Finding The Best Pop Up Campers - Tips Before You Buy

by frugalrvers

When searching for the best pop up campers, it shouldn't be about the brand name. Rather, to enjoy a pop up camper, it is more important that it fits your unique needs and tastes.

Though we are full time rvers today, traveling in a large and old Fleetwood Bounder, we still had small rvs in our lives when he had to work the old 9 to 5 life. For us, it was an escape on the weekends, an inexpensive way to travel on our budget....right outside of our front door.

Our first inexpensive recreational vehicle was a pop up camper. Though I can't remember the length now, it was bigger than most on the road. It was old and cheap, and we actually took it from central Illinois all the way to Glacier Park, Montana! Many weekends we would take it to our favorite camping spot, 70 miles away.

A pop up camper can be a lot of fun - a cross between tent camping due to the canvas over the bed, yet easily portable (we kept our gear inside so we could leave anytime) and accessible when you just have to get out of town for a night. However, there are many pros and cons you should be aware of before buying a popup.

Pop Up Campers With Bathroom? First Decide What You Truly NEED

Before You Buy A Used Popup, Make A List!

Before looking at the pros and cons, let's assume you are certain you want a pop up camper...and jump right in. People search for the "best pop up campers" but, as I stated earlier, your choice shouldn't be brand - it should be usefulness and features you need at the beginning so you don't make a quick purchase, unprepared.

Yes...there are popups with bathrooms today! Today's expensive and modern designs even have slideouts which create an extra room. Some are specifically designed as a 4x4 for taking on the back roads (we actually dragged ours over a mountain pass and it wasn't made for it - but it survived and so did we, fortunately!).

There are many deluxe options to choose from, but that doesn't mean you need them....

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Here are some quick tips to think about, after you establish your budget (that is the IMPORTANT, absolute first step, by the way!).

How much weight can your vehicle tow? - Pop up campers are great because many are light enough to be pulled by just about anything. However, you have to know your vehicle's limitations before you buy a camper.

How often will you use it? - If you will use it only infrequently for weekend getaways, you needn't go overboard on cost. A well maintained, older rig will do just fine...and you can find some dirt cheap on ebay or craigslist.

How many people will sleep in it? - Popups don't have a lot of walk around space in general, but for sleep times you can count on two beds on either side for accommodating family and friends. Check the bed sizes and length to be sure you will fit comfortably.

What amenities can you not live without? - A bathroom may sound divine, but for most occasional camping folks, you don't need it. You can get a portable camping toilet, privacy bathroom tent and a solar shower for much, much less than you would spend on a deluxe popup.

We are frugal fulltime rvers - living the lifestyle without money in the bank. Do believe us when we say you do not need to go into debt or get a loan to enjoy your popup camper. In fact, having debt attached to it, in our opinion, would take the fun out of it. Just take your will find the right rv for your budget and recreational needs.


Pros And Cons Of Pop Up Campers

Really Think This List Through Before You Buy Your Popup

Because we've owned one in the past, we're just going to lay out our list of the pros and cons of pop up campers - from our personal experience. We welcome other camping folks to share their unique experiences and thoughts in the comments at the end of the article, too!


  • Small, portable sizes available that won't take up much space when parked at home and are easy to maneuver, giving you access to off the beaten path campsites
  • Can find them very affordable compared to hard-sided pull campers - but also very deluxe models are available, for those where budget is no object
  • As I got older, tent camping wasn't as enjoyable to me - but a popup gave me the feeling of a canvas tent with screens and open air, yet more comfortable than tent camping
  • Many are light enough to be pulled with small SUVs or vans, so you don't need to upgrade your automobile just to have an rv for weekend camping
  • Lightweight means better gas mileage
  • All of those screen windows means lots of lovely ventilation
  • Low profile is WONDERFUL - you can see out your rear window while driving
  • Great guest room for visitors when at home, or for kids sleepover (don't recommend putting grandma out there, though!)


  • They get COLD inside, if not camping in the hot summertime temperatures, due to all of that canvas.
  • The canvas and zipper screen windows deteriorate and go bad, which can be a huge repair cost.
  • Taking down the popup camper in the rain is an absolute nightmare! Everything gets wet/damp and when you get home, you need to open it up until a sunny day dries everything well.
  • Canvas can get a musty smell
  • If it rains while camping, be prepared to listen to the hard rain over your bed, because the canvas is right over your head
  • It takes time to set up, which can be difficult in the dark or during bad weather
  • Lack of security when not in camp - thieves can easily cut canvas and screens to enter

One Other Pop Up Camper Consideration - Our Personal Story

Thought I would close out this article with our own personal story, which you might get a good laugh from. Most of you won't have to worry about this, but we did...

When we moved from Illinois to Glacier Park, Montana in 2001, we brought our pop up across the country with us (we'd been using it to camp in Illinois). Anxious to get out into the woods, we made a bold decision to take it up in the mountains (a little scary pulling it on mountain roads) and camp in the mountains, completely off the beaten path.

We found a gorgeous, secluded campsite with a creek running through it. This was primitive camping at its finest - no "sites" and no other people around. Just the sweet smell of tall pine trees and the sound of the creek. Then it got dark.

This was our first time camping alone in grizzly country...and, well, popup beds aren't real high off the ground - and we had no hard siding to protect us. So we laid in the pitch dark, certain we heard a noise beneath the loud creek running at night. If a rock made a splash, it was certainly a gigantic griz, right? We actually pulled our SUV up to our side of the camper, to feel "safer."

We stayed the next night as well, and of course no bear ever bothered us. But we recognized, to enjoy the outdoors more, we would have to finally say goodbye to our popup. We ended up buying a short, very old Terry Travel Trailer until we left our jobs/home and began rving full time in 2009. We lost mobility with that switch to the little travel trailer, but we sure slept better at night in bear country!


Other Camping Articles We've Written

Nature calls at the most inconvenient times, which is why an outdoor enthusiast should never leave home without a portable toilet for camping, hiking, off roading and more!
Portable sinks for camping are a must in any campsite. You need a camp sink for washing dishes in your outdoor kitchen as well as your hands. Find the right camping sink for you!
Today, women have portable toilet options when hiking, camping or simply on the go. Don't let the fear of nature calling at the wrong time interrupt your plans anymore!
With or without a guitar, easy campfire songs are always a hit around the fire in your camp. But guitars make them even better, if you're willing to learn a few chords!
Updated: 09/29/2018, frugalrvers
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