What Is A Pop Up Camper? All You Need To Know About Pop Up Trailers

PublishedApril 20, 2020

Pop up campers (also known as foldable camping trailers) are a like cool transformer RVs.

They are good for weekend warriors, and those with smaller SUVs or trucks.

What Is a Pop-Up Camper?

A pop up trailer is unique in that it collapses down for easy towing and storage.

The roof lowers down over the main body to greatly reduce the overall height. This makes it easier to tow. It also makes it more fuel-efficient.

When you reach your camping destination, you set it up to reveal the living quarters.

Hard side pop up camper

A-Frame Pop Up Camper

A pop up camper is a great alternative to tent camping. With a popup, you sleep in something closer to your bed at home. You're off the ground and more out of the weather.

Many models in this class of RV will include some sort of inside cooking area, and there may be a toilet. But don't expect to find a shower in many models.

Pop up campers are not fancy rigs by any stretch of the imagination. They serve the purpose of giving you a fairly comfortable, and affordable, place to stay while you are enjoying the great outdoors at your favorite campground.

Pop-Up Camper Quick Stats:
  • Length: 8 to 31 feet (in the 'open' position)
  •  Sleeping Capacity: Up to 6 people
  • Slide-Outs: 0 to 1
  • Gross Vehicle Weight: 2,200 to 5,200 pounds
  • Retail Price: $10,000 to $30,000

*Above stats are approximate ranges just to give you a general idea

Pop-Up Camper Pros and Cons:
  • Affordable alternative to tent camping
  • Can be towed by almost any vehicle capable of towing
  • Easy to maneuver and will fit in almost any campsite
  • No frills camper
  • Soft-side campers don't offer much protection from heat extremes
  • Often lacking a toilet

Ultimate Guide To RV Types

Confused about the different types of RVs? Click here to read our guide that explains the differences between the various RV styles.

RV Types

Two Styles Of Pop-Up Camper

There are two types of pop up trailers - the pop up tent trailer (soft sided) and the hard sided pop up camper.

They both have the same characteristic of folding down to a low overall height when towing.

One style features canvas walls on the pop-up portion of the trailer, while the other style features hard walls.

Pop Up Tent Trailer

The soft-sided pop-up campers use a canvas material for the walls.

The sides of a pop up tent trailer don't provide much protection from severe weather. If the wind is blowing, you will know it. If the rain is coming down in sheets, a little may get inside.

Forget about any sense of privacy when you are inside a camping trailer that has canvas materials used to make up the wall.

A pop up camper trailer is not any better than a tent when it comes to keeping noises out. Let's face it. Any RV is not good at keeping noise out. But when the walls are fabric, you will hear everything.

The weight of a small pop up trailer isn't much, so it's really easy to tow with just about any vehicle. Plus its size means it's fairly easy to store.

Pop-Up Tent Trailer exterior

Pop-Up Tent Trailer (Up Position)

Pop-Up Tent Trailer down position

Pop-Up Tent Trailer (Down Position)

Hard Side Pop Up Camper

The hard sided pop ups have actual walls that fold down (the Aliner A-frame pop up camper is an example) or the roof will come down over the lower section (TrailManor collapsible campers are an example).

The style of hard-sided pop up camper that has the folding walls is most frequently an A-frame trailer. That is when you look at them from the side they resemble the letter 'A' with a high peaked, sharp sloping roof.

Because of this shape, they are also known as a triangle camper. Below are pictures of the Aliner A-Frame pop-up camper (triangular camper), showing the up and down positions.

Hard Sided Pop Up Camper

Aliner A-Frame Pop Up Camper (Up Position)

Hard Side Pop Up Camper

Aliner A-Frame Pop Up Camper (Down Position)

The hard side pop up campers such as the TrailManor shown below look a bit more like a traditional travel trailer when in the extended position.

It offers the most room on the inside.

This will also be the most comfortable popup camper brand as the design is closer to a 'normal' RV.

There are comfort features such as a bathroom with separate shower, a dinette, separate sleeping space with real mattresses, a larger refrigerator, RV stove, and other equipment that you'd normally expect to see on other types of RVs.

Downside is the increased weight and size, though they do offer floorplans that are able to be towed by smaller vehicles, so you don't need a large truck.

TrailManor hard sided pop up camper open position

TrailManor Hard Sided Pop Up Camper (Up Position)

TrailManor hard sided pop up camper closed position

TrailManor Hard Sided Pop Up Camper (Down Position)

Interiors Of Pop-Up Campers

The interior of collapsible campers are going to be a pretty basic design. Materials will be on the cheaper side to keep prices down.

