Factory Options vs Aftermarket

May 5, 2017

There are several “must have” features for a popup camper. Some are easy for you or a dealer to install while others are better to have been included by the factory at build time. Learn more in this post about factory versus aftermarket options.

Air Conditioning

While the topic of AC is covered in its own post, this is one feature that is much easier to have been installed at the factory since it involves running power, cutting a whole in the popup camper’s roof, and the installation of additional roof bracing to support the weight of the AC unit.

popup camper air conditioner

Fear not, however, if your popup camper does not have AC already. Some units already have the roof bracing and are even pre-wired for an air conditioner but simply need a whole cut in the roof and the AC unit installed. Since it is a fairly elaborate installation process, adding an air conditioner to your popup camper is something that is best left to a certified dealer, who can ideally not only do so without voiding the factory roof warranty, but can also offer you a parts and labor warranty on the air conditioner itself.


The benefits of this topic are covered in a separate post about bathrooms and showers, but this is another area where it’s best to decide on what your needs are and ensure any required shower or toilet options are installed by the factory. For example, it is quite difficult, even for a dealer, to add a Thetford casette toilet to an existing popup camper without one given that it requires replacing interior cabinets with the interior toilet box, running plumbing and electrical (for water pump), and then requires modifications to the camper’s exterior for the casette unit and water fill/dump ports.

outside shower on popup camper

On the other hand, an outdoor shower can be added fairly easily, usually with a simple hole cut in your popup camper’s exterior located close to the interior sink for easy branching of water lines.

There are forum posts about adding an indoor shower through the use of a shower curtain hanging over the box of a dinette seat (with cushions and such removed), but both the installation and use of this setup is probably less convenient than just hanging a black camp shower bag outside.

Roof Vent

While possible to cut a hole in your roof and add a vent port later, it is much more convenient to ensure that your popup camper has this from the factory. Many will also come with a powered fan, like the Fan-Tastic vent/fan combo, whose benefits are discussed in this post. If your popup camper does not have a vent, it is worth considering cutting a hole in the roof and installing one for the benefit of letting all that hot air rise and escape from your camper. Running power might require fishing some wire from another device while also ensuring that circuit can support the additional amperage.

Maxxair Delux fan

While no manufacturer likely includes the Maxxair Deluxe fan from the factory, it is a valuable upgrade and is fairly easy to swap out from a regular 14″ x 14″ powered roof vent/fan combo. The Maxxair Deluxe features 10 different speeds, can remain open even during travel or rain, and even includes a thermostat start/stop option if desired.

Off-Road Package

More and more popup campers are being offered in an Off-Road package with raised frames for increased ground clearance, protective features like diamond plate panels, and pre-installed roof racks for bringing along accessories like bikes and kayaks. It depends on the manufacturer whether this package is only available from the factory build or can be added in after. Some popup campers can be modified “enough” to support your needs without having the package pre-installed, such as:

  • Raising your frame for increased ground clearance: for most popup campers, this can be performed by a dealer or experienced owner and involves flipping the leaf springs from under the axle to over.
  • Rhino Liner: can be sprayed onto vulnerable areas like the front bottom of a popup camper in place of the factory diamond plate paneling.
  • Roof Racks: like the SportRack camp trailer rack system can be installed aftermarket so long as you take careful care on the mounting, including sealing any holes/screws with RV style caulking.
  • Bike Carriers: like the ProRac Tent Trailer Proformance (also available in 4-bike config) can be installed almost as easily aftermarket as the factory can at initial build.

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I've been camping regularly since I was a kid, from quick Cub/Boy Scout trips to week-long backpacking trips and everything else in-between. We got a popup camper when our kids were 1 and 3 years old to enjoy more time outdoors together alongside a few conveniences like heat and running water. Since then, we've spent over 75 nights together as a family in our popup camper. I've learned a lot about the intricacies of a popup tent camper during this time and love to share those lessons here for the benefit of others.