You’re looking for the freedom of being to park up in an idyllic spot and get your compact but comfortable living quarters assembled in minutes. You don’t want to fight with a complicated tent or peg it back down in the middle of a storm. Nor do you want to drive an RV around tight mountain bends or break down in an ancient VW combi.
What’s your best solution? It might just be the pop up camper.
What Is a Pop Up Camper?
As the name suggests, pop up campers are compact, mobile sleeping quarters which fold down into a trailer base and can be towed by a regular automobile. They can be soft-walled like a tent or hard-walled, like a campervan.
They come in all sizes and levels of luxury from the extremely basic to the deceptively roomy. The best pop up trailer brands include:
How Much Does a Small Pop Up Camper Weight?
Pop up campers are sold based on their “dry weight” (also known as Unloaded Vehicle Weight or UVW). This is their empty weight without any luggage or water on board. It should include the weight of a full propane tank if one is supplied as standard.
At the lower end of the scale, pop up campers can weigh less than 1500 pounds. The Sylvan Sport Go Trailer has a basic model which tips the scales at 840lb. It has a tent covering for sleeping under and might be a little too cozy for the four it claims to sleep.
If you want the lightest hard-walled pop up trailer camper and are travelling light, you might consider the Coachman Clipper Express. At just 761 pounds, their V Package also fits in such amenities as a pull-out porta-potty, AC unit, heater, fridge, sink, outside grill and plenty of optional extras.
What Are the Towing Weights of Pop-Up Campers?
To calculate whether you can tow your fully loaded camper, you need to weigh your luggage, water and propane tanks and add that to the dry weight to get your towing weight.
- Dry Weight = 780lb
- Stored Water = 16 gallons (133lb)
- Additional Propane Tank = 30lb
- Luggage = 200lb
- Total Towing Weight = 1143 pounds
Always check with the manufacturer (not the vendor) what the maximum safe towing weight will be, as well as the recommended towing weight of your vehicle.
The good news is that most trucks, SUVs, or even standard automobiles with a tow bar can pull a compact pop up trailer. Here’s a helpful guide to how much weight different vehicle types can typically pull.
Even a sedan should tow around 1750 pounds, well within the likely towing weight of your small pop-up trailer fully loaded.
How Many People Do Pop-Up Trailers Sleep?
The simple answer is anything from 2 to 8 people. Many pop ups have bed compartments which cantilever out from the trailer base at the back or side, and some even have pop-up bunk bed compartments in the roof.
Alternatively, if weather permits, you can use attachable canvas awnings or netting to expand the inhabitable space.
The Jayco Jay Sport 12UD camper has extended sleeping sections at front and back with a queen bed at one end and a full-size double at the other. In the middle, the seats fold out to provide additional sleeping space. We’re told it can sleep seven or eight and still only weights in at a dry weight of 1895 pounds!
If you want something a little lighter and still roomy enough for a small group, the Turtleback range comes with a fold-out roof tent big enough for three. This brand has a rugged, trail-friendly feel, so you’ll spend a lot more time outdoors than you would in a pop up with more interior space.
What Size Are Pop Up Campers?
Because they are designed for easy towing, most pop ups are no wider than your towing vehicle (7 to 7.5ft). Low-wall models are between 4 to 5 feet tall. Box length can vary between 8 and 16 feet, i.e., considerably less than a 30ft RV, even adding the length of your automobile.
Living quarters, once folded out can range from the super-compact Sylvan Sport Go at 4ft by 7ft to the Forest River Flagstaff, a high-wall model with 13ft by over 27ft of interior space.
An important consideration is whether you’re likely just to sleep in your pop up camper or dine and socialize in it too. This will determine whether you opt for a compact fold-out tent or larger model with room to stand up in.
What Do Pop Up Campers Cost?
Even the most fully kitted out pop up campervan will set you back less than the average RV. The prices range between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on size, amenities, and optional extras.
The tiny SylvanSport Go costs around $9000. A luxury pop up camper might seem like a contradiction in terms, but here are six examples of models that refuse to compromise, the priciest coming in at around $26,000.
What Amenities Do Pop Up Trailers Have?
Commonly you will find the following in a minimum spec pop up trailer:
- Propane fuel supply
- Stove (sometimes outdoor only)
- 12V power supplies and batteries
- Fold-out beds, seating, and table
- Water storage and sink
The following are found in more high-spec models as standard:
- Exterior Shower (shower head connects to water pump)
- Air Conditioning
- Hot Water Systems
- Inverter for mains power (so you can use appliances with standard plugs)
- Connectors for solar panels
- USB Ports
- Music and radio systems
- Exterior Lighting
- Additional awnings to increase exterior floor space
Items that usually come as high-end extras, or may be included in luxury models:
- Interior showers
- High sleeping capacities
- Mains power (for campsites)
- Full kitchens
- Interior Privacy (aka doors!)
If you value the ability to take off for a weekend and wake up in the wilderness but you want a little more comfort than you’d have under canvas, a small pop up trailer is a great compromise between comfort and convenience.