Why Are Pop Up Campers Gaining So Much Popularity?


Why Are Pop Up Campers Gaining So Much Popularity?

RV sales have soared throughout the pandemic, so much so that the RV industry is experiencing the need to satisfy demand with limited supply.  John Stringer, RV Council Chair and Manufacturer Representative at Forest River Inc., recently reported that their pop-up camper sales, alone, are overshadowing actual shipments by 30% 

In an attempt to meet these customer requests for pop-up campers, Stringer said,

“We’re building 10 campers on Saturdays just trying to meet the demand. To give you a comparison, retail registrations for June and July are the best they have been since 2004. That’s the biggest growth we’ve seen in 15 years.”

Yet, even with the additional workday and extended hours, dealers nationwide are still pleading for more pop-ups.  

Why the sudden surge in pop-up campers?

Stinger mentioned that the majority of sales for campers are with young families.  Also, these units are their first RV purchase.  Studies have shown that, on average, an RVer will own a total of five RVs in their lifetime. They typically begin with a pop-up camper and then upgrade to travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. 

Also known as fold-out campers or tent trailers, these RVs have been around for decades. Their latest upswing in sales has amplified their many qualities, which include being:

Compact RVs

A partial canvas construction or retractable walls allow pop-up trailers to expand out into living spaces, including bedroom areas with mattresses, a seating room, kitchen, and sometimes even a small bathroom. The unit is also able to collapse or fold up to create a sort of portable utility trailer that can be stored in a garage. 

Like travel trailers and fifth wheels, pop-up campers have many of the same features like water tanks, propane, and slides/fold-out designs. Pop-up campers have a much smaller scale of these amenities, which makes learning and operating each system less complex for an RV novice. 

Easily towable

Pop-up campers are stored in their compact, folded-down state when en route. They’re lightweight, and their small profile makes towing a breeze. This includes backing-up, turning tight corners, and having a positive overall field of vision. For any driver new to RVing, learning to maneuver a pop-up camper is an ideal introduction to towing.

Depending on the weight of the camper, a mid-size car, family minivan, or smaller SUV can do the towing. Charles Krome of Autobytel suggests cars to consider when towing a pop-up camper in his article, 10 of the Best Cars for Towing a Pop-up Camper on a Summer Road Trip. He makes sure to mention that before jumping on a car sale, double-check with the trailer’s manual for towing specifications.  

Affordable campers

Compared to other RVs, pop-up campers are the most affordable with new units starting at $9,000.  Used units are less expensive and vary in price based on the condition of the camper.  

Representatives of Carolina Coach and Marine in North Carolina mention that the price alone is not the only way owners save on costs. “You generally don’t need to purchase insurance for pop-up campers. The cost of maintenance is often minimal because pop-up campers are smaller and easy to work on. Fuel costs are often much cheaper too because campers are easier to tow than many pop-up trailers.”

What to look for in a pop-up camper

With so many pop-up campers to choose from on the market, knowing where to begin your search can be overwhelming. It’s important to know what you and your traveling companions are wanting to have on hand and enjoy while camping. Here are a few aspects to consider before perusing campers online or visiting nearby dealerships. 

Overall design

Every camper has different needs on their outings and therefore requires certain accommodations with a pop-up camper. These variables include the number of occupants on a camping venture, the amount of equipment being packed, and sometimes experience and comfort operating and towing an RV.

If you are in the market for a pop-up camper, you’ll want a unit that is roomy enough to comfortably sleep all campers and has enough storage to bring all of your necessities and more. Also, depending on your experience towing and utilizing RVs, it’s important that your vehicle can safely tow the gross weight of the camper and that you feel confident towing it.

Features

How simple or extravagant of a pop-up camper are you seeking? Pop-up campers can be a slight upgrade from tents with an area to sit and sleep or come equipped with all the bells and whistles one could imagine.  

More expensive campers have been outfitted with refrigerators, memory foam king mattresses, wet baths, and A/C units.  RV amenities have everything to do with your camping style. Are you a glamper or do you prefer roughing it?

Longevity

How long will your first or next pop-up stand the test of time? A trusted RV name brand speaks volumes, especially when the company has been manufacturing and updating particular models for decades. Customer reviews are also good references. Of course, with any RV, parts break down and need repairing, so it’s also up to the owner to keep up with the maintenance as recommended in the user manual.

If a used camper is something you are looking into, it’s key to take close observation of the condition of the unit. Look for signs of water damage or areas of moisture build-up. Test the A/C and heating units, if it has any. You want to make sure that you are getting the best bang for your buck, instead of purchasing a lemon.

Simplicity of operating

Everyone is looking for convenience and ease of use with any product. This rings true for pop-up campers, more particularly with its main feature: popping up and out.

A cumbersome assembly and breakdown can be a huge headache to untangle after a long weekend of camping. Simple, quick setting-up and packing are ideal with any camper model.

