What Changed When We Moved from a Pop Up Camper to a Travel Trailer

While we were sad to see Peggy Sue, the pop-up camper go, we love our new travel trailer.  It was the right decision for us!  You can see Peggy Sue in the background as we were camping with our friends that bought her that weekend!

When we moved from a pop-up camper to a travel trailer, we wanted an easier setup and pack up process.  Sure, pop up campers are lightweight and inexpensive.  There is also a lot of work in setting one up.  No matter how you camp, however, there is work involved.  Three things never change - prep, set up and takedown.  So, why change if you are still doing all of the same things?  Well, its a lot of things really that can and do change when you transition from a pop-up camper to a travel trailer.  For us, it was the next logical step.

I would not say that there is less work with a travel trailer.  It is just spread out over a different period of time.  And, it has been a great experience as well as a whole new learning curve.  We have undergone frustrations and triumphs.  If you are considering making the move from a pop-up camper or a tent to a travel trailer, it is important to weigh out all of the pros and cons.  And it is a lot more than just the work involved at prep, set up and takedown.

Peggy Sue was a lot of work to set up and take down.  

Set-Up Time at the Campsite

Our set up time at the campsite used to be a lot.  We were making beds, unpacking boxes, and setting up an entire kitchen.  It seemed endless.  It felt like I lost a lot of time enjoying family and friends with all of that setup.  If it was dark when we arrived, it was a hardship.  We avoided the rain.  Because of these factors, we were also limited time and weather-wise with our set up and pack up times.

We can now have everything set up in about 30 minutes.  It is relatively quick and a lot less stressful than it used to be.  I also think that having owned a pop-up camper helped prepare us for our travel trailer set up in many ways.  We knew how to back up a camper, hook up hoses and electric.  We also knew how to level a camper.  The set up was both different and similar.  Regardless, what we learned with our pop up helped us to make that transition, and it didn't feel like so much all at once.

Right at the end, I learned a new trick to help with beds.  I made the beds before we left by popping up the camper and making them from the outside of the camper.  It was something I wish I had learned a long time ago!

Prep Time

I don't know that the actual prep time has drastically changed.  I still prep meals at home sometimes.  I still have clothes to pack and pets to get ready.  However, I am able to spread this out over a period of time that feels reasonable, and it feels like less work.

I used to spread this work out over time with the pop up too.  But, no matter how I prepped, I was still left with a lot to do at the campground because I packed it all up into a tow vehicle or the pop up only to have to unpack it again at the campground.  It felt like it was double the work all the time.  Now, I pack everything into its actual place (not a holding place) and it is ready to be used at the campground.  I've actually cut this in half because I'm not doing it twice.

Take Down Time

I also think we have less take downtime overall.  I am able to quickly clean and store our items with much less work and time.  And, the stress of this whole process has gone way down.

If we have full hookups, then we can drain and clean our tanks right at the campsite.  There is not a lot of added time with these tasks.  However, if we have to use a dump station, there could be a line.  Or, it is just the fact that we are having to wait to do this on our way out.  It doesn't take a lot of time, but this is something that we didn't have to do before.  We traded some things for others.  But, I still prefer this workload to the previous one.

All of our gear was stored in bins that had to be unpacked and packed again after each trip!

Then, all of our gear was stored like a jigsaw puzzle in the pop up camper itself!


While we are no longer maintaining canvas bunk ends and everything on an older pop-up, we now have a larger more expensive travel trailer to maintain.  I feel less certain about doing all of the work ourselves.  Sure, we will still complete some projects at home.  But, even washing our RV is a much larger job because it is a larger piece of equipment.  I could wash the pop up in less time because it was so small.  

But, while we have a larger RV to maintain, I don't have to pop up a camper every time I have to work on it.  I'm not waiting on the weather so that I can work without getting the canvas wet.  I feel like in some ways there is more maintenance but less work.  This is due in part to not having to crank up the camper to work and put it all back together again.  It was a cumbersome process.

There is all kind of gear that you end up buying when you first buy a new travel trailer.  You will need hoses and so much more!


