Why a Pop Up Camper is the Right RV for Our Family

With dozens of RV brands, sizes, and types available on the market, there really is an RV for everyone.  It is easy to get sidetracked with the shiny new RV with fancy upgrades.  But, what is the right RV for you?  It is a big decision to make.  Here are the five things that helped us to decide that a pop-up camper was the right RV for our family.

Size and Weight

We have a Nissan Pathfinder that will tow approximately 3,500 pounds.  The sheer amount of weight that your camper will tow is going to be a determining factor into what you buy before you start shopping unless you plan to buy a motorhome or new towing vehicle.  We did not plan to upgrade to a larger vehicle for camping.  We also didn't want a motorhome to maintain.

Before you begin shopping for an RV, find out what your vehicle can tow.  It is not just the dry weight of the camper.  Once it is packed, it will weight even more.  And, if you are adding water to a holding tank, this also adds weight.  Calculate all of the numbers.  Buying something at the very top end of your towing weight could be a costly mistake.  Be realistic when shopping.

Features and Functions

Sit down and make a list of what you absolutely need and want.  What are non-negotiables?  For us, we wanted a comfortable place to sleep, heating and cooling, a place to cook and wash dishes.  We knew that we could use the bathhouses for showers and the restroom.  Our list of needs was really short.  This made it easy for us to think it through.  We wanted to camp but not necessarily in a tent.

Some campers absolutely need a bathroom and want a tub too in their camper.  Outside kitchens and entertainment packages are big-ticket items other campers.  When you consider the features and functions, ask yourself what would be deal breakers that would make you not want to camp if you didn't have these things.

Campgrounds and Parks

Where are you going to be camping?  We are not going to be boondocking or dry camping.  But, if you are, you will need holding tanks, generators, batteries and other items, keep looking.  Our set up is simple and practical.  We only plan to camp where there are hookups and facilities for us to use.  If you want to be totally self-contained, look for RVs that have these features.  DIY enthusiasts can add some items to a camper like solar panels or a generator.

Shop for your camper based on the type of camping experiences that you plan to have and where you will be having them.  And, if you are handy, consider the possibilities of what you can add to an existing camper to make it what you want for where you want to use it.

Time Spent Camping

After you know your towing weight, what you want out of a camper and where you plan to camp, ask yourself how much time you plan to spend camping.  Are you planning only to camp a few nights a year?  Some people buy campers for families to use for travel ball teams and would use them regularly.  I even know people who live in RVs while working on the road.  A camper may become a second home at a seasonal spot or a tiny home on the road.  But, unless you are using your camper for lots of nights, you might be willing to give up more features on that wish list.  

We will probably only camp 20 or 30 nights a year.  My job is demanding, and it is harder for us just to hitch up and go.  While we love camping, it is hard to justify a large expensive camper and tow vehicle for only a few nights a year.  If we begin camping more, we might consider something different.


Finally, it does come down to price.  Large campers and motorhomes can be pricey.  If you want a larger camper, buying used may be your best option.  Time spent camping will also greatly impact your price point.

And if you really want that pricey camper, look for ways to build it into your budget.  You could always cut out some of those extra expenses like dining out, cable and other items that would allow you to spend more time camping.  It's about balance.  Maybe time outdoors with your family and unplugging is more important than fancy dinners out and cable tv packages.

Finally, you could always offset your camping expense by renting your camper out through Outdoorsy or RV Share.  List your camper for other campers to rent when you are not using it.  RV Share has an enticing rewards program and 24/7 roadside assistance. 

Outdoorsy and RV Share are also ways you can test out rigs that you might be considering.  Rent an RV that is the type and style you want for an upcoming trip to see if it meets your wants and needs.  It's a way for you to try before you buy!

For us, we wanted an inexpensive camper we could fix up ourselves.  I didn't want a note on a camper.  Based on our criteria, a pop-up camper was a perfect fit for us.  Anything larger would be hard to justify for us.

If you have a larger family, you may need a larger camper.  But, with the availability of teardrops, fiberglass models and pop up campers, there is an RV for every camper and budget.  A small camper can pack a big punch in a little space.  A pop-up camper checked off all of our boxes.  

Before you hit the RV dealership lot or showroom floor, think through everything thoroughly and make a list of what you want from the camping experience.  Don't eliminate a used camper.  This may be the best way to get what you want for the price you can afford.

A pop-up camper is an excellent starter camper.  You can get your feet wet in the RV lifestyle for the fraction of the cost of a large rig.  And, you can always upgrade!

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