How To Set up a Pop Up Camper

Contributor

Tucker Ballister

Favorite Trip

5 Months Solo on the Road

Home Base

Hendersonville, NC

Favorite RV

2008 Fleetwood Bounder

About Contributor

Tucker Ballister is our Technical Content Writer. He’s a lover of the open road and the proud owner of a 2021 Sunlite Classic travel trailer (his 3rd RV to date). Check out more of his RV adventures, gear reviews, and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.

Pop up campers offer one of the easiest paths to transition from tent to trailer life. It’s a logical starting point for many who are tired of waking up in a wet tent. But this type of RV requires slightly different setup procedures than others. Learning how to set up a pop up camper is essential for new owners, so let’s explore how it’s done. 

A Quick Checklist to Use Before Setting Up a Pop Up Camper

Pop up camper with snow capped mountain in the background
Photo by MarkHatfield via iStock

Before we dive into more pop up camper setup details, some campsite setup tasks are common across all RV types. Those include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Finding a level site
  • Using leveling blocks
  • Setting up wheel chocks
  • Disconnecting from your tow vehicle
  • Leveling and stabilizing your camper
  • Connecting water, sewer, and electricity (if in a full hookup site)
  • Checking for low-hanging branches or obstructions that might prevent the camper from fully extending
  • Removing items strapped to the roof or secured in a roof rack system

These tasks may differ depending on your location and the services offered there. Use the link below to download our comprehensive campsite setup and teardown checklist: 


How To Open a Pop Up Camper

Learning how to set up a pop up camper
Photo by SimplyCreativePhotography via iStock

This process differs slightly depending on your RV’s make and model. The manufacturer is your best resource for operating procedures and maintenance recommendations. That said, these are the basic steps for opening your pop up camper: 

*These steps assume you’ve already leveled, disconnected from your tow vehicle, and stabilized your camper. If you haven’t, pause and use the tutorials in the previous section before proceeding. 

  1. Disconnect the roof from the camper’s body. Most pop up campers have 2-4 straps or latches holding the roof in place. Some may have set pins preventing the roof from opening.
  2. Use the crank handle, extension bar, or electric lifter system to extend the roof halfway.
  3. Double check that it is extending evenly and, if all is good, continue to extend fully.
  4. Pull out the beds and secure the support braces under the frame. On an A-frame pop up camper, this step is replaced by pushing the A-frame walls and dormers (if equipped) up and securing them.
  5. Install opposite corner safety supports (more common in Rockwood and Jayco pop up campers). 
  6. Lock the entry door into the frame and attach the tent fabric around the door frame using the appropriate method. Depending on the camper, this is typically a J-channel insertion or built-in Velcro.
  7. Secure the tent material to the bed ends using the Velcro, snap, or bungee attachments.
  8. Set and adjust bed end tent support poles, if applicable. These shouldn’t be forced into place and typically adjust in length and tension to support the bed ends without pushing them upward.

Now you’re ready to set the sink and stove into their useable positions and make the beds. Check your owner’s manual for the correct operating procedures. 

Technician Tip: Some manual models have a tension extender cable that tightens as the roof is raised to its intended height. Others do not. A-frame campers like those from Aliner may also have an extension bar that helps you push the roof up instead of a crank handle. The battery must be charged and properly connected to extend a model with an electric lifter system.

Here are the latest owner’s manuals for some of our most popular pop up campers

How To Season a Folding Tent Camper

Expandable hybrid camper on dealership lot
Photo by Camping World

Some manufacturers recommend cleaning the tent canvas on a soft-sided pop up camper before your first trip. They call this “seasoning” your tent. If your folding tent camper is new and you need to season it before your first trip, follow these steps: 

  1. Extend the roof and beds and secure them like you were in a campground.
  2. Soak the tent with a light spray of water. Avoid direct spray with a high-pressure hose.
  3. Allow the tent fabric to dry completely before soaking it again. 
  4. Repeat this process two more times (four soaking-drying cycles in total).
  5. Thoroughly inspect the interior for water seepage and leaks. 
  6. If you notice leaks or seepage, allow the tent to dry completely before applying a water-repellant product according to the manufacturer’s specifications. You may also need a manufacturer-approved seam sealer to prevent leaks where the thread enters the fabric. 

Again, it’s imperative that you allow the tent fabric to dry completely before placing your pop up camper back in travel mode. Once you effectively “season” your folding tent camper, this process doesn’t need to be completed again unless a tent fabric section needs replacing.

How To Clean the Canvas on a Pop Up Camper

Coleman Light pop up camper with tent opened
Photo by Camping World

The tent material on soft-sided pop up campers is subject to mold and mildew if not maintained properly. You’ll need to regularly clean and completely dry your tent canvas to prolong its lifespan. 

Begin by extending the roof and setting it up as if you were in a campground. From there, follow these easy steps: 

  1. Fill a bucket with water and add a mild detergent. Consult your manufacturer for detergent recommendations, as different tent fabrics require different cleaning solutions. You may need a more powerful cleaner – like 303 multi-surface cleaner – to remove grease marks or other stains.
  2. Start on the interior and use a sponge with water and detergent to remove debris. Use a second sponge with water only to rinse the cleaned areas. Use minimal water to avoid thoroughly soaking the canvas’ interior.
  3. Use the same process on the exterior, with more elbow grease. You may also employ a scrub brush.
  4. Rinse the exterior with a light spray to remove soapy residue. This is a great time to spot-check the waterproofing on your tent canvas to identify areas to touch up once it’s dry. 
  5. Let the canvas dry for several hours. Ensure it is completely dry inside and out before placing it back in travel mode. 

Technician Tip: The recommended products for waterproofing your tent canvas will depend on the fabric and recommendations from the manufacturer. However, this 303 High Tech Fabric Guard is one popular option.


Camping World offers a wide range of pop up campers. If you’re still pondering the jump into the RV lifestyle, here are a few additional resources to aid your journey: 

Do you have questions about setting up your pop up camper? Let us know in the comments below.

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