Friday, 28 September 2018

Pop-up Tent Trailers: 18 Things Worth Knowing

Whether you want to have a mobile home or a weekend getaway camper, buying a pop-up tent trailer might be the best option for you.  First, they are quite a bit cheaper than buying other towed RVs. A pop-up tent trailer is not only capable of storing large quantities of gear, but can quickly turn into your bedroom wherever you are in a matter of minutes.  Its pop-up feature is a clever piece of tech and engineering, the whole thing collapses down when you don’t need it.

When it’s set up, you’ll have a comfortable living environment, awnings, and even a porch.  Once pitched, we think they can be just as capable and luxurious as almost any other camper, they also look smart.  You can use the pop-up trailer for sleeping, relaxing, or entertaining, then all you need to do is fold it up the next day and you can be on your way again.

I’m here to help you decide whether getting a pop-up tent trailer of your own is your best option.  I’ll share with you everything I know about this unassuming RV.  And I mean everything.  I’m talking about the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in-between.

You will see and experience camping lifestyle in a different light

So, you’ve always wanted to appreciate camping but perhaps you are such a city slicker that you can’t imagine sleeping in the wilderness with your quilted sleeping bag, not to mention being pestered by flying insects, the weather and whatever else lurks in the dark.  When you have a pop-up tent trailer, its homey conveniences will make you think that you don’t have to be a hard-core camping adventurist to appreciate the outdoors. That doesn’t mean though you can just stay inside the pop-up tent trailer when there is so much to explore outside.  The design and features of a popup tent trailer mean you’re much closer to nature than you would be if you were in a travel trailer or motorhome. You’re going to experience mother nature first hand, there’s very little separating you from the outside.

You’re going to have fun telling your best ghost stories over a campfire and munching smores in between.  Afterward, you can retreat inside to fall into a relaxing sleep on a comfortable double bed in your well-appointed pop-up trailer. Or better yet, continue your story-telling and at the same time gaze at the stars from inside the tent through your ceiling window.

You will find these towaways are not only foldable but also lightweight

I do not know about you but towing a travel trailer or a 5th wheel trailer can be awkward and stressful.  You will even need to adjust your driving as you’re responsible for two vehicles at the same time, your car and the RV.  And this RV alone could be heavier than the truck you’re driving. Such adjustments include braking well in advance as there is often a bit lag with a towed vehicle, just there’s just much more weight to stop.  A slight delay in braking your car could spell disaster on a busy highway.

When you’re backing up with a bulky trailer in tow, you will need to rely on a special side view mirror to make sure you will not hit anyone or anything behind you. However, things are much easier with a pop-up tent trailer, and it’s one the biggest selling points.

First, it is lightweight as it only weighs as little as 600 pounds when empty which is about an eighth of a fraction of a normal size sedan. Sure, there will be some driving tweaks here and there but lugging a tent trailer won’t really make much of a difference in your driving.  In other words, it is very maneuverable.  Second, it is collapsible, so it does not obstruct your rearview mirror and at the same time, you won’t find backing up your vehicle as difficult. For as long as you’re a driver with a valid license, you will need not worry about pulling a pop-up tent trailer

Most pop-up tent trailers will easily fit in your garage

Storing your RV especially during winter months can be a hassle.  Sometimes you will even have to rent a specialist RV parking space, unfortunately, this is going to cost you.  While pop-up tent trailers come in different sizes, their collapsible and overall lightweight design makes storing them a lot easier. For one, you can park the trailer inside an average size car garage. Its height will also not be an issue as they are generally much lower than even sports cars.

If you plan to get one of the incredibly compact pop-up tent trailers, you can just attach it to your pick-up truck or SUV and carry it wherever you are going without much concern for its size.  You’ll barely even notice it’s there most of the time.  This makes pop-up tent trailers especially well-suited to last minute weekend getaways, extensive planning is rarely required.  Simply hook up the pop-up tent and you’re all set to head off on a weekend adventure.

You can do your “business” inside and then some

Say what? Breaking news, a pop-up tent trailer can have bathroom facilities.  While that will mean additional cost if it’s not a standard feature of your trailer, that’s such a relief especially if you’re camped out in the wilderness and suddenly nature calls.  I would say it is going to be a good investment.  Imagine, without a bathroom, you will have to be creative.  Ok, let’s not go there.

