We here at Camper FAQs love pop-up campers!
But, they may not be for everybody…
Our goal isn’t to talk you out of buying a pop-up camper, but rather to give you a few honest reasons you should consider before making this large purchase.
Hindsight is 20/20… and it is important to learn from the experiences of others.
So, here are 15 things you should really know about pop-up campers before you buy one. Plus, we’ll explain why it can be worth buying one, as well!
Extremely Thin Walls
Pop-up campers are designed to be lightweight and foldable. Because of this, the walls are going to be thinner than an RV or motorhome.
This can be an issue for several reasons, with the main reason being climate control. It’s harder to control the climate, whether hot or cold, with extremely thin walls. This is true even if you have a hard-walled pop-up camper.
Outside noise, privacy, and safety are also concerns when you have thin walls, which we’ll get to later.
Even in the larger pop-up camper models, space will be limited. And don’t simply assume that buying a larger model that sleeps 8 or more people will fix this issue. In most cases, that just means you’ll have more people in that small space.
Essentially, you’ll be eating, living, and sleeping together in the small confines of your pop-up camper. And, trust me, you’ll quickly figure out who the loudest snorer is!
A positive side-effect of this is you’ll find yourself spending more time outside of the camper in the great outdoors.
And a little tip my family used to help create more space (or at least give the illusion of more space) was to bring a tent for the kids to sleep in.
Little To No Bathroom
While some pop-up campers do have a bathroom, most do not so keep that in mind when shopping around.
And even the ones that do, they don’t compare to the bathrooms in an RV or motorhome. Not even close…
So, you should consider how important this is to you. If you mostly stay in campgrounds with bathroom facilities then maybe it’s not that big of a deal. However, if you don’t, a decent bathroom can be a life-saver!
You should never pack up your pop-up camper when the soft canvas sides are still wet as it can cause mold to grow on it. Mold is not only dangerous to breathe, but it can weaken your canvas, as well.
So, after it rains or the morning dew soaks your campers canvas, you need to wait for it to completely dry before packing it up. You’ll also want to routinely clean your pop up camper canvas to further prevent any mold or mildew from growing and spreading.
If you have a soft-walled pop-up camper, then inevitably you’ll get some tears in the canvas. This isn’t the end of the world as you can repair the tears pretty easily or get a canvas replacement for less than $1,000. But, it can result in unwanted costs and time to fix the tears.
Setup & Takedown Time
Pop up campers are lightweight and portable, making them easy to move from place to place. But, unfortunately, that portability comes at a cost.
Pop up campers need to be set up and subsequently taken down when done. And even if you have a simple hand crank lift system that pops the camper up, you still need to set up the inside of the camper and any bathroom facilities, generators, support poles, etc. And then you have to take it all down when you’re done. Plan on setting aside an hour for both setup and takedown if you camp in a pop-up camper.
This video gives you a good glimpse of the setup and takedown process of a pop-up camper.
As we mentioned before, a tent trailer is designed to be lightweight and easily towable. To achieve this they are built with lower quality, lightweight materials, are not insulated very well, and have a lighter frame. By nature, this makes them less durable and comfortable than say a motorhome or RV.
They Get Hot!
Some tent trailers come with an air conditioner, but even with the air conditioning running, the thin, poorly insulated walls do not retain the cool air.
And if you don’t have air conditioning, well, the hot summer sun will leave you baking in your camper. Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to keep as cool in a tent trailer as you would in an RV or motorhome.
They Also Get Cold!
Same with trying to keep your tent trailer cool, keeping it warm can be a difficult task. The thin canvas walls and poor insulation will not effectively retain heat.
However, this is typically only a problem when outside temperatures drop below 50 degrees F at night (or you camp in the winter).
Lack Of Hot Water
Your typical tent trailer does not come with a water heater. You can, however, potentially install a hot water heater yourself if you have the room, but you will have to sacrifice storage space or space otherwise used for a heater or air conditioner.
This isn’t a deal-breaker for some, so just keep in mind how important this luxury is to you before you buy a pop-up camper.
Be Wary Of Tow Rating
While this holds true for any pull-behind travel trailer, those with small light-weight tent trailers tend to overlook their vehicle’s tow rating capacity. If you’re pulling more weight than your vehicle is rated for, it can lead to unnecessary damage and potentially a large out-of-pocket cost to repair it.
So, before you buy a pop up camper or any type of travel trailer, figure out your vehicle’s tow rating. You can look in your owner’s manual or check the manufacturer’s website. Once you have that down you’ll be able to narrow your search for a tent trailer that’s weight fits within your vehicle’s towing capabilities.
*Tip: Don’t listen to your friends on this one. While I’m sure their buddy has easily towed a tent railer with the same vehicle as you, just check your vehicle’s tow capacity to make sure. This is important and can potentially save you a lot of hassle, headache, and money in the long run!
While most tent trailers do have some built-in storage, it’s typically very minimal. So, planning ahead will definitely make your next camping trip much more enjoyable.
Using collapsible dishware, installing additional shelving, vacuum sealing clothing and blankets in bags to make them smaller are just a few ideas.
Luckily, we dedicated an entire post to this subject with 16 quick and easy tips to increase space in a pop-up camper.
Again, because the walls are so thin, and there’s very little insulation, you’re going to hear just about every noise outside of your camper – your generator running, loud campground neighbors, etc. – all of which can easily ruin a good nights sleep and make you want to go insane.
You can alleviate some of this noise by not camping next to others and/or by using a quiet generator if possible.
Lack Of Privacy
So, we just discussed how you can hear everything going on outside your pop-up trailer… well, just remember that the opposite is true – everybody outside your trailer can hear what you’re doing on the inside, too!
Everything you say, any noises you make, even the smell of the food you’re cooking will be available to those in close proximity to your camper. It’s really no different than tent camping.
And beyond noises and smells, at night if you have any lights on in your travel trailer, people outside can see your shadows moving around.
If privacy is of concern to you and your family, you may want to think twice about the pop up camping life.
Closely related to your lack of privacy are safety concerns. Anybody outside can hear everything you do and know exactly how many people are in your camper at all times.
And the lightweight thin walls and canvas aren’t going to provide much protection from an intruder or aggressive animal. Certain bad weather conditions will wreak havoc on your camper, as well.
So, consider your tent trailer a very small step up in terms of safety compared to regular tent camping.
Is It Worth Buying A Pop-up Camper?
We just detailed 15 reasons why somebody might not want to buy a pop up camper.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom!
In fact, there are many positives to camping in travel trailers that make it more than worthwhile to invest in one, including:
- You get a real-feel for camping and the outdoors that is more comfortable than just using a tent.
- While being lightweight has its drawbacks, a pop-up trailer is much easier to tow and back up onto a lot than a large pull-behind camper. And it takes less gas to haul it around.
- Many tent trailers are small enough to fit in a garage for easy storage out of the elements.
- They are a beginner-friendly way to get into the camper lifestyle.
- They provide an affordable way to make many memories with your family and see the beautiful countryside! Check out our guide on the best time to buy a camper to potentially save thousands of dollars and make it even more affordable!
If you’re still curious whether a pop-up camper is right for you, check out our pop-up camper rental guide and try one out before buying! And if you plan on buying used, check out our detailed guide on what to look for when buying a used pop-up camper, which comes with a free checklist.