Need Advice on Buying Camper

byrdmass

New Member
Feb 7, 2022
1
We are a family of six with four kids age 4-10. We have decided to buy a popup camper and start camping.

My wife's family had a popup growing up and camped all over Wisconsin. I have almost little experience camping beyond tent camping near home a dozen times, but have a great desire to get out and see the parks and get the kids out in nature.

I've been researching popups for a while and I am hoping you guys can help steer me in the right direction on what to look for.

I'm looking to buy new in the price range up to $12,000 or so. We plan on going to sites not far from civilization with showers, a pool, etc. Basic, but not primitive. So, I don't think we'd need shower/bathroom in the camper. I need space for six to sleep. We will be pulling it with a Toyota Sienna.

I want a durable camper that is relatively easy to setup. Any advice for a first-time buyer on brands or models to look at? Any other things to consider?
 

myride

Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
May 14, 2015
1,271
Edmonton, AB
Well, quick check your sienna has a max tow of 3500 lbs, not sure what trim/options yours has but will go with that. Do some research and you will find that number is much lower than that after taking into account the amount loaded into the sienna, hitch weight etc.

Once you look at those numbers you'll probably need a PUP with minimum 10' box, a 12' is even better for the size of your crew. Slide-out is out of the question due to weight. That very well will be your tipping point regarding a PUP. You may have to look at "upgrading the horse before buying the cart" to truly get what you will ultimately require for the family. Most manufacturers have moved away from PUPs so again your choices are limited in the new-market as well as a 12,000.00 price point.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,641
Northern Virginia
Unfortunately they are all built the same now a days and if you are buying new you are limited to only couple manufacturers as a number have pulled out of the popup business. The best way to determine if a floorplan works for you and your family is to all go in it together pretend your putting kids to bed and go through the motions. Pretend it's raining and your all trapped inside. If you plan to cook inside go through the motions to see how it feels.
Don't let the sales guys fool you, don't go by dry weight of the camper. Although newer ones are a little more accurate than 10 years ago. Get the max payload weight from your door jam and deduct the weight of your family and gear and whatever is left is how much tongue weight you can have. Just note most manufacturers list the dry tongue weight so you will have to add the weight of propane and battery to it.

If you decide to buy used be sure to look over the popup top to bottom and inside every cabinet. Crank the roof up and down and if the seller gives you a hard time... consider it a red flag. Actually even if buying new check the camper out carefully and don't get suckered to sign the papers if you see a problem. A thing to note about buying used if the manufacturer is out of business or no longer making popups many RV shops may not want to fix the camper because parts will be harder to get readily. So you may be stuck having to repair it yourself so keep that in mind if your not a handy person.

Best of luck in your search.
 

BillyMc

Super Active Member
Mar 25, 2018
2,474
South Carolina
I would look for one with two dinettes for the added sleeping space and with your towing limits as few addons as possible. On rainy days you are going to want added shelter area and six people in a camper that size gets crowded fast. The one NMroamer posted would be a good layout as long as it fits your weight limits.
 

AndreD

Active Member
Jul 24, 2020
110
Great White North
I had similar limitations and wanted a basic no frills unit and settled for a rockwood 1940ltd. Which is good size for 5. For a family of 6 I’d look at the

Rockwood 1980. (4 separate beds)


Or rockwood 2280ltd (12 foot basic model with 2 beds and a gaucho)

 

Musictom

Member
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 13, 2021
82
Our Dodge Grand Caravan has a tow limit of 3500. We've hauled our Rockwood 2318G all over the Western United States. With the appropriate weight distribution hitch, it's been a breeze to tow. The "empty" (haha) weight is about 2400 pounds, and you have a dinette slide to give you a little extra room. It has a king, queen, gaucho and a dinette that folds into a bed. Theoretically, they claim 8 sleeping spots, but that's awfully cozy. 2318G.jpeg

Personally, I can't imagine a family of 6 in a popup, but my personal odometer has quite a few more clicks on it than yours. ;)

New, it is out of your price range, but as others have said, buying used is often far better.
 

Musictom

Member
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 13, 2021
82
I'm curious how you get 8 sleeping in there, even cozily. Unless they're factoring in infants.
Realistically, you could sleep six: 2 on each bed, one on the fold out gaucho, and one on the dinette/bed foldout.

