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What is a Pop-Up Camper: Features and Advantages

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Published : October 10, 2022
Model of RV in a forest

Anyone who loves tent camping but wants to add a couple of extra amenities may want to look into a pop-up. But you may be wondering, “what is a pop-up camper?” The short answer is that it is a towed recreational vehicle that collapses for easier storage and smoother transportation.

This choice especially appeals to budget campers who can’t afford one of the more expensive and larger RVs or motorhomes but would still prefer to sleep inside a camper over a tent. Manufacturers made the pop-up camper as an inexpensive answer to longer family road trips and adventures. You can explore the great outdoors more easily, and this equipment is easy to maintain, store and tow.

What Is a Pop-Up Camper – Definition

Pop-up campers differ from other types of RVs in that they can expand and return to their original form through folding. The roof drops down when not in use to lower its height and reduce the amount of space it takes up. That makes storing it easier than other types of campers since you don’t require the same space. Once you decide to go camping, just head to your spot and set up your living quarters for the weekend or the entire week.

You can also buy a pop-up camper to save on gas mileage since a pop-up will reduce your gas intake by about 40 percent compared to a hard-sided, massive class-A motorhome. The gas mileage savings would stand out as one of the biggest advantages of pop-up trailers.

Many vehicles in this style will include a cooking area on the inside, also handing you a comfortable bed. Most wouldn’t consider this a fancy rig compared to other types of recreational vehicles, but it gets the job done. This means pop-up campers offer an affordable place to camp more comfortably than a tent.

Pop-up Trailers’ Technical Features and Specs

When it comes to the length of this type of camper, you can expect it to measure anywhere from 8 to 31 feet when you put it into the open position. In the closed position, it becomes compact.

Most pop-up campers can accommodate up to six people for comfortable sleeping. This camper weighs anywhere from 2,200 pounds to 5,200 pounds.

For the retail cost, you can expect it to cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000.

Let’s see other tech specs, features, and characteristics so you can make an educated choice before considering buying such a vehicle.

  • Chassis Type: Small trailer chassis
  • Typical Length: 8 to 31 feet
  • Typical Weight: 2,200 to 5,200 pounds
  • Fuel: 12 to 13 mpg
  • Interior: Canvas
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1 to 6 People

Pop-up Campers’ Standard and Special Amenities

One of the standard amenities of a pop-up camper is its bathroom. These portable toilets are similar to the ones in airplanes. They require no fresh water, but the tank holds special chemicals to neutralize bacteria and odors. Portable toilets are usually located in the living area and conveniently stored under the bedside table when unused. However, it’s important to note that some pop-up campers don’t have bathrooms and instead use a carry-out toilet system.

Higher-priced pop-up campers also feature fold-down dinettes, sleeping bunks, storage cabinets, fresh water tanks, running pump-powered water for the showers (if any), and possibly air conditioning. The larger pop-up trailers also feature extra storage space for bikes, ATVs, surfboards, etc.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Pop-up Campers

In terms of the pros for this camper, it saves you on gas mileage and doesn’t cost as much as buying an RV. You don’t need a big truck to tow it, either. In most cases, smaller SUVs, larger cars, or minivans will have the tow rating to haul this camper from point A to point B. Just check your truck’s tow rating in the user’s manual because you don’t want to pick one that weighs too much for your vehicle. It can put too much stress on your car and damage the chassis. The biggest cons of this camper include no frills, little protection from the heat, and it often lacks a bathroom.

Pros

  • Easier on gas
  • Affordable
  • Tows easily
  • Cheaper to maintain
  • Totally secured when closed

Cons

  • No special amenities compared to class A or class B motorhomes
  • Not so many extras and special amenities
  • Often have to reduce passengers
  • Not easy to heat or cool

Who Should Use Pop-up Trailers?

After asking, “What is a pop-up camper?” you will need to figure out who should use them. Generally speaking, this camper makes the most sense for singles, small families, couples, and those on a tight budget. They include more amenities than a tent and provide a little more comfort, especially during a rainstorm. In addition, you can move around a little more.

You might buy a pop-up camper as a way to test if you’d like to get more into the RV lifestyle without it becoming a huge financial commitment. Pop-up campers hand you one of the lightest weight RVs around, and you can tow them behind a smaller vehicle than other campers. That matters because you probably heard of the buddy who had to buy a new truck to haul his camper because his other vehicle was too small for it.

For someone inexperienced with towing and maneuvering, the pop-up offers you a better choice than one where you will need to know exactly what you’re doing when towing. It offers you a step up to learning how to maneuver some of the bigger RVs without having to learn it all at once.

To determine if this is the right choice, you could also rent a pop-up to see how you like it. Most will cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per night. Moreover, renting can help you decide if making the bigger investment would be worth it. Sometimes, you may find that you’d rather buy a travel trailer or a Class C motorhome.

What Are the License Requirements to Use a Pop-Up Camper?

You don’t need much to get started with a pop-up. Most campers, even in the Class C category, don’t require special licensing, and pop-ups belong to that category because of the even smaller size. Anything over 26,000 pounds may require special licensing before you can hit the road. Check your state ahead of time, but most states don’t require you to carry a license. Look at the states you might pass through so that you don’t run afoul of the law.

