Do you love camping, and wish you could do it more often, but hate the daunting task of setting up a tent? Don’t really have the cash to splurge on an RV, yet want to have the same experience as camping in one? If your answer is “Yes” to any of the aforementioned questions, buying the best popup camper might be your best bet!
Sometimes referred to as folding camping trailers or fold-downs, pop-up campers have become increasingly popular among outdoor enthusiasts for several reasons, most notably:
- You get more access to nature when compared to a Travel Trailer or C Class Motorhome, and they’re better at keeping the elements out than a tent.
- Highly affordable (some models), making them great a great choice especially for those who only camp a few times a year.
- Cheaper to insure, and easy to store if you have space.
- Most popup camper models fit easily into any tent site, and some campgrounds even treat them like a tent.
- You can fit a lot more people in a popup camper than a regular RV, and still have access to a separate table and lounge area.
Popup campers strike the perfect chord between tent camping and full RV, are easy to set up, and cheaper to haul around with a larger car, SUV or light truck. Adding to this, they are relatively lightweight, aerodynamically built, and some of the best popup campers can be ordered with all the features you’d find in a full-size RV including air-conditioners, bathrooms with a shower and toilet.
Reviews of the Top 5 Pop-up Campers in 2020
Whether you prefer rugged or rustic or cozy and comfortable, the Jay Series Sport pop up camper is perhaps a great option for you. This award-winning camper can be ordered in several different sizes and floor plans and is backed by a five-year warranty on its roof, frame, floor, bed platform, tents, and lifter system.
With regards to features, Jay Sport doesn’t fall short, starting with its robust corrosion-resistant frame construction that’s supported by an industry-leading A-frame by Norco. Furthermore, it is topped with a domed fiberglass roof, a mildew-resistant aluminum ceiling, an embossed aluminum scratch-resistant aluminum exterior finish for greater service life.
The Jay Series Sport popup camper by Jayco comes factory equipped with a unique and easy to use lifter system, which is easy to install, maintain, repair if necessary, and offers top-notch protection from the elements. Adding to this, this popup camper from Jayco features bumper welded steel construction and comes with a DuraTek water-repellent sectionalized tent, which features a tinted vinyl window for interior UV protection, and 1,050-lb.-rated beds.
It is fitted with a one-piece entrance door along with a self-storing storm door for enhanced protection from snow, hail, rain and wind. Adding to this, it comes with retractable steps to easily get in and out and comes with 12-inch E-range tires and 14-inch C-range tires.
Moving to the interior, the Jay Series Sport arrives loaded with standard equipment such as an acrylic sink and faucet, set up for a freestanding TV, high-quality Beauflor vinyl flooring, a hinged gallery, reversible dinette cushions, and tinted vinyl windows with mesh screening.
- Stereo prepped and wired
- Four different floor plans to choose from
- Easy and quick setup
- Heavy-duty Norco A-frame
- All appliances plumbed
- Towing feature may need a few adjustments
- Strapping on the bed may come off
Learn more about the Jayco Jay Series Sport Camping Trailer
The Flagstaff Hard Side Pop-Up Camper features a solid exterior that’s made from vacuum bonded fiberglass, so you get the same hard-walled exterior that you generally find in a travel trailer.
It is easy to set up, can be ordered in a choice of eight different floorplans, and comes with a fully enclosed living area that’s furnished with leather appearance seating. Additionally, the Flagstaff hard side pop up camper is topped with a single piece vacuum bonded fiberglass roof with a metal interior ceiling, and an expansive tinted rear rood skylight shade.
This budget-friendly pop-up camper by Forest River is appointed with two nice sized front roof tinted windows with shades, a large opening picture window, and wood-look linoleum flooring for that stylish and elegant residential-style look and feel. This camper arrives pre-plumbed, and with an electric water tank that’s located under the floor to ensure water is readily available at all times.
The Flagstaff Hard Side Pop-Up Camper is supported by an e-coated tubular steel frame and comes with a 2000 lbs tongue jack to easily lower or raise the camper when attaching it or removing it from a bumper hitch. This popup camper by Flagstaff offers three tire options to choose from including 15” mud rover radial tires with aluminum wheels and comes standard with a spare tire, cover and mount.
It is ready to use with all your appliances and offers several optional appliances to choose from including a 3-way fridge and three-burner gas stove with oven. Additionally, you can stay connected at all times with the included Wi-Fi ranger and Wi-Fi booster, and charge your phones and other devices via the many integrated USB charging ports.
- Solid wall exterior
- Eight different floor plans to choose from
- Maple interior and wood-like linoleum flooring
- Enclosed living area
- 20-gallon under floor freshwater tank
- Lacks screen room
- Doe not come standard with mud tires
Learn more about the Forest River – Flagstaff Hard Side Pop-Up Camper
The Coachmen RV Clipper is an ‘easy to use and enjoy’ popup camper, and is available with a massive list of convenience and practical centric features. It is supported by a tubular steel frame, and can be ordered in a choice of several different models. The Clipper Classic is perhaps the company’s best-selling model and comes with a Goshen Lift system with double arms, which can be operated with just a single cable.
