Is a Hard Side Pop up Camper Better Than a Tent Camper?

1257 shares Are you tired of waking up in a wet tent? That’s the motivation that sends many tent campers to an RV dealership to…

Trailmanor hard side pop up camper exterior.

Are you tired of waking up in a wet tent? That’s the motivation that sends many tent campers to an RV dealership to explore their options. And while many dealerships place their largest and most luxurious campers up front, bigger isn’t always better.

There are distinct advantages to choosing a smaller travel trailer, such as a hard side pop up camper. They’re easier to tow, more straightforward to set up, and much more affordable if you’re buying your first RV. 

With tiny footprints but expandable room for all the essentials, small campers are more in demand than ever. Pop-up campers are the most logical entry point for tent campers to explore the RV lifestyle. 

In this article, we’ll explain the benefits of hard-sided pop-up campers and explore some of the best hard-sided pop-up campers for sale right now.

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What is a hard side pop up camper?

There are two main types of pop-up campers: soft-sided or canvas trailers and hard-sided pop-up campers. All pop-up campers fold up for towing into a short, flat trailer or an A-frame, triangular trailer. The roof, and sometimes dormered walls, lift and expand out to increase the size of the trailer once you park in your campsite. 

These pop-ups on soft-sided campers are made out of a canvas, tent-like material. Hard-sided pop-up campers avoid canvas material by using the same material as the rest of the trailer.

Both styles of pop-up campers have benefits that draw a lot of love from their buyers, but hard-sided pop-up campers generally provide more durability and weather resistance for three-season camping. Beyond that, your unique wants and needs when traveling will determine which is the best option for you.

The Best Hard-sided Pop-up Campers For Sale

Here are our top picks for the best hard-sided pop-up campers:

Forest River Rockwood Hard Side Pop up Campers

Exterior view of Forest River Rockwood hard side pop up trailer.
Photo courtesy of Forest River.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 18’8” to 21’2”
  • Dry Weight: 2,100 to 2,700 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2-4

Rockwood’s line of hard side pop up campers is crafted to feel just as luxurious as the interiors of their standard trailers. When these pop-ups are parked and expanded, they feel like a seamless space; it’s hard to even imagine the walls are movable. 

With sleek leather furnishings, standard RV kitchenettes, and a range of modern finishing options, the Rockwood best hard-sided pop-up camper is everything you could want in a pop up camper.

These campers come in three floorplans, offering an option suitable for couples, small families, and solo travelers. Two of these layouts include an RV toilet, and one even boasts a wet bath with a shower, even in an incredibly small footprint.

Every option has an exterior gas griddle for outdoor cooking, which can further help to maximize usable space in a small-sized camper. Other exterior features include electric brakes, four stabilizing jacks with sand pads, and a fiberglass laminated roof. 

Inside, the Rockwood hard-side campers include a three-burner cooktop, a 12-volt water pump, interior floor lights, and LED ceiling lights. They’re also prepped for a solar installation and include a hot water package with an outside spray port. 

These campers also fold down completely into a short towable box, making them ultra-efficient to travel with and a breeze to store. That makes these campers the perfect compromise between hard-sided pop-ups and tented ones. 

Learn more about the Rockwood hard side pop up campers.

Forest River Flagstaff Hard Side Pop up Campers

Flagstaff hard side pop up camper exterior by Forest River.
Photo courtesy of Forest River.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 18’8” to 21’2”
  • Dry Weight: 2,120 to 2,700 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: 3-4

Forest River knows its travel trailers, and these Flagstaff campers are proof of why they’re the leader in the best hard side pop up campers. With dormers, decks, and flip-up beds, the Flagstaff lineup is incredibly spacious. 

There are three Flagstaff layouts, each of which has some important variations from the next. You can choose exactly where you want to prioritize space.

If you want a hard-sided pop-up camper with bathroom space totally private and separate from the living area, Forest River has a model for that. If you don’t need much kitchen space but want a bed and a collapsible dinette, the other two models are perfect for you.

The best exterior features include solar prep, a durable diamond-plated front cap, and stabilizing jacks with sand pads. Inside, all Forest River Flagstaff camping trailers boast a hanging wardrobe with two shelves, a microwave, and a three-burner cooktop with a cover. 

Some of their optional upgrades for the Flagstaff pop-up campers include a 40-amp portable solar panel and an electric tongue jack. 

Having such a range of features and options means you’ll likely get all the space you need, and none of the space you don’t. When you’re traveling in such tight quarters, having only the space you’ll actually utilize is essential.

