A Frame pop up campers are lightweight, and can be towed with small vehicles. Unlike the traditional popup camper, A Frames are hard-sided making them more durable and weather resistant for camping.
This type of small travel trailer is perfect for couples or small families who want to spend the night in nature without having to sleep on the ground.
If you’re someone who does a lot of camping, but doesn’t want to invest in a large motorhome, then A Frame trailers are worth consideration. In this article we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of A Frames as well as features to look for in a camper.
- Related to this post: Soft-sided pop up campers
What is an A Frame Camper?
A Frames are a type of pop up camper. But rather than having soft sides, they have a hard shell roof that peaks at the center when assembled.
The roofline resembles an “A” shape which means the interior has good standing room. Most models also have windows or vent fans on the roof bringing in lots of light and ventilation.
A Frames have gas-assisted struts, or power lifts so they can be set up in just minutes. They are compact and lightweight, making them easy to maneuver during travel.
What is an Aliner Camper?
Aliner campers were the first brand of A Frame trailers. The design was originated by Ralph Tait in the 1970s. Since then, a number of other companies have created their own versions of the Aliner.
Aliner campers have remained the most notable brand since conception. They currently have 11 models with varying layouts and features to choose from.
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How Much Do A-Frames Weigh?
A Frame campers weigh between 1,800 – 3,800 pounds. The most popular campers weigh under 2,000 pounds.
One big advantage of these lightweight campers is the fact that they can be towed with smaller vehicles; including many daily drivers.
To check the tow rating on your car, look at the owner’s manual or do a search of your vehicle’s VIN number.
A-Frames are listed by their “dry weight”. That means no extra camping gear, water or propane fuels are considered in its weight rating.
How Big Are A Frame Trailers?
Most campers are less than 20 feet long and no wider than a regular vehicle. Because the roof folds down, they are easy to store in a garage or shed at home.
How Many People Can Sleep In An A Frame?
The typical A Frame is built for two people. Larger models have enough space for four adults to sleep comfortably. They are ideal for couples and small families.
How Much Do A Frame Campers Cost?
The average price of an A Frame camper is $12,000 – $30,000 new, or $12,000 – $16,000 used.
As you can see from the numbers, A-Frames tend to hold their value. They don’t have much depreciation like you would expect to find in a motorized RV.
Why Choose An A-Frame Over Other Campers?
A Frame campers have a lot of benefits which make them one of the most desired travel trailers on the market. These are some of the top features:
Hard sided exterior: The hard outer shell gives you better protection from the elements compared to a camping tent or soft shell pop up. They are better insulated and can withstand high winds, hail and rain.
The slope of the roof prevents snow buildup and you won’t have the inconvenience of pooled up water during hard rains.
Lightweight and compact: When the sides and roof are folded down, they stand just a few feet tall. That gives you great gas mileage compared to towing other campers.
The small size also makes them easy to maneuver. They can fit easily into a regular parking space and will have a fairly tight turning radius.
At the campground, you’ll be able to fit an Aliner into some of the smallest of spaces. You can set them up in a regular tent camping spot but still feel like you’re sleeping comfortably.
Easy to store: Along with being compact, a big advantage of the A-frame is its storage capabilities. You can easily fit this type of camper in your garage or backyard shed during the winter season.
Without having to find a storage space, you’ll save money on storage fees or renting a parking spot for your camper.
Low profile design: Similar to a soft shell pop up camper, one of the best parts about A Frame campers is the low profile design. With this model, you have the opportunity to pack bikes, kayaks, canoes or roof racks on top of the camper during travel.
This essentially doubles your available gear space and the height makes it easy to load and unload equipment once your reach the campground.
Easy to assemble: A Frame campers use either gas assisted strut lifts or power lifts to raise the roof. One person can set up this camper in under five minutes which makes it easier to assemble than a tent.
Low rate of depreciation: Unlike motorhomes and RVs, A-Frames tend to hold their value well.
