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Are Pop-Up Campers Waterproof? 10 Things You Can Do (Yourself!)

In RV living by Christopher SchopfLeave a Comment

Pop-up campers hold many advantages over standard travel trailers.

However, these types of campers are quite different than travel trailers and many people wonder whether they will have issues with leaks.

Are pop-up campers waterproof?
Pop-up campers are waterproof when they are new but there are many factors that can hurt their ability to remain waterproof.  Because of this, pop-up camper owner’s need to take special measures to ensure that their pop-up campers will remain waterproof.

In this post, we’ll talk about why pop-up campers are waterproof when you first buy them and how you can ensure that they stay waterproof.

Let’s get started!

Why Are Pop-Up Campers Waterproof When You First Buy Them?

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A pop-up camper can come in two different forms:

  • One is a vinyl-sided version
  • Another is a canvas style version. 

Technically you can have a hard-sided version as well but most would assume this is waterproof, (and it is).

Canvas tent campers are waterproof because the canvas is treated with a waterproof coating.  This coating works well at first but needs to be reapplied every season.

Vinyl sided tent campers are naturally waterproof as vinyl is a waterproof material.  Typically the center of a pop-up camper is a fiberglass roof which is also permanently waterproof.

Unlike tents, tent campers are raised off of the ground so there is no fear that the tent camper could take on water from the floor.

10 Tips to Ensure A Pop-Up Camper Stays Waterproof?

Now you have started using the camper and you might experience leaking from the roof or the sides.

1) Cover The Camper When Not In Use

Fiberglass should remain permanently waterproof but small cracks combined with freezing water can cause larger cracks and holes that can damage the outer top.  Covering the pop-up when not in use will help keep snow and ice off of the fiberglass roof.

If you decide to leave your pop-up camper open all of the time, you may want to park it somewhere out of the elements.  Remember, canvas and vinyl can easily be torn or ripped and mice, squirrels, and rats will not hesitate to chew through these materials.

2) Get a Travel Cover

Some people get covers that go over their pop-up camper while traveling.  These covers add an extra layer of protection and can be used as tarps once you’ve arrived at your destination.  Travel covers can be purchased with padding inside of them to help dull the blow of stray rocks and other debris that may damage the pop-up camper’s fiberglass shell.

3) Keep Your Top Clean

Keeping your canvas and vinyl sides clean will help keep them from aging prematurely.  Acids found in bird feces and in food can cause your tent material to lose its waterproof covering.  Washing your canvas after each use should help with this.

Also, any food that gets on your tent material can attract animals who will eat through the sides of your canvas or vinyl siding.  Washing will remove this food so you can be sure that your tent material will be free from holes the next time you go to use it.

4) Repair or Cover the Top

If your top does get damaged, you’ll want to repair it or at least cover it as soon as possible.  The longer the damage is left unchecked, the more time nature has to cause even further damage to the top.

Fiberglass can be repaired with Bondo and resin.  This can be a DIY job or you could take it to any place that specializes in fiberglass repair.

You can read more here on how to fix a leaking roof for several camper types (including a pop-up camper).

5) Put Water Proof Spray on The Canvas

As we said earlier, canvas tent sides must be treated with a waterproof material.  This should be done at least once each season.  The spray does not cost much and it will help keep your pop-up camper dry.

Before treating your canvas, just be sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned it as any dirt could reduce the waterproof spray’s effectiveness.

6) Use Seam Tape on The Canvas

Just as you might apply seam tape to a regular tent, so too can you apply seam tape to a canvas or vinyl pop-up tent.  Seam tape should be applied and reapplied each and every season.

The reason for this is that seam tape tends to lose its effectiveness over time.

7) Patch Holes and Tears as They Arise

Holes and tears in the canvas or vinyl top can be patched with a patch kit.  Larger areas of damage can be replaced with new panels.  This can be done with the help of someone adept at sewing or at a pop-up camper repair shop.

Just keep in mind that new canvas can be quite expensive so you’ll want to try your best to work with patch kits before attempting to replace entire canvas sections.

8) Use Caulk Around Your Air Conditioning Units and Vent Fans

The area around your air conditioner and vent fans are vulnerable to leaking.  This is usually because the caulk around this area dries out over time.  To combat this problem, remove and replace this caulk each season.

Always use an outdoor caulk.  Caulks made from silicone work great because they can withstand varying temperature changes and they take a long time to dry out.

These caulks are easy to apply and all you’ll need is a simple caulk gun to do so.

Caulk doesn’t have to be restricted to just the roof either.  You can and should recaulk around each side panel of the camper.  These areas are usually attached at the corners so you may have to caulk around and inside of the corner guards.

9) Be Careful When Opening Your Camper

The greatest way to help keep your pop-up camper waterproof is to ensure that you do not get any rips or holes in it in the first place.  One of the main ways people tend to tear their pop-up campers is through an improper opening and closing procedures.

Always be sure to take care when opening and closing your pop-up as the opening mechanisms can easily tear through the tent materials.

If you feel you getting too much resistance while opening, stop and take a look at the areas around the opening mechanisms to make sure that the tent has not been snagged by them.

Continuing to open the pop-up before pulling the tent away from the opening mechanism will lead to a tear or even a hole.

Also, be sure to open your pop-up camper away from tree branches or anything else that may get snagged on it while opening it up.  Remember that the sides of your pop-up will come out further than the fiberglass top so even though your pop-up camper may look safe, it may be too close to the tree you parked it near.

Trees aren’t only dangerous when you’re opening up the camper either.

Be sure that there aren’t any branches close by that could potentially fall on your camper as branches can and will put tears in the sidewalls of your pop-up.

10) Don’t Close Your Pop-up While The Canvas Is Frozen

A canvas or vinyl pop-up camper will become stiff in freezing temperatures.  In fact, interior condensation can freeze on the fabric itself and the entire wall can become a sheet of ice.  Closing the camper up while it is in this condition can lead to tears.

Use your heater inside your pop-up camper to thaw the walls out before closing up your camper.  Once you’re home and in your garage, open the camper back up to let it dry out before closing it back up again.  This will help you avoid mold and mildew buildup inside of your pop-up camper.

Related Questions

How to Get Mold and Mildew Out of a My Pop-up Camper’s Canvas?

Even if you’ve kept your pop-up camper from leaking, you may still end up with mold and mildew inside and outside of your pop-up camper.  This can lead to unpleasant odors and allergies.  In fact, the mold that forms on your pop-up camper can even become a health hazard.

The best way to get rid of this is to open it up on a bright and sunny day so that the sun can help to kill the mold and mildew. 

Leave it out in the sun for a few hours and then clean the canvas with mild soap and a soft sponge or scrub brush.

Once all of the mold and mildew has been removed, leave the camper out in the sun until it has had a chance to completely dry out before closing it back up.  To prevent your pop-up from getting moldy in the future, always be sure to dry it out before closing it up.

If you have to break camp in the rain, open it back up when you get home and allow it to dry.

In Closing

There are many steps you can take to help waterproof your pop-up camper.

Taking these steps does not take a lot of time but they can dramatically increase the lifespan of your canvas or vinyl pop-up camper.

Make sure to always read the manual for instructions on how to maintain the canvas and other materials of your camper. There might be some special and unique tips on how to maintain the material of your specific camper model.

Always read these tips first and apply the tips on the article here afterward.

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