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Pop-up-style campers are an alluring option to many first-time RV goers. They offer easy portability, but they may only fit the needs of certain campers.

Deciding what size and style of RV camper will be right for you is a hard choice that requires a lot of research. The price of investing in the wrong RV and going through the process of obtaining and moving into another one is strenuous and makes it important to make the right choice the first time around.

If you’re considering purchasing a pop-up camper, you should know its primary uses and functions. Many pop-ups function more like a fancy tent than a portable home, and most offer a living environment that is not ideal for full-time RV goers. Pop-ups often don’t have a bathroom and lack insulation.

Below I will go over the top reasons I would consider to be the biggest disadvantages to owning a pop-up camper. If these reasons don’t sound like they apply to your situation, it is possible that a pop-up is the right choice, but these are the things to be most aware of before purchasing.

Personally, I love the idea of a popup camper, but they just are not right for my living situation. They do offer a certain allure and the storage and portability is a huge plus, but for me a Class-A motorhome is the best fit and a pop-up just cannot accommodate my wife and I.



What Are Pop-up Campers Good For

Before going into my top reasons not to buy a pop-up camper I want to briefly discuss the advantages they offer. If you’re considering buying a pop-up it could be the right decision for you.

Pop-ups have three main advantages:

  • They don’t require much storage space
  • They pull behind most vehicles easily and don’t affect drivability
  • They are generally more affordable than a travel trailer or motorhome.

One or any of these reasons might be enough to make a pop-up your only available choice. Now, let’s get into the biggest things to keep in mind before purchasing a pop-up and some of the biggest reasons you might decide against one. You may think a Pop-up is a great choice and find out later that it is not as accommodating as you thought.

Top Reasons Not To Buy A Pop-up Camper Trailer

Are Pop-up Campers Insulated

The hard sides of a Pop-up usually have insulation, but the canvas sides are more akin to a tent lining than a wall. Pop-ups do offer some insulation around you but not as much as a house or Rv would.

Do Pop-up Campers Have Storage

Some Pop-ups may have some small storage compartments located outside along the bottom of the trailer but often extra storage will be assigned to the vehicle pulling the pop-up. Because the interior of the camper conaploses for storage, not as many personal items can be stored inside of it.

How Much Space Do Pop-up Campers offer

A Pop-up camper is going to be one single area. Multiple room units or slide-outs are not usually offered with the pop-up design. This means you will have one single space to accommodate a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom.

Do Pop-up Campers Have Bathrooms

Speaking of Bathrooms, pop-ups are typically devoid of them. Some pop-up trailers will have a cassette toilet installed (basically a miniature porta-potty with small holding tanks) and occasionally on some models an outdoor shower or small wet room area can be found.

In general though much like a tent a pop-up will not have a bathroom. If a pop-up does have a cassette toilet or one is installed it will be located in the single common area and offer no additional privacy.

Are Pop-up Campers Private Like A House

Pop-ups do not excel at privacy because of the canvas and vinyl walls. Essentially, there is no actual barrier between you and the outside world and a large portion of your walls only function as a windbreak. Sound can travel freely between the interior and exterior of a pop-up with ease.

Are Pop-up Campers Secure and Safe

The soft canvas sides of a pop-up camper can lack more than privacy. In general most campgrounds are safe, well patrolled places, but some rural campsites on disperpered land can be home to dangerous animals and be located far enough from civilization to be unnerving.

A pop-up camper realistically offers almost no protection from a mountain lion or a bear that might encounter your camp. While an RV would have solid walls and a proper roof to act as a barrier, a pop-up camper only offers soft siding that forms no real protective barrier.

Pop-ups can also be susceptible to tearing and offer less protection from wind, rain, or hail.

Are Pop-up Campers Less Durable Than Travel Trailers

Pop-ups have a lot of moving parts that all go through a lot of wear and tear. Much like slide-out sections on a traditional RV adding moving parts and extra motors means there are more components that can potentially fail.

Pop-up campers can be susceptible to tearing, broken joints, and less durable frames that may become bent.

Do Pop-Up Campers Last As Long As RVs

Travel trailers and other RVs (especially motorhomes) are usually more expensive and built to higher quality standards compared to a pop-up camper. RVs typically are built for a lifespan of 15 to 40 years whereas a pop-up camper is expected to last 10-15 years.