Size and weight are HUGE factors for these types of RVs, so you typically won't find room for large families (more suitable for couples) with living area space being fairly tight.

Pop-Up Tent Trailer interior

Pop-Up Tent Trailer Interior

Seating may be limited to a dinette, but should have space for up to 4 people. Cushions will be thin and not very comfortable, so if you are using your camping trailer frequently, this might be a good place to upgrade.

These RVs may not have a bathroom facility. If it does, it most likely will just be a portable toilet tucked under a bench.

The exception to this would be hard-sided pop-up campers made by TrailManor, which can have a full-size bath that is a seprate room. Pretty luxurious for a popup!

Hard side pop up camper interior

TrailManor Hard Side Pop Up Camper Interior

It will have a basic kitchen with nothing too fancy. Basic cooktop stove and maybe a tiny refrigerator, but look elsewhere if you want a microwave as there just isn't space for this in a small pop up camper.

You will have a fresh water system and some sort of RV septic tanks, with a basic water pump.

Bed areas commonly are in a section that folds out from either end. The actual beds will have thin mattresses that will do in a pinch, but won't compete with a 4-star resort.

So the interiors of pop-up campers are fairly no-frills with basic dining and seating areas, but aren't the kind of a place that you'll invite all your friends over to hang out.

But it does have everything you need to have a great experience enjoying the outdoors.

Stand-Out Features Of Pop Up Camping Trailers

Some folding camper floor plans that offer a 'tray' upfront that allows you to bring along toys such as ATV's, dirt bikes, kayaks, etc. 

This makes for an overall longer length but it is a convenient way to bring all the goodies with you.

Don't expect to find large storage compartments on the outside of a fold-up trailer.

They are small on the inside, which translates to little, if any, exterior storage space.

You may find a pop-up trailer with a slide to expand the living space, but the slide will be a manually operated affair, and extremely rare.

(Other RVs have electric or hydraulically operated slides.)

Most pop-up campers will be of a design that allows for relative ease converting from the down/travel position to the up/living position.

Spring or strut assists make the process easy for a single person to handle.

Pop-Up trailer example

Pop-Up Trailers Are Very Low Profile For Easy Towing

Towing A Pop Up Trailer

Where a folding camper trailer shines is in how easy it is to tow.

A lightweight popup camper will only have a single axle and can be towed by just about any vehicle because of their smaller size, relatively short length, and modest weight.

Manufacturers talk about improved fuel economy by not having to tow a tall, not at all aerodynamic box on wheels down the road.

The collapsible nature of this style of RV means less wind resistance while towing.

Combine that with the lighter overall weight equals better fuel economy.

A-frame pop-up trailers offer many advantages of a traditional travel trailer with their hard sides.

But they are easier to tow and maneuver.

A pop up tent trailer is the lightest of this category and offers the easiest towing.

How Much Does a Pop Up Trailer Cost?

Retail prices for a new pop-up tent trailer start around $10,000.

The A-frame style of a pop-up trailer (as well as other hard-sided popup camper options) can run upwards of $30,000.

For this amount, you will get a fairly basic unit with average quality furnishings (definitely nothing fancy!).

However, this style of camper does offer an easy and relatively affordable camping adventure. Great for the beginner RVers looking to build up experience!

Ultimate Guide To RV Types

Confused about the different types of RVs? Click here to read our guide that explains the differences between the various RV styles.

RV Types

Conclusion

If you are looking for an entry level RV or a rig that is good for quick weekend getaways, lightweight pop up campers are something to take a look at.

A pop up RV isn't fancy, and small pop up campers don't have much in the way of luxuries, but that isn't the point of these types of campers.

Foldable camping trailers let you get out to your favorite campsite and enjoy the outdoors by yourself or with your family, while being a step (or two or three) above having to rough it in a tent.

RV pop up campers can be towed by just about any vehicle, which means you don't have to invest in a large truck that may be required if you had a larger travel trailer.

This means the barrier to entry is low, making pop up trailers a great way to try out the RV lifestyle and see if it is right for you.

Marshall Headshot

Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020, Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spent the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit. 

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  • We are senior citizens, thinking about a pop up camper of some sort so, we can travel to see our grandchildren, w/o all the safety/health concerns during this pandemic.

    • Hi Mary,

      A pop-up camper is a great way to get out and camp. They are relatively affordable, easy to deal with, and can be towed with just about anything that has the ability to tow (so no huge trucks needed).

      It sounds like a great way to travel while eliminating a lot of concerns that are present in the world today.

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