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Everything You Need to Know About Towing a Pop-up Camper

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Pop-up campers are amazingly compact and easy to tow. However, you do need to ensure that your vehicle is capable of towing a pop-up camper and you need to learn to some basic towing skills. We cover everything you need to know about towing a pop-up to get you on the road safely.

Pop-up campers, also known as fold-out campers or tent trailers, are collapsible camping trailers that you can tow behind a vehicle. These are some of the lightest RVs available, due to the partial canvas construction.

Instead of having a hard time towing a massive, heavy trailer, a pop-up camper can be folded into a small, more compact package that’s lightweight and easier to tow. Furthermore, you can even use a small vehicle to bring it around with your travels!

Is it Hard to Tow a Pop-up Camper?

In general, towing a pop-up camper is easy due to its size, weight and height. Pop-ups can be towed by a car or small SUV. You can easily see over it in the rearview mirror since the trailer folds down to 4-5 feet.

Most pop-up campers are very lightweight and will easily be under the towing capacity of many small SUVs and trucks.

You do need a suitable tow package and electrical connection. I recommend that you check with your mechanic to make sure your vehicle is set up to tow. Once you’re done, you can always practice driving around your neighborhood, or you could go to a large empty parking lot to practice parking and braking.

There are also a few remote backup cameras that could help you when towing your pop-up camper. These cameras, some of which you can connect to your mobile device or your dash, can be extremely helpful if attached to the back of your trailer. This way, you can see what is behind you with ease.

How Much Does a Pop-up Camper Weigh?

The weight of a pop-up camper can vary, depending on its size and usefulness. Just like other trailers, pop-up campers have many weight categories. There are small, medium, and large options.

Generally, a pop-up camper weighs between 1,200 to 2,800 lbs with an average of about 2,400 pounds. Ultralight Sylvan Sport pop-up campers can weigh as little as 840 lbs., while large campers can reach up to 4,500 lbs. of weight.

The weight could also depend on the material of the camper. Pop-ups come with different materials such as soft or hard walls, fiberglass, or plastic roofs.

It is best to know more about a camper’s weight listing and what it means. The (GVWR) Gross Vehicle Weight Ratio is how much your vehicle can carry, including its weight of hitch and carrying capacity.

Another is the Gross Axle Weight Rating, which is the maximum weight a trailer’s axles can safely offer support. The rating includes water, gear, and the weight of the camper.

The Unloaded Vehicle Weight is the weight of the camper when it reaches the manufacturer with a full fuel tank. Essentially, this is the lightest your pop-up camper is going to reach before being loaded with equipment. Lastly, the Cargo Carrying Capacity is the amount of necessities you can pack in the camper.

Can a Car, SUV, or Minivan Tow a Pop-up Camper?

CLShebley – stock.adobe.com

Yes! A car, minivan or other small vehicle can pull a pop-up camper without any problems.

Many small SUVs, larger cars and minivans have a hitch and tow ratings high enough pull a popup camper that weighs 2,400 pounds. For example, the tow rating for many small SUVs and minivans is between 2,300 and 3,500 pounds. A small car can tow 1,000 pounds.

For reference, a 2023 Dodge Challenger has a towing capacity of 1,000 lbs., while a 2023 Subaru Outback can have up to a 3,500 lb. capacity. On the other hand, bigger cars such as the 2023 Land Rover Range Rover has a towing capacity of up to 8,200 lbs. The 2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Big Sport Utility has 8,400 lbs. towing capacity.

Always, always consult your owner’s manual to know more about the towing capacity of your vehicle. You should also know your vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) to include the passengers and luggage. No matter the towing capacity of your vehicle, you must stick within your GVWR. I would also recommend that you do not exceed 80% of the towing capacity for your safety, especially if you are traveling over mountains and at altitude.

What Kind of Hitch Does a Pop-up Camper Use?

First things first: A pop-up camper hitch is a part that connects your camper to the towing vehicle. There are many hitch types and designs that are made for a variety of rigs. These also come in different weight classes, with the lightest ones suitable for pop-ups.

