Heading into the outdoors doesn’t mean you have to leave all of life’s amenities behind. Recreational vehicles (RVs) allow you to take many of your belongings along with you, as well as offer luxuries like a kitchen, bathroom, and shower. Full-sized RVs can be expensive and large trailers can require a huge truck to tow - however pop-up campers offer a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to achieve the best of RV living. Even better, pop up camper rental options are available online giving you the option to rent for a few days or a few months so you easily can hit the road for your next adventure.
What are Pop Up Campers?
Pop up campers are often lumped in with the broader category of RVs, but there are a number of differences between pop up campers and fifth wheels or motor homes. While motor homes combine a truck with a living space all in a single vehicle, both pop up campers and fifth wheels are designed to be towed behind a truck.
Fifth wheels can be quite large and typically require a heavy-duty truck -not your standard pickup – to tow them safely. Pop up campers are more suitable for towing by standard pickup trucks and large SUVs since they are the smallest and most lightweight type of RV trailers. Pop up trailers are suitable for renting or buying to use with your family vehicle, without the added expense of investing in a larger truck.
Although their smaller size means that pop up campers sacrifice a significant amount of living space and amenities compared to fifth wheels and motor homes, these trailers still offer plenty of home comforts while living on the road.
They are designed with expandable wings on either end that can be collapsed down during towing to reduce the footprint of the trailer and then folded out to increase the size of the trailer when camping. These wings are typically made of canvas, reducing the overall weight of the trailer and making them more flexible for folding up and down, and are designed to expand the length of the trailer up to more than 20 feet to provide additional space for sitting and sleeping. The number of people that a pop up camper can sleep depends on the exact model, but stated capacities range from four to eight people.
The main room of pop up campers can vary in amenities but includes the basic features you would find in a fifth wheel or motor home. Almost every pop up camper is centered around a foldable dinette table, which can usually be converted into a bed to sleep another one or two people at night.
They feature an onboard water tank and 12V DC electrical system for powering appliances, which can include an onboard refrigerator and freezer, a microwave, and a rooftop air conditioning system. Most pop up campers also offer an electric or propane-fueled stove for cooking, so you won’t have to worry about limiting your meals to what you can cook over a campfire. High-end pop up campers also offer an indoor or outdoor shower, although this requires significantly larger onboard water and wastewater tanks.
Is a pop up camper a better choice than other types of trailers for your next vacation?
The answer depends on your budget, your vehicle, and the luxuries you’re interested in. Pop up campers are perfect if you want to use your family vehicle for your trip and don’t have the power required to tow a fifth wheel, or if you plan to drive down narrow, twisting roads that would be difficult to navigate with a longer trailer. Pop up campers are also significantly less expensive to rent than other types of trailers and towing a lighter trailer will cost you less in gas.
On the other hand, keep in mind that even the most luxurious pop-up campers can’t compete with fifth wheels and motor homes on amenities. The canopy wings of most pop up campers are thin on insulation, so these trailers can get quite chilly to sleep in during shoulder season weather and aren’t suitable for winter in most areas. If you plan on filling your car and the pop up camper to capacity with people, it’s also important to be aware that these trailers offer very little storage space when they are folded up for travel. In addition, even pop up campers that offer toilets and showers (and many do not) are rarely designed with enclosed bathrooms to provide privacy.
Altogether, the balance of small size, budget-friendliness, and amenities that pop up campers offer make renting one of these trailers a great option for week- to month-long road trips during the summer season.
6 Things to Consider For Your Pop Up Camper Rental
Once you’ve decided to pursue a pop up camper rental over a fifth wheel or a motor home for your next big road trip, there are a number of other things you need to consider to make sure that you’ll have a good experience.
1) Size Requirements
The answer to this question is more complicated than simply adding up the number of people you’ll be bringing along in your car, although that’s an important baseline factor. You also need to be able to tow the trailer with your car, which means ensuring that the pop up camper weight does not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle. If you have a small vehicle (which itself needs to be outfitted with a towing hitch), you may need to sacrifice on some amenities to find a light enough trailer – extra-large water tanks, large refrigerators, and extra space all add weight to pop up campers.
2) Budget Constraints
You also need to consider your budget for your trip. The rental cost only is only a portion of the total costs to consider. It is well worth checking how much trailers of different weights will affect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, since fuel costs can add up quickly over the course of a long road trip – especially when gas prices are high during the summer vacation season.
Also have an idea of how much camping along your route will cost. Many campgrounds charge significantly more for staying with a trailer than without one. In addition, many RV parks charge according to the length of your trailer.
3) Be Sure to Check Your Insurance
You’ll also want to factor insurance into your trip budget when renting a pop up camper. Your standard vehicle insurance won’t cover damage to the pop up camper in case of an accident, and even your current insurance may have restrictions on the damage they will cover if you are towing a trailer. There are a variety of companies that offer insurance specifically for RV rentals and cover the full gamut of potential damages, including car accidents and theft.
In addition, it may be worth paying extra for a damage policy that covers damage to the interior of the pop up camper and to any of the included appliances. This is especially important if you’ll be bringing kids or pets on your trip and can make a huge difference in your ability to relax and enjoy the trip rather than worry about the trailer.
4) Roadside Assistance May be Worth it
You can also add roadside assistance with many pop up camper rental insurance policies. This additional coverage can save you a ton of money in case of a flat tire, dead battery, or other issues with your vehicle or the trailer that requires you to be towed to the local mechanic – even in the middle of the night since most policies provide 24/7 assistance.
