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In this article lets go through pros and cons of hard side pop up campers.
Pop up campers in general are great. They are compact and weigh very less. There are two basic forms in pop up campers.
There are those that consist of tent that pops up and the others are hard sided pop up campers also know as Aliner or A-frame campers.
Tent trailers offer very little insulation as compared to hard sided. Both have pros and cons and in this post, we will check out 19 important things you should know about hard sided pop up campers before you go ahead and buy it.
Hard sided pop up campers or A-liner campers are also know as A-frame campers. Not all hard sided pop up camper form an “A” when unfolded but most popular are the ones that look like A-frame.
1. Easy to tow
Hard sided pop up campers or aliner campers are easy to tow. They weigh much less, around 2000 lbs or even less. This is a distinct advantage pop up campers have and that’s what makes them great.
With that much weight your van should be able to tow it very easily although if you own a smaller hatchback you may have to confirm the weight towing capacity of your car. Most small cars have weight towing rating of around 1600 lbs. Do check with the car manual to be very sure.
These campers can be folded while traveling that makes them compact for towing. Also you will not need a camera at the rear end as it wont be blocking your view. It would fold just below your vision, lower than the top of your car.
Towing a trailer behind car can be stressful and if you don’t want that extra headache just buy an aliner or any other hard side pop up camper.
Its amazing how you can get it set up and tow easily. This works great for those people who do not plan much for the camping trip and just want to wake up on Saturday morning and head out in a campground near by.
Since they aren’t wide also makes them great for travel through narrow or muddy gravel roads for sightseeing. If you own a big 30 feet travel trailer then you have to really think about towing it through narrow or bad roads.
If you car was giving 20 miles per gallon expect it to go down 16 to 17 miles per gallon. It wont hurt your mpg very big which is the case with bigger fifth wheels or travel trailers.
Their light weight design at times will not even give you a feeling of towing something behind. But, all hard sided camper aren’t same, some may be heavy. Normally A-frame camper or smaller hard sided campers are really light weight and that’s the generalization.
If you don’t want to be stressful about towing then its easy to decide between a travel trailer and pop up camper.
2. Can be setup quickly
Since they are hard sided they may seem to be hard to set-up in comparison to tent trailers. But, guess what? they aren’t. In fact, they are much easy to set up as compared to canvas tent trailer.
It can be set up in less than 10 minutes. You may take a little bit more time for the very first time but as you do it often you should be fine doing it very quickly.
All it takes is to remove latches or locks on ether side of the camper and lift the side roofs that make “A” like frame in most hard sided campers. Once the roof is lifted you have to go inside and setup few things for door, windows, bed and so forth. All in all it wont take much time.
Easy to Fold back : Same goes with the folding them back. You just pull back the roof and close it to form like a box. While folding them back you will have to be little careful as you may have stuff popping above its folding height. So be careful and place all things that wont obstruct its roof from folding down.
3. Suitable for single, couple or couple with 1 kid only
Aliners or hard sided pop up campers are not big. They will have 2 beds on either side of the camper. This can be good only for a single person or couple. Max you can camp with a kid or two but definitely not 3 adults.
With a queen bed on one end and bed on other end that isn’t big, so you wont be able to adjust for more than 2 adults.
These hard sided campers have less capacity even as compared to tent trailer in which the space is little bit more due to to its canvas spreading a little bit more. The overall space isn’t that great if you want to stay inside all the time. Check out some great ideas to increase space in a pop up camper.
In fact, they are suitable if you want to stay outside and camp and enjoy the outdoor more.
Not Comfortable : So, if you plan on having a comfortable stay inside them then think otherwise. You wont be comfortable living inside all the time.
There are other things that will make your stay inside worse like condensation, they get hot as well. You may feel hot even when its 70 degrees outside. All in all they will not give you that great comfort a normal RV gives.
4. Storage May not be easily accessible
They do have good storage which you can use to store a lot of things like gear, clothes and all other stuff. But, it may not be easily accessible to take it out for usage. Storage under the bed or dinette will take extra efforts to remove.
So, you can carry whatever you think will be necessary but taking out that will be little difficult. Since the camper is compact and it pop ups out, its logical with that moving things inside is harder.
There are various layout with Aliner or hard sided pop up that can give you storage box at the front, behind the propane tank. Overall storage is good enough as compared to traditional tent trailers.
Now, don’t expect the storage be like 30 foot trailers. Its good enough for a couple to camp for few days. You can carry food items that will be good enough for few days to camp.