Even with 6, that's a LOT of bodies in a 12 foot box! 😁
 

Allamakee County

Active Member
May 13, 2016
102
Allamakee County, Iowa
First off, if you are an experienced tent camper, a PUP will feel luxurious. :) If you were one of those "motorhome/land yacht with a/c and satellite dish on the roof" people I would worry about you.

Agree with the others that "buying new" is throwing money away.

I agree with you, indoor bathroom/shower is kind of silly in a PUP and takes up space you will need for other stuff, but an outside shower is really nice to have. We have used ours lots during COVID times when either the bathhouses were shut down or were just giving us the skeevies. We have a tall thin tent thingie (changing room, potty tent, shower tent, called lots of different things) that we set up just behind the camper with the shower hose snaked in through a flap opening we made. Pretty cushy (and reasonably private).

Depending on the ages of your kiddos, you could buy the biggest pup your tow vehicle (or TV here) will manage safely, and then bring a small tent or two and let the bigger kids sleep in the tent. They'll probably love it. We also bring a hammock and sometimes someone will sleep in that!! Get creative. If anybody snores, get REALLY creative. On the other hand, if your littles are really little, you can probably pile most of them into one of the bunk ends, you and the spouse take the other, and that leaves a convertible bed/dinette available for whoever.
 

PSTraveller

New Member
Apr 8, 2017
3
We are a family of six with four kids age 4-10. We have decided to buy a popup camper and start camping.

My wife's family had a popup growing up and camped all over Wisconsin. I have almost little experience camping beyond tent camping near home a dozen times, but have a great desire to get out and see the parks and get the kids out in nature.

I've been researching popups for a while and I am hoping you guys can help steer me in the right direction on what to look for.

I'm looking to buy new in the price range up to $12,000 or so. We plan on going to sites not far from civilization with showers, a pool, etc. Basic, but not primitive. So, I don't think we'd need shower/bathroom in the camper. I need space for six to sleep. We will be pulling it with a Toyota Sienna.

I want a durable camper that is relatively easy to setup. Any advice for a first-time buyer on brands or models to look at? Any other things to consider?
We've been towing a 2010 Rockwood 2317g with a Ford Flex (with a good weight distribution hitch) with absolutely no problems for years. I agree with previous posters that used is the way to go. We were able to afford a much better quality unit than if we purchased new and so long as you take your time, there are good ones out there. We bought ours when it was 6 years old. You might find some better used inventory out there now from people who purchased at the start of Covid but are now slowly moving back to other vacation options.

I also agree about the two seating areas. Great for meals if you have to eat indoors and also for games, etc. on rainy days. As suggested, a tent outside for the two oldest (or as a nap area during the day) is also a great thought.

We've had no trouble getting parts, even for a 12 year old unit. If I could suggest one "must have" item, try and get a Bal leveler for the left/right leveling. It made our setup twice as easy and we were able to park pretty much where we wanted.

Here's the layout.

2010_ForestRiver_RockwoodPremier_2317G.jpg

Good luck and safe travels!
 

Ger

Member
Apr 24, 2021
52
Boston MA
My 10 cents based on our experience as new popup owners (just over a year). We bought new and the number was closer to $16,000. Its just me, my wife and our 115lb yellow lab. I am 6 foot tall and my wife 5’-10” and we have a king sized bed at home. After our first trip, we realized that we both needed our own bed ends as we were so squished in one bed. But, assuming two in a bed isn’t an issue for you, having 6 people in a regular popup will be tight. Even with just the 3 of us us in ours, it feels tight. We have to do some minor reconfiguration every night to remove the dining table to make space for our dog’s bed and to reconfigure it back in the morning so we can have breakfast inside if the weather is crappy. I removed our goucho bed and turned that into storage with plastic bins with drawers for clothes etc which still allows us to store dry goods, food etc on top of that.

I guess where I’m going with all this is that, even we wish we had a side slide out dinette to give us just a wee bit more room. I can’t imagine trying to reconfigure a dinette and a goucho bed every night and morning if you plan on actually eating in the popup. To me, that would be a hassle. I guess you could set it up as beds and leave it like that, but that means eating outside all the time or eating in your beds! With 6, there’s going to be a LOT more clothes and food that needs to go somewhere too.

We don’t have a shower, but have a porta potty as we use the campsites facilities and are fine with that.

Obviously your tow vehicle is going to limit the size of popup as folk have already said, and I’m sure others here with 6 happy campers will chime in and tell you how they make it all work, but like I said, just sharing our experience with our new popup (which we love by the way). The problem is (as someone once stated on this site) is that a popup is like a gateway drug! My wife is already looking at bigger and better things!

