Team Outdoorsy
by Team Outdoorsy
Posted October 22, 2020

When it comes to small trailers that are easy to tow, the traditional pop-up trailer and A-frame trailer are among the most popular choices. The two small RV types have a lot in common, like their compact size and the ability to fold down flat, to name a few. However, they also have several notable differences.

Here’s a look at the differences between A-frames and pop-ups, and what those differences might mean to you and your family.

A-frames and Popups

Pop-up Trailer Construction vs. A-Frame Trailer Construction

The most noticeable differences between the two types of campers are the framework and construction. Though they may look similar when folded up for transport, you’ll see the differences when you set them up to camp in.

Pop-up Trailer Construction

When we are talking about pop-up campers, we mean the traditional square shapes with canvas sides. These types of campers do more than just pop up— they also pop out.

The roof lifts straight up, and two sides fold out from the other end. Typically, two full- or queen-sized beds are situated in the side pop-outs. Most pop-ups have a small kitchen, a dinette, and a seating area, and a decent amount of storage. Some pop-ups may even be equipped with a bathroom and shower area.

This explainer video from American RV gives you a good idea of how pop-ups are constructed and how they operate.

A-Frame Trailer Construction

Remember in elementary school when we learned that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares? Technically, an A-frame trailer is a pop-up camper. After all, it does fold flat and, well, pop up. But not all pop-ups are A-frames.

The A-frame trailer is made with fold-down roof panels which pop up into a peaked shape— hence the “A” in its name— when set up for camp. Like the pop-up, an A-frame will have at least one bed, a small kitchen, and a dinette. Most A-frames do not have a bathroom area.

Though both are fairly easy to set up, the A-frame is usually a tad easier.

Check out a tour of an A-frame trailer from Skys Outside.

Pop-Up Trailer Materials vs. A-Frame Trailer Materials

A-frame trailers are hard on all sides. Additionally, many models are fully insulated. This makes these cute little peaked trailers the perfect options for camping in extreme climates. If you are looking for security, the hard shell offers an extra feeling of protection.

Pop-up trailers, on the other hand, have a hard roof and base, but the sides are made of durable canvas. This means pop-up campers are not ideal for camping in very hot or very cold weather. However, it also means they tend to be a bit lighter than A-frame trailers, which is great for towing purposes.

When it comes to maintenance, many feel that the hard shell of an A-frame is much easier to clean and care for than the canvas. Though the materials are water-resistant, if the canvas gets wet, you must wait for it to dry completely before storing, much like an awning.

Space in a Pop-Up Trailer vs. A-Frame Trailer

If you have a big camping crew coming along for the ride or tend to overpack, a pop-up trailer may be the right fit for you. This is because they typically offer more in terms of space.

Because A-frame trailers only pop up to make the rig taller, and not out to make it longer, they do tend to be much more cramped than their pop-up trailer counterparts. The largest A-frame we could find is less than 19 feet long and sleeps four adults.

Comparatively, most pop-up trailers come with a folded-down length of 10-16 feet, but a set-up size of up to 26 feet. This means you and your family will have plenty of room to move around the trailer.

a-frames and popups
The interior of a really nice A-frame.

Find What Works for You

Both A-frame and pop-up campers are good options for individuals looking for lightweight, easy-to-tow trailer options. You’ll find both in campgrounds around the country. Which one is best for you depends on your specific camping needs, group size, and personal preference. Here are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • The A-frame trailer is the best option for individuals, couples, and very small families who wish to travel in extreme climates.
  • Pop-up campers are the clear choice for larger families, people who enjoy having extra space, and need the lightest option available.

If you still aren’t sure what is the right choice, try renting both and hitting the road! See what works for you and the type of camping that you do.

Team Outdoorsy

Outdoorsy Author


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