The gear for a travel trailer can really add up.  There are sway bars and travel trailer specific hoses and products that you will need.  This is also where there is a trade-off for the work in a pop-up camper.  Sure, there is less work in some ways, but that is also traded off for the expense of having and maintaining a travel trailer.  If you move from a pop-up camper to a travel trailer, be prepared to spend upwards of $2,000 or more on basic gear right out of the gate.  The price of the travel trailer alone is only part of the expense.  


We wanted to take more trips, travel farther and have more options.  I felt like a pop up limited us to only certain trips.  I never felt like we could travel really far and make one night stops along the way.  Sure, we could have, but the work didn't seem worth it.  I also wanted to be able to try more options where we would have access to water stored in our fresh tanks.  And, being able to travel and not feel like we would have to cancel because of rain.  We camped in the rain, but it was not always fun.  And we didn't have a lot of space inside when it did.  We had simply outgrown it.


When we purchased Peggy Sue, I paid cash for her on the spot.  It was a done deal, and we never owed a note on her.  With May Belle, we have a monthly payment.  We knew this would be one of the biggest changes.  We set up a budget and limit ahead of time for what we were willing to spend overall and on a monthly payment.  We didn't want to get over our heads.  If we would have selected a used travel trailer, we would have little or no payment.  And this is the option many families take.  I just didn't want to buy a project that might need repairs soon.

Tow Vehicle

While we owned a tow vehicle for our pop up camper, our Nissan Pathfinder would only tow 3,500 pounds since it is a hybrid.  We could not find a travel trailer that had the interior room and features we needed under this tow weight.  Therefore, we had to buy a new tow vehicle.  This can really add to the overall price tag of an upgrade.  We were planning to replace our older vehicle, so the timing worked out overall.  However, the monetary changes were probably the biggest ones.

Towing and Maneuvering

Towing a travel trailer is completely different from the pop-up.  It is considerably larger.  Even with a small travel trailer, it is huge in comparison to our small, 8-foot box we once had.  We also have a narrow drive with a ditch on either side and lots of trees to back down.  Our first purchase of the new year is going to be a backup camera for our travel trailer.  This process of backing that camper down our drive alone will make you develop a close and personal relationship with Jesus.

The Verdict

We traded the setup and packing up time along with the work of maintaining an older pop-up camper for a more expensive travel trailer that is less work overall.  Time is money for me.  It is also something that I can't get back.  I loved Peggy Sue.  She was my baby and project that I had worked so hard on for nearly 2 years.  But, I had also reached the point of wanting to just camp and not work so hard.  And in the end, it is worth the extra money to have more time and flexibility to explore more places and make more memories as opposed to working so hard to actually do those things.  For us, it was the right thing to do, and I don't regret it one bit!

If you are considering this move, the time alone may not be enough to make it worth it.  Run the numbers and consider if it will work for your family and budget.  This can be the biggest hurdle for many.  Based on your calculations, maybe you need to adjust your budget.  Maybe you will get rid of cable in lew of a camper payment or eat out less to make this happen.  A few changes in spending habits could make this dream a reality.

And if you decide you can't afford to make this move right now, enjoy what you have at the moment.  Simplify your trips.  Trade traditional bedding for sleeping bags.  Pair down on your gear.  After all, no one says you have to put out cute awning lights (even though I do love them).  Look for ways that you can tweak your camping experience to make it more enjoyable and less work.

Everything we do is a trade-off.  I feel like we made the right decision for our family.  And we couldn't be happier.  Until next time!

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  1. Curious what the bulk of the $2k in start up gear was? Seems like a lot! Didn’t most hoses/ gear from your pop up transfer?

    1. Great question! I shared more about this in another post. I'll reference it below. But, the necessities were only a small portion for us. In Mississippi, the tag cost several hundred dollars plus we added a sway distribution hitch. This alone was nearly $1,000. Not all of our hoses transferred. We didn't have a sewer or black tank hose. While most of our gear did transfer, the bedding didn't because we had difference sized beds in our pop up. So, I sold everything with it. I would say $1500 would be a low number, but things add up. :) Thanks for following along!



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