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Camper van vs. pop-up

Ann Arbor, Michigan
2 posts
Camper van vs. pop-up
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Hi, everyone! We are planning a three-week National Park trip out west this summer with our kids 10 and 8, driving from Michigan. We've secured all our camp sites, and have rented a camper van. But we also own a pop-up and are having second thoughts about the van, because it will mean we'd have to tear down every day when we want to go into the parks to see sights and then re-setting up every evening. On the other hand, the van is small and efficient, and will provide room to move while driving (for the kids) and towing our popup will mean slower driving because the tires aren't designed for over about 65 mph (and will also mean we can't take all the bikes). Anyone who has camper van experience want to help us out which we should choose? Thanks so much, in advance.

8 replies to this topic
Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
14,415 posts
132 reviews
82 helpful votes
1. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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"to move while driving (for the kids) " SEAT BELTS????

Munich, Germany
Destination Expert
for Oman, California, Yukon, Chile, Argentina, Road Trips
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20,998 posts
7 reviews
9 helpful votes
2. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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Your kids cannot move while driving. They have to sit and belted. Its the law. Otherwise it would be very dangereous if you have to brake. They will fly around the camper.

And even with a camper-van you cannot drive more than 65 mph, or to say it more directly: you even cannot drive 65 mph. Maybe on some dead straight Interstate, when there is no wind.

Level Contributor
205 posts
3. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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The speed you can drive a campervan (versus a full RV) depends on the type you have chosen, many of them have no problem traveling at highway speeds (70+mph), the Volkswagen campervans being one of the exceptions. Children should be seated and belted in regardless of which vehicle you drive.

I don't think someone else's experience will help you decide because it is a matter of preference. We have no problem taking down and packing up each day because we don't really set up anything in the first place, the most we might do is pull out camp chairs to sit around a campfire, but we do not travel with children.

If you own a pop-up camper, what was your original reasoning for renting the campervan and which campervan did you rent? What do you envision setting up each day that you will need to take down? Do the campgrounds you have reserved allow soft sides pop-ups, some campgrounds near Yellowstone only allow hard sided campers? What kind of vehicle would be towing the popup?

Ann Arbor, Michigan
2 posts
4. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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Thank you. To be clear our kids would be belted but the camper van allows more space (I.e. a table while travelling). It’s also a modified Ford sprinter so it can definitely go faster than the towed pop up. In terms of why we rented, one was the ability to not bother with the set up the pop up requires. But a bigger issue was both our cars have well over 100k miles and we didn’t want to have to upgrade a car to be assured it wouldn’t die on us on the trip. Maybe set up and tear down of a camper van is less bothersome than we think. It also just means we are counting every mile we drive to stay within our allotment. Finally we are camping in campgrounds that would allow pop ups.

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205 posts
5. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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Consider which is more important, losing time pulling the popup or losing money by going over on miles. Factor in the the possibility of disrupting your vacation plus spending a lot of money on repairs if you vehicle breaks down on the road. If there is any question on the reliability of your vehicles and you do not want to upgrade right now, the answer is clearly the campervan, just be sure you understand that it is a long way between everything out west and mileage charges can add up quick. I think you may be overestimating set up of the campervan, the only thing that will need to be done is leveling up unless you plan to set up an awning. Otherwise make it a practice to put everything away as you go and there will be minimal take down. I say go with the campervan and see how it goes, then decide whether you want to go back to the pop-up in the future.

Spery, Iowa
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
24,540 posts
187 reviews
70 helpful votes
6. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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You also may not have reservations for the size of your unit if you switch from the campervan.

Munich, Germany
Destination Expert
for Oman, California, Yukon, Chile, Argentina, Road Trips
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20,998 posts
7 reviews
9 helpful votes
7. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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Hopefully you've rented the campervan from a reliable company?

Virginia Beach...
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1 post
26 reviews
2 helpful votes
8. Re: Camper van vs. pop-up
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I’d vote for camper van bc I think it’d be more comfortable for your family. You’d also be skipping the daily tear-down/build-up monotony! I drove cross country in my VW camper van and I needed it for WIND storms and driving rain! Safe from bears too. IMHO!

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