Camping trips with the family create lasting memories that a person can take with them into old age. Out in the wild visiting nature and sitting by an open fire is one of the many highlights of a camping trip. However, to fully enjoy the trip one must think about how they will lodge while away from home.
While a few may enjoy sleeping on the hard ground in a tent, many may not be able to handle roughing it and would rather enjoy the luxury of staying in a camper while still being out in nature.
Perhaps you want to stay in something with walls, a heater and a bathroom, but do not have a full size pickup or SUV to tow with. A popup camper is the solution to your camping predicament. Many pop up campers can be towed with a small SUV or even a car. Also called a trailer with pop up tent, these campers allow for one to get their foot into the door of possible RV camping but on an affordable budget and small size.
How much do popup campers weigh?
A popup camper will weigh from 1,100 pounds to about 3,000 pounds depending on the size, if it is hard sided, as well as amenities installed. A popup camper is generally lighter weight than a hard sided camper due to it having tent portions to expand the living area.
As we continue with this article, we will be discussing what a popup camper is, the different sizes that are offered, the pros and cons of having one, and what you need to consider towing it before heading out on your planned camping trip.
What is a popup camper?
Pop up trailers are fold out/collapsible campers that look like it is a tent on top of a trailer. With the partial-canvas construction that pop up trailers have makes it easier to travel with. This is due to their lightness and they are easier on gas mileage compared to pulled travel trailers. They come in a range of sizes and weights that many different vehicles can handle. There are even popup tent campers that can be pulled by motorcycles. What makes them different from a regular camper that is just sitting on a trailer is the number of beds and amenities that are offered. The amount of space, beds, and amenities that are offered are, of course, are affected by the size of the camper itself.
A popup camper has a hard top which will raise to make an acceptable living space, typically, the beds are in portions which extend and have tent sides. There are some pop up campers which are longer and have full hard sizes. These tow easier as they are more aerodynamic and have increased visibility than a normal hard sided trailer.
Does size matter?
There are many different sizes of pop up tent campers available. Depending on your needs, a small unit may have living space for two, where as a larger unit could sleep eight. There are even pop up campers available to be towed by a motorcycle.
The capacity of pop up trailers is based on many factors. The first being what amenities are offered in that size of a camper. Looking at the motorcycle towable campers first one will see that a small size camper offers a sleeping area and a tiny bit of storage space. A large motorcycle camper offers the same sleeping area and storage space but may also have a basic kitchen.
The small campers for regular vehicle towing offer the same thing that the small motorcycle camper offers, a bed, a few amenities, and slight bigger storage space. This is to keep the pop camper weight low. However, one can go the fancier route with a small size camper and get one that offers two bedrooms, a bathroom, a tv, and an outdoor shower.
The medium size camper offers slightly more then the small sized one and is a bit bigger. It is the more popular size camper in the United States. This is, however, depending on the features that are offered and that is needed by the client.
Larger popup campers offer the most amenities and accommodations. Two permanent beds, two temporary beds, a kitchen with running water, refrigerator, gas cooktops and a oven for example. The large campers can be towed by a SUV, a minivan, a truck or by a sedan. This is perfect for these are more commonly used vehicles for small families.
It weighs how much?
Even though these pop trailers are collapsible and make for easier storage, the pop camper weight of them is something one needs to take into consideration. Why is it so important? The reason is that one wants to get there in one piece and not cause unwanted and unnecessary damage to the towing vehicle or the camper.
Damage that can be caused by not taking into consideration of the gross vehicle weight, the payload capacity, and the tongue weight to name a few things. Remember these campers are heavier than what they appear, and this is just at their dry weight. Dry weight meaning that nothing extra has been packed inside it. See the lists below for the dry popup camper weight for motorcycles and regular towing vehicles.
Many SUV’s can handle any popup camper weight. For example an Acura MDX with the towing package can tow up to 5,000 pounds or most popup campers. A Subaru Outback can tow 2,700 pounds which would be able to handle a medium sized pop up camper.
Popup Camper Typical Weight
- Small:600-1,000 pounds
- Medium: 1,000-1,5000 pounds
- Large: 2,000-3,000 pounds
Motorcycle Popup Campers
- Small: 250 Pounds
- Large: 450 Pounds
Before one decides what popup tent campers they want to get, they need to stop and think about a few safety tips first. The first safety question that a person should ask is are the brakes on the vehicle or motorcycle capable of stopping the trailer?
If there is no brake control on the tow vehicle, then one needs to be installed. If the trailer is over 2,500 pounds it is recommended that brakes be installed on the trailer if they don’t come standard from the factory. Having the required brakes to keep everyone safe out on the road is important.