Many roadside assistance policies come with technical assistance over the phone, which can be a big help if you are a first-time RV renter unfamiliar with the electrical grid or unsure how to change out the water tanks.
5) Travel Insurance
One additional insurance policy that is strongly worth considering is travel insurance. Travel insurance policies broadly cover the irrecoverable costs of your trip – like a non-refundable RV rental charge – In case something goes wrong before or during your trip.
This protects against things like medical emergencies and road and national park closures that derail your plans. Plus, many trip insurance policies offer medical and life insurance benefits so that you have coverage and peace of mind in case anything unexpected happens when traveling outside the bounds of your normal health insurance policy.
6) Key Amenities
If you still have money left in your budget and weight to add to your vehicle after considering everything else, you can think about the most fun part of a pop up camper – what amenities it comes with.
For most people, the most important features of a pop up camper besides sleeping space are a refrigerator and stove so that you can bring fresh food far off the beaten path and cook that food without having to build up a campfire every night. If you’ll be travelling in a particularly hot or humid part of the country during the summer, it’s also worth putting a rooftop air conditioning unit high on your wish list of features.
Before opting for a pop up camper with a toilet and shower, consider whether you’ll have access to RV hookups relatively frequently during your trip so that you can change out the water in your tanks.
Where to Find Your Perfect Pop Up Camper Rental
Now that you know everything you need about choosing a pop up camper for your next road trip, you need to find one! There are several online RV sharing sites that make finding a pop up camper rental anywhere in the US easy. In addition, we’ve highlighted top traditional RV rental outfitters for popular destinations across the country.
Outdoorsy doesn’t work like a rental car website, comparing prices across a variety of RV rental sites for a given destination. Instead, it’s a marketplace similar to Airbnb, in which RV owners can list their RVs when they are not using them and offer them up to fellow road trippers to rent. This makes it extremely easy to find an affordable pop up camper near your town and gives you a huge variety of options when it comes to finding a trailer with the right weight, capacity, and features for your needs.
Outdoorsy’s search is based primarily on pickup location and travel dates, but the search filters allow you to narrow your search to only specific types of RVs – like pop up trailers – as well as to filter by price, amenities, and even kitchen appliances. Every listing includes multiple photos of the RV and a detailed description from the owner so that you can get a sense of whether it will offer everything you want for your trip.
Prices are listed as per night and can vary widely, so it is possible to find a trailer for nearly every budget. However, note that many rentals come with daily mileage limits and you will be charged per mile for exceeding these allowances. In addition, Outdoorsy charges a 10% fee based on the reservation cost.
Also be sure to keep an eye on the cancellation policy, which is set by the owner, when choosing a pop up camper. Flexible policies allow you to cancel with a full refund up to five days before your trip or with a 75% refund up until your trip. Moderate policies allow you to cancel your rental up to seven days before your trip for a 75% refund or up until your trip for a 50% refund. Strict policies mean that reservations can only be canceled up to 14 days before your trip and only for a 50% refund.
One of the best things about Outdoorsy is that it not only streamlines the process of renting a pop up camper and makes the transaction safe for both the owner and the renter, but also includes insurance to protect your trip. All Outdoorsy rentals come with $250,000 in comprehensive collision damage insurance as well as $1 million in liability insurance – note that the deductible is $1,500. In addition, Outdoorsy offers plans to protect against non-collision damage and damage to the interior of the pop up camper for an additional daily fee, as well as options for emergency roadside assistance and trip insurance.
RVShare is similar to Outdoorsy in that it connects RV owners with renters in an online sharing marketplace. However, there are a number of differences in how RVShare operates that are important if you have rented with Outdoorsy in the past or are directly comparing prices between the two networks.
First, RVShare includes rentals from both individual owners and RV dealers – the latter of which can be more comfortable to deal with if you are not used to renting from someone who you don’t know and isn’t an established business. However, unlike on Outdoorsy, owners have an unlimited amount of time to respond to rental requests from users.
This means that the response rate on RVShare tends to be significantly slower, and many owners still have trailers listed that they no longer wish to rent out. RVShare also tends to be more limited in the options available for rental in remote cities, although you might get lucky if you cannot find a pop up camper at your desired pickup location on Outdoorsy.
That said, RVShare has a major advantage over Outdoorsy – the site offers 24/7 roadside assistance with every rental, including free tire change service and free towing, in addition to collision insurance. The insurance covers up to $200,000 worth of damage to the RV from a collision with a $1,500 deductible and up to $500,000 in liability, although owners can opt to increase the liability coverage to $1 million for an added fee.
There is also a “peace of mind guarantee” worth up to $10,000 when booking through RVShare’s payment system.
Cancellation policies on RVShare vary more than on Outdoorsy since they are set by the owner and there is no similar tier system for cancellation policies. However, cancellation policies tend to be relatively understanding that plans change.
If you plan to rent pop up campers repeatedly in the future – for example, if you have a series of road trips in the works – the cash back program that RVShare offers can also be a major advantage. The company offers a 5% discount to repeat customers.
Rent a Pop Up Camper Before You Buy One!
Renting a pop up camper is one of the best ways to bring the amenities of an RV along on your next road trip while using your standard family vehicle. These lightweight trailers are extremely manageable for first-time RV users as well as inexpensive. Plus, the network of online marketplaces for renting pop up campers as well as a host of established RV rental companies throughout the US makes it easy to find the right pop up camper for your adventure.
Local Market RV Rentals
If you prefer to rent a pop up camper directly from an RV rental company, there are options available in almost every major destination across the US. Check out the best RV rental companies across the country to see what is available in your neck of the woods!