Good luck in your search. I suggest you buy used, or up your price, and consider a slide out dinette.
 

Adwizard

Member
Aug 5, 2019
12
We are a family of six with four kids age 4-10. We have decided to buy a popup camper and start camping.

My wife's family had a popup growing up and camped all over Wisconsin. I have almost little experience camping beyond tent camping near home a dozen times, but have a great desire to get out and see the parks and get the kids out in nature.

I've been researching popups for a while and I am hoping you guys can help steer me in the right direction on what to look for.

I'm looking to buy new in the price range up to $12,000 or so. We plan on going to sites not far from civilization with showers, a pool, etc. Basic, but not primitive. So, I don't think we'd need shower/bathroom in the camper. I need space for six to sleep. We will be pulling it with a Toyota Sienna.

I want a durable camper that is relatively easy to setup. Any advice for a first-time buyer on brands or models to look at? Any other things to consider?
For 12k you ought to be able to get a very good used camper. I don't know of any pop up mfrs anymore. But previous poster is right. Make sure you've got the hp to move the size of camper you'll need. Not to mention supplies and six people. Now that the warning part is over with, I'm sure your family will love popup camping. It's a lot of work getting set up, leveling, etc but it sure is fun once you're set up. Even though you're not looking for a popup with a shower you might want to consider some amenities like heat, fridge, maybe a toilet. Nobody likes trecking out to the bathroom at three in the morning. Your wife will appreciate it.
 

Michael Boyer

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
5
We have a 2002 Coleman Cheyenne with AC that we bought 3 years ago with 7 of us. My three littles now aged 7, 9, and 11 shared the full bunkend with their heads at the “back” of the PUP, our son now 16 took the “sofa”, and our oldest now 18 had the dinette. My wife and I took the king because the little one usually ended up in our bed and it was a pain for us to climb across the other two beds.

I put 3” memory foam on all beds. We never cooked in it and I actually removed the sink and stovetop because it was taking up space. I made an outdoor kitchen that we used tent camping for years and didn’t want to switch. For us it wasn’t too bad to swap the dinette and sofa every night and morning.

We bought a 31’ Keystone in August last year but I still cook outside with my homemade kitchen.

It doesn’t have a potty in it but we bought a cassette toilet and an instant up “bathroom” from Amazon. We never stayed anywhere without facilities. My usual rule was #1 only unless it’s an emergency.

The biggest thing to look at in my opinion is when you plan to tow close to your maximum you need to make sure the PUP has brakes and that you have a good brake controller properly setup. The issue with towing close to your maximum range is usually stopping although wear and tear on the engine and transmission is also of concern.
 
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southern gal

Member
Jul 6, 2018
97
South Georgia
We have a 2003 Coleman Mesa and it has the kind of room you are talking about. We have two king beds, a couch that will make into a twin and a dinette area that could sleep two kids. We do not have a toilet or shower (except for an outside shower). Our camper's dry weight is around 2400-2500 but with the AC on top and loaded down with our stuff, we were always afraid to tow it with our van. We bought a used Ford Explorer with a towing capacity of 5000 pounds to tow it. Since you have kids, you could easily sleep three of them on one king bed and the other on the couch that is right beneath the bed. You and your wife could sleep on the other end of the camper in the king bed and then you wouldn't have to take the dinette down and set it back up. Of course, with your budget you could get a newer camper than mine.
 

Sasscmom

New Member
Jun 19, 2018
4
New Jersey
We are a family of six with four kids age 4-10. We have decided to buy a popup camper and start camping.

My wife's family had a popup growing up and camped all over Wisconsin. I have almost little experience camping beyond tent camping near home a dozen times, but have a great desire to get out and see the parks and get the kids out in nature.

I've been researching popups for a while and I am hoping you guys can help steer me in the right direction on what to look for.

I'm looking to buy new in the price range up to $12,000 or so. We plan on going to sites not far from civilization with showers, a pool, etc. Basic, but not primitive. So, I don't think we'd need shower/bathroom in the camper. I need space for six to sleep. We will be pulling it with a Toyota Sienna.

I want a durable camper that is relatively easy to setup. Any advice for a first-time buyer on brands or models to look at? Any other things to consider?
Hi
We are a family of 7. We used a
We are a family of six with four kids age 4-10. We have decided to buy a popup camper and start camping.

