Hard-sided popup campers are increasingly popular with families who want to travel light, but still want to camp with more comfort than a tent can provide.
Most of the hard-shell pop-up campers are light enough to be towed by a mid-size SUV, while still being durable enough to handle primitive campsites with ease.
If this sounds like the sort of things your family needs, then you are probably wondering what are some of the best hard-sided pop-up campers out there?
The Forest River Flagstaff Hard Side T12RB DSO and the Aliner – Family lead this arguably crowded field.
Though they represent just the tip of an interesting iceberg on what a hard-sided camper can be. So, we decided to wade in hip-deep to find some of the best hard-sided pop-up campers on the market. This called for asking and answering some important questions along the way.
What Are Hard-Sided Pop-up Campers?
A Hard-sided popup camper travels down the road just like a traditional popup camper compacted into a streamlined trailer.
When you get to your campsite it expands up and out with movable hard-sided walls.
This provides you with better wind protection, warmth, and even more soundproofing than a traditional canvas popup camper.
How Much Does A Hard-Sided Popup Camper Weigh?
The average hard-sided popup camper weighs around 2,000-pounds, which makes them comfortably within the range of what most mid-size SUVs and powerful sedans can tow.
Though some are a little lighter, and a few are heavier. In general, the more features you add, the more the weight will drive up, with a complete bathroom and the water tanks that support it is the thing that drives up the weight the most.
How Much Does A Hard-Sided Popup Camper Cost?
The average hard-sided popup camper costs between $12,000 to $20,000.
Though some stripped-down lightweight models can cost as little as $6,000, while some of them decked out luxury hard-sided popup campers can push over $25,000.
Working directly with a manufacturer or a certified dealership can give you access to customizable optional extras that let you develop a hard-sided popup camper to meet your needs at a price that fits smoothly into your budget.
Do Hard-Sided Popup Campers Have Bathrooms?
Many hard-shell pop-up campers have a wet bath built into them or as an optional extra.
This is a combination shower and toilet built into a small compact corner or installed into a large interior cabinet.
Though this isn’t always the case, as some sacrifice any bathroom space to provide more kitchen or sleeping area.
The 8 Best Hard-Sided Popup Campers In 2023
While choosing some of the best hard-sided popup campers we tried to keep a diligent eye out for material build quality as well as models that had friendly towing statistics.
We also kept a keen eye out for hard-sided popup campers that did a good job of addressing specific niche interests, such as families who love to boondock as well as families who love to stay close to the convenient resources of an RV campground.
1. Aliner – Family Base Floorplan
Aliner is one of the hard-sided popup camper industry’s leaders with a lot of great models worth considering. This is often due to the easy way the middle of the roof pops up for quick setup.
Though as the name implies the 2021 Aliner – Family does an impressive job of meeting the needs of traveling parents with one to two children. It does this with a thoughtful floorplan that maximizes the number of people you can sleep, while still making room for a toilet and a sink.
This is rare for a hard-sided popup camper that has a dry weight under 2,000-pounds. It might just make the Aliner – Family Base one of the best hard-sided campers for a family that prioritizes lightweight towing and also wants a discrete interior toilet.
One of the ways the Aliner – Family maximizes the interior living and sleeping space is by installing a pull-out exterior kitchen. It’s located in the front nose of the hard-sided popup camper and pulls out right in front of the camper pass-thru door.
It includes a DC-powered RV absorption refrigerator and a flush-mounted, two-burner propane stove. This also helps keep the heat of cooking a meal from warming up the compact interior of the hard-sided popup camper.
Of course, the complaint here is that you have to cook your meals outside, which can be an issue if bad weather strikes at mealtime. Like a lot of hard-sided popup campers, there isn’t any sort of awning to protect you while you cook.
So, it’s wise to plan to include a heavy-duty pavilion tent or screen tent in your budget when you select the Aliner – Family as your hard-sided popup adventure camper.
2. Forest River RV Rockwood Hard Side Series A122S
One of the things that pops off the screen with the Forest River RV Rockwood Hard Side Series A122S is the front cargo deck to help bring bikes, dirt bikes, and other toys with you on your adventure.