Every state will have unique requirements on the rules regarding RV licensing. For example, some states may require special licensing for campers over 40 feet long. That isn’t the pop-up trailer. They don’t come even close to that requirement when it comes to weight or length.

If you happen to belong to these states, check ahead for special licensing requirements since they do have them:

  • California
  • Wyoming
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania
  • Maryland
  • Washington DC

Most RVers think that they don’t need a license to drive in an RV, but that would be a mistake. Always check your state laws. With most RVs, the only thing that you will need to drive them is a standard driver’s license. The licensing they may require you to carry includes a CDL, Class B, or R Registration.

While you don’t require licensing in most cases for a pop-up, you may want to get the title for it. Usually, a pop-up doesn’t even require this, but it makes sense to get it. For example, imagine someone steals your pop-up camper, but you can’t prove it because you don’t have the title.

On the other hand, imagine your pop-up suffers extensive damage due to flooding, accident, technical issues, etc. Without a title, you cannot salvage your trailer and cannot recover any money for the junk. This is why it makes sense. While pop-ups cost less than other RVs, they still cost enough that you would want the title.

What to Look for in Pop-up Campers?

Now that you know what is a pop-up camper, you need to answer the question of “what to look for in a pop-up trailer?”. Before you begin, ask yourself what you need. For example, how many people will go camping with you? In general, it’s better to give yourself room for one or two extra people.

You should also check how much you can tow with your regular vehicle. You don’t want to learn afterward that you don’t have enough towing capacity. Generally speaking, pop-ups won’t put too much demand on this, but it’s better to check ahead of time. Consider the age of your vehicle as well.

Also, if you plan to cook and eat in the camper, look for one with this feature. You will also want a camper with enough space to store your cooking stuff. Finally, people who want a bathroom in a camp should usually look elsewhere. It is rare to find a pop-up that includes a bathroom, although some have separate toilets or showers.

Look where you plan to camp since this will determine the type of camper you want. Some campgrounds will offer more modern amenities, but you will find others that keep everything to a bare minimum. For example, you might choose a pop-up with a water tank to camp at the more primitive campgrounds with more amenities.

Before you buy, you should understand how a pop-up simply doesn’t offer the same level of comfort and amenities as a Class C. It wasn’t designed for that, and if you want a camper with more amenities, you’d be better off buying one with extras and special features, like class A or B motorhomes. Unfortunately, even the best pop-up won’t include the amenities like that.

If you buy a used pop-up trailer, consider its condition as well. First, you want to check to see that it is structurally sound. Some have complained that they wear out sooner than other campers because they weren’t designed with durable materials. Pop-ups tend to be flimsier overall, making them wear out sooner. Ask how old the pop-up camper is.

You also want to check that your model has the full features when in expanded mode. For example, it should include the following:

  • Cooking area
  • Sitting area
  • Comfortable sleeping quarters

That doesn’t require all that much to get started. In many cases, you will save money on your pop-up because you don’t have to pay to store it somewhere as you would with a Class C. Before you buy, check to see your HOA laws to ensure that you can park your camper on the property.

What Is a Pop-up Camper: Bottom Line

Pop-up campers are not as common as traditional RVs but are growing in popularity among millennials and other young travelers. They offer many of the same amenities as larger travel trailers but are significantly cheaper and lighter. As a result, pop-up campers are a great alternative to tent camping or living in a car.

Hopefully, this article answered the question, “What is a pop-up camper?” The people who favor them the most tend to be those who don’t know if they want to pay more for an RV. It’s a convenient camper that takes up little storage space, but it doesn’t offer all the amenities you might receive from other choices. Nevertheless, the pop-up has soared in popularity in the last few years, and it may be worth checking out.

Pop-up Trailers: FAQs

What is the main purpose of a pop-up camper?

Pop-up campers were intended as a healthy middle-ground for a camper between the tent and the more expensive RV. In addition, it’s less extreme, and you can tow this camper more easily if you don’t know if you would want to get involved in more complex activities.

Can you use a pop-up trailer in the winter?

You can use a pop-up camper in the winter, but you will need to take a few extra measures to winterproof it. For example, you will need to customize your camper to hold the heat better. In addition, you might install insulation to keep the pipes from bursting, and you will want to check for air leaks to keep the cold from getting in.

How can you keep a pop-up camper cool in the summer?

A pop up will especially benefit from you parking it in the shade because it has less insulation to keep the cool air in. You may also want to protect the windows and use reflective insulation. You may also want to add a fan to your camper.

Do pop-up campers have bathrooms?

The majority of pop-ups don’t include a bathroom in them. However, when they have them, they will have a wet bath, meaning the toilet will be in the shower. In most cases, they won’t have hard walls because they need to compact themselves afterward.

How do I get rid of a junk pop-up camper?

Getting your pop-up trailer to a landfill and leaving it there is a bit complicated, not eco-friendly, and not financially rewarding. One of the best options is to sell your junk camper for cash. Selling it to a scrap yard might also be a good idea, but you might not receive good money. In fact, salvage yards may not fit the bill if you want to free your property of an old camper and make some money in the process. On the other hand, selling it directly to someone willing to pay good cash for it might encourage you to get a new camper soon.

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