Learn more about Forest River hard-sided pop-up campers.

TrailManor Camper 2518 Series Hard Side Pop up Campers

TrailManor 2518 hard sided pop up camper exterior.
Photo courtesy of TrailManor.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 21’6”
  • Dry Weight: ~2,600 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: 4-6

After enthusiastic customer demand, TrailManor has brought back their 2518 series of best hard-sided pop-up campers. Rather than the standard A-frame design with dormers, the 2518 series has totally rethought what a pop-up camper could be. 

Enclosed into the standard short, rectangular trailer, these trailers lift upward completely, doubling into a full-height trailer. Then, the top halves slide apart, doubling the top half of the living area horizontally.

That leaves plenty of space for a king bed, a queen bed, an enclosed bathroom, a dinette, and a kitchenette. You read that right, TrailManor manages to squeeze all that into a short, flat, effortlessly towable box. 

With an abundance of living and sleeping spaces, this unit is perfect for small families looking for the travel trailer experience in an easily stored, towable bundle. Its notable interior features include a dry bath with a cassette toilet and shower, a three-way refrigerator, and a 20,000-BTU Suburban furnace. 

On the exterior, you’ll love the swing hitch that reduces the storage length by two feet. There’s also an outdoor shower, four stabilizing jacks, LED porch lighting, and radial tires with alloy wheels (including the spare). 

Because of the advanced mechanics of this hard-side pop-up camper, they’re a bit more expensive than similar other models, but considering the incredible amount of space you gain from it, it may be well worth it. 

Learn more about the TrailManor.

Aliner Classic Hard Side Pop up Campers

Aliner hard sided pop up camper.
Photo courtesy of Aliner.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 13’ to 18’
  • Dry Weight: 1,180 to ~2,300 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: Up to 6

Aliner credits themselves as the original creators of the A-frame pop-up camper. They’ve come a long way since their founder tinkered together his first prototype in a garage. While virtually every RV maker has jumped on the trend, Aliner has remained one of the biggest and best names on the market. 

They currently offer 10 different models, designed to fill the needs of almost every type of camper. From solo travelers to small families, Aliner has meticulously crafted an entire model of hard-side pop-up camper for your needs. 

Their models are separated into small, medium, and large sizes, with multiple floorplans in each category. No matter which model suits you best, you can expect a long list of features and amenities that come standard on all Aliner campers. This includes things like solar ports, skylights, city water hookups, and alloy wheels. 

Aliner also offers a number of optional trailer upgrades, such as a compact refrigerator, an 11-gallon freshwater tank, and a two-burner cooktop. Their Deluxe package boasts a microwave, a larger refrigerator, hardwood cabinets, and more.

With such tried and true experience making hard-sided pop-up campers, buying an Aliner is a pretty solid bet. They take pride in their customer support and reliance, so you can count on getting a unit that will last and a company that will stand by it if it doesn’t.

Learn more about the Aliner hard sided campers.

Chalet Classic Hard-Sided Pop-up Campers

Chalet Classic Arrowhead hard sided pop up camper exterior view.
Photo courtesy of Chalet.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 15’6”
  • Dry Weight: 1,505 to 1,585 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: Up to three adults

Chalet offers two hard-sided pop-up campers in their Classic line, the Alpine and the Arrowhead. The Alpine features dual dinettes for a huge amount of seating space. Combined with Chalet’s standard panoramic windows, you’ve got a pretty stellar hangout space. With both dinettes collapsing into beds, this camper also sleeps three.

The Arrowhead replaces one of the dinettes with a convertible couch or a permanent bed with storage. 

All Chalet models feature their innovative and patented Power Lift System. This system does all the setup work for you. No push poles or heavy lifting, just a simple push button for instant and effortless setup and teardown.

Especially if you’re moving around a lot, having such an easy pop-up will save you a whole lot of time and effort down the road. 

Learn more about the Chalet.

Chalet LTW Hard-Side Pop-up Camper

Chalet LTW Floorplan
Photo by Chalet Inc.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 12’9”
  • Dry Weight: 990 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: Up to two people

Chalet’s LTW is one of the most compact pop-up campers you’ll find. At less than 1,000 pounds dry weight, you’ll have the freedom to tow it with nearly any compact truck or SUV, but it still boasts a ton more interior living space than a camping tent. 

If you’re nervous about towing, this is the hard-side pop-up camper for you. It’s pre-wired for solar and can be upgraded with Chalet’s TrailBoss off-road package, featuring four-inch raised suspension, 14-inch wheels with off-road tires, heavy-duty stabilizing jacks, and a dual entry step. 

