Is an A-Frame Camper Right for You?

A is for Adventure

The adventurist is a new breed of RVer, or maybe it is an old breed that is making a come-back. The adventurist isn’t looking for five tons of home-like luxury, they want to travel light, to be able to pick up and go on a whim! These travelers have a bucket list, and they aren’t waiting for old age to start marking items off. Some are after thrills; mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, rock-climbing, you name it and they’ll try it. Others simply want to see as much of our great nation as they can. Why stay in one place when there are so many new things to discover?

The rise in adventure camping accounts for the sudden demand for small, lightweight campers. Sales of pop-ups, teardrop trailers and ultra lights have all risen sharply. Technology has advanced these small campers, making them more efficient, more comfortable, and more roomy than they have ever been before. In particular, the A-frame camper has really stepped up its game in recent years, and with outstanding results. If you relate to the adventurous style of camping, an A-frame may be a good option for you.

What is an A-Frame?

Classified as a pop-up, but also known as a fold-down (maybe this is a glass half full/empty thing?), the A-frame is a folding camper that doesn’t use the more traditional canvas sides. Instead, it has hard walls that fold in on themselves to create a very compact, easy-to-tow package.

The A-Frame Option – Why so popular?

A-frame campers, like other small RV options, have taken off in popularity, but what makes these rather odd looking campers such a favorite among adventurists? Most likely because they do so well at providing the benefits of other types of campers, without many of the downfalls.

Hard Sides

The hard walls of the A-frame mean your RV is better insulated against weather. Wind, rain, snow and other less-than-optimal camping weather has less of an effect on your A-frame camping experience than on traditional canvas pop-up.

Compact Towing

Even though your A-frame has the hard walls and roof of a traditional “box” trailer, it has the benefit of folding down like a pop-up, creating a compact, lightweight package that can be towed by most light SUV’s, minivans, and even by many cars. A-frame campers can also be stored in many garages, eliminating the need for a monthly storage bill when not in use.

Super Easy Set-up

Pop-ups are easier than ever to set up, but none are so easy as the A-frame. The walls are assisted by gas strut lifts, or on some larger models, have power lifts. It takes virtually no strength to set up your A-frame camper, and it is extremely simple to learn. I knew A-frames were easy to set up, but it was really reinforced to me when I overheard a tech at our deanship ask if there were any pop-ups that need to be set up. When someone answered that there was an A-frame to set up, the techs response was “Well, that doesn’t count, they are so easy to set up you can’t call that ‘work’.”

Versatile Floor Plans

A-frames used to have a very limited number of floor plans. You wouldn’t find a shower in one, there simply wasn’t room. Now days, though, there are A-frames with dormers, allowing for much larger floor plans that include hard-wall bathrooms and complete kitchens. There are even A-frame toy hauler options! You truly can have the best of both worlds.

Toy hauler A-frame camper

So What is the Downside?

Nothing is without its negative points, so what is there to not like about your new A-frame camper? Well, aside from the obvious (its a small camper, so if room is a priority, an A-frame is probably not right for you), there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Just Say no to High Wind Set-up: Although an A-frame can handle more inclement weather than a canvas pop-up, it is not recommended to set-up or take down your camper in high wind. The wind can catch your walls before you have them fully secured and do significant damage.
  • Lack of Head Room: Although there is usually plenty of room in the middle of the camper, the sides slope steeply and can lead to head bumps. Dormers reduce this and give lots more head clearance.
  • Missing Home-like Amenities: You usually won’t find recliners, large TVs or other home-like comforts in an A-frame, which can be a negative for some but most buyers are looking for the experience of camping and are more than happy to leave that stuff at home for a while.

The Big Decision

Whether you are deciding IF you want an A-frame, or on WHICH one you want, the same basic principals should apply to your decision making process. First, do your research. There are plenty of forums online where people talk about their RV experiences. Find out what people like and don’t like, which amenities you should look for, and what brands have a good reputation. Then, spend some time in the camper you are thinking about purchasing. The very best scenario is to borrow or rent one identical to what you are thinking of buying, but that isn’t always an option. The second best option is to spend as much time as you can at the dealership in your new camper. Lay in the bed, bend over the sink as though you are washing dishes (is it the right height for your back?), imagine the supplies you will bring with you and figure out where you are going to store them. Tell the salesperson to leave you alone in the RV so you have time to truly think about whether this is the right one for you. A good salesperson (we have all the best ones here at Camperland) wants you to have exactly what is right for you.

I hope this helps with some of your A-frame questions. Whatever RV you decide is right for you… Happy camping!

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This article was originally posted here.

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