When you think about it, you wonder how on earth a teeny tent trailer can fit a toilet inside. Be realistic and do not expect a typical residential bathroom in a trailer.  There’s this thing they call a cassette toilet which is a type of toilet that can be stowed under a storage compartment when not in use, you won’t even realize it’s there.  And it’s tiny yet it serves its purpose.

Meanwhile, let’s push it even further, you can also have your own shower inside.  The most common type would be a wet bathroom where the shower head is almost directly above the toilet.  It can be pretty cramped inside but something’s got to give.  I mean, with this facility, you also have a sink and water tank setup.  That’s a lot I would say.

If you’re tight with your budget though, you can bring along a portable plastic toilet.  Nuff said.

You will feel the heat of these trailers, literally

A pop-up tent trailer’s canvas can get hot when it’s sitting out in the sun, with no shade whatsoever.  If you confine yourself inside, it may begin to closely resemble a sauna or steam bath experience.  Extremely hot weather will affect a pop-up tent trailer significantly more than a travel trailer. The canvas material of the pop-up is thin enough which easily absorbs heat, and it’s thick enough so that it’ll retain heat. It can act as a very efficient greenhouse.

Even your shiny vinyl flooring will heat up and closely resemble what I imagine it feels like to walk on hot coals. If the sun is out in the summertime, whether it stays out in the open or if its parked in a covered space, it will still be hot.  Considering you have a tight area inside as well, staying there will be a sweaty, hellish nightmare you can’t wait to be out of.

Opening the pop-up tent up so that fresh air can get in goes a long way to controlling temperatures, but you can also invest in technology-based solutions which we’ll cover in the next section.

You can have air conditioning and heating units, fortunately

If you are planning to rack up miles with your pop-up tent trailer, then you really should get an A/C and a heater.  It’s great that these trailers can allow for such amenities which add comfort to their residents. Without some sort of airflow, then it can feel like you’re cooking when summer intensifies, so an A/C unit can make the world of difference. In the same manner when it is extremely cold, you will need a heater, otherwise, you will freeze inside considering that most tent trailers use a specially treated canvas which is thin in general.  Even complete insulation won’t cut it when the outside is a winter wonderland.

You can get an A/C designed for campers which are smaller than your usual room-type air conditioning. Portable heaters that can fit nicely in the trailer should likewise be chosen.  When you are lucky enough to have a nice weather, you can just make do with a small oscillating fan just to keep you comfortable and allow for some air circulation.

You can have a hot water heater in there too

Thankfully, this is an option.  Because even if you have a portable heater on during winter inside your trailer, it will not help when you need to take a shower in freezing cold water.  There are better, more convenient heater options for your trailer than boiling your water manually each time.  You can install a small hot water tank which can usually hold up to 10 gallons.  That is less than 20% of a residential hot water tank’s capacity.   And that means you can’t shower too long but that should suffice considering you’re not in a regular bathroom.  And make sure the water heater tank still fits your trailer even if you already made room for a heater and/ or A/C unit.  Depending on how much space you have, you may have to opt for one or the other, but you are camping after all.

You will have to dry out your pop-up after a heavy downpour

Perhaps you were determined to camp, regardless of what the weather forecast was telling you or what the dark clouds on the horizon looked like.  You headed out anyway and hoped for the best.  You were able to set up your trailer nice and fast, and suddenly there comes the rain you were hoping would not happen.  What now? Don’t sit under the awning for starters because you will surely get soaked.  Compress the awning as much as you can to prevent it from getting too wet. More importantly, your tent canvas should be waterproofed, so you won’t worry about any leaks for the time being at least.  But no matter what you do with the awning, it will still get wet in the downpour.

So, you hunker down in your pop-up until the rains subside.  And when they finally do, you must dry out your camper.

Ideally, a spot of sunshine and a light breeze will dry things up nicely, but what if you need to pack up and head home before things have dried up?  You should circulate as much air inside the tent to hasten the drying process.  Or set the tent up once you get home and leave your trailer open, doors and windows for a while until it completely dries.  This could be a challenge during fall or winter as air outside remain damp during much of the season.

The last thing you want to do is to leave the pop-up trailer in a collapsed state for a long period of time while it’s still wet.  If you do, this will give rise to mold and mildew just like any other home furniture that got wet and was not aired out sufficiently.  Here is a simple but sensible advice, avoid using your trailer in the rain frequently if you can help it.  Waterproof properties can wear off easily if it is always exposed to the rain.

