Do Pop-Up Campers Have AC? Does It Work?

Pop-up campers are of course extremely convenient due to the fact that they are so compact. That said, one issue that you may experience is a lack of air conditioning.

So, do pop-up campers have AC? Most Pop-up campers usually don’t have AC or heating due to the lack of insulation with how they are specifically built. You can add AC to your pop-up camper and the common options are a portable AC unit or roof-mounted AC but you will have to run the AC more than you would in a better insulated space which can work out to be expensive.

do pop-up campers have ac

Do Pop-up Campers Have AC?

Although things are starting to change a bit, at this time, most pop-up campers just don’t have any air conditioning.

Most of them also don’t have any heating either. However, there is an increasing amount of pop-up campers out there that are starting to come with standard air conditioning units included (we have covered our top 10 here). 

That said, this does of course substantially increase the price of the pop-up camper in question. There are a few reasons why many pop-up campers do not come with air conditioning included, and yes, the price is one of those reasons. 

However, also keep in mind that pop-up campers are designed to be really compact. They should also be fairly lightweight to make them easy to tow with your vehicle.

Air conditioning units are not really lightweight, and they take up a good deal of space too. There is also the fact that pop-up campers, that top section, the canvas, isn’t exactly very good for insulation.

Simply put, running an air conditioning unit in a pop-up camper with a canvas top is going to use a good deal of energy, and therefore cost you a good deal of money.

Related: How to clean your Canvas: Step by Step.

How Well Does AC Work In Pop-Up Campers?

Of course, how well air conditioning units work in pop-up campers is one of the reasons why many of them don’t have any.

Pop-up campers usually have a top that is made out of canvas, and sidewall that is made out of something like reinforced aluminum. 

The simple reality is that pop-up campers just aren’t designed to be used in extreme weather. Those walls and roofs just aren’t insulated well enough to hold in either a lot of heat or cold air.

This therefore means that you have to run that air conditioning unit more than you would in a better insulated space, which of course ends up costing you money. 

If your camper is not well insulated, and you aren’t using an AC unit, and try to park in the shade at all times. This will at least decrease some of the heat in your trailer due to that sunlight. For the most part, pop-up campers just aren’t built for air conditioners. 

However, there are some higher-end models out there that have slightly better insulated walls. There are of course those as well that already come complete with air conditioning units.

That said, even those that do come complete with AC units, how well those air conditioners actually work, and how cost effective they are, is questionable.

What Size AC Do You Need For Pop-Up Campers?

If you do choose to buy air conditioning for your pop-up camper, you do need to find the right size. Thankfully, pop-up campers aren’t very large, so your air conditioning doesn’t need to be that large either. 

That said, you do need to consider the lack of insulation that your pop-up camper has. Therefore, you do want something slightly more powerful than is generally used for an area of that size. To find the right size of air conditioning for your pop-up camper, pay attention to the BTUS

You simply have to multiply the area of your camper (square feet) by 40 to find how many BTUS an AC needs to have to efficiently cool down your pop-up camper. That said, because campers are so poorly insulated, you might want to multiply the area by 50, or even 60, instead of 40. 

If you have a camper that is 100 square feet, aim for an AC unit that can accommodate up to 140 or even 150 square feet.

You usually wouldn’t need to do this for a normal space, but refer back to the poor insulation that these campers have.

Volkswagen t3 camper van

What Type of AC Unit Works Best For Pop-Up Campers?

In terms of air conditioner units for pop-up campers, you have two main options to go with. This includes a portable air conditioner unit, as well as roof-mounted units.

Let’s take a quick look at both air conditioning types to see what the advantages and disadvantages of both of them are.

Portable

First, we have a portable air conditioning unit. These are air conditioning units that you can place inside of your camper at will, and then take out whenever you see fit. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons that portable AC units have.

Pros;

  • One benefit of portable air conditioners is that they are, well, portable. If you don’t need to use it in your camper, you can put it inside of your house. They’re just easy to move around.
  • Another benefit with portable air conditioners is that you don’t need to actually install anything. You just place them inside of your camper and plug them in. You don’t have to modify your camper in any way to use them.
  • Portable air conditioner units also tend to be quite cost effective.

Cons;

  • A big drawback with portable air conditioning units is that they usually just don’t have all that much power. Unless you get one that is rated for a substantially larger size than your camper, it’s just not going to work very well.
  • The other drawback is that this type of air conditioning unit is inside of your camper, and therefore eats up valuable real estate.

Roof Mounted

Next, we have the roof-mounted air conditioning unit for pop-up campers. These require you to cut and drill through the roof to mount it.

Pros;

  • One big benefit of roof mounted air conditioners is that they don’t take up any space inside of the pop-up camper. Campers are already small enough, so this is quite a benefit.
  • Roof mounted air conditioners are also substantially more powerful. This means that a smaller unit should have the ability to cool down your camper to a livable level.

Cons;

  • A big drawback with roof mounted air conditioners is that you usually need to have them professionally installed, which is going to cost money. You actually have to cut through the roof of your camper to install them.
  • The other drawback with these roof mounted AC units is that they can actually be very expensive to purchase in the first place.

The Cost of Adding AC To Pop-Up Campers

If you go for a small and portable air conditioning unit, you can spend as little as $200 or $300. However, if you are going for a much larger roof mountain model, you are looking at anywhere from $200 to $1500. 

Don’t forget that professional installation is going to cost you another few hundred dollars too. So, if you use your camper very often, it is worth the investment period in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge cost.

Other Tips To Keep Your Pop-Up Camper Cool

To help you save some money, there are plenty of other ways to help keep your camper cool without an AC unit. Although, admittedly, nothing is going to work quite as well as a high quality air conditioner. That said, let’s go over a few tips to help keep your camper cool.

  • Always park your pop-up camper in the shade. The sunlight is going to make a massive difference.
  • Try parking in an area that is fairly windy. Campers aren’t very well insulated, so outside wind will cool down the interior.
  • Try to not use any appliances inside of the pop-up camper that are going to create any heat. If you have to cook, do so outdoors.
  • Having some regular air fans to create some airflow is going to help as well.
  • While windows are good at night when there is a breeze, keep in mind that if the temperature outside is hotter than inside of your camper, you’ll want to keep those windows closed.

Conclusion

You should now have all of the necessary information to decide whether or not you want to get an air conditioner for your pop-up camper, and some helpful tips on keeping your pop-up camper cool.

Madeline Cooper
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