What are the BEST pop-up campers???

QQQ

Member
Quicksilver is out of business. Still they have nothing to rot and they will last forever. If ever needed replacement canvas will be available long after all of us are gone. Their production numbers were low but they do show up on craigslist and ebay. I am very surprised that they never caught on with the overlanding crowd. They are very rugged and oosing with potential. I have a 10.0 that i will reluctantly be putting up for sale when the weather and market warms up. If looking at used ones avoid the late 2017 and 2018 models.
Yes, thor ruined livinlite and the quicksilver line of tent campers. In their never ending quest to save a buck they cut so deep even they realized they ruined the product. These scumbags would trade their families for a $0.01 savings on a screw so is anyone really surprised?

typical example of the thor way, they changed the way the frame is welded on the travel trailers and now there is a recall as the a-frame can separate from the trailer on the 2017 and 2018 models. Putting profits before safety is typical thor, everything they make is junk.

I had a 2010 QS 10.0 and now a 2016 21BHS. 2016 was last year for all aluminum, after that everything they made went to sheet. You are safe buying a 2016 or older those were the years the trailers were all aluminum and have pretty much proven to be very reliable.
 

old_CWO

Active member
I wouldn't shy away from a well cared for Coleman Taos. As long as previous owners didn't let the roof get damaged and leak, those are probably one of the better little tent trailer models made. I know that many of them were used in rental fleets and that is certainly "rough service." Parts also seem to be easily available for them still.

Honestly, the negative feedback about the cabinetry in a pop up is a little exaggerated in my opinion. Sure it's crappy, but there's only a galley, dinette and porta potty cabinet, no overheads to contend with. They can all be reinforced quickly and easily with some 1x2s, tite bond glue and a box of good cabinet screws. It's a one Saturday job, seriously.

The horizontal surfaces (galley and table top) are low grade particle board and not the best but perfectly serviceable until damaged. Those tops could be reproduced in marine plywood, furniture plywood, plastic, Corian, etc. when they eventually fail. No biggie.

Maybe weld in a couple frame and tongue gussets here and there, spring over axle conversion, 13" trailer tires and bam, you're ready to go camping.
 

tlin

Adventurer
Yes, thor ruined livinlite and the quicksilver line of tent campers. In their never ending quest to save a buck they cut so deep even they realized they ruined the product. These scumbags would trade their families for a $0.01 savings on a screw so is anyone really surprised?

typical example of the thor way, they changed the way the frame is welded on the travel trailers and now there is a recall as the a-frame can separate from the trailer on the 2017 and 2018 models. Putting profits before safety is typical thor, everything they make is junk.

I had a 2010 QS 10.0 and now a 2016 21BHS. 2016 was last year for all aluminum, after that everything they made went to sheet. You are safe buying a 2016 or older those were the years the trailers were all aluminum and have pretty much proven to be very reliable.
There's a back story here I never would have stumbled across....the 2017/18 details are helpful (wouldn't have known to steer clear otherwise). I've personally only ever known one Thor in my time (great buddy, first couple of years in college, haven't talked in nearly 30 years)....hoping it's not the same guy who went and turned into a turd.
 

QQQ

Member
Thor is the first 2 letters of the last names of the guys who started the company, they actually created it to buy Airstream.

For anyone who thinks airstream is some paragon of quality do some reading on the air forums, how about 2 year old campers with soft floors because of leaks. The thor cheapskates can't even use aluminum flooring in a $50,000 plus camper, yet Scott Tuttle did it in a camper that costs $10,000.

I can't even write about these scumbags without getting pissed off, they are the epitome of greedy cost cutting and screwing over the consumer with shoddy products.
 

tlin

Adventurer
I’m reluctant to mention this because I would like to have it.

https://bundutecusa.com/store/#!/Trekken/p/75026386

With this on top.
https://bundutecusa.com/products-we-offer/roof-top-tents/bundutop/

I have owned their truck campers and have seen this trailer and their tents personally. Great value, excellent build quality, and the best customer service I’ve ever experienced with any company.
Thanks for sharing. Not one I'd personally go after (difficult to picture my wife happily crawling into an enclosed box with me....).
 

windtraveler

Observer
Thanks for sharing. Not one I'd personally go after (difficult to picture my wife happily crawling into an enclosed box with me....).
That’s what the rooftop tent is for. Theirs is a really nice one (as far as rooftop tents go). I’m scared of them because I’d probably break my leg climbing down in the middle of the night to take a piss.
 