The second safety tip is looking at the tongue weight. This is where the pop camper weight comes into play because the tongue weight is the amount of force that is put on the tow hitch. It is recommended that between 10%-15% of the gross trailer weight be put on the tow hitch. Too little weight will cause swaying damage and too much weight will cause the steering of the tow vehicle to be affected. Remember to add the weight of goods you add to your trailer in addition to the dry weight of the trailer and balance correctly for correct tongue weight. As an example, the Jayco 10SD has a hitch weight of 145 pounds.
Tongue weight: (10%-15% of dry weight) Average tongue weights are listed below:
Motorcycle Pop Up Campers
- 25-37 pounds for small
- 40-60 pounds for a large
Pop Up Campers
- 60-150 pounds for a small
- 100-225 pounds for a medium
- 200-450 pounds of a large
Trailer Cargo Carrying Capacity
The cargo carrying capacity is the amount of weight you can put in your trailer when traveling. For example, the Jayco 10SD has a gross vehicle weight of 2,400 pounds. The unloaded vehicle weight is 1,720 pounds. Therefore you have a 680 pound cargo carrying capacity which does not include any added accessories, batteries, or propane. Here are some averages of cargo carrying capacities on small, medium, and large popup campers.
- Small: 150-300pounds
- Medium: 301-550 pounds
- Large: 556+ pounds
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
The gross vehicle weight rating is the maximum amount of weight a trailer can weigh including the dry weight of the trailer as well as any items or water in the trailer at any given time. Typically the axles on the trailer will depict this statistic. On the Jayco 10SD, the gross vehicle weight rating is 2,400 pounds.
Average Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings are listed below:
- 1,277 pounds for a small campers
- 2,250 for a medium campers
- 2,750 for a large campers
The next safety tip is understanding the payload capacity of a truck or vehicle that will be used for towing. It is important to understand what the truck is capable of handling in the cab of the truck with what everything one needs and the weight that is in the bed of the truck. It is a combined weight that is making the engine, transmission, brakes, structure of the tow vehicle work harder than it should or not.
On a 2019 Ram 1500, the payload capacity is 1,845 pounds. Therefore if you have 3 people weighing 200 pounds each, and 400 pounds of weight in the bed of the truck, you only have 845 pounds left for tongue weight before damage will occur to your vehicle. This can get tighter in the case of towing with a smaller car that has a lot lower payload capacity.
Finally, the last safety tip is figuring out if the vehicle one has, can tow anything. Remember that some small cars are not able to tow anything past what can fit into its cab. Checking the “vehicle towing capacity” in the owner’s manual will resolve any doubts one may have. It is recommended to stay under 80% of the max towing capacity. For example, if your Subaru can tow 2,700 pounds, it is recommended that you should only tow a loaded trailer of 2,160 to have some extra capacity to not always be towing at maximum capacity.
The Pros and Cons of Popup Tent Campers
Now that we have gone over the information about the campers and the safety recommendations for towing them, let us weigh the pros and cons of owning a trailer with a popup tent.
The pros are that they are easier to pull than a 5th wheeler or travel trailer and they are easier on the gas tank. With some having showers and toilets inside them, one does not have to rough it like it was done in the olden days. They can stay as comfortable as they want to. A new camper can be purchased for less than $10,000 depending on all the features desired and the size of the camper. Also remember that one can buy a used camper that fits their needs and budget. Both options are still considerably less expensive than buying an RV. If, however buying one is not obtainable right now, there is the option of always renting a camper for the weekend.
- Easy to store
- Easy to Tow
- Cost Effective
- Has Heat and A/C
- Can have a bathroom with shower
The cons of buying or using a trailer with pop up tent are as follows. Due to their size and need to fit certain features in, they are going to be tight on space. Also, the campers are made of canvas material. This means two things. First that while it will keep out the rain it does not keep out dampness. You will need to whip it down and air it out quite often. Otherwise, mold and rot will set in and getting rid of it may prove difficult. Secondly, you must consider the season that one is going camping in. Canvas material does not keep the cold air out and hot air in! Depending on the season either a fan or a space heater will need to be packed for the trip to help if there is no heater or a/c installed. And lastly, if a used camper is going to be purchased make sure that the renovation costs and any repairs needed are considered to stay within the set budget.
- Does not retain heat or cooling well
- Not as secure as a hard sided trailer
- Can hear noises from the outside
- Small space
- Have to air it out if it rains
- Have to set it up and take apart
- Canvas can get brittle
To learn more about how much travel trailers weigh, read our article here.
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