|This article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2012)|
A pop-up camper, which was at first in the 1930s and 1940s called a folding or most commonly, tent trailer, is a type of towed recreational vehicle that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport. When set up, this type of trailer provides a large amount of interior space when compared to its size when collapsed. Its relatively affordable price makes it a popular choice for some RVers and its small size contributes to easier towing than many other types of RVs.
A conventional pop-up consists of a trailer frame, a box, a hard roof, pull-out bunks and “soft” walls. The walls are made of vinyl, canvas or a similar material and include windows with screens.
Basic popups usually include the following features: fold-down dinette (table top and bench seating combination), on-board fresh water tank, sink, 12-volt DC power system (including an AC to DC converter and a deep cycle battery), interior DC lighting, two sleeping bunks and storage cabinets. Many pop-ups also include a gas/electric absorption refrigerator, stove, rooftop air conditioner, propane furnace, water heater, electric water pump, exterior shower, skylight/roof vent, one or two propane tanks, electric or surge brakes, large storage trunk at the front of the box, and an awning. Some premium models also include a shower, toilet, wastewater tanks, slide-out section (to increase interior space), microwave, and an oven.
Since space is at a premium in popup campers, it is common for a single structure to serve multiple purposes. Generally, the dinette, which can seat four people for a meal, can be converted into a bed to provide additional sleeping space. Likewise, the couch, if present, can usually be folded down into a bed. Often, the inside table (part of the dinette) and the gas stove can be taken outside and attached to the side of the camper.
Modern pop-ups range in weight from approximately 700 pounds (320 kg) to 3,800 pounds (1,700 kg) pounds empty, or full, depending on if they are empty or full. Models are generally classified by the length of their box, which ranges from 8 feet (2.4 m) to 16 feet (4.9 m). When opened, the length is roughly double the box length. Most pop-ups are between 7 feet (2.1 m) and 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) in width and between 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 m) and 5 feet (1.5 m) in height when closed, but “high wall” models are tall. Published sleeping capacities range from 4 to 8 people.
To open a pop-up, the trailer must be chocked, disconnected from the tow vehicle, and leveled. The roof must first be raised using a winch that extends telescoping poles on each corner of the box. Next, bunks at the front and the back of the trailer are pulled out by hand. Then, the tent material (which is fastened to the box and to the roof) is unfurled, pulled over the ends of the bunks, and attached. Interior support poles for the bunk and the entry door are then installed.
Depending on the configuration and included equipment, several additional set up steps may be required. These steps include hooking up to utilities (electricity, water, sewer), reassembling the dinette, unfolding the sink, turning on systems (water pump, water heater, etc.), making beds and unpacking belongings.
Setup time for a pop-up camper is typically longer than that for a travel trailer, fifth wheel or motorhome.
Types of Pop-ups
In addition to the traditional pop-up campers described above, there are a number of special types of pop-ups on the market:
- High wall pop-ups
- Feature a taller box which allows for residential-height countertops and more storage space. Example: Coleman Avalon, Jayco 14HW
- Motorcycle campers
- Lightweight pop-ups small enough to be pulled by a motorcycle. Example: Aspen Ambassador 
- Toyhauler pop-ups
- Include an open cargo deck for transporting ATVs, motorcycles, etc. Example: Jayco Baja 14F 
- Off road pop-ups
- Feature rugged construction and raised suspension for off road use. Examples: Coleman Evolution Cobalt  and Tentrax 
- small solid wall folding camper. Example: A-liner, Chalet 
- Flip-out camper
- Features a roof which flips over to become a bunk. Uses a tent roof instead of a hard roof. Example: Quicksilver
- "Tent-Trailer Sleeps Four Persons and Folds For Storing." Popular Mechanics, October 1947, p. 158.
- A Complete Guide To Popup Campers
- Coleman - FCTA Camping Trailers
- Viking - Coachmen RV
- Palomino RV - Manufacturer of Quaility RVs since 1968
- Trailmaster Inc.- lightweight pop-up campers, motorcycle and auto products
- Jeep Off Road Trailers and 4x4 Trailers by Terrain Rated® Tentrax
- Chalet RV - Home
- Aliner - The original A-frame pop up camper
- LivinLite All Aluminum Ultra Light Campers, Ultralight Campers, Lightweight Campers, Ultra-Lightweight Campers