JPR4LFE

Adventurer
Beefed-up pop-ups intrigue me, seems like a worthy candidate as I continue to dwell about getting a trailer. If anyone knows, based on experience, of reliable and solid pop-ups, please share your thoughts. A few things I'm specifically interested in:
  • doesn't leak
  • fast to deploy and fast to take down
  • sturdy and long-lasting exterior (won't UV-degrade, no cracks, nothing brittle, made to last)
  • strong frame that doesn't need to be completely re-engineered/re-done
  • decent storage when closed, pop-ups might not offer much here
  • lightweight (I don't have a # in mind)
  • sleeps 4+
I could go on but don't want to unintentionally limit inputs. Bigger wheels, beefy axle (perhaps trailing arm/Dexter), and update the interior and these seem like a decent way go. Excited to get some expert opinions on the topic...

I should have mentioned I'm only after something used - retail/new prices aren't my cup-o-tea.
We have had a Fleetwood cobalt for around 6 years now. It has been a really good fit for us. Great for 4 people. 5 is acceptable for sure, but with the 5th we have decided to upsize a bit. I think the key with pop ups is going in with reasonable expectations, and then you will enjoy them. I originally had intended to upgrade suspension and tire size, but after using it never felt that was needed. Great for forest service roads and rough roads/ two tracks. The wheelbase is short and the lowest point on the frame/suspension is decent in stock form (no pumpkin or shock mounts hanging low like a vehicle would have). I routinely air the tires down when on rugged terrain. In stock form, the trailer will go 10x farther than a standard camper or fifth wheel, which opens up the camping possibilities in the west tremendously, and offer more secluded camping. In stock form I would not take it on truly rated jeep trails, but long rugged tracks have been not problem for us. Screws have needed to be tightened and some rivets replaced though on long rough tracks. On our particular trailer, the roof is aluminum and is not susceptible to UV damage like some late 2000's Colemans, but one may have to reseal the edge sealant if it is dry and cracked. we have never had any leaks with ours, but if improperly cared for leaks can ravage a pup up. Also be wary of campers with a roof AC unit as that can be a place for water to get in and can create weak points in the roof. Deploy time is decent, but the down side is that many of the storage areas (under the bench seats and table area) can only be accessed when popped up, so packing and returning home from a trip you have to be a bit deliberate in your packing in order to reach items without doing a set up. Ours also came with a rack on top so we routinely carry an kayak up there.

Used pop up camper shopping can be painful as you have all of the typical RV problems but also lift mechanisms, bunk slides, and canvas to worry about, so do your due diligence when shopping around. The nice thing about the cobalt is there is only a 5 gallon removable tank with hand pump handle, so there is not a water system or winterizing to worry about. It came factory with trailer brakes, which was a perk when pulling with our Cherokee.

Another note is we live in bear country, so all food is stored in the vehicle, and cooking is done outside away from the canvas. We do eat inside in inclement weather.

Overall, pop ups are not a mass appeal kind of trailer. For the RV crowd, they offer less security/noise dampening when in a more populated setting and are overall less convenient. for the expedition crowd gone weeks or months at a time they do not offer the ruggedness or durability needed for extended offroad travel. But for those of us in between that are weekend warriors or week long trips into remote places they can be a good fit. We recently upgraded to a larger camper and were looking at the more offroad marketed travel trailer, but came full circle with a larger pop up with a small toy deck on the front.
 

Attachments

Recommended books for Overlanding

Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World
by Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman
From $17
Morocco Overland: A Route & Planning Guide - Southern Mor...
by Chris Scott
From $29.95
Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around ...
by Elspeth Beard
From $19.95

tlin

Adventurer
We have had a Fleetwood cobalt for around 6 years now. It has been a really good fit for us. Great for 4 people. 5 is acceptable for sure, but with the 5th we have decided to upsize a bit. I think the key with pop ups is going in with reasonable expectations, and then you will enjoy them. I originally had intended to upgrade suspension and tire size, but after using it never felt that was needed. Great for forest service roads and rough roads/ two tracks. The wheelbase is short and the lowest point on the frame/suspension is decent in stock form (no pumpkin or shock mounts hanging low like a vehicle would have). I routinely air the tires down when on rugged terrain. In stock form, the trailer will go 10x farther than a standard camper or fifth wheel, which opens up the camping possibilities in the west tremendously, and offer more secluded camping. In stock form I would not take it on truly rated jeep trails, but long rugged tracks have been not problem for us. Screws have needed to be tightened and some rivets replaced though on long rough tracks. On our particular trailer, the roof is aluminum and is not susceptible to UV damage like some late 2000's Colemans, but one may have to reseal the edge sealant if it is dry and cracked. we have never had any leaks with ours, but if improperly cared for leaks can ravage a pup up. Also be wary of campers with a roof AC unit as that can be a place for water to get in and can create weak points in the roof. Deploy time is decent, but the down side is that many of the storage areas (under the bench seats and table area) can only be accessed when popped up, so packing and returning home from a trip you have to be a bit deliberate in your packing in order to reach items without doing a set up. Ours also came with a rack on top so we routinely carry an kayak up there.