Likewise, the complexity of routine operations and maintenance that goes into using a pop-up camper can be a deal-breaker. Generally, pop-ups have basic towing packages and internal systems that require minimal outside assistance. 

The best pop-up campers on the market today

The above aspects were taken into consideration when devising this list of popular pop-up campers.  Each model displays these qualities to some degree. 

These well-known brands are sold and resold in high volumes throughout the nation and have received rave reviews from users for their functionality, versatility, durability, and simplicity.

Coachmen Clipper Pop-up Trailer

Coachmen RV aims to make the camping experience a breeze with their Clipper Pop-Up line. As their company advertises, “The all-new Coachmen Clipper Camping Trailer has been engineered around one simple word… EASY! Easy to set up, easy to store, easy to use, and most importantly, easy to enjoy!”

pop up campers
Image from Coachmen RV.

Their “easy” design and use are evident in their many floor plans with some that can comfortably sleep up to 7 people. (Specifications for each floor plan can be obtained here.) 

Owners can be assured that their camper is structurally sound with its many construction details: (1) a double-wide lifter system provides strength and stability that can withstand increased wind gusts; (2) the framing is made from E-coated tubular steel; (3) a “Glide-N-Lock” cable eliminates the need for support poles under the beds; and (4) X-Cable technology adds additional roof stability and prevents over cranking.

Set-up and breakdown involve using a cordless drill and a drill bit to raise and lower the roof. The same tools extend and retract the four heavy-duty scissor-style stabilizing jacks.

Whatever Clipper model customers choose, they are sure to find loads of storage options inside the unit, under seating, and outside in the optional slideout bins. Amongst the many upgrades to each floor plan, some plans offer a bath package, which is a Modular Cassette Potti/Shower.

Rockwood Hard Side Series by Forest River

Forest River boasts that their Rockwood Hard Side Campers are “quite possibly the best of both worlds.” The solid exterior walls, coupled with their retractable capabilities, allow for qualities of a travel trailer and pop-up camper. The “high walls” mean that height capacity reaches up to 5 feet 8 inches.  

Image from Forest River Inc.

Although the floor plans do not squeeze more than 4 occupants, they all house sleeping, dining, and kitchen areas.  Kitchens come complete with sinks, stovetops, and refrigerators.  Out of all the floor plans, one includes a toilet, and another includes a wet bath.  

Camp365

In less than 10 minutes, the Camp365 can be transformed from a wedge-shaped trailer to a quaint cabin with 700 cubic feet of living space and 7.5-foot ceilings.

The sidewalls and floor are constructed out of insulated composite, while the front/rear walls and roof are made from two air-gapped layers of marine grade fabric. 

This all-around insulation has given the Camp365 a four-season rating.  Five windows allow or plenty of natural light and scenic views.

pop up campers
Image from Camp365.

The camper can be outfitted with a variety of accommodations, including twin bed/bunks and a queen bed, table, curtain divider, LED lighting, sink, camp stove, zip-on awnings, and solar kit.  A fun option for winter campers is the camper skis.  Skis can be attached to the wheels so it can be towed on snow and ice.

SylvanSport Go

SylvanSport GO is referred to as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of camping trailers. It’s intended to handle rough and tumble terrain for people who like to take the road less traveled.

Don’t let the small, lightweight design fool you. It can haul almost 1000 pounds of outdoor gear on its lower deck and upper rack.  This includes vehicles like ATV and motorcycles.

pop up campers
Image from SylvanSport Go.

The SylvanSport Go also transforms into a pop-up camper in a few minutes.  It includes two sleeping areas, a central table, and lots of clever storage compartments to keep camping supplies. The tent fabric, made of 220-denier ripstop nylon, is rated three times stronger than traditional tent fabric.

Opus Off-Road Camper

Another off the beaten path pop-up camper is the Opus Off-Road Camper. It’s able to ride over some of the harshest terrains because of the twin shock absorbers and trailing arm independent suspension provided for each wheel. 

The canvas portion of the unit is extended via an air pump.  It is designed with many windows, skylights, and plenty of overhead space.

Image from Opus Off-Road.

The kitchen is an outdoor slide-out addition that includes a sink, four-burner gas stove, and refrigerator.   An annex can be attached to the Opus Camper, converting the outdoor kitchen into an indoor one and allowing more guests in.


There are many more pop-up campers that can be added to this list.  Check out “9 of Our Favorite Pop Up Campers” for these and other popular models.  Perhaps one will pique your interest and send you on a journey of many outdoor adventures!

Natalie Henley

Natalie Flores-Henley and her husband, Levi Henley, workamp around the country in their 26-foot motorhome. Along with writing for RV magazines, they recently published their first book together, Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How We Did It. They share their experiences and RV-related tips on their own blog henleyshappytrails.com as well as videos on their YouTube Channel, also called Henley's Happy Trails.

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