Exterior features aren’t the only reason you may want to consider an A Frame. These campers are also significantly more comfortable than a tent and some of them offer high end amenities.
These are some of the upgrades and optional features you can find on the inside:
- Sink with electric water pump
- Hot water heater
- Portable Toilet
- Interior or Exterior Shower
- Stovetop and microwave
- Storage in low and exterior compartments
- Bluetooth speakers, stereo and USB ports
- Cell phone signal booster
- Interior lighting
- Power lift assist
- Battery bank
- Propane regulator and compartment
- Large fresh water tank
- Solar panel prep
- Sky lights
- Vent fan
A Frame Campers With Bathrooms
Higher end A Frames can now be purchased with portable toilets, and even showers included. These won’t be the most luxurious bathrooms, but they could certainly be worth the extra expense if you spend a significant amount of time camping.
If your A Frame doesn’t come with a bathroom, there are still things you can do to keep clean on the road:
What Are The Disadvantages?
As with any camper, there are drawbacks to purchasing an A Frame instead of a larger motorhome.
Not a good camper for large families: The small footprint makes these campers ideal for couples and small families. You wouldn’t want to camp out with more than four people in an A Frame.
No high shelving: Because of the fold out design you won’t find high shelving or storage space on the inside. Most of the storage falls below the camper in exterior compartments or low cabinets.
Can’t use a standard awning: The shape of the roof does not allow for standard awnings. While you can add one to your car, most A Frames won’t come with a shade to stand underneath the camper.
- If shade is important to you, consider packing a canopy tent
Not good for long term road trips: A Frames are not designed to be used for full time living or long term road trips. Some campers have toilets and showers inside, but you’re better off investing in a 5th wheel or motorhome if you want the space for long term camping.
Beds are not the most comfortable: One of the common design features is a dinette with a table that drops down into a bed. These haven’t proven to be the most comfortable sleeping experience. Campers over 6’ tall may also find the beds a bit small.
Limited or no power supply: Most A Frames do not come with electricity ready to go unless you purchase a high end model. That means you’ll need to supplement with solar or a generator to get power to your rig.
How To Power An A-Frame
While many campers are wired with 12v and even 120v electric, power does not usually come standard in these trailers. Just like camping you can use flashlights in the dark, solar powered lanterns, or the light of a nearby campfire.
If electric lighting, a stereo, or even a small television are important to you there are a couple of options to consider:
Solar generators come equipped with a charge controller, battery bank, and inverter built-in. It’s a plug-and-play system that can power your whole camper.
A standard gas generator can be used to charge electronics with large electric loads.
A Frame Camper Pros and Cons
- Hard exterior
- Lightweight and compact
- Easy to maneuver
- Simple to store
- Low profile design
- Easy to assemble
- Low rate of depreciation
- Not great for large families
- No high shelving
- Cannot attach an awning
- Not meant for full time living
- Small beds
- Limited power supply
Things To Look For Before Purchasing
Like any big investment, we recommend trying to camp in an A Frame before running out and purchasing one. You might find the camper is too small for your needs, lacks the necessary features, or is exactly what you’re looking for!
There are a number of rental companies you can use to test the camper for a weekend or two.
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Here are a few things you’ll want to pay special attention to before buying:
- How much does it weigh and how much can your vehicle tow?
- How many people will be sleeping in it?
- What type of kitchen set up does it have?
- Is the stove top compatible with propane? And where can it be stored?
- Do you need a toilet or shower?
- Where is the water stored?
- Where does the power come from?
- How difficult is it to set up?
- Is there enough light and ventilation?
- Does it have all of the accessories you need?
- Must Have Accessories
Most new campers will come with everything you need to hit the road. But there are two things you’ll want to pay special attention to: Stabilizer jacks and leveling blocks.
Stabilizer jacks keep your trailer from tipping side to side as you walk around the interior. Most A Frames come with two stabilizers built into the rear of the camper.
Check if the camper you’re going to buy has stabilizers on the front. If it doesn’t, you should purchase a jack stand to stabilize the front of the trailer. Stabilizer jacks should not be used for leveling the trailer.
