A pop-up trailer offers a smaller, more lightweight camper. While travel trailers have a solid exterior to them. This extra material for the walls tends to mean that the cost of a travel trailer is usually higher.
So which one is better? It depends on your personal needs and requirements, but if you have limited space for storage and/or a lower towing capacity on your vehicle, a tent trailer could be your solution as they tend to max out at 5000 lbs. This link is a great source of information on towing a pop-up trailer should you have any questions. However, if neither of these is an issue for you, you may find a travel trailer offers a more comfortable living environment due to the solid, more insulated walls which have a more household feel to them. Below is a list of the differences/pros and cons of each.
SnapShot Of A Pop Up Trailer/Camper
- Pop Up trailers are typically double the length of the box when folded out which is generally 8-16 feet, with a width of no more than 7 feet making them smaller than most travel trailers
- Pop ups are lightweight – typically weight is as low as 600 lbs but no more than 4000 lbs
- Less expensive with a brand new starting price ranging from $4000 to about $15,000
- When pop up trailer are collapsed have a height of only about 5 feet or lower making them easier to store in a garage
- Offers less interior storage space until fully set up
- Pop up Campers requires more set up time when at a campsite
- Easier to tow with most mid-sized cars or any larger vehicle being able to handle them
- More cost-efficient to tow
- Feels more like you are tenting
- Can be vulnerable to wild animals such as bears. Check out Are Pop-up Campers Safe From Bears? if you have any concerns about this.
- Many lack a toilet and those that do have one generally don’t have a lot of space in the area
- Can experience the range of environments of cold and heat in a pop up camper
If you want more information on pop up campers or perhaps you are considering a pop up trailer you can read more about them in greater detail in our article.
Snapshot Of A Travel Trailer
- Hard walled Trailer
- Heavier than a pop-up trailer with the lightest usually weighing at least 5000lbs
- Travel trailers vary in price new with $15 000 being about the smallest and cheapest but can go higher than $60 000 depending on the size and features
- Offers more interior storage space in a travel trailer
- Comes in much larger sizes than pop up trailers
- Travel Trailers require more space to store when not in use
- Less time to setup and takedown at campsites
- Costs anywhere from $1 to $5 more per gallon to tow depending on your vehicle and size of trailer
- Travel Trailers feels more like a small house or condo
- Less visibility when towing of vehicles behind the travel trailer
- More comfortable in colder (down to 50 F) or warmer (96 F) weather due to the insulated walls in the Travel trailer
- Will have a full bathroom - Dry bath or Wet Bath
These are both great options to get you out of a tent and off the hard ground, but you do need to remember that they also take extra care and maintenance. Do you need to prepare for extra costs such as storage fees or propane to fuel the unit? Perhaps you have an area on your property where you can keep it or there is an area where you can build a spot. Towing and backing in must be done with caution which includes wider turns as well as a lot of practice to perfect. You also need to take note of how level the ground is where you intend to park.
Tent Trailer VS A Travel Trailer
Due to the nature of a tent trailer, the sides are mostly made from tent-like material. This allows the unit to fold down small when it is not in use. On top of the unit being lighter in weight, it is also usually more cost-efficient than a traditional hard-walled trailer. Since the unit is folded down when being driven, you have an unobstructed view around you and will have an easier time backing up.
A travel trailer is much more water-resistant with its hard shell. Because it doesn't fold down, you can use the interior of it for easier access to additional storage of any camping items you wish to bring along such as chairs or a barbecue. Although the cost is usually a minimum of $10 000.00 more than a pop-up trailer, the majority are more spacious on the inside as well as more private. Depending on the tent trailer you purchase, there may or may not be any bathroom facilities in board whereas all travel trailers will come standard with one.
If you are still curious about some of the must-know rules about travel trailers, feel free to check out 15 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Travel Trailer. This covers all of the basics for campers who are new to travel trailers.
Do I Need To Winterize A Pop-up Trailer?