The design in most of these campers is to achieve maximum with little width and length. An easy way to camp with better utilization. So, unable to access the storage easily shouldn’t be a big negative considering the other pros it comes with.
5. Not easy to heat or make them cool
If you were to compare them with tent trailers they would do great in terms of heating or cooling. But, comparing them with RVs in general, they are difficult to contain heat or cold.
Even though they are hard sided they will have holes, gaps that will leak the heat and cold in winter and summer respectively.
Read : Are tent trailers warm?
Having Hard sides make them better as compared to tent trailer with canvas but it isn’t highly insulated. Seals on windows or edges go bad with time and will need repair.
Also, since its a pop up with folding roof there will be gaps that will allow heat to go out and similarly the ac that is trying to cool won’t be efficient due to leaking.
Your heater and air conditioner will take extra efforts to keep it cool. This will make them less efficient and at times you may simply loose your cool.
So, don’t camp with them with high expectations. Its an easy and simple way of camping that wont give you comfort with bad weather. In fact, even when things are pleasant outside you may feel like more temperature during spring or summer.
If you live in extreme weather region or want to camp in such areas then this is a big disadvantage to ignore.
6. Can’t use shelving for storage
If you are thinking of putting some shelving on the walls for storage then think otherwise. You wont be able to put shelves on the walls as that part would be folding while traveling.
With this kind of setup you are restricted with storage for daily usage. What you can do instead is get some storage shelves that can be placed temporarily but that wont be highly reliable. If you are a single person camping with a dog or other pet then you can adjust.
For a couple too it is adjustable but if you have a kid or two then this kind of restriction will be difficult to camp with.
The dishes or other items for cooking and living will be going at the lower part storage below the sink or under the bed which will make it difficult to remove every item you need them. Its kind of unreliable and camp like.
So, this campers are not for those who want everything kept as per their needs. You have to adjust with their restrictions, set up and design.
7. Limited appliances and items are packed inside
Don’t expect to have a big TV and entertainment system inside it. It will give a you basic 3 way refrigerator good enough for 2 people.
Other than having a queen bed on one end you will have a convertible dinette that will also become bed. You will have small microwave at the lower side, a sink and a storage under that.
Few other things that can be included or placed inside like a dehumidifier or a small music system. But, don’t expect to have bigger things like oven or washer.
You wont get a dinette for more than 4 people, chairs that will be smaller and going below your bed. You can do modification but with very limitations. A factory setup will be compact and all that you may need.
There is no point in spending much on mods other than things like getting a solar panel installed on top of the roof or placing some trash cans or getting in a dehumidifier
You place few things like getting dust bin for trash, some hanging storage for clothes and so forth. Get some items that work great with that much space. You can find lots of RV specific product that serve this purpose. Brush holders, cookware that will be multi use.
8. Encourages you to stay outside
Many people around the united states want to camp in RV. But, a point many people miss is to go out and enjoy.
They would simply stay inside their class A or fifth wheel rather than enjoying the outdoors. That’s not the purpose RVs were invented.
With Aliners or hard side pop up campers you are bound to go out rather than staying inside. Because they aren’t that comfortable inside you will want to go out rather than hanging inside of it. So, it automatically serves the purpose.
You will make use of the camper for sleeping and taking some rest or cooking a meal but not be comfortable staying inside all day long.
So, if you want that kind of a life camping around then going for such pop up would be a great idea rather than investing in a several thousand dollar travel trailer or motorhome.
9. Not for tall People
Aliners and normal hard sided pop up campers and even tent trailer aren’t that wide. They are short in length as well. Their height too is limited. In case of aliners, the center part has maximum height and it reduces on the sides.
They do have good headroom but its for people below 6 feet or so. If you are lesser than that then it will work great for you and you wont have any difficulties.
But, in case you are tall and more than 6 feet then you will have hard time sleeping on the queen bed. It wont be enough for you and you may end up sleeping diagonally which will not allow other person to sleep.
So, this is just a tip ahead before you go ahead with buying a aliner or pop up. You can find bigger ones out there that can suit you but limited options and also, the cost would be higher in which case a travel trailer would be better choice i guess.
10. Limited air circulation and ventilation
With hard side pop up campers the air circulation wont be that great. They are small and air wont circulate that much.
That kind-of will not be great for longer stays inside. With metal or fiberglass on the roof there will also be condensation. You can get a dehumidifier to fix that. Get a mini dehumidifier from amazon, you can get it at less price.