Not to mention the roof rack that is sturdy enough to strap down a canoe or a pair of small kayaks. This makes it one of the best hard-sided popup campers for people who love to bring their outdoor equipment with them. It also spares you from having to strap these things to your SUV or other tow vehicles.
One thing to keep in mind with all this equipment and storage space payload capacity is how it can affect the gross weight as well as the aerodynamics. If you load this hard-sided popup camper to the max, you are staring at a maximum GVWR of nearly 4,000-pounds, which might push what some mid-size SUVs can safely tow.
Though if you are frugal about the weight you pack into the Forest River RV Rockwood Hard Side Series A122S’s 2,120-pound dry weight, then it’s not too big of a worry. When you expand the Rockwood Hard Side A122S at camp, you get an impressive amount of interior living space.
This includes a swing galley and a microwave cabinet. There’s also a fair amount of interior storage space. This hard-sided popup camper also comes with a cool 10,000 BTU air conditioner as well as a 10,000 BTU propane furnace.
There’s even an exterior gas grill for times when you want to cook outside without heating up the interior. Just note that one of the tradeoffs for all this toy hauling and interior living space is that there is no formal bathroom or toilet.
So, you might want to plan a portable toilet to haul along on the front storage deck or plan to stay at RV parks and campgrounds that offer some sort of bathroom facility.
3. Forest River Flagstaff Hard Side T12RB DSO
The Flagstaff is one of Forest River’s most successful platforms that you see showing up with popular features shared in many different models that bear the Flagstaff name.
So, it only makes sense that they would also bring their best to bear in the Forest River Flagstaff Hard Side T12RB DSO.
This A-frame popup camper is designed to sleep up to four people while also having the kind of thoughtful storage that lets a family bring all their essential items.
This includes a front exterior storage area that’s perfect for keeping dirty shoes and wet coats outside, without tracking inside. There’s also a large rear storage bay with an EZ reach access door.
Like a lot of popular hard-sided popup campers, there is a tidy mid-ship galley and an exterior kitchen.
There’s even an interior RV refrigerator and an exterior gas griddle. Though the tradeoff for all these convenient appliances and storage space is the complete lack of any sort of bathroom.
4. Aliner – Scout-Lite
Depending on how much you pack into the 1,180-pound dry weight, you could conceivably tow this camper behind a small SUV or even a mid-size sedan with a towing package installed.
The Aliner – Scout-Lite is geared for a couple, a single parent who loves to travel with their child, or perhaps a couple with an only child.
The rear bunk converts into a 40” X 76” bed that is tidy enough for two adults to snuggle up on, while still leaving a single front bunk for a child.
Of course, all this efficient interior living and sleeping space built into a very lightweight hard-sided popup trailer, with nice cargo storage does come with a tradeoff. There is no bathroom, simply a single sink for basic handwashing and perhaps cleaning up dishes.
This ultimately makes the Aliner – Scout-Lite one of the smallest and lightweight hard-sided popup campers for a couple with a small tow vehicle.
5. Chalet A-Frame XL-1935
The Chalet A-Frame XL-1935 is a hard-sided popup camper with a lot of optional extras to consider when you work with the manufacturer or one of their affiliated “Ambassadors.”
While things like the optional front dormer and optional wet bath can affect the dry weight and the potential gross vehicle weight rating, you are still looking at a model that will tip the scales at 3,500-pounds or less.
This is within range of a lot of popular domestic mid-size SUVs with a towing package equipped.
One of the other things that are attractive about the Chalet A-Frame XL-1935 is the fact that it comes prewired for solar and has LED lights installed.
Depending on whether or not you opt to have a wet bath and the necessary water storage tanks installed it can make this one of the best hard-sided popup campers for a small family that loves to spend a few days boondocking off the grid.
6. Coachmen – Viking V12RBSTHW
The Coachmen – Viking V12RBSTHW is one of the best hard-sided popup campers for small families who love to travel with a lot of gear.
When fully loaded you can stack up to 1,493 pounds of cargo capacity it can tip the scales with a gross weight of up to 3,757-pounds, which can challenge what some mid-size SUVs can safely tow.