This is partially because RVs are expected to be used more frequently and heavily than a pop-up, which is designed for occasional use and lighter camping trips. Although a pop-up is generally considered a less permanent structure there are still ways to maintain your camper and make it last longer.

Do Pop-Up Campers Depreciate In Value

Pop-up Campers take a lot of work to maintain and keep in like-new condition. The used market for pop-ups sees a lot of resales and the campers do seem to last through multiple owners, but monetarily speaking pop-up style campers depreciate more than travel trailers, which deplete faster than motorhomes.

In the used market, pop-ups are commonly seen for sale in the $2000 to $5000 range making them one of the most affordable camper options, but if you also plan to resale the camper at one point it is unlikely to return its original investment.

Pop-up campers can be kept in great condition, last for many years, and keep their monetary value, but it is more work than a traditional trailer. The canvas will likely need fully replaced at one point in the pop-ups life.

Can You Full Time in a Popup Camper

You can, but should you? That will always depend on each individual’s situation, but pop-ups are not a popular choice for full time RVers for a few reasons.

Pop-up campers will quickly deteriorate and not last as long if in use at all times. The design also fairs best in good weather conditions and the summer and winter months may prove difficult depending on the state you live in.

Do Pop-up Campers have Climate Control

A lot of Pop-up campers are still equipped with an Air conditioning unit mounted on the roof, but the lack of insulation will make it hard to accurately control the temperature inside of the camper.

An external heater such as a GasBuddy can be used inside for heat, but only in mild climates. If the temperature outside drops below freezing a popup camper will probably never reach a comfortable temperature.

How Long Does It Take to Set up a Pop-up Camper

How much manual work goes into setting up a pop-up will depend on the model. Some higher end options may have more automatic parts that assist in deploying the stabilizing legs or bed sections.

After finding a place to park, positioning the camper, and blocking the tires like any other trailer a pop-up style camper needs a few extra steps before it is ready to use. The roof section must be unlatched and cranked up, then typically the bed sections must be folded out.

Pop-up campers vary somewhat with some models also needing support bars to be installed under the fold out bed sections.

Are Pop-up Campers Better Than a Tent

With how many steps a pop-up camper takes to set up you might be wondering what sets them apart from a normal tent. Some pop-ups resemble tents more closely while others are more like a soft shell travel trailer.

Pop-ups do have some advantages over tents. The most obvious ones are that a pop-up camper will be equipped with electrical connections and other small amenities. Pop-ups also offer an off the ground foundation and added security compared to a tent.

Can a Pop-up Camper Be Used Year Round

Most people do not use their pop-up campers full time or throughout the whole year. Pop-up campers are designed more so for weekend trips and occasional use. Pop-ups are popular with groups like fishermen who may not have a lot of room at home to store an RV or are not planning on being outside long enough to need one.

The Canvas material used in pop-ups is similar to a heavy duty tent and like a tent the longer it is left out the more it is exposed to sunlight and wind which will inevitably deteriorate the material.

Can Pop-up Campers Be Used in Extreme Climates

If you plan to camp somewhere with excessive heat, cold, rain, snow, or wind you and your pop-up both will be feeling the effects of the weather. These kinds of trailers are specialized to pull out on nice days with ease, not brave the harsh winds of winter.

Heavy rain, snow, or wind can cause the canvas to tear, leaving you as exposed as sleeping outside. Because pop-ups lack insulation and central air conditioning they are also not ideal for climates with excessive heat or cold as the interior can easily match the temperature outside.

How Long Does Pop-up Camper Canvas Last

One of the biggest issues with long term use of a pop-up camper is the fabric material that completes the walls of the camper and allows it to be folded so compactly. Throughout this list I have used the terms “Vinyl” and “canvas” to refer to the material but one or the other is likely to be used in your camper's construction.

Each material offers advantages and disadvantages, but both will need to be cleaned and maintained regularly. Torn fabric is one of the most common issues with pop-up campers, but another one is mold and mildew. The fabric of a pop-up camper is exposed to a lot of varying humidity and mildew can quickly ruin the entire interior if the camper is not stored and cleaned properly.