Why NOT To Buy A Pop Up Camper (15 Brutally Honest Reasons)

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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 cover a few things you might wish you had known before buying one.

Hindsight is 20/20… and it is important to learn from the experiences of others.

So, here are 15 things you should know about pop-up campers before you buy one. Plus, we’ll explain why it can be worth buying one, as well!

1. Extremely Thin Walls

Pop-up campers are designed to be lightweight and foldable. Because of this, the walls are going to be thin.

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.

2. Close Quarters

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.

Tip: And a little tip my family has 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.

3. Little To No Bathroom

RV bathroom

While some pop-up campers do have a bathroom, most do not so keep that in mind when shopping around.

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 lifesaver!

4. Mold Issues

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.

5. Canvas Tears

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.

6. 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 camp setup and takedown.

Though this is something you’ll get better and faster at the more you do it. And there’s arguably setup and takedown time with any type of camping.

This video gives you a good glimpse of the setup and takedown process of a pop-up camper.

Camper Set Up and Take Down Full

7. Quality Issues

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, have weight limits on their slideout beds, and have a lighter frame.

Related: How Much Weight Can a Pop-up Camper Bed Hold?

8. 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.

9. 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 when you camp in the winter).

10. Lack Of Hot Water

Most tent trailers do not come with a water heater as standard equipment. Some will have the option, or you could potentially install a hot water heater yourself if you have the room, but you will have to sacrifice storage space.

For example, the Forest River Flagstaff pop-up camper has an optional hot water package, for their base models, that is standard equipment on their higher end models.

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, and find a model that has this feature if needed.

11. Be Wary Of Tow Rating

Tow hitch

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 trailer 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!

12. Limited Storage

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.

13. Outside Noise

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 night 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.

14. 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, and even the smell of the food you’re cooking, will be available to those in close proximity to your camper.

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.

15. Safety Concerns

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 pop-up travel trailers that make it more than worthwhile to invest in one, including:

  1. You get a real feel for camping and the outdoors that is more comfortable than just using a tent.
  2. While being lightweight has its drawbacks, a pop-up trailer is fairly easy to tow and back up onto a lot. And it takes less gas to haul it around.
  3. Many tent trailers are small enough to fit in a garage for easy storage out of the elements.
  4. They are a beginner-friendly way to get into the camper lifestyle.
  5. They provide an affordable way to make many memories with your family and see the beautiful countryside! In fact, there are many cheap pop-up campers that are brand new for under $12,000! Plus, check out our guide on the best time to buy a camper to potentially save thousands of dollars and make it even more affordable!

Just be sure to stick with a reliable and reputable pop-up camper brand, and you’ll be glad you made the investment!

Related: Best Small Pop-up Camper

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.

4 thoughts on “Why NOT To Buy A Pop Up Camper (15 Brutally Honest Reasons)”

  1. I don’t currently have a pop-up trailer but I spent a lot of time in one when I was growing up. It is a step up from being in a tent and therefore a lot more luxurious sleeping is more comfortable it’s easier to keep clean and keep bugs out and yes the walls are thin and not insulated but no different than any other tent. If you’re going to go camping and you want a little bit more comfort then I pop up camper is perfect depending on what brand you go with.

    • If you’re going to compare a pop-up camper to tent camping, yes I agree, it’s more comfortable and luxurious. I don’t know anybody who would argue with that!

  2. We are currently buying one as a step up from tent camping. It is LUXURIOUS in comparison to sleeping on the ground.
    Are you seriously comparing a tent trailer to an RV? If so, might as well include cost…

    • Hi Becky, as we say in the very first line of this article – we love pop-up campers! I spent many summer nights in one growing up. This article merely details the other side of the coin from someone who’s spent a lot of time in a pop-up. Everything has pros and cons – tents, RVs, and, believe it or not, pop-ups. There is no comparison to an RV as they are in completely different classes, however, some of these drawbacks may make you want to consider stepping up to a travel trailer – or maybe stick with tent camping. I personally like to understand the good and the bad of something before buying it. We also do mention cost near the end! Pop-ups are very cost-effective compared to RVs, but way more than a tent.

      I hope you enjoy your new pop-up camper and make some wonderful memories! 🙂


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