You can add custom touches to your trailer’s functionality and appearance

Basically, it’s your pop-up tent trailer, your rules.  You can put whatever appliance you want, may it be a fridge, A/C, portable heater, as long as you stay within your trailer’s space limit, power and load capacity.  You can start by adding an insulating layer to your walls and flooring for basic protection from the cold weather outside.  At the same time, it will serve as sound-proofing of sorts to minimize movement and generator noise.  You might want to add more storage compartments, key holder, coat hooks on the side walls and/ or underneath the floor.  When you have a pop-up tent trailer, you can never have too many shelves or storage cabinets.

Now, if you want to go all-out and money is no object, you can change the color of your trailer’s exterior. Your trailer could very well be your home away from home after all.  You can simply paint over a different color if you have wooden walls to make it your own.  As for your existing amenities, you can change your ordinary mattress into a 4-inch thick, high-density memory foam, add some carpets on your floor to keep you warm and comfortable on a cold night.  Or get more pillows to create a cozy ambiance to your trailer. Then you can add some sliding drapes on your window to shield you from the sun’s strong rays while you sleep in on a lazy Sunday morning.

Your tent trailer’s generator can be a nuisance

You’re probably thinking why a generator that’s considered a great addition to any trailer, proving power, lighting, and entertainment could be considered a nuisance when used with a pop-up trailer tent. I’m of course talking about its noise, which can be quite annoying given the thin walls of a tent.  Most people go camping so that they can enjoy mother nature, perhaps listening to the chirping of the birds, the gentle sound of a cool breeze, which can be ruined by the noise a generator.

The sound penetrates thin walls easily, so you can hear your running generator which can be as unpleasant as sitting next to a running engine, which is basically what it is. Some say the sound it makes is not that bothersome, and it easy to get used to, but I know a lot of people who don’t like it at all that they opt to use AGM batteries and solar panels instead just to avoid the noise it produces.  But if you have no choice but to use a generator whether it’s built-in or portable, it’s just something you’ll have to put up with.

You will have to get used to the tight quarters

Even if there are relatively large pop-up trailers available, I still wouldn’t recommend it to someone that suffers from claustrophobia.  That kind of person will not have a comfortable time inside, to say the least, let alone if he or she must use the teeny tiny bathroom facility, it can be suffocating.  That’s just the reality one must accept if deciding to go on RV living- tent trailer style.

If you think about it, you don’t go camping just to stay inside your trailer.  You should enjoy outdoors more and only use your camper as a place to rest after an activity-filled adventure.  And another good thing is being able to fit your core amenities in the limited space.  You have your bed, sink, fridge, couch, and stove albeit much smaller than what you’re used to.  Important thing is, you will still be able to sleep, cook, relax under the circumstances.  Nevertheless, the trailer lifestyle is not really for everyone.

You will need to take your camper’s tow ratings seriously

When you buy a pop-up tent trailer, don’t forget to read your car’s owner’s manual.  One of the things you need to look at is your vehicle’s tow ratings. You should realize that while pop-up trailers are lightweight in general, you can’t just attach it to your vehicle.  You may own an SUV, minivan, sedan car, or truck, just make sure that the towing capacity is able to handle your pop-up tent trailer.

Don’t just rely on your friends’ recommendations who may or may not be an expert, you need to check and verify the figures yourself. Or if you will skip on reading up and just do your own estimation, chances are, your trailer could be too heavy to tow after its fully loaded. Precious time and money can be wasted.  Stick to what your car manufacturer tells you, check online, in the manual or call the dealership.  It is common to get a downloadable version of your manual if you can’t find your hard copy anymore.

So, you find out about your vehicle’s tow rating.  Average pop-ups can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.  Roughly speaking, the heavier your trailer, the larger vehicle you will need.  It will also mean more gas consumption because the added weight will burn fuel faster. If you have a large SUV, you will be able to tow trailers which can weigh, say, 2,000 pounds.

You should never go beyond that limit, even maximizing the rating at full tow capacity.  It is always better to consider a lower weight than the tow rating because you might decide to upgrade your camper by adding more amenities like a bigger bed or extra storage cubbies which could all add up to the overall trailer weight.  Plus, you will need to factor in the number of passengers that will be inside at a time. Better conserve some weight so that you won’t have towing problems in the long run.

