A pleasant step up from a tent is a pop up camper, which will raise you off of the ground and offer better protection from the outside, including weather elements, bugs, and snakes. A popular choice for those watching their budget, pop ups are a practical alternative to a regular camper trailer, motor home, or RV.
Pop up campers typically have two types of walls, collapsible canvas sides (tent trailer) and solid, travel trailers that are generally heavier and require more power to tow. You can find them in basic styles and more expensive, elaborate designs that incorporate additional features such as shower and toilet facilities, and an extra room the you can slide out, increasing your living space.
Depending on how much you want to spend, you'll need to decide whether to buy new or used pop-up trailer. If you want to find a used one, you can look in your local and regional classified ads, or an online sale or auction site. Used ones will probably require some maintenance, other ones will need more extensive repairs. The asking price should reflect the amount of time and expense needed to get it ready for camping again.
When buying a used pop-up, there are several things you should ask the seller and check out for yourself. Find out how old the tent-trailer is, if there's any warranty left, and where it's been stored. Some people store them in a large shed or building which is an ideal situation and cuts down on the moisture and mildew that can accumulate on the camper.
Overall, you should look for a camper that's in good condition. Ask how many miles are on the camper and tires, or an estimate. The tires should be in good condition or they'll need to be replaced before you take a trip. Look for wear and tear, cracks, and bald spots. Inspect the canvas or solid siding. Replacing the canvas is costly and probably not and expense you'd wish to incur. Check for tight stitching on the seams and holes and tears in the canvas.
If you're not the fixer-upper type, you may want to buy a new pop-up with a full warranty and forgo the extra labor involved in repairing a used one. Pop-up campers give you great value for your money and give you several advantages over a tent or RV. They're easy to set up and you can unhitch them to free up your vehicle for errands and touring.
Shop around and find a knowledgeable dealer who is interested in selling the right camper for you, not what will make their company the most money. Ask many questions. Discuss and make a list in advance and write down the answers so you can review them at home. You may get different answers to your questions. It doesn't always mean that one dealer is dishonest but it can help you determine which one has your best interests in mind.
Popular brands include Coleman, Starcraft and Forest River (Rockwood) and more. After viewing campers, you may lean towards a specific brand. Consider trying a rental and camping out before you make your final decision. This way, you can learn the pros and cons of the make and model you are planning on buying. If it's not right for you, look for a different model in the same brand or move on to a different brand.
Explore the warranty options that vary between manufactures. Find out what's all covered and for how long, parts and labor. More often than not, they'll offer you additional coverage and benefits. Keep in mind that the dealer should be capable of servicing your camper in a timely manner and have adequate inventory to fix common problems should they arise. Capability of receiving parts quickly is another advantage so ask where they order their parts from.
Don't forget the hitch when factoring in the overall costs. A sturdy, heavy-duty one will cost you nearly $500. Since canvas pop-up campers are lightweight, they weigh considerably less than those with solid walls -- and you may get by spending less money on a hitch. If you're buying a pop-up with solid walls, don't scrimp or you may run into trouble down the road. Your dealer can point you in the right direction.
One last thing, test your pop up camper in your driveway or yard before you take it on a trip. Read the instructions thoroughly and learn how to set it up in advance. The will save you headaches in the long run when your vacation is supposed to be stress-free and relaxing.