Choosing the Best Pop Up Campers

When it comes to recreational vehicles, pop up campers are the featherweights of the group, which makes them particularly well-suited to smaller vehicles and anyone who is concerned about fuel economy. While they can provide many of the conveniences that you’ll find in larger travel trailers, fifth wheels and even motorhomes, the best pop up campers are more economical, environmentally friendly, and significantly cheaper to buy and maintain than even lightweight travel trailers.

The three main types of RVs that fall into the general category of pop up campers are:

Each of these designs has its own benefits and drawbacks, so each class has some of the best pop up campers for any given situation. For instance, a-frames are some of the best pop up campers for cold weather camping, but tent trailers are the best pop ups for motorcycles and light cars. On the other hand, the best pop up campers for truck owners who need to pull boats or other gear are designed to slide into a truck bed.

Tent Trailers

roll with pop up campers, or tent it?

Tenting is great, but nothing beats pop up campers when it starts raining!

Tent trailers are similar to travel trailers, but they are significantly smaller. Since the reduced size also means significantly reduced weight, these these diminutive RVs can often be towed by minivans and other small vehicles, whereas full sized travel trailers typically call for full sized trucks with towing packages.

While most tent trailers fall into the 12 foot range, some are several feet less than that. However, these ingenious RVs gain several feet in length when they are opened up. Since the top of the camper pops up when you’re ready to use it, most tent trailers also have canvas extensions that stick off the front and the back of the unit. This additional space, which is unique to pop up campers, typically contain beds, which frees up the rest of the area for living space.

When collapsed for storage or travel, a tent trailer will typically be shorter than most minivans. This is important from an aerodynamics standpoint, and the reduced drag may allow you to achieve better gas mileage than you would see when towing a taller RV. Since tent trailers are so lightweight, the savings in gas mileage versus larger RVs can be dramatic.

A-Frame Campers and Trailers

hard sides make a-frames the best pop up campers for cold weather camping

A-frame pop up campers sport a unique look, and their hard sides make them the best choice for inclement weather.

Another type of pop up camper is the a-frame. Whereas tent trailers have soft, canvas sides, a-frames are fully rigid. That typically results in less interior space than you’ll see in other types of pop up campers, but the tradeoff is that you’re sealed off from the elements much better. Aside from styling choices, a-frames are a good option if you do a lot of cold weather camping.

Pop Up Truck Campers

In common RV vernacular, the term “camper” typically refers to slide-in units that are designed to fit in truck beds. So while tent trailers and a-frames are often referred to as pop up campers, the pop up truck camper is the true original.

Unlike tent trailers and a-frames, which can often be towed by minivans and other small vehicles, pop up truck campers can only be used in truck beds. Additionally, they typically require a somewhat large truck. While they do tend to be lighter than rigid-sided truck campers, and may work fine with some light duty trucks, it’s still important to pay attention to the rated weight capacity of the vehicle in question.

So Which are the Best Pop Up Campers?

Exactly which models are the best pop up campers comes down to personal preference, but there are a number of criteria that may help you make your choice. Some of the biggest deciding factors include:

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