Types of Hitches for a pop-up camper:

Bumper Hitch

Bumper hitches go over your towing vehicle’s bumper. The most distinguishing characteristic this hitch has is its square receiver tube. This type is recommended for lighter vehicles, making it perfect for your pop-up camper.

Weight-Distribution Hitch

The weight-distribution hitch is more common for larger trailers but it can be useful with a pop-up camper. This is considered a rear hitch, meaning it will attach to your towing vehicle’s back. This hitch is designed to control the weight of your towing setup and move the center of gravity towards the middle of the tow vehicle.

Other Types of Hitches You do Not Need:

Pintle Hitch

This type has two parts: the lunette and the pintle. The lunette is the thick metal ring, while the pintle resembles a metal wrench. You should hook up your pintle to the truck before attaching the lunette. This type of hitch is usually used when towing a commercial-grade vehicle.

Gooseneck Hitch

This hitch looks like a long, lean metal apparatus. You will never use a gooseneck hitch for your pop-up camper since this hitch is designed for trucks and towing vehicles of up to 30,000 lbs.

Fifth-wheel Hitch

This is a shorter and squatter hitch compared to all hitch types. Its function is very close to a gooseneck hitch, so you won’t be needing this type for your pop-up camper. Despite its small size, fifth-wheel hitches can pull 24,000 lbs.

What Hitch Class Do I Need for a Pop-up Camper?

There are four primary hitch classes as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Each class has a maximum amount of weight that it can tow in addition to a maximum tongue weight – which is the downward pressure that a towed load exerts on the hitch. 

ClassHitch WeightMaximum Towing Weight
Class I100–200 lbs.1,000–2,000 lbs.
Class II250–350 lbs.2,500–3,500 lbs.
Class III350–500 lbs.3,500–5,000 lbs.
Class IV> 500 lbs.7,500–10,000 lbs.

If your trailer weighs in at under 2,000 lbs., then you’ll probably be fine with a Class I hitch. However, it wouldn’t hurt to opt for a higher class hitch in case you might be interested in upgrading in the future.

Do Hitches Come with Different Ball Sizes?

The hitch ball has four measurements: the ball diameter, shank length, shank diameter, and shank rise.

Hitches have four different dimensions: 1-7/8, 2, 2-5/16, and 3 inches. They also come in various shank sizes, ranging from 3/4 inches to 2 inches in diameter. For shank diameters, the most common ones range between 3/4 inches and 1-1/4 inches.

Depending on your ball size, weight capacities for trailer hitch balls could range from 2,000 lbs. to 3,000 lbs. Each size is also designed to handle different kinds of trailers and towing appliances.

You can review your camper’s frame, tongue, or coupler to know your trailer’s ball size. If you plan to use a hitch ball with your setup, I recommend making sure it is within the recommended weight capacity and diameter.

Do I Need a Weight-distribution Hitch for a Pop-up Camper?

In general, you won’t need a weight-distribution hitch for a pop-up. However, if you want to use a lightweight stabilizing and distribution hitch it may make towing a pop-up smoother if you are using a small vehicle.

If you plan to tow a small or lightweight pop-up camper, it is unlikely that you would need to use this hitch. However, if you want to bring a bigger rig, I suggest that you look into your weight-distribution hitch options.

This hitch type is a required piece of equipment when you’re towing heavy loads. It should also be considered when the fully loaded and ready-to-tow trailer weight is greater than 50 percent of the tow vehicle’s weight.

Renting a Pop-up Camper

If you are ready to rent a pop-up camper in 2023, we found some good deals for you. But if you are looking to buy one, you can scroll down for more tips.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Pop-up Camper

Tony – stock.adobe.com

Here are some things I would like to share before buying or renting a pop-up camper:

Pop-ups get hot in the sun.

You can sit under the awning to avoid the heat of the sun, but it is a different matter when spending time inside the pop-up camper itself. Many campers are made of wood or metal, and the material is pretty thin. If you’re planning to go camping in the heat of springtime or summer, you will start sweating fast. There are workarounds, but you’ll have to read on.

After a rain, the canvas and awnings must be dried.