Further, the Coachmen Clipper Classic popup camper features laminated fiberglass walls, radial tires, aluminum rims, electric brakes and LED exterior lights that provide great safety when camping. The front and rear wall of the popup camper is fitted with aluminum commercial grade aluminum diamond plates, which collectively protect the camper from ugly scratches and dings.
The Coachmen Clipper Classic features a 4-layer fiberglass roof and comes with a one-piece screen door, and a stepper door. The is equipped with a wall mount LP grill, patio light, 23-gallon capacity below floor freshwater tank, and a 25-amp converter with battery charger.
There are lots to love in the interior of the Coachmen Clipper Classic popup camper, starting with courtesy lights, which turn on automatically when the door is opened, beautiful dark ash cabinetry, and residential grade linoleum on the floor. For comfort, the camper comes with both 4” ultra-comfortable mattresses and 4” ultra comfort high-density cushions, built-in shower, vented privacy drapes, and a premium Jensen Bluetooth stereo.
- Several floor plans to choose from
- Tons of optional extras
- The basic model comes with great features
- Generator compartment may get flooded with rain
Learn more about the Coachmen RV Clipper Pop Up Camper
The SylvanSport Go Pop-up Camper gained a surge in popularity among those who wanted a popup camper that’s both portable and affordable. Tipping the scales at just 840 lbs (unloaded), the Go camper is available in a choice of two floor plans and can accommodate up to four people. This configuration makes it a perfect choice for small families.
Both floor plans of the Go popup campers are near identical, with the Standard model offering a few more transport capabilities. Speaking of features, both models come with several bells and whistles, surprisingly packed into a compact footprint such as insulating bed platforms to keep you warm when camping in cold weather, stargazing awnings, and awnings both in the front and rear of the unit.
The Go popup camper also offers a long list of handy features such as a self-inflating mattress, extension kit, and even a camp and travel organizer. Further, it comes with heavy-duty cast-aluminum wheels, self-lubricating hubs, and boasts excellent ventilation capabilities.
The Go popup camper is billed as the Swiss Army Knife in its segment, and provides incredible versatility, owing to its patented 3-in-1 design. It comes with a removable upper rack assembly, which can be converted to an open-topped utility trailer, and features a high visibility LED lighting system.
- Lightweight and affordable
- Simple to set up and use
- Comes with two safety cables and dolly wheel jack
- High-speed tires and custom alloy wheels
Does not come with appliances
Learn more about the SylvanSport Go Pop-up Campers
The Air Opus 4-Sleeper Camper is a bit different than other pop up camper models because it uses its own air pole technology to complete the entire setup process rather than a cranking system and telescopic poles. With regards to time, this popup camper inflates in less than 90 seconds with the flip of a switch.
According to the company, the entire setup process for the six-berth model including setting up the interior equipment takes roughly five minutes in total. This model comes with a slightly higher ceiling than traditional frame tents, which means you get more skylight and window space for better natural light and views.
One of the noteworthy features of the Air Opus 4-Sleeper Camper is its external slide-out kitchen, which makes it easy to set up camp and cook in the Great Outdoors. Adding to this, it comes with the option to add a large roof-mounted cargo rack in case you need to haul around more gear. What makes this cargo rack more convenient its hydraulic assist hinge, which keeps the cargo carrier in place even when the camper is completely setup.
The Air Opus 4-Sleeper Camper scores high marks when it comes to off-road durability, thanks to its new all-terrain chassis complete with an independent oil suspension and off-road-ready tires. Towing the Air Opus pop up camper is a joy, and its design is bound to turn plenty of heads at the campsite.
- High ceilings
- Off-road tires
- All-terrain chassis
- Inflates and deflates quickly
- A little pricey
Learn more about the Air Opus 4-Sleeper Camper
Popup Camper Buying Guide
Whether you’re buying new or used, a pop-up tent trailer can be a big-ticket purchase. This is why it is important to stay informed on the facts, and know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before taking the plunge. That said, here are a few key factors to consider before making an investment.
What Are The Towing Capabilities for Pop-Up Campers?
Before deciding whether to buy a popup camper or not, you need to ask yourself an important question – can my truck, SUV or other vehicle tow the popup tent trailer? The answer basically depends on the number of people you’re carrying in your vehicle, the weight of the camper, and how much of it is distributed to your vehicle’s hitch.
The best way to determine the towing capabilities of your vehicle is to look in the owner’s manual for the “Tow Rating”. This number represents the maximum amount of weight that can be pulled or towed, but this rating may not always be on point, and here’s why!
- It doesn’t take into account the weight of the passengers or cargo in the vehicle.
- The maximum weight rating is usually an unrealistic representation of trailer weight distribution.
Here’s a simple formula to determine whether your vehicle will be able to tow the popup camper without any hiccups.
- Find the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) rating listed in your vehicle’s specifications
- Locate the Base Curb Weight listed in the owner’s manual.
- Determine the weight of the factory added equipment generally listed on a yellow door jam sticker on the driver’s door jam.
- Weight of equipment and permanent cargo added by you (child car seat, jumper cables, etc.).
