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Pop up camper

The advantages and disadvantages of pop-up campers

The RV lifestyle is one of unmatched adventure, but it can be quite expensive as well. However, smaller, cheaper trailers like pop-up campers that allow you to embrace RVing without breaking the bank. Even if you’re looking to save money, though, is a pop-up camper right for you? Read on to discover the advantages and disadvantages of pop-up campers so that you can make an informed decision about your RV purchase.

What are pop-up campers?

Many trailers and campers are large vehicles that require a large towing capacity to haul; the pop-up camper, on the other hand, is a lightweight alternative that can be towed with smaller vehicles. 

These trailers, sometimes referred to as tent trailers or fold-out camper trailers, offer a decent amount of space when they are “popped out” and fold away small. Standard campers include a kitchenette, a mattress, and a dinette. When you aren’t actively using the pop-up camper, you can just collapse it down and tow it wherever you wish. They typically can sleep 2-4 people, with fancier pop-ups having a bit more room.


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Advantages of pop-up campers

Now that we’ve established what a pop-up camper is, let’s take a look at the many advantages that come with them:


Arguably the most important advantage of pop-up campers, and the reason that most people buy them, is the cost. RVs are expensive, and not everyone can or wants to spend so much money on one. Pop-up campers are an affordable alternative to more traditional campers, costing far less without sacrificing much quality. Used ones are even more affordable, and quick DIY repairs and remodels can upgrade any rig.

Lightweight towability

Pop-up campers are designed for you to collapse them into a smaller form that’s easy to take with you on the road. This can be great if you don’t have a truck with a lot of towing capacity or just don’t feel comfortable hauling a giant trailer behind you. Driving around the country becomes a lot easier and safer when you’re hauling a pop-up camper, and you can make your way into most campgrounds with ease. A lot of trailers might need you to upgrade your car or truck to tow them, but pop-ups can be towed by pretty much anything that has a hitch.

Safety first

Driving an RV is an acquired skill, and even when you’re good at it, it isn’t exactly the easiest or safest option for getting out on the road. 

Trailers tend to be large vehicles that take a lot of power to tow, making driving slower and more difficult with such a giant weight dragging behind your tow vehicle. This can get really dangerous if your trailer loses control and acts independently of your car, potentially causing accidents and seriously injuring someone. 

Pop-up campers lessen these risks substantially by being lightweight and compact. They don’t have the proclivity to sway back and forth or lose control completely like bigger trailers do. Of course, pop-ups aren’t completely without risk. It’s important to always follow best towing practices when pulling a popup.


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Garage storage

Large campers often require storage at facilities that charge hundreds of dollars a month because they’re just too big to put anywhere else. Pop-up campers, on the other hand, are small enough to fit into many residential garages or just somewhere else on your property. This can save you a ton of money every year.

Disadvantages of pop-up campers

Pop-up campers have a lot going for them, but of course, there are some drawbacks you should know about, too. Here are the main disadvantages of pop-up campers:

Small size

One of the advantages of a popup is the small size; but it’s also a major disadvantage for some. While a pop-up may be great for occasional weekend trips, frequent campers may desire a rig with a little more room. Though there are larger popup options, they can get pricey, negating the reason why many opt for the pop-up in the first place. 

Worth the weight?

Following up from the last point, the bigger you go with your pop-up camper, the heavier it gets. This directly affects another one of the pop-up’s main appeals, which is its low weight. A larger, heavier pop-up won’t be as easy or as safe to tow as a lightweight one, bringing it more in line with a traditional camper. Not everyone will be bothered by this, and your pop-up will probably still be lighter and easier to tow than a full-on large trailer, but it’s worth being aware of.

Little to no bathroom functionality

A lot of pop-up campers don’t come with a bathroom at all. You’re forced to relieve yourself in nature, using a bucket, at an RV campgrounds, or other places you stop at. 

For many of the pop-ups that do have a “bathroom”, all you get is a small toilet which can be uncomfortable. Some people are more comfortable adapting to abnormal bathroom situations, while others need a more steady, traditional bathroom to feel at home. Showers are rare to find in pop-up campers, but some will provide you with an outdoor shower to use.


A functional toilet is a must for any RV. Make sure you have a place to go— wherever you go— by reading about the best RV toilets.

Preparing the pop-up is a lot of work

You can’t just pull up to your chosen site and start using your pop-up camper like you would a traditional trailer. Since they collapse into smaller units for transit and storage, they require some setup once you’re parked and ready to use them. 

This is a major turn-off for a lot of people because it can be a headache having to do so much tedious work every time you want to park your camper in a new place or pack it back up. We advise watching some tutorials on how to set up your pop-up camper before buying to see if this is a process you’d be willing to routinely undertake.

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