The rain presents another problem for pop-up campers. Your awning will definitely get soaked through. One way to prevent this is to refrain from sitting under the awning if you know it’s going to rain. Second, make the awning as compressed as possible, so it doesn’t get too wet. If it gets wet, you would have to leave it open and let it be until it airs out.

The same can be said for your actual camper. Some water might get into your camper, but this depends on your window setting. It is best to take refuge from the rain if you can. You can park your trailer under the cover of a building or garage until the rain passes.

If you don’t air out your wet camper, mold and mildew could sprout up, which could potentially ruin your camper for good.

There’s not much room to live in.

Of course, you can plan extensive road trips with a pop-up trailer! However, don’t expect to get too much room to stretch out. Even the biggest trailer could feel a bit squished because of the attachments. This is why many pop-up camper owners try to park on campsites and spend their evenings in tents.

Heating and air conditioning are available.

I did mention earlier that the trailer can get hot. It is the same in cold environments—the trailer’s materials are too thin to provide proper insulation. Luckily for you, it is possible to rig up your trailer with both heating and air conditioning. These units should be as compact as possible to avoid taking up too much space and weight.

There are other alternatives so you won’t have to worry much about the space. A portable space heater is great for cold weather, while a small, plug-in oscillating fan can provide some cool air during summertime.

The more collapsible the items, the better.

If you really want to go on road trips with just your camper, I suggest you start thinking “collapsible” while buying items and gears to bring along. These collapsible items include seats, pop-up tables, beds that may fold up or push up, or a mini-fridge that can double as a storage space.

You will have to be very creative with the space if you want basic amenities in a small pop-up camper. And you may have to make the hard decision of leaving some things at home. You have to be discerning. If something is more crucial to bring along than what you want, you have to make sacrifices.

You should enjoy the experience.

Above all else, you should enjoy the experience of owning and using a pop-up camper. Sure, you will be doing a lot of work. From budgeting to researching to remodeling, you will put your heart and soul into your camper.

I’m here to tell you that the outdoor trips, great bonding experiences, and incredible memories will make the work all the more worth it.

Everything You Need to Know About Towing a Pop-up Camper

Final Thoughts on Towing a Pop-up Camper

A pop-up camper is a perfect choice for those who want to try out the RV lifestyle but are not quite sure if they are ready to commit to it. No matter what you choose, you are surely going to have a great time with it!

When it comes to towing a pop-up camper, it is pretty simple as these campers are generally light. As long as you make sure to check your vehicle’s towing capacity and ensure that you do not overload your camper, you will have safe and smooth travels. 

Inspired to go camping? Check out this RV Camper Trailer Preparation Journal, and other resources from my Etsy Store, to make your next trip plans easy!

For more additional reading, do check out these resources for your camper:

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    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

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    1. Thanks for the useful info. Hubby and 2 fur babies are off next Spring/Fall for a month long trek with our new 2022 outback. We will be pulling a pop up. Never did before. I found the weight info most helpful. But curious question how do we weigh our gear and. Our vehicle will haul 2700 lbs. Does that include us and dogs in the vehicle?

      1. You need to know a couple of different numbers. GVWR is the maximum weight capacity of a vehicle (+all the people and gear inside the vehicle) without the trailer. The towing capacity is the weight of a trailer loaded with all your gear. You can estimate the weight of your gear and water. If you want an exact weight you can use a scale at a truck stop or a trucking company.

    2. I bought a used Pop Up Camper and there’s no sticker anywhere on it with all the info anymore. I did however find the Owners Manual and a tray in a drawer. It has about everything BUT the tire size/requirements. GVWR 2,100 Lbs and UVW is 1,433(which is circled). I need to know for sure what sz. tires to buy because the ones on it are dry rotted and I can’t blindly trust that they’re the right ones. Can you advise me?
      Iris B.

      1. The tire size will need to match the rims and should be on the tires. Check the sidewall of the tires and look for the size and rating. Take a photo or write down all the numbers. Then, I suggest calling or going to your local tire shop or RV shop that stocks trailer tires, reading off those numbers to them, and telling them the weight of trailer. They can help you pick the right tires.

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