a storage facility, because what other choice do they have? The same is true if you’re a travel trailer owner. These are large, bulky, long vehicles. Very few neighborhoods would be happy with you parking such a hefty vehicle like that on the street or even in a driveway for months.
Your other options are costly. There’s outdoor storage at a facility. This is the least expensive, but it leaves your vehicle out in the elements for months at a time. Unless you invest in an expensive cover, then your RV is at risk of sun damage, snow and rain damage, tree sap, bird droppings, and more.
If you want to bring your trailer or RV inside a storage building, it’s going to cost you. Indoor storage may be $50 a month on the cheaper end at some facilities. Other facilities charge $125 a month to keep your vehicle indoors. This is for unheated storage, by the way. You better hope you winterized your RV, or when you come back in the spring, it’ll be in poor shape.
If you must have indoor and heated storage, expect to pay far more. The base monthly price at these facilities is $100. It’s not uncommon to be charged close to $500 each month to protect your vehicle.
Let’s say you stash your RV now, in November, until April. That could be as much as $2,500 just for RV storage alone. Ouch!
Luckily, you’re thinking of getting a smaller pop up camper. Many models will fit in your garage, where you can keep your pop up for free. You also get the benefit of being able to check on your vehicle daily so it stays clean and ready for spring.
The Cons of Pop Ups
1. Bigger Pop Ups Can be Very Costly
Earlier in the pros section, I mentioned that pop up campers may cost somewhere in the ballpark of $8,000. That’s for a smaller pop up. The bigger the vehicle, the more money you’re going to shell out.
For instance, the tiny 2019 Forest River Flagstaff Tent 176LTD is only $8,749 on RV Trader. Compare that to the larger 207SE, which is $14,495, and you can see the price difference. You’re paying almost $6,000 more.
That’s one of the cheaper large pop ups, too. Once you move away from tent walls and begin browsing for hard-side pop ups, you’ll see the steep price increase. The 2019 Forest River Rockwood Hard Side High Wall Series A213HW pop-up is $18,495 on RV Trader.
As common sense would dictate, the bigger the trailer, the heavier it becomes. This is applicable even with pop up campers. At their largest, a pop up may weigh as much as 3,800 pounds, sometimes even more.
At that point, you can very rarely tow your pop up with a car. You’ll instead need heavier-duty vehicles like a pickup truck or an SUV. You also have to worry about jackknifing as well as trailer swing.
3. Full Bathrooms Are a Rarity
Here’s another pretty big con that we absolutely had to talk about. You will very rarely have a full bathroom in a pop up camper. Some floorplans don’t even feature bathrooms, but rather a nook in which you can put a cassette toilet. If you remember from reading this blog, cassette toilets are basic, no-frills hygiene options. They have a connector for hooking up to your water system as well as their own (small) blackwater holding tank.
If you are fortunate enough to find a camper with a bathroom, then chances are, it will contain a marine toilet. This is more of what you’re used to back home, but still, the blackwater holding tank is rather small. That’s especially true when compared to a travel trailer’s tank or even a small RV’s. A smaller blackwater holding tank means more frequent dumping for you, which is a pain.
Most of the time, when looking at various pop up camper floorplans, you’ll realize you often can have a toilet or a shower, but rarely both. Only the largest pop ups can fit a toilet and a shower. For smaller models, if you get a shower at all, it’ll typically be outdoors.
4. Often Have to Reduce Passenger Count
If you’re the type who enjoys exploring the great outdoors with your large family or a group of your closest buddies, then a pop up camper probably isn’t for you. Not every passenger is going to get a bed. Far from it. There will typically be just a single king-sized or queen-sized mattress in the bedroom. Couches may reveal a sleeper bed, but not always. Bunks are uncommon as well. What the other passengers would have to do is roll out their sleeping bags and catch some Zzs on the floor.
If you were bring your kids along, you’d have to give them the bed while you slept on the floor (unless your kids didn’t mind roughing it in a sleeping bag). Your friends would also have to be willing to get inventive about how they sleep.
5. Generators Can Keep You up All Night
According to a spring 2018 report on Truck Camper Magazine, 52.7 percent of RVers believed that a generator was mandatory with a pop-up camper setup. Pop ups can get electricity just like any RV, but if you’re boondocking and want power, you’ll need a generator.
The good news is that you won’t need a large, expensive generator for a pop up camper unless you have an equally large vehicle. The bad news is that, with tent pop-ups especially, you’re going to hear that generator running at full blast all night. With hard-side pop ups, the noise is muted somewhat, but not by a ton.
There’s not too much that can be done to quieten a loud generator. You also have to think that if you’re annoyed by all the noise, so too will be any other fellow RVers at a campsite or park.
6. Tent Care Is a Pain
The tent sides and roof of a pop up trailer are cool for expanding the space and camping out in nature. These awnings require special care though that can negate their benefits. Anytime the awnings get wet, you must let them sit out and air dry completely. Retracting them too prematurely can cause mold and mildew issues.
You must also keep your eyes peeled for small holes and tears. If left unaddressed, these can quickly become bigger, more expensive issues. You could even have to get brand new tenting.
7. Lighter Pop Ups Can Tip over
Another detriment to tents and awnings is that strong winds can rip right through them, literally tearing them off. Unfortunately, strong winds can cause more damage still to a pop up camper, especially a smaller one.
Above, we talked about how lightweight smaller pop ups can be. With less weight to stabilize them and tents instead of hard walls, these pop ups are the perfect candidate to fall over. Now, a pop up will rarely just tip for no reason, but inclement weather, hills, and unstable terrain (like mud or jutting rocks) can all push your camper over.
Not only can passengers end up injured if they’re in the vehicle at this time, but a tip can also cause expensive damage!
8. Setup and Disassembly Is Time-Consuming
Finally, we want to talk about what many RVers think is unequivocally the biggest issue with pop-up campers. The time required to set up and disassemble the vehicle is too much. On RVFTA.com blog the writers complain of that very thing.
Even though they spent the big bucks and got a pop-up camper with practically every amenity you can dream of, in the end, they were unhappy. They thought it took way too long to get the pop up ready for a stay. When it came time to leave and get back on the road, disassembly was also too time-consuming.
While in the end, they did opt for another pop up camper, the bloggers’ story is a cautionary tale you should consider.
[box] I presented eight pros and eight cons of pop up campers in this article. All are valid points that are worth considering. We’re not trying to turn you off from getting a pop up camper if that’s what you really want, but you should consider the negatives as well as the positives.A pop-up camper can be a dependable little vehicle, but they’re admittedly not for everyone. Good luck in making your decision![/box]