My wife's family had a popup growing up and camped all over Wisconsin. I have almost little experience camping beyond tent camping near home a dozen times, but have a great desire to get out and see the parks and get the kids out in nature.

I've been researching popups for a while and I am hoping you guys can help steer me in the right direction on what to look for.

I'm looking to buy new in the price range up to $12,000 or so. We plan on going to sites not far from civilization with showers, a pool, etc. Basic, but not primitive. So, I don't think we'd need shower/bathroom in the camper. I need space for six to sleep. We will be pulling it with a Toyota Sienna.

I want a durable camper that is relatively easy to setup. Any advice for a first-time buyer on brands or models to look at? Any other things to consider?
Hi
We are a family of 7 (usually 5-6 people camping but have done 7 quite a few times) and camped many years using our Rockwood 1640ltd, pulled with our Sienna. It says it sleeps 6 and we have slept 7 putting the youngest in bed with us. (It was too hot for the tent). Don’t let people talk you out if it. You just need some creative thinking. We used the back of the Sienna as our closet, so no clothes/bags in the popup, cooler and dirty laundry(in a tub) outside. We always cooked outside on our Coleman stove. Kids are mostly out of the house now. Miss those days, enjoy every minute.
 

Kdague

Member
Sep 15, 2020
50
I like having the shoilet in my pup. If I ever buy another one it’ll have to have one. I like being able to take a quick military style shower before bed. Especially after a hot day out hiking or fishing. Not all camp sights have a shower house. We don’t use the toilet part of it very often. But there have been a couple of times it’s saved the day. Usually when camping in colder weather when all the toilets are locked up at the campground.
Make sure u research whatever u buy, especially if your not very handy. The pup I bought is a great camper but I’ve spent a lot of time doing repairs on things I’d rather not have to do. I agree with the, if your not handy buy new thing. Something with a warranty. Then you can let someone else fix it. It just costs u more out of your pocket that way. Good luck with what ever u buy and have fun. Remember your making memories.
 

raising4daughters

Active Member
Aug 24, 2019
128
Couple of thoughts here. We owned a 10' box, no slideout, for 10 years, a Jayco 1007. Never got actual weight but with dealer-added AC, it probably weighed about 1,900 lb. We towed it with a Chrysler T&C WITHOUT the factory tow package, but added a transmission cooler and airlift bags to level (note that airlift bags do not increase payload capacity). We towed it with 3 of our 4 kids, wife and me, but only rarely with the oldest. Also had 2-3 bikes on the roof of the T&C. It towed fine on flat land and rolling hills in OH and Western PA/NY.

It was pretty tight with 5 of us (2 were teens) in a 10' box. On a few occasions, the oldest came with a friend. We once slept 8 in it but there was no room for anything else in there. Two years ago, we needed a new TV, so we bought a Chevy Colorado and then upgraded to a used HW PUP even though the family is getting smaller (3 of our girls are 24, 27, 28). We love the added space of the HW PUP which is a 14' box. Now we can store all our gear in the PUP except bikes and tubes, so it's a much quicker packing job.

You're facing a tough challenge, one we faced and many others face. PUPs are great because you can tow them with a minivan. If that's a hard constraint, you've got to factor in payload for the minivan, not just tow weight. Remember that your TV is going to be supporting 10-15% of the PUP's weight. Throw in your 6 passengers and gear, and it adds up fast! OTOH, while a truck will increase your tow capacity and payload, it's hard to fit 6 people in a truck. That's why minivans are so great.

Know how we solved this? We take 2 vehicles and camp within 200 miles. Maybe that works for you. Maybe tow the PUP with the minivan and throw the gear in the van or PUP. Put 4-5 people in a 2nd car in your caravan.

We recognized that we like to camp with a lot of stuff. Bikes, kayaks, tubes, food, equipment, beer, and all the other stuff weigh a lot. So, I tow the PUP (the new HW PUP weight 3,800 lbs and we love it) with the Colorado and my wife, sole remaining child, and friend come with the wife in her minivan with the bikes, etc.

This makes us feel safe, and we take what we want. No worries about overloading either vehicle and having stopping problems. When our now-adult daughters come along, they drive separately, as well.
 

Jimbow

Super Active Member
Silver Supporting Member
Nov 30, 2012
2,045
It seems you will need a 12' box with two king beds, a couch and dinette. We slept front to back in our king size bed and I'm 6'1". Three of the kids could easily share the king bed, perhaps four in sleeping bags.
 




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