What Is a Pop-Up Camper?
Also known as a “Pop-Up Caravan”, “Fold Out Camper” or “Tent Trailer”, a Pop-Up Camper is a class of recreational vehicle (RV) with collapsible roof and walls. Thanks to its fabric walls and screen windows, Pop-Up Campers can fold down into a compact package that makes it easier to tow than a full-sized trailer.
Key Takeaways Pop-Up Camper
- Space and comfort mean a significant upgrade from tent camping
- Features amenities such as electricity, fold-down furniture and dinettes
- Can be towed by almost any vehicle capable of towing
- Affordability and ease of towing make Pop-Ups one of the most popular choices amongst beginner RVers
Understanding the Pop-Up Camper
The Pop-Up Camper is a towable class of RV that offers the basic comforts of a travel trailer while maintaining the closeness to nature of tent camping. Its lightweight design, easy navigability and affordable pricing makes the Pop-Up an attractive choice for entry-level RVers.
The Pop-Up offers basic, no-frills amenities such as electric, full-size bedding and fold-down furniture that offers an additional level of comfort over tent camping. While some upgraded models may feature air conditioning, heat, showers and toilets – most standard models lack these features.
With walls constructed of lightweight fabric material, Pop-Up Campers tend to be significantly lighter than a standard travel trailer. Pop-Ups are capable of being towed by mid-size cars, SUVs or lightweight trucks and easily fit in almost all campsites.
Because these towable trailers are designed to fold into compact boxes — they lack the storage space compared to other classes of RV. Campers who plan on taking longer trips may need to find creative ways to store gear – such as Pop-Up Camper bike racks or other attachments that secure belongings to the roof.
Pop-Up Camper Interior
The boxy Pop-Up Camper interior lacks the living space and creature comforts found in larger-class RVs. Pop-Ups offer minimal headroom in the sleeping areas, tiny kitchenette areas and limited storage options.
Due to their compact size, Pop-Up Camper are better suited for overnight shelter rather than day-to-day living.
Standard materials used on the interior of Pop-Ups tend to be basic and may lack in design and comfort. Due to the lightweight canvass construction, the interior of the Pop-Up Camper does not often sound protection from extremes of heat and cold.
In many Pop-Up models, the dinette area can be converted into a bed allowing sleeping arrangements for up to 4-6 people. However, most campers will find that the cramped space better lends itself to couples or small families.
Can I Live Full Time In a Pop-Up?
Despite its advantages, the compact size and lightweight construction does not make the typical Pop-Up a suitable long-term living option. Most standard models do not come with showers, bathrooms or heating/cooling like those that are found in other classes of RV.
Extremes in heat, cold, wind or rain would make this class of RV undesirable to live in for extended periods of time.
Pop-Up Camper Tow Safety
“This link in this section is sponsored post by our great friends at Snapflat Latch. All recommendations expressed in this post are based on the personal views of the BeginRV team.”
Most pop-up caravans are lightweight and can be towed with small SUV and trucks models with a suitable tow package. Many larger cars, SUVs and minivans have hitch and tow ratings high enough tow a pop-up caravan weighing up to 2,400 pounds.
It is always best you check the manufacturing specifications on both the tow vehicle and the pop-up to ensure proper safety measures are in place prior to towing.
Typically four (4) over center latches are used to secure the pop-up roof to the caravan when it is being towed. Unfortunately, when flimsy materials are used to manufacture the pop-up roof latch it can result in the clamps/latches failing or decoupling while driving.
The result? The pop-up’s roof can lift and become airborne – leading to potentially catastrophic results (just see the video above).
Specific issues and safety concerns with conventional pop-up roof clamps include:
- Accidental de-coupling of roof clamps while driving;
- Roof clamp breakage / failure while driving;
- Injuries caused by protruding pop top clamps when dis-engaged; and
- Damage caused to lifting cable mechanism due to all roof clamps not being disengaged
We recommend inspecting your roof latches of your pop-up caravan regularly to ensure they are in good working order.
If you are concerned about your latches or just want some peace of mind, we highly recommend the Snapflat Latch pop top caravan roof clamp. The heavy duty, stainless steel over center latch has a unique fail-safe feature to ensure the clamps will not de-couple even if the roof latch has not been secured into the over center position.
Where Pop-Up Campers Excel
- Generally more affordable than larger travel trailers, fifth wheels and Class A and Class C motorhomes;
- Offers modern camping comforts such as electricity, full-size beds, fresh water and cooking area;
- Can sleep from 2-6 people;
- Can be towed by almost any vehicle capable of towing, including mid-sized cars;
- Lightweight and straightforward navigability makes it easy to tow;
- Compact size makes for easy storage;
Where Pop-Up Campers Fall Short
- No-frills amenities lack size and comfort of larger class RVs;
- Canvass construct does not offer protection from weather extremes;
- Interior can be uncomfortable and cramped for more than 2 people;
- Lack of exterior storage space;
- Pop-Up Camper with bathroom/showers relatively uncommon
Ideal Use For Pop-Up Camper
Pop-Ups are ideal for weekend or spur-of-the moment trips where space and storage is not a big factor. Pop-Up Campers are particularly good for younger couples looking to dip their toe in the RV lifestyle or older couples who don’t want the upkeep and work that come along with a motorhome.
Due to uniqueness of this style of RV, the best place to start with a Pop-Up is a rental. While not as popular as Class C motorhomes or Fifth Wheels, Pop-Up Camper rentals are growing in popularity amongst the millennial generation. It may be difficult to find a Pop-Up rental at a traditional RV rental dealership, but peer-to-peer rental sites such as Outdoorsy or RVShare have limited inventory of this RV class.
For related RV terminology, please reference the RV definitions below:
- Campervan: a small truck or van-like vehicle that offers both transport and sleeping capabilities.
- Class A Motorhome: The largest of the motorized RV classes. Due to its high-spec, residential amenities the Class A motorhome is widely considered to be the top-of-the-line RV.
- Diesel Pusher: A Class A motorhome powered by a diesel engine mounted in the rear of the RV.