Leveling blocks or wheel chocks are designed to level the camper. They slip under or next to the wheels to keep the camper flat and prevent it from rolling away.
The Best A-Frame Camper Brands For Sale
Despite the prominence of A Frames, there are only a handful of brands that are currently producing and selling them. These are the top camper brands if you want to buy a new one today:
- Aliner (11 models of campers)
- Chalet (LTW, Classic, XL)
- Forest River (Explore Rockwood, Explore Flagstaff)
- Jaco (J series)
Aliner has by far the largest and most diverse line of campers. This makes sense because the company was started by the original designer of the A Frame.
Aliner has 12 models to choose from:
|Family||18'||84"||57"||< 2000 lbs|
|Family Scout||18'||84"||57"||< 2000 lbs|
|Ranger 10||12' 8"||78"||58"||1225 lbs|
|Ranger 12||15'||78"||57"||2500 lbs|
|Titanium 10||13'||78"||66"||< 3000 lbs|
|Titanium 12||15'||78"||66"||< 3000 lbs|
Every Aliner camper comes with a bed, dinette, sink, solar panel port, 35A converter, skylights and Fan-Tastic fan. Most campers also come with a microwave, stove top, water pump, fresh water tank, small refrigerator and electric outlets.
There are a bunch of addons and additional features you can include in your purchase for an extra price. An air conditioner, furnace, outdoor grill and propane tanks are some of the most popular.
We like Aliner campers because they are so customizable. There are many different layout options to choose from. And in some camper designs you can even order different exterior colors. All Aliners are extremely lightweight so they can be towed with most vehicles.
An extensive dealer network makes them easy to find. Prices range from $10,000-$30,000.
Chalet is a company based in Oregon and they make three brands of A Frames: The LTW, The Classic, and The XL.
The LTW: Weighs 900 pounds, sleeps two, and has a refrigerator, sink, water pump and 15 gallon tank, furnace, exhaust fan, propane tank and two burner cooktop. It’s also prewired for solar and has a 35A converter.
The Classic: Is slightly larger than the LTW. It weighs 1505 pounds, sleeps three, and has all the same appliances of the LTW with more space inside. You can find two dinettes so there’s more seating for family.
The XL: Sleeps four adults comfortably and weighs 1995 pounds. This trailer is much more spacious inside with lots of extra seating, an optional cassette toilet and wet bath, plus plenty of storage. If you’re looking for an A Frame camper with a bathroom inside, this model is one to look at.
Forest River owns a number of RV brands and two of those (Rockwood and Flagstaff) produce and sell A-Frames.
Explore Rockwood pop up campers have large windows and a spacious design making you feel like you’re in the great outdoors. These campers are lightweight and weigh just 2,014 pounds unloaded. They also have a number of standard features that would be considered add-ons if you were to look at other brands.
Some of the things you can expect to find in the Rockwood popup campers include: 3-way refrigerator, microwave, portable toilet, USB charging ports, TV outlet, propane tanks, exterior speakers, and your standard dinette, bed and sink.
Explore Flagstaff has a similar design to the Rockwood. These pop ups weigh 2,014 pounds. However, this A Frame still has high end accessories on the inside including a toilet and shower, electric water pump, microwave, 3-way refrigerator, TV outlet and outdoor speakers.
Jayco Campers created the J Series hard pop up in 2015. You can still get new models for sale today. There are a number of floor plans you can choose from, but all of them include propane appliances, a 17 gallon fresh water tank, sink, dinette, microwave and full sized bed. Some trailer configurations include an interior shower.
Each of the J Series models weighs under 2000 pounds so you can rest assured that most vehicles can tow them easily.
Camping in an A Frame
Camping in an A Frame is a much more comfortable experience than spending the night in a tent. These hard sided pop up trailers are lightweight, easy to set up, and can be towed with nearly any vehicle.
The best part about these travel trailers is the price tag. They are significantly less expensive than a large motorhome but still come with many creature comforts.