Pop up campers are essentially a storage trailer with a “pop-up” tent built in on top of a box that’s balanced on two wheels. But how do pop up campers work?
They have two primary advantages: First, they are easier to pull behind a vehicle such as a midsize car, SUV, or pick-up truck than a caravan-style camping trailer.
Second, they are permanent box-on-wheels that can be used to store and transport some camping gear, and that will support your tent above moderate amounts of rainwater.
Set Up Pop Up Campers and How They Work
But how do pop up campers work and how to set one up? To set up a pop up camper, first back or pull through to the desired location. Next, level it from side to side using wooden chucks. These chucks also help keep it from rolling. Detach the hitch from the vehicle used to pull the camper and move the vehicle away.
Use the front crank to level the camper front to back. You could take a carpenter’s level if you’re picky about this, but you can just “eye-ball” the degree of level. Note: it’s a good idea to park a pop up camper on a reasonably level prepared spot.
When you’re satisfied with the leveling, crank down the stabilizing scissor-jacks that are located at each of the four corners. This will further secure the camper.
Unclamp the catches that hold the top of the camper in place. Crank up the center part of the camper. Pull out the end pieces, which will be beds when it is completely set up. Add any stabilizing bars or props and latch them in place.
Unpack the door, which is usually attached to the ceiling and mount it in the doorframe. This process will vary slightly from one model to another.
Enter the camper. There will now be a bed at each end of the trailer, and a third bed along one wall. The third bed can be disassembled, the cushions placed on the benches that are revealed, and the dining table set up.
On the other side of the camper, there is often a fold-up kitchenette which might have a gas stove, a minifridge (that uses AC or DC power), and perhaps even a small sink. These are useful if you’re camping in a trailer park where there are utility hookups.
Toilet and Bath Facilities in a Pop Up Trailer
In a small trailer, the toilet might be a hidden chemical or composting toilet, combined with using the sink or a basin for sponge bathing.
Larger trailers, such as the ones that feature a king-size and a queen-size bed, might have a travel-sized flush toilet and a tank for blackwater, plus a separate tank for gray water.
They might even have a small shower with a privacy curtain. Some of the more advanced models recirculate the gray water for flushing.
Pop Up Camper Add Ons
There are many things you could add to a pop-up camper which play a part in how do pop up campers work, but here are a few popular ones:
- Stabilizing jack pads – helps with leveling and keeping jacks from sinking into the mud
- Outdoor table, camp stove, and water storage sink
- Small privacy tent, for showers or portable toilet – great for use with smaller models
- Privacy curtains
- Air conditioner
Pop Up Camper Winter Camping
Using a pop up camper for winter camping can be a challenge.
Since they are essentially a box with a tent attached to its top, living in a pop up camper is a lot like living in a summer-weight tent. That’s to say, they don’t do a good job of keeping the heat in or out.
Since one of their selling points is that they are lightweight enough to easily be towed using a midsized vehicle, winter camping could present some challenges.
Pop Up Camper Insulation
Fortunately, it’s possible to insulate your pop up camper, and to stay warm inside it. Begin with thinking of all the places that cold can creep in (or get out, if you are camping in summer.)
You can begin with insulating the floor and under the pull-out sleeping mattresses. A thick indoor/outdoor rug will help the floor.
Wool army blankets placed under the mattresses, or even thick camping pads will help keep cold from seeping up from underneath. If you have a source of electricity, heated mattress pads can also help.
Reflectix insulation, which is a lot like bubble wrap covered with aluminum foil, can be cut to fit your interior walls or to zip inside the camper windows. Pool noodles can be tucked into corners and along floors to block out drafts.
If your camper will be placed in its spot for several weeks, a 2-inch by 2-inch wooden framework, or a framework of PVC pipe, can be used to hold up a heavy-duty tarpaulin. This can serve as a windbreak, added weather protection in general, or to prevent excess weight from snow build-up.
So how do pop up campers work? Your pop-up camper is a box on a trailer. It can hold plumbing and electrical fixtures, and it will serve as storage for your amenities as you go from one place to the next.
However, when it’s “popped-up” it’s essentially a tent that doesn’t have to rest on the ground, and it will (usually) be too large for someone to steal while you go to the store.
With that said, it will not keep out burglars or bears, and it’s probably not the best choice for an all-season camping shelter.
But with ingenuity and a little retrofitting, you can make it reasonably snug in most seasons. Just remember that when you’re sleeping in a cold area, it’s best to put as much or more insulating bedding under you as you might put on top.
Never use a gas heater or cooker to warm a tightly insulated space, especially if you’ll be sleeping. An electric heater or cold-weather-rated sleeping bag is a safer way to keep warm.
Cooking outside will keep from having food odors in your sleeping space, and will help keep from attracting wildlife to share your camper.