Estimate Vehicle Weight = Base Curb Weight + Factory Added Equipment + Owner Added Equipment
Estimated Payload Capacity = (GVWR) rating – the answer above.
Once you’ve determined the payload capacity, you need to sum up the weight of all the passengers in the vehicle. Next, consider the weight of the items each occupant will bring along such as firewood, cooler, etc. This is the total weight added to the weight of your vehicle.
Maximum amount of hitch weight is = GVWR – vehicle weight – occupants/cargo weight.
What Are Popup Camper Weights?
Most popup camper dealers will list the weight of the camper when it left the factory aka dry weight. But along with that, you also need to consider the GVWR (just like the tow vehicle) and dry hitch weight.
You should ensure that the GVWR of the popup camper doesn’t exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle even when it is fully loaded with things such as propane, batteries and water. Determining whether your vehicle will be able to tow a popup camper can be a bit challenging, so speak to an expert to calculate the real numbers.
Popup Camper Floor Plans
Popup camper manufacturers offer a wide range of floor plans to choose from to suit varying needs. They generally come in 8-foot, 10-foot, 12-foot, and 14-foot variants (Boxes), which are numbers that represent the sleeping space of the area of the camper, and do not include the trailer tongue and other items.
Adding to this, these floorplans feature different types of layouts such as the dinette placed on the side, slide out for more space, dedicated shower on wheels, and space for a kitchenette. Some campers even come with higher exterior walls, which provide myriad benefits including more storage space for taller cabinets, and hard wall pieces for better bathroom privacy.
Popup Camper Dinettes and Kitchens
Slide-out dinettes may seem like an ideal choice in a popup camper, owing to a large amount of space they provide inside the unit. But this could affect the comfort level of the camper, given that people with long legs could find themselves cramped in a smaller size slide out dinette.
The kitchen area of a popup tent trailer can be located inside or outside the unit and can offer several cooking options including ovens, ranges and even BBQ grills. Indoor popup camper kitchens generally come with fewer appliances such as a multi-burner range, which is good for light cooking needs such as boiling water, heating food or making sandwiches.
The issue with indoor kitchens arises when you start cooking messier food items such as frying bacon or any items that can splatter debris all over the countertop, and the nearby tent. This is especially not a good thing if you’re camping in bear country, which is why it’s good to opt for an outdoor cooking unit.
If you’re going to cook foods that could leave a mess, then buy a popup camper that comes with a multi-burner range mounted on the outside rail. Even with this setup, your range can still get dirty from outdoor elements, but some foods just taste much better when cooked on a BBQ compared to a frying pan.
Popup Camper Bathroom and Air Conditioning
If you’re one of the many people who can’t go camping without a shower, then choosing a popup tent trailer with a bathroom inside makes sense. Speaking of which, you may not be able to take a long shower as you do at home, because most campers come with limited water tank capacities.
And if you do need hot water, check out models that come with an installed water heater, which is able to direct hot water inside and outside the shower, sink, and faucet. Since the interior space of most popup campers is limited, they generally feature a combination of a toilet and shower.
Camping is all about enjoying the best of Mother Nature, and the weather it offers. However, the weather can get a bit rough at times, which is when you will need an air conditioner or even a space heater. But sometimes it’s best to camp in a cool location rather than installing an AC in a popup camper, and here’s why!
When considering installing an air conditioner in a popup camper or buying a model that comes with one, it is important to note that the appliance cannot be powered by the popup camper’s onsite battery, but with a portable generator that’s able to pump at least 2800 watts of power.
Some generators may generate much more power, but the higher the number, the more they will cost. Some smaller generators can, however, be chained together for more wattage, but this is a daunting process to say the least. There are several things you can do to stay cool without a generator such as keeping the windows unzipped and/or installing a roof vent fan.
Renting vs. Buying a Popup Camper
Popup campers can be expensive, and we’re talking about much more than the actual camper price that you may have to spend cash on. Costs of things such as aftermarket accessories, such as batteries, propane tanks, camper insurance, and a trailer hitch if it’s not already included on your vehicle can spike up the bill.
Beyond those expenses, you also have to consider the cost of regular maintenance of a popup camper such as axle/brake service, winterization and de-winterization and storage if you don’t have one. You will probably not be able to justify the aforementioned costs if you’re going to only use the camper a couple of times a year, which is where renting becomes a viable option.
There are several benefits of renting a popup tent trailer such as getting a model that comes with the floorplan and options you need – indoor bathroom, kitchenette, etc. Furthermore, you can rent a popup camper with the latest features, allowing you to camp with unmatched comfort each time. And at the end of the camping trip, you still have all the pictures and memories minus the popup camper.
Buying a popup camper is possibly one of the biggest investments you can make and can provide great enjoyment and fun for years to come for you and your family. However, in some cases, they may not be worth the upfront price such as when camping with just a couple of people or camping for a couple of times a year.
So, before splurging some serious cash on a popup camper, think beyond the box i.e. the upfront costs of the camper model, and then take into account the ongoing costs of maintaining a camper, and see if it’s worth your money. If buying a popup camper doesn’t seem like a good option, you can always enjoy the same benefits and more, and get your feet wet with popup campers by simply renting one from a reputed dealer.