What are the BEST pop-up campers???

QQQ

Member
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! :)
Personally I wouldn't go as far to say that capitalism in general is to blame as there are a lot of very good companies out there that do build quality trailers, care about the customer and the value their product offers.

It really burns me that thor ruined livin lite, they were great campers. If I ever sell the 21BHS it will be an Oliver or a VMI for me :)

As far as my opinion as to the "best" pop up camper? if we are referring to conventional pop up campers with a hard roof and tent ends I've got nothing. These camper in general were built to a price point and any one of them is going to require quite a bit of upgrading if it is to survive in an off-road setting.
 

kennedyma

New member
We got a 2005 Jayco Baja 10z late last fall and love it so far. Granted we only have one trip in it but it seems be fit what you are looking for.

Check out the 10y as well, same trailer but with a spot to store toys in the front.

We have big plans for it this spring. Will be posting a build thread here soon.
 

tlin

Adventurer
Personally I wouldn't go as far to say that capitalism in general is to blame as there are a lot of very good companies out there that do build quality trailers, care about the customer and the value their product offers.

It really burns me that thor ruined livin lite, they were great campers. If I ever sell the 21BHS it will be an Oliver or a VMI for me :)

As far as my opinion as to the "best" pop up camper? if we are referring to conventional pop up campers with a hard roof and tent ends I've got nothing. These camper in general were built to a price point and any one of them is going to require quite a bit of upgrading if it is to survive in an off-road setting.
You're right (re: capitalism remark), entirely too broad/general a statement on my part. Witnessing numerous companies operate under a modified set of priorities after being purchased doesn't mean capitalism itself is bad....
 

ghillin

New member
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.

edit 1/29/2019 - as I continue down this path, lifted a-frame trailers have also made my list of candidates (Aliner, Chalet, others?) - hoping some folks with experience there weigh in as well - good thread to date, many thanks to those who've weighed in.....
I purchased a Black Series Patron last summer. It takes some effort to set up but once I got the hang of it start to finish 1 hour. That’s with the annex and flooring. Just the tent takes 20 min. It’s about as tough and rugged as I think one can get.
 

tlin

Adventurer
I purchased a Black Series Patron last summer. It takes some effort to set up but once I got the hang of it start to finish 1 hour. That’s with the annex and flooring. Just the tent takes 20 min. It’s about as tough and rugged as I think one can get.
There's a 2018 Black Series Dominator for sale on the other side of town. I was ready to pull the trigger but then watched setup videos and....I changed my mind. Gotta be fast and easy....

I have not seen these in person, but they look very similar to alot of Aussie models.
https://www.cruxexpeditiontrailers.com/products/
Thanks for sharing - amazing how many manufacturers are out there I'd never seen or heard of.
 

Grump E-Vet

Active member
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.
Thor was getting ready to do the same thing with their acquisition of Class B manufacturers Ernest Hymer Group NA which owns Roadtrek. But in a weird twist massive fraud may have saved them for time being at least.

https://rvmiles.com/thor-drops-north-america-operations-from-erwin-hymer-deal-amidst-reported-scandal/
 

Flanksteak71

New member
I feel your pain. I was on the hunt for the "perfect" camper for a couple of years. I pulled the trigger on a 2008 Fleetwood/Coleman Evolution E1 last fall that I was able to pick up for a song because it needed some work and the PO we moving. I have owned big trailers, 25ft+, a vintage 1955 "canned ham" that I ruggedized, a hard sided truck camper and was planning on building an off road capable trailer with a RTT. The problem I was trying to solve was each one of those campers has its positives and negatives. They all had a niche they fill. They all had their limitations. Non of them could "do it all".

We're a family of 3 and as our son is getting to big for sleeping between mom and dad. The big trailer was awesome for extended stay camping but to big to go to most places we wanted to go. The canned ham was perfect for the wife and I, a real head turner but lacked a 2nd bed for the boy and at the end of the day it was a 60y/o. The truck camper was awesome for getting into tight spots and camping on river banks in western WA but was a bit cramped and having to convert tables into beds at night is a pet peeve of mine. Building a "camp around" style overland trailer looked like a viable option but still didn't fix the 1 big bed problem.