Though if you happen to have a robust mid-size SUV or a full-size SUV with a towing package, then you will be treated with a lot of thoughtful storage potential.
Not to mention is a fresh water storage tank that is one of the largest in the hard-sided popup camper niche.
The storage space of the Coachmen – Viking V12RBSTHW is very well thought out. It starts with a large exterior storage box with a quick release hatch on the front.
This lets you keep the tongue weight biased toward the front when you are towing, which helps with nimbleness.
When you set up camp, you can use the front storage box for keeping dirty shoes and other sundry items.
The interior of this hard-sided popup camper also has tons of storage in a compartment by the front dinette and a large flip-up storage compartment under the rear main bed.
If there is a head-scratching complaint about the Coachmen – Viking V12RBSTHW it’s that you get a relatively large 27-gallon fresh water storage tank and a 6-gallon hot water heater as standard.
Though there isn’t any sort of wet bath or toilet option on the interior.
With some creative plumbing and a small privacy tent, you could run a hose and shower line from the kitchen sink out a window to take an outdoor shower.
7. Aliner – Expedition
The Aliner – Expedition is another one of Aliners roomiest hard-sided pop-up campers. This is thanks in part to a pair of expandable dormers that provide additional headroom over the front dinette and the rear sofa.
This might just make the Aliner – Expedition the best hard-sided popup camper for families who need some extra headroom.
One of the other things you can appreciate about the Aliner – Expedition is the 1,850-pound dry weight, which is well within the range of what most family mid-size SUVs can tow.
Yet it also has enough storage capacity to load it all the way up to a 3,500-pound gross vehicle weight.
If you do have a slightly under-powered SUV then you will need to be conscious about just how much you pack into this roomy hard-sided popup camper.
You might want to also make it a point to always travel with the fresh water storage tank empty.
8. The Chalet LTW
The Chalet LTW is one of the lightest hard-sided pop-up campers on the market.
It only tips the scales with a dry weight of 990-pounds and when fully loaded it still has a maximum gross vehicle weight of only 2,000-pounds.
This makes it a great option if you have a small SUV or you truly do want to travel light and lean.
One of the things to keep in mind when you work directly with Chalet or one of their “Ambassador” dealerships is the optional Trailboss Off Road Package.
It provides additional ground clearance, wider tires, an extra entry step, and a protective Rock Guard on the front.
This is a great option if you like to travel alone or with a significant other to primitive campgrounds or off-the-grid campsites.
Just bear in mind that with a hard-sided popup camper this small, you aren’t going to get anything in the way of bathroom facilities.
So, you will need to add a portable toilet and a privacy tent to the list of things you can load into the 1,100 pounds of storage capacity.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Cassette Toilet?
With a lot of hard-sided popup campers that don’t offer a wet bath, will feature a cassette toilet.
This is a simple toilet with a removable 5-gallon black water storage tank. When it nears capacity, you simply remove the black water cassette and empty it out at an RV dump site.
This spares the weight and space of a traditional black water storage tank, while still providing you with a functional toilet for times when you might want to camp off the grid for a day or two.
Do Hard-Sided Popup Campers Hold Their Value?
Just like any RV or vehicle, you will be staring at some immediate depreciation starting the second you drive it off the dealership’s lot.
In the first three to five years you can expect your hard-sided popup camper to lost 30 to 40% of its original value based on the MSRP.
Though they do tend to have a longer lifespan than traditional popup campers that typically suffer cracks and leaks in the canvas tent section.
There are a lot of great hard-sided pop-up campers on the market. Finding the one that’s best for you will depend on the size of your family as well as your travel preferences.
If you are just going to travel solo or with a significant other and you want to be able to camp off-road, then the Chalet LTW with the Trailboss Off Road Package might be the best hard-sided camper to meet your needs.
It is light enough to be pulled by a typical Jeep Wrangler, with all the features you need to tackle rough trails beyond the forgiving paved roads.
If you need to sleep with one or two children and you need a proper toilet then the Aliner – Family might be the best hard-sided popup camper to meet your needs.
It provides your kids with their own sleeping space while providing the facilities you need to stay comfortable while you’re on the road.