Inside, the dinette easily converts to a 52” x 76” bed to comfortably sleep camping couples. On rainy days, you’ll also be able to cook completely inside with the two-burner propane cooktop and the three cubic-foot refrigerator for your perishable goods. 

This pop-up camper also features an opening roof vent and a three-speed exhaust fan to get rid of cooking fumes and promote airflow. On cooler evenings, you’ll be free to fire up the 16,000-BTU furnace to keep the interior nice and warm. 

The LTW also boasts front and rear skylights for superior stargazing without having to leave the comfort of the trailer. Panoramic windows provide wonderful views during the day and LED porch and docking lights illuminate your campsite after dark.

See the full list of features and amenities of the Chalet LTW pop-up campers.

Chalet XL Hard-Side Pop-up Camper

Chalet XL1930 Floorplan
Photo by Chalet Inc.

Camper Specs

  • Length: 18’7”
  • Dry Weight: 1,995 to 2,165 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2-4

The Chalet XL pop-up camping trailers are available in three unique floorplans, the 1920, 1930, and 1935. All measure the same exterior length, but their dry weights and interior layouts differ slightly. 

What they share in common is a superior luxury for couples or small families. While still being lightweight and incredibly easy to tow, the interiors boast a rare 60” x 80” queen bed, which is difficult to find in a small pop-up camping trailer.

Two of the floorplans feature a permanent queen bed with storage underneath. The third features a rear U-shaped dinette that converts to a queen-sized bed as needed. This third floorplan also features two 46” x 80” bunk beds. 

All of the interiors boast a three-burner cooktop, a compact refrigerator, a furnace, and a dual-basin sink. They’re all pre-wired for an aftermarket solar kit and feature interior and exterior LED lighting. 

The XL floorplans also boast Chalet’s patented Electronic Roof Lift System and up to eight feet of headroom at the center. If you want the option to incorporate a wet bath and front dormer, focus on the 1930 and 1935 floorplans.

See the full list of features and amenities of the Chalet XL pop-up campers.

Forest River Viking and Coachmen Clipper Hybrid Pop-up Campers

Small Viking pop up camper for sale

Camper Specs

  • Length: 12’2” to 19’
  • Dry Weight: 1,459 to 2,840 pounds
  • Sleeping Capacity: 2-6

Coachmen is another huge name in the travel trailer industry, and they stack up there with Forest River for good reason. When it comes to pop-up campers, they’ve mostly stuck to tented trailers.

The Viking and Clipper lineups are still so impressive that we’ve decided to include them in this list, despite not being true hard-sided pop-up campers. They’re more like hybrids, but might still fit your camping needs. 

With these campers, you’ll likely end up getting a bit more space for your buck, though as we’ve outlined above, tent campers come with their own list of drawbacks. 

Both the Clipper and Viking lineups come in a range of layouts and floor plans, featuring various interesting and unique shapes, pop-out styles, and footprints.

These lineups offer smaller units than any others on our list, so if you’re just looking for a place to rest up at night without the bells and whistles of bathroom and kitchenettes, this might be a more appropriate option for you. 

The bunk-style tent beds also are a great space saver and you’ll find the interiors can be a bit more spacious with the sleeping area taking up its own separate footprint.

Some small campers also really love the feeling of sleeping in a tented bunk bed, and you’ll definitely get much closer to nature sleeping in that versus a hard-side pop-up camper. 

Explore Viking folding camper models.

Then compare them to the Clipper pop-up tent campers.

Hard-Sided Pop-up Campers versus Canvas Tent Campers

Spacious Flagstaff hard side pop up camper interior with dinette, counter space and sink.
Photo courtesty of Forest River.

Choosing between a hard-sided and a soft-sided tent camper can be tough. Here are the main benefits of the best hard side pop up campers.

They feel like a travel trailer

When you step into an expanded hard-side pop-up camper, you might not realize you’re in a pop-up. The biggest benefit of a hard-side pop-up camper is precisely this, it feels like a full-size travel trailer.

With a tent camper, the canvas pop-outs feel much more like standing in a tent than a true camper. Some tent campers have a hard A-frame and only tented dormers, while others manufacture the entire upper half of the extended unit using tent material. 

They will outlast a tent camper

The canvas material used in the construction of most tent campers isn’t as durable or weather-resistant as the fiberglass or composite materials used in hard-side campers. Even if you put in the extra care it requires, canvas tent fabric won’t last forever, and replacing it might be more expensive than you’d think. 