Used pop up camper shopping can be painful as you have all of the typical RV problems but also lift mechanisms, bunk slides, and canvas to worry about, so do your due diligence when shopping around. The nice thing about the cobalt is there is only a 5 gallon removable tank with hand pump handle, so there is not a water system or winterizing to worry about. It came factory with trailer brakes, which was a perk when pulling with our Cherokee.

Another note is we live in bear country, so all food is stored in the vehicle, and cooking is done outside away from the canvas. We do eat inside in inclement weather.

Overall, pop ups are not a mass appeal kind of trailer. For the RV crowd, they offer less security/noise dampening when in a more populated setting and are overall less convenient. for the expedition crowd gone weeks or months at a time they do not offer the ruggedness or durability needed for extended offroad travel. But for those of us in between that are weekend warriors or week long trips into remote places they can be a good fit. We recently upgraded to a larger camper and were looking at the more offroad marketed travel trailer, but came full circle with a larger pop up with a small toy deck on the front.
Some really good feedback there - "reasonable expectations", due diligence items to pay particular attention to, WHO these trailers are probably best suited for, etc. As much as I'd like to think I lean towards the harder-core offroad crowd, reality is that I get to camp less and less as time goes on and just getting in a forest recently has been good enough for me (and a beefed-up popup should be just fine).
Thanks for the pics, always good to see!
 

old_CWO

Active member
...the down side is that many of the storage areas (under the bench seats and table area) can only be accessed when popped up, so packing and returning home from a trip you have to be a bit deliberate in your packing in order to reach items without doing a set up.
Well written and reasoned post.

I struggled with the same situation you describe above in a pop up we used to own. I solved for this by adding RV baggage doors on the sides to access the under dinette storage. For us that was a game changer. The other frustration was access to the refrigerator when folded, very few floor plans allow for it. With current technology, I would absolutely remove the RV gas absorption refrigerator (if equipped) and use a modern 12V portable fridge instead.
 

tlin

Adventurer
I can't even write about these scumbags without getting pissed off, they are the epitome of greedy cost cutting and screwing over the consumer with shoddy products.
I've seen my share of intense focus on profit above all else also in the software world (I've helped out with a LOT of M&A over the years). New business owners generally look at P&L statements on a daily basis and want rapid returns on their investments oftentimes at the expense of the quality, reputation, people, etc. that originally built the entity they procured. Your frustration, unfortunately, speaks to systemic issues with capitalism as a whole which doesn't regularly think "customers first". I hear ya' loud and clear.

Back to feedback about good pop-ups! :)
 

CampStewart

Observer
Any popup camper would be vastly improved if all the factory internal furnishings were gutted. Get rid of all that stuff and get tons more room for cargo and things you need.
 

JPR4LFE

Adventurer
Some really good feedback there - "reasonable expectations", due diligence items to pay particular attention to, WHO these trailers are probably best suited for, etc. As much as I'd like to think I lean towards the harder-core offroad crowd, reality is that I get to camp less and less as time goes on and just getting in a forest recently has been good enough for me (and a beefed-up popup should be just fine).
Thanks for the pics, always good to see!
Yeah, when you think about offroading, you have to decide if you are fine with a basecamp, then exploring approach or if you want/need to take the camping gear with you on the hardcore parts. You can get pretty far off the beaten path to some pretty remote places with a pop up, but then do your wheeling from there. That has typically been our approach. The non offroad crowd is usually pretty surprised to see where we manage to get our pop up to, and for us I am not sure that a dedicated expedition grade trailer would change that style of camping for us very much. For the rest of the time I have set up the topper of my Power Wagon with a sleeping platform for the 'boys' trips...

Well written and reasoned post.

I struggled with the same situation you describe above in a pop up we used to own. I solved for this by adding RV baggage doors on the sides to access the under dinette storage. For us that was a game changer. The other frustration was access to the refrigerator when folded, very few floor plans allow for it. With current technology, I would absolutely remove the RV gas absorption refrigerator (if equipped) and use a modern 12V portable fridge instead.
The baggage doors are something I hadn't thought of but would be helpful. The fridge not being accessible when down would be very frustrating. Our cobalt did not have a fridge so I never had to worry about that, but we routinely camp in griz country and I am too paranoid to use a fridge in a pop up anyways. All cold food goes in a bear rated cooler and locked to a tree away from camp. For our new camper I envision we may keep water in the fridge to keep chilled and on road trips to say the desert or the coast we will be using it more.
 
Top