Pop Up Camper Vs Tent

When RVing became a major pastime, it was quite normal to see massive RVs roaming up and down the road. Large, luxurious units were the norm and small travel trailers, popup campers were derided. 

Thankfully, as with all things, this trend is changing. RVers today are searching for ways to lower cost and that brings RVs that can offer increased flexibility and minimalistic camping experience to the fore.

Given their small footprints that expand into sufficient room for the essentials, the demand for smaller campers has been increasing.

The popup camper is one of the most popular RV types being used today, so much so that there are two major types, which are the canvas or soft-sided tent and the hard-sided popup camper.

The aim of this article is to compare the two products, the benefits they offer, as well as any differences they share.

A popup camper generally transforms from a flat and short trailer for towing into an A framed or dormered wall when parked. The top of these popup campers is usually made from canvas or material similar to what the trailer is made from.

Both hard-sided and tent popup campers come with benefits that have gained them quite a lot of admirers. What you eventually select typically depends on your unique needs and wants when camping.

Reasons to get a hard-side pop-up camper over a tent camper

The moment you finally get inside a hard-side camper that has been fully expanded, it would be quite difficult to tell that it is a popup.

One of the biggest benefits of this type of camper is that it acts like a regular, full-size trailer. You get an interior that resembles walls when the popup extends as it creates a seamlessly enclosed space.

A tent camper, on the other hand, feels like you are in a tent rather than an actual camper. Certain tent campers prefer to have the whole top part of the unit created from tent material, while others prefer tented dormers and A-frames.


When it comes to longevity, a tent camper cannot achieve the lifespan of the hard-side camper. This is because material made from canvas is not as weather-resistant or durable. It does not matter how much you care for it; it is just not made to last forever. Additionally, changing it can also prove expensive.

Conversely, the extension on a hard-sided camper will most likely not require placing. When you have a camper that can last for a long time without expensive repairs, you stand to save a lot in the future.

Protection and Privacy

A tent camper won’t offer additional protection or privacy over a traditional tent on the ground. Privacy is not really an option and you might think you only should be concerned about your nosy campground mates but critters and animals might discover an opening into the tent while you are out or asleep.

And depending on the campground you go to, you might actually be prohibited from entering as tent campers might not offer you adequate protection from the wildlife. 

That being said animals are not the only living beings that might disturb you. If you have experience RVing, you would know that campgrounds can be quite packed and noisy and when you find yourself next to a raucous party or campers with a new-born, you will end up rueing not having the insulating and thick walls that a hard-side popup camper provides.  

Better insulation

The comfort a hard-side camper provides is much better than what a tent could offer. This means you get better insulation which translates to protection from uncomfortable temperatures and better sleep.

All you have to do is ask those around with tent campers, they will tell you there have been moments when they found dew alongside other elements in their canvas wall. This is something that cannot happen in a hard-side camper, as it would feel like you are in a regular RV.

While it might sound like hard-side popup campers are much more efficient and better than tent campers, there are some drawbacks that have to be pointed out, so that you can make an informed decision.

Reasons to get a tent camper over a hard-side popup camper


When to the price of both camper types, there is a significant price range depending on the brand, amenities, and features you want. That being said, tent campers tend to be more inexpensive compared to hard-side pop-up campers.

While this is a great sign for upfront costs, it is important to know that any savings you make at the point of purchase are likely to be wiped out when you consider the additional maintenance and the possibility of replacement.

Space and storage

While both campers are much smaller than standard RVs, tent campers are able to fit into smaller spaces. This is because a tent camper’s entire body can be closed into a small, and easily towable short trailer as it does not have the A-frame a hard-side camper does.

What this means is that you can seamlessly store your tent camper in a shed, or garage when it is not being used. This helps you manage space if you are short on it. While certain hard-side popup campers have A-frames that can be collapsed, these types tend to not only cost more but are heavier than a similarly sized tent camper.


Given that tent campers have a low profile, they are lightweight and that makes them much easier to tow. Additionally, due to these factors, they can be towed using a larger array of vehicles. It is even possible to tow a tent camper using a car, so long as the camper is light enough.

Should you have a truck, then the weight of your camper is unlikely to make a difference to you, however, if the lightweight of a tent camper means you do not have to purchase a vehicle solely to tow it, then you should consider getting a tent camper.

Special factor

With a hard-side popup camper, you do get comfort which is perfect for sleeping, however, RVers prefer to go with tents as it fits their preference. There is something about spending the night under the stars and that could be one of the reasons why people want to forgo the comforts associated with sleeping in a hard-side popup camper that’s insulated. 


If you are interested in getting either a popup camper or a tent camper and you are put off by the price, you should know that it is possible to purchase a preowned camper.

Doing so is a wonderful way to help cut costs whilst still getting a high quality and reliable unit. Should you decide to go the preowned route, you have to understand that it is imperative to know what you want.

When you know what it is you are searching for, you are unlikely to be swayed by a salesman or a flashy unit. If you do not know the ins and outs of a camper’s mechanics, it is always best to have someone knowledgeable or even a professional to help delve deeper into the camper before you purchase it.

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