Gone Outdoors

How to Buy a Pop Up Camper

by Jeff O'Kelley

For those willing to be a bit adventurous, camping offers a wonderful family vacation that can be easy on the wallet. If you're not quite ready to rough it with a tent and sleeping bag, a pop up camper can be a great alternative. Today's models range in price and features to meet almost any budget, and can include options such as A/C, showers, microwaves and ovens. Although it won't provide the comfort of an expensive hotel room, it can still offer a cozy nook for your family. Here we will offer some tips on selecting the model that's right for your family.

Research your intended towing vehicle. Family sedans, compacts, minivans and SUV's all have different towing capacities and specifications. You'll need to pull out your owner's manual and take some notes on specifications such as tongue weight, gross towing weight and recommended accessories. If you can't locate these in your manual, contact your local dealer service center or garage for help. They can also help you with information on recommended accessories such as towing mirrors, oil coolers, heavy duty brakes and other towing options. If you don't already have a towing hitch on your vehicle, now will be a good time to have one installed. Be sure that you understand the towing ability of the hitch, how to properly connect a trailer and how the electrical wiring works.

Consider the size of camper you'll need. Consider the number of people who will be included on trips and any special needs or wants. You should also have a family meeting to discuss what features will help everyone to have a fun filled vacation. Features such as A/C, indoor vs. outdoor cooking options, inside showers, electrical hookups and space for gear will help you to select the model that best suits your needs. Take notes and assign a priority to each item. This will be helpful when you are looking at various models with different features.

Start your search on the Internet or by visiting local RV dealers to collect some catalogs for research. Look over various models and manufacturers, and consider the following points: campers are offered in various lengths, ranging from 8 feet to over 16 feet, so consider what you will be comfortable towing and use this to limit your search; gross vehicle weight and towing vehicle capacities may also help to narrow your search; compare models based on points such as bed sizes, dining options, cooking options, water storage, electrical hookups, ease of set up and storage; research the history and track record of various manufacturers to eliminate any with a troubled history.

Visit a local dealer to see your selections in person. Check out every option and feature on the campers as you would if you were buying a home. Try out the beds for comfort, sit in the dining area, try moving the indoor stove outside (if applicable), go through the set up and tear down procedures, operate the features and even hook up the camper for a test drive. Going through these steps should help you become comfortable with your choices and help identify the one that is best for you.

Items you will need
  • Technical specifications on the vehicle you intend to use to tow the camper
  • Internet (optional)

Tips

  • Be sure that you fully understand the setup and operation of the camper before leaving the dealer. Practice at home prior to your trip.
  • Don't forget to add in the weight of your luggage when figuring the towing weight of the camper.
  • Privacy options such as curtains in the sleeping areas can add a nice touch to your experience.
  • An outside shower is a great option in the summer months. It will keep excess dirt from the inside of the camper.

Warnings

  • Don't exceed your towing limitations. Doing so can damage your vehicle or cause an accident.
  • Don't operate gas cooking stoves inside unless you have the camper well ventilated.
  • Don't leave valuables in your camper. They are extremely easy to break into and cannot be securely locked.

About the Author

Jeff O'Kelley is a professional photographer and writer, currently based in the Tampa, Florida area. His images and words have been featured by websites and publications such as CNN, Creative Loafing and Tampa Bay Times. O'Kelley holds associate degrees in telecommunications and website design from St. Petersburg College.