Air circulation is important in RV and if that’s not happening it will be difficult to stay inside for longer period of time. This is also important if you have kids or pets inside with you.
11. Glass windows bring in a lot of light
Although i said it wont have good cir circulation they do have windows on all sides made up of glass.
All of them wont open through. With glass windows all around you will have good light coming in.
Therefore, you wont need lights at-least during the day time. Idea is to camp in and around your camper inside the campground and go inside when you need anything to cook a meal or so. There will be cooking stove that will slide out, so you can do it outside as well.
12. Economical camping
If you want to go RV camping with minimum investment then there is nothing as economical as pop up camper.
The initial investment is minimum and even after that the money that you put in is also less. You mileage wont be affected, you wont need costly items/appliances to camp with them.
Overall, a frugal way of living and yet having some comfort while you move from place to place. You wont be spending even 1/4th of what you may end up on a travel trailer or motorhome.
13. Great for boondocking
If you love boondocking or dry camping then pop up campers are really the ones that you need. Its easy to get these hard sided campers tow along the muddy or gravel roads.
Your car wont have hard time pulling them. Also, you don’t have to work hard towards getting them leveled. Your life would be mostly outside the camper and you will spent way lesser time inside.
Boondocking means you wont have shore power and water connection. With hard sided pop up campers you will have power sources in terms of propane, battery and even generator. You can also get solar installed on the roof to go green.
You will also have water storage that will be good enough for 2 people. Overall a great option for boondocking with aliner or hard sided pop up campers
14. Don’t have to worry about roof
The roofs of the hard sided pop up campers are hard, made up of metal or fiberglass that wont need much attention. Unlike travel trailer or other motorhomes the roof isn’t the one that will give you hard time.
You can store the camper outside and still be okay to use it. Also, you wont be camping too much with them so overall maintenance isn’t that much.
The roof and windows will need some maintenance in terms of getting the re-doing of seals or filling the gaps or so. People store them outside and yet use them for years. One can use them for 10 years or even more.
15. Easy to store
If you don’t want that headache for storing your RV and be looking at it all the time go for a pop up camper.
They would fold up easily and can be stored in your car garage or even outside. You don’t have to worry too much about them during winter or rainy season.
They are small and take minimum space. Also, as we already saw the roof isn’t much affected either. Just get a cover and protect it from the outside elements.
Also, since the whole investment isn’t that high you wont be loosing much even if something goes wrong. But, yes protect it and don’t let it get damaged.
People store them using a cover for months and yet get it working for the next seasons. Believe me, its whole lot of peace of mind for you unlike other RVs that would need a whole checklist to follow or otherwise you wont have rolling down the road.
Tent trailer have canvas that will go bad if it comes in contact with water. Its hard to get them dry as well.
16. Shaky in bad weather
Even though its hard sided, it may not be that great for bad weather. The fiberglass or metal sides, roof wont be stable when its too windy.
Even with more than average wind it will be shaky and making noise. There may not be any damage unless it is very bad but even then you may feel a little bit scary inside it. They are definitely much better than tent trailer though.
17. Will be allowed in almost all campgrounds unlike tent trailers
Because they are hard sided you will be welcomed in almost every campground or park. This is not the case in case of tent trailers which have canvas.
Most parks with risk of bear breaking in, does not allow tent trailers. So, if you want to go everywhere without any restriction then hard sided is the way to go.
18. Protects against robbers and breaks
With hard sidewalls and roof you do get the secure feeling. Unlike tent trailer its not easy to break into hard sided campers.
Going boondocking at isolated locations, you will feel more secure and fine. Its not that they are not breakable, but if someone tries to do that, then there will sound and people around would be alerted. So, kind-of better in terms of security.
19. Will not have bathroom and toilet
Most of the hard sided pop up camper will not have bathroom or toilet. Its small to include such things inside.
Its going to be a single room with two beds on either side and include all other basic thing like sink, air conditioner, refrigerator. There isn’t much space left and hence you wont find the toiler or bathroom.
Some campers do include it but they will be little larger. Also, there wont be any privacy since there will be single room that has everything. If you are camping with multiple people then you wont be having much private space.
I am sure by now you have all the information you should have known. Hard sided pop up campers are better in terms of providing insulation and at the same time easy to tow.
If you want to go boondocking very often and yet have a good RVing life then go for these campers.
Even at campground these work great. How many people would be camping inside is a big factor though. Its definitely a very good option to explore before you invest in a costly travel trailer which will also need more maintenance.