Enter the E1 tent trailer. I did a fair amount of research and went to a handful of RV shows. Crawled around the Jaycos, the Opus, Traxxus, and so on. As previously stated most of the major manufacturers of "off road" tent trailers just stuck a normal box on a beefier frame, some did nothing but add taller tires. The evolution series caught my eye because it had the toughest frame and the front deck. Since my purchase I have replaced a box worth of rivets with quality screws, reinforced many interior pieces, rerouted a couple of hoses, added insulation and replaced the canvas.

What I like the most about this style of trailer is the versatility. It has 2 full sized beds which means I don't have to convert anything in order to go to sleep. Set up takes a whopping 10 mins. It has all the amenities that my larger trailer had ie; fridge, heater, sink, hot H2O, dinette. Those amenities are also all inside the trailer unlike most overland trailers which means I don't have to go out in the rain to get something. It has standing room for the whole family so no more trying to get dressed in a supine position. Its small enough I can get to most of the places I want to go. It can fit in small spots in campgrounds but can utilize full hook ups in larger RV spots.

Is it as rugged as some of the small batch custom jobs, hell no. I like to tinker and rebuild stuff so I will customize as I go and most importantly, know the limits of the trailer. There is a small cult following of the Evolution series so theres plenty of videos and forums for support. So far I have been very happy with my purchase. This little trailer is as close as I can come up with to the "do it all" trailer for our needs.
 
I've stuck my head in a few different pop-ups. The ones that stuck out as "the best" were the Somerset Evolution trailers. Basically, they are a Coleman/Fleetwood popup, but better in key areas. Columbia NW (the parent company of Aliner and Somerset) bought the tooling of the Coleman/Fleetwood trailers. Definitely worth a look.

http://aliner.com/campers/e3/
 
I love my 67 Apache. Bought used for $200 and weighs 400 pounds. Sleeps 4 comfortably in two big beds.

I ran the original canvas for five years (still amazingly good after all those years, but a few stains and small tears) before paying Bear Creek Canvas $800 for a complete new heavy canvas top. A small Mr. Heater Buddy easily keeps the inside toasty on the coldest nights.

Only other repair was $150 for new hubs, wheels, and tires.

The only downside is it takes 10 minutes (working slowly) to setup or takedown, but what’s the rush?
 

RickSut

New member
Well, An Aliner "Offroad" Classic has some pretty good ground cleareance, and you can actually add a lift kit that will give you 4inches more. They tend to shake apart if your too rough with them, but they are really easy to put back together. They are a very lightwieght trailer, but I have dragged mine through some amazing terrain and it hasn't done too bad. I am currently going to lift it a little more and strengthen the frame so I can put bigger tires and a bike rack on the back. I'll try to get some photos in here sooner of later this year. But I would rather be camping in it !!
 

PCO6

Adventurer
This pop up doesn't meet the OP's criteria for 4 people but for 2 it's something to consider. I'm getting ours in a few weeks. I fully expect to have some problems with it but that's OK. I'm looking forward to modifying it.
505231
 

tlin

Adventurer
There's some terrific contributions in here - thanks everyone!

I'm sold on either an Evolution (E1 or E2, I think the E3 is probably bigger/heavier than I want to drag around) or a "beefed up" A-Frame unit (Aliner, etc.). It all comes down to my wife actually wanting to go on extended trips and the bathroom scenario is going to make/break moving forward with a purchase.
 

Grassland

Active member
Glad to hear other people hate Thor as much as I do.

Pre-Thor livinlite quicksilvers are good idea if you are cool with a tent on a box, and no hard roof, and having to fart around to add an awning. Light, simple. Erases the problems of wood rot. Get a porta potty of some sort for the mrs. Id be tempted for an 8.0 for just adventures with buddies, but don't have the room and money for another trailer atm.

Otherwise complicated set up aussie style units. Have no bathrooms either, so need porta potty.

Columbia Northwest discontinued the smaller E series pop ups, so you are going to have to find used, and depending where you are they will be non existent. I've yet to see one closer than 10 hours away from me. If you don't live in the middle of nowhere might not be a problem for you. The E3 has a slide, and slides are a common failure point in all the mainstreamers.

Would not recommend standard pop ups unless you travel and live in a place that seldom sees moisture, and you are willing to rebuild the thing frequently. Ie re frame the interior, always be screwing things down. If there are any screws used from the factory, half are missing the support backing or are in crooked. The rest is staples and caulking.
 
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