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Do Pop Up Campers Have Air Conditioning

The RV world does not lack variety at all.

Between luxurious travel trailers to refurbished vans, there is a wide selection of models at different price points.

Naturally, not all offer the same default comfort.

But upgrading your RV is half the fun!

Still, you should keep in mind the possibilities of each type of vehicle.

With their tarpaulin walls and airy sides, pop up campers are lighter, cheaper, and easier to move around – but they may not be as suitable for insulation.

So do pop up campers have air conditioning?

The answer is mostly no: most models do not come with A/C installed.

Pop Up Campers That Come with AC Units

Let’s start with the more accessible alternative.

If you are not too versed in mechanics and electrical installations, it may be easier to go straight for pop-up campers with AC units already installed.

AC units don’t come in pop-up campers by default or directly from the factory.

This is partly because of the lack of insulation and because their slimmer electrical systems usually can’t support such an energy-hungry appliance.

So if this is the route you want to go, purchase a used pop-up camper instead.

Then, simply ask the seller whether he already installed air conditioning and if it will be included with the trailer.

What if My Pop-Up Camper Doesn’t Have an AC?

If you are buying a brand new pop-up camper, you will most likely have to figure out the environmental controls yourself. 

So can you put an air conditioner on a pop-up camper?

Of course!

However, you will need to figure out a few things beforehand:

  • As tarpaulin walls don’t provide a tight seal, your AC unit will not be as efficient as it would be on an enclosed travel trailer
  • The lack of solid walls will also provide some structural challenges: make sure to choose a light unit or place it somewhere you can mount it on the wall
  • The final installation should at least be checked by a licensed electrician: the movement on the road can create extra problems
  • Take extra care to prevent any leaks or water from dripping from your AC unit.

What Type of Air Conditioner is Best for a Pop-Up Camper?

There are three main types of AC units you can install

Window units

Window-mounted AC units are usually attached to one of your camper’s windows.

Essentially, they use the window hole in order to hold the unit.

This allows you to keep one-half of the unit outside, where there is little risk of leaking and the cooling half inside the camper.

The main advantages of window units are:

  • They allow you to save space, as half the unit will be outside
  • They take advantage of the existing frame without the risk of poking new holes
  • They tend to have a stronger cooling ability than portable units
  • They produce less noise, as the cooling elements and the compressor will remain on the other side of the window

On the other hand, they do have a couple of downsides:

  • They are more expensive than portable units
  • You will need to remove the unit every time you return to the road

Rooftop units

Somewhat similar to a pet carrier, rooftop units are usually mounted on the camper’s roof.

This is the most robust structure on most RVs.

In the case of a pop-up camper, the roof is also generally unaffected by all the bustle of making and breaking camp.

Their main pros include:

  • When it comes to cooling power, rooftop units are usually the strongest
  • As the top half of the unit will be outside the camper, they can include a dehumidifier
  • They are more likely to have a thermostat
  • They are more likely to double as a heater

Consider the following disadvantages:

  • Older models produce more noise than the window alternative
  • They consume a lot of energy
  • They are more expensive
  • They are hard to install, as you will need to cut a hole in the roof

Portable units

The smallest and most budget-friendly options, portable units, can usually be placed on one side of your camper (or, for that matter, your living room, garage, or office).

They are often slightly larger than a humidifier or a HEPA filter and use a similar amount of electricity.

The main advantage of portable units is that they work on a “plug-and-play” basis.

You can just hook them on any outlet, and they will slowly begin cooling the air around them.

However, they are also significantly less potent – so depending on your camper’s size and the way it pops up, they may not make much of a difference.

What Size AC do You Need?

The size of an AC unit is determined by its BTU number or British Thermal Units.

Essentially, the higher the BTU number, then the more “thermal units” your AC will alter – and the cooling effect will also be stronger.

No matter what you are trying to cool, the main factor at play will be your space.

In closed travel trailers or regular homes, you will just need to multiply the square foot area of the room by 30.

Although a pop-up camper is much smaller than a living room, you won’t necessarily need a much smaller AC unit.

This is, once again, due to the lack of insulation.

For a pop-up camper, you will need to multiply your square footage by 40 instead.

How Much Do These AC Units Cost?

The cost of a camper AC unit will depend on the type (window, rooftop, or portable) and size (or BTU number).

Naturally, exact prices will also change depending on the brand.

As a general rule:

  • Portable units can range between $200 US (for 800 BTUs) to $400 US (for 12,000 BTUs)
  • Window units can range between $300 US (for 800 BTUs) to $500 US (for 12,000 BTUs)
  • Rooftop units can range between $600 US (for 13,000 BTUs) to 900 US (for 15,000 BTUs)

Conclusion

Most pop-up campers do not have air conditioning by default – but that doesn’t mean you can’t install it yourself!

That being said, as a camper’s doors are not airtight.

The unit may not be as powerful as it would typically be.

Depending on your budget, you can choose between different types and sizes.

Make sure you stay cool and safe on the road!