Tent trailers are convenient in that you can simply pop them down and park them whenever you aren't using them.
But do you need to winterize it? Pop up trailers still have a water tank and water lines in them for such items as the sink and shower which, if not winterized correctly will freeze in the winter. When water freezes it expands which can cause damage such as pipes bursting.
You will need to make sure to start this process before any freezing can occur. Even though this process does take a little time and work, it will pay off in the long run when you aren't spending on additional maintenance costs the following camping season. This can include any repairs to water lines or the tank itself due to leaks from the area being unable to handle the amount of expansion caused by the water turning to ice.
How Long Does It Take To Set Up A Tent Trailer?
A pop-up trailer will generally take longer to set up than a hard-walled camper simply because the requirements to lift the walls are non-existent in these other units.
So how long does it take to set up a tent trailer? This greatly depends on your unit and model of the trailer as well as your experience with the setup but will generally take anywhere from 50 minutes up to 2 hours and 20 minutes. You need to take into consideration the number of latches and hookups to level the camper, raise the roof, pop out the beds, and any other work needed inside such as laying out bedding.
While this timeline can vary greatly, you also need to think about how much you are setting up outside. Do you have a lot of different tables and chairs that need to be set up? What about an outdoor floor mat? Or even tarps? You as the camper do determine how much work needs to be put in.
How Much Does It Cost To Tow A Travel Trailer?
Towing a travel trailer can cause your vehicle to be less fuel-efficient. This will create a higher cost of fuel for your trip.
So how much does it cost to tow a travel trailer? This can greatly vary depending on the vehicle you are using to haul as well as the size and weight of the trailer but, on average, it will range from about 15 to 25% more per mile for a mid-weight trailer of 2500 to 5000 pounds. For a heavier load, you can expect to use 25 to 35% more fuel whereas lightweight loads of 2500lbs or less will typically only be about 10 to 15% more.
It is important to remember that a one-ton diesel truck that is only hauling a smaller, lightweight camper of 5000 lbs may hardly even register any difference fuel wise whereas a gasoline-powered SUV with a much smaller towing capacity may cost more than this as it is working much harder. Be sure to track the mileage on your vehicle both before and during towing to see the difference. This will give you an accurate reading where you can figure out an actual dollar amount. There can also be a huge variance depending on whether you are towing the trailer empty versus full.
What Is A Hybrid Camper? (Hybrid Travel Trailer)
If a pop-up trailer isn't quite what you are looking for but you don't want the excess weight and cost of a standard travel trailer, a hybrid could be your answer.
But what is a hybrid camper? This is a hard-walled camper with an open floor plan on the inside but contains beds that are pop-out style. In short, this is a combination of a pop-up and travel trailer.
Although this does take more set up time than a regular hard-walled trailer, it is less than a tent trailer. It is less expensive than similar hard-walled trailers but more expensive than a pop-up. It also features larger beds as well as more storage space than a pop-up trailer while still offering less space to store than travel trailers.
Are Hard Walled Campers Worth The Extra Cost?
A hard-walled camper will cost more than a pop-up trailer with a similar layout. This is due to the additional cost of the material for the walls and will also add additional weight to the trailer.
So are hard-walled campers worth the extra cost? Even though pop-up trailers are a great way to get away from sleeping on the ground, they do not offer as much comfort and amenities as a hard-walled trailer does such as additional security and protection from environmental elements and wildlife. The beds are generally more comfortable and the guarantee of a bathroom is certainly worth the extra cost especially if you plan on staying in it for an extended period of time.
While it is great to have a hard-walled camper, you do have to remember that the weight will also be more than that of a pop-up style making it less versatile for towing with smaller vehicles. Also, you would do well to invest in a set of tow mirrors for your vehicle as your field of vision will be impaired with a unit that doesn't fold down attached to you.
In the end I think it comes down to what you can afford to go camping and how large a family you might have. So personal preference, situation, affordability are all factors that play in choosing a tent camper or travel trailer.