The extensions on hard-sided pop-up campers will probably never require replacing unless you’re in an accident or you don’t properly cover your trailer when it’s in storage.

You’ll get more privacy

A tent camper’s walls don’t offer any more privacy or protection than a standard ground tent. Privacy isn’t just from noisy campsite neighbors, but animals and critters that might smell snacks and try to find their way through your tent walls.

Some campsites actually prohibit soft-sided campers in an attempt to protect the wildlife, and with a tent camper, you might find yourself restricted. But animals aren’t the only creatures that might bother you at a campsite.

Every camper is all too familiar with noisy, packed campgrounds. When you’re next to a particularly raucous party group or a newborn still learning to sleep through the night, the thick, insulating walls of a hard-side camper can mean the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep and a cranky morning. 

You’ll stay warmer and drier

The comfort of a hard-sided pop-up camper is also generally going to be better than a tent. Better insulation means more comfortable sleeping temperatures and protection from the elements.

Owners of tent campers often find dew and other elements that manage to seep their way into the canvas walls. With a hard-side pop-up camper, you’re going to feel like you’re sleeping in a traditional RV, and many even boast a propane furnace for additional heat on especially cold nights.

The Drawbacks of Hard-sided Pop-up Campers

View out the window of a Chalet hard sided pop up camper.
Photo courtesy of Chalet.

While hard-sided pop-up campers might seem too good to be true, we have to point out some of their drawbacks, too.

They are more expensive than canvas tent trailers and ground tents

There’s a pretty big price range for both types of campers, but across the board, tent campers are more affordable than hard-sided pop-up campers. They’re only cheaper upfront, though, and with the added maintenance and potential need for replacement, hard sided campers are cheaper to upkeep.

Hard-side campers are also much more expensive than your standard ground tent. However, it’s not really a fair comparison. If you’re tired of sleeping on the ground or waking up in a wet tent, you’re already starting to lean towards investing in a hard-side pop-up camper. 

They’re larger than tent campers

Tent campers can close up into much smaller spaces. The entire body of a tent camper can close down into a short, small, easily towable trailer. Without the tall A-frame of a hard-side pop-up camper, a tent camper is much easier to tow and store.

Being able to keep your trailer in a garage or even a shed when it’s not in use can be hugely helpful if you’re tight on space.

Some hard sided campers also have collapsible A-Frames, but they tend to be heavier and more expensive than a comparable tent camper. 

Still, check the dimensions of the specific models you’re interested in. Many can collapse to be small enough to fit inside a standard residential garage. And because of their lower height when collapsed, they’re much easier to build an open-air shed over to keep them protected from the elements.

They’re heavier than tent campers

Not only are tent campers easier to tow because of the lower profile, but they’re also much more lightweight. That doesn’t just make them easier to tow, it makes them able to be towed by a wider range of vehicles. Even some sedans can tow a small travel trailer if it’s lightweight enough.

If you have a pickup truck, this probably won’t matter to you much, but if a lighter-weight trailer means you don’t have to buy a towing vehicle, it might be worth it to size down. 

You’ll lose that tent camping feel

While hard-sided pop-up campers are generally more comfortable for sleeping, some travelers actually prefer tent pop-ups.

There’s something special about sleeping in a tent, and some people enjoy the closeness to nature thin tent walls offer more than the comforts of sleeping in an insulated room.

TrailManor pop up camper interior with bed and dinette.
Photo courtesy of TrailManor.

Conclusion on the Best Hard Side Pop up Campers

Hard-sided pop-up campers are an amazing way for just about anybody to pack up and hit the road on an adventure. Without being limited by a large footprint or huge, inefficient towing vehicle, the possibilities are all but endless.

If you’re still dubious about fitting into such a small space, go check some out and see how you feel. Most people are pleasantly surprised when they actually step into an expanded hard-side pop-up camper by how spacious and sturdy they feel. You might find yourself surprised, too. 

Hopefully, our list of the best hard-sided pop-up campers has helped you get a good start on the search for your perfect pop-up trailer.

If you’ve still got some questions, or you’re looking for something you haven’t quite found in this article, let us know in the comments. We’ll do our best to answer any questions you’ve got and help you find the perfect mobile getaway.

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  1. Pingback: 7 must-see pop-up campers of 2020 for a family adventure
  2. Pingback: The Cutest A-Frame Campers of 2020 - The Wayward Home
  3. Pingback: 10 best off-road campers of 2020 - The Wayward Home
  4. A couple of the them look very similar to others that are in your article… ?

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