There are many benefits to choosing pop top caravans over regular caravans. A huge advantage is their low profile, which is great for fuel reduction while travelling, plus being easier to store at home. In addition, pop top caravans have a higher interior height than full-sized caravans, making them a great choice for taller people.
In this full guide to pop top caravans Australia we will cover:
- How pop top caravans work
- Pop top caravan dimensions
- Pop top caravan pros and cons
- Common pop top caravan problems
- Pop top caravan maintenance
- Pop top caravan layouts
- Pop top caravan brands & manufacturers
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What is a Pop Top Caravan?
A pop top caravan has all of the functions that you’d expect in a normal caravan, except with one major difference – the roof pops up for use, then pops back down again for travel and storage.
How Does a Pop Top Caravan Work?
Here’s the step-by-step process on how to set up a pop top caravan. For a more visual walk through, watch the video below.
|HOW TO SET UP A POP TOP CARAVAN|
|Step 1||Engage the ‘open’ position on the awning (flick the clip back)|
|Step 2||Release the awning retainer (on the awning arm)|
|Step 3||Loosen the knob at the bottom of both awning arms|
|Step 4||Pull the awning strap to roll the awning out|
|Step 5||Release all 4 roof clips (one on each corner)|
|Step 6||Open the entry door & latch it back|
|Step 7||Grab the 1st roof bar (inside one end of van) and push it up with both hands until it locks into place|
|Step 8||Repeat with the 2nd roof bar inside van|
|Step 9||Clip the safety latches into place on each of the roof bars once in position|
▶️ VIDEO: How to set up a pop top caravan ↓
Pop Top Caravan Dimensions
The average pop top caravan dimensions are 2360mm high x 2470mm wide when it’s popped down and ready for travel.
The travel height of each pop top caravan will vary depending on the wheel size, interior dimensions and whether it’s an on-road or off-road van. Off-road pop top caravans will be higher since they’ve got more clearance underneath the van.
*All dimensions below are averages sourced from multiple caravan companies.
INTERIOR Pop Top Caravan Height:
Below are the average interior pop top caravan heights when popped down (closed) and when popped up (open).
|CLOSED Interior Pop Top Caravan Height||1620 mm|
|OPEN Interior Pop Top Caravan Height||2015 mm – 2115 mm|
TRAVEL Pop Top Caravan Height:
Below are the average closed pop top caravan heights, measuring from the ground to the top of the roof (including the a/c, hatch and antenna).
|TRAVEL Pop Top Caravan Height|
|ON ROAD Pop Top Caravan Travel Height||2360 mm – 2575 mm|
|OFF ROAD Pop Top Caravan Travel Height||2518 mm – 2598 mm|
WIDTH of a Pop Top Caravan:
Below is the average width of pop top caravans in Australia.
|Pop Top Caravan WIDTH||2470 mm – 2500 mm|
Just to compare, here are the average dimensions of a full-sized caravan…
|Full-sized Caravan Dimensions|
|Internal Height||1975 mm – 2030 mm|
|Travel Height (incl. a/c)||2975 mm – 3015 mm|
|Width (incl. awning)||2470mm – 2500 mm|
Pop Top Caravan Pros & Cons
There are many advantages to choosing a pop top caravan, such as enjoying the benefits of a lower profile unit, which is great for storage and manoeuverability. However, there are some disadvantages with pop top caravans that will see you losing out on precious interior storage space, plus having canvas to deal with in bad weather.
Let’s explore the pop top caravan pros and cons so that you can decide which features are the most important for you and your family.
Advantages of Pop Top Caravans
- Compact – easier to store in a garage, carport or backyard
- Low profile – handy when trying to move around low-hanging branches & with off-road camping
- Fuel efficient – less wind resistance & drag = less fuel consumption
- Lighter – meaning you can have a tow vehicle with a smaller tow rating
- Extra ventilation – with lots