You will find that the more your items are collapsible, the better they are for your trailer

Just because we said that a pop-up trailer can house many of your favorite appliances doesn’t mean that they’re designed for use in a pop-up trailer tent.  Read: collapsible.  Yes, your amenities should have that capability aside from having a small size.  We’re talking about folding chairs, folding tables, storable fridge, murphy bed of sorts, underneath storage, reversible cushions, among many other items.  These make your entire trailer to stay true to its collapsible feature. You will also need to consider a multi-purpose function of the features found inside your camper such as your sofa transforming into a bunk bed during the night.  This reality contributes to a whole new experience of tent trailer Rving.  Again, you have limited space, so you have to pick your non-negotiables wisely and decide to leave some items at your house. It’s called compromise.

You can buy a preloved tent trailer and it’s ok to do so

Depending on where you are at in terms of budget, buying a used pop-up trailer is not so much a bad idea.  You get to enjoy the RV lifestyle without breaking the bank when buying the more expensive and bulky travel trailers.  That is not to say that a used tent trailer is ultra-cheap because you will still shell out hundreds if not several thousand dollars based on the overall resale value.   You will still save a good amount of money that way instead of buying a brand-new tent trailer.  Check out National Automobile Dealers Association or NADA guides website so you can have an idea of what the current selling prices are for used trailer models.  If you decide to proceed with buying, you can always do it directly on the NADA site.

You must take your time to decide if a pop-up trailer is really for you

You’ve been back and forth with checking all the information about different manufacturers, competitive pricing and customer feedback which you can find on the internet.  Despite that, you still haven’t found “the one” if not, you still seem not ready to take the plunge yet.  You may think the prices are too rich for your blood or you’re simply having second thoughts. “Should I give up?”, you ask yourself.   I say, don’t. And sleep on it. It may take a while for you to decide.  One thing is, don’t force yourself just because you want to keep up with RV friends or prefer a brand for its cheap price alone.  Just like with any major purchase, avoid emotional buying because you just might regret it later on.  Don’t worry, one day you will be able to discern your choice.

You can get ripped off when you buy a used pop-up trailer if you’re not careful

Aside from the NADA site, you can get amazing deals for used anything when you transact online thru Facebook, Craiglist, or by reading different RV blogs and forums so you get first dibs on used trailer listings.  However, you should be more discerning so that you don’t get catfished by a “photogenic” if not photoshopped pop-up trailer thinking it is in excellent shape but is in damaged condition in reality. Nowadays, you can just use the right filter and something that is ordinary can turn into extraordinary with just a click of a button.  Word of caution: Do not buy unless you have seen the vehicle in person.

You should brace yourself for potential repairs after buying a used pop-up trailer

You have to manage your expectations.  After all, you are buying a used pop-up tent trailer.  Unless you are lucky that the used trailer is in mint condition, there will be minor repairs at the very least.  That should not prevent you from going ahead with the purchase.  Some sellers will be upfront on the existing issues of the trailer they are selling. It could need patch-up work on the awning or a fix on a couple of dents on the metal panels which bother you or glue the small tears on the edges.  These quick remedies won’t cost you a lot, some of which you can do by yourself.

If it’s calling for a major repair, then you will have to think twice.  You may have gotten a bargain with the low selling price but the repairs may cost you a lot more than it would have been better than you bought a brand new unit instead.  Beware of seemingly cosmetic issues such as cracked roofing, rotted wood, softened floors as these will affect the integrity of your vehicle.  These are major!

There are instances when you are dealing with a scam artist who sales-talks you into buying his trailer only to find out that you are actually getting a raw deal.  That’s because he or she hid important information from you such as bent frames, not functioning lifter system, heavily damaged tent canvas, etc.  Once again, you must not rely on photos which may not be photoshopped and all but was taken at favorable angles that do not show the problems.  Do your inspection or bring someone not related to the seller to help you with it.  You may just dodge a huge bullet if everything is made known to you as clear as daylight.

You are in for an adventure of your life with the pop-up, woohoo!

When you decide to buy your own trailer, brace yourself for more excitement and fun.
While the road may have been difficult along the way (pun intended) – what with all the things you had to consider in buying one and maintaining it, you will surely enjoy more experiences that have yet to come.  You will start building unforgettable memories with the long road trips, camping stories, bonding with family and friends, surviving the worst weather. These all account to an authentic pop-up trailer lifestyle.


My final 2 cents would be that a pop-up tent trailer is an essential tool for you to have more appreciation for the outdoors or Mother nature together with your loved ones, may they be your family or friends or even both.  As they say, stop and smell the flowers.  We can get caught up with the daily grind that we fail to truly live our lives to the fullest.  With a tent trailer handy, you can escape the hustle and bustle of your everyday existence to experience more of what this planet can offer.  And more often, it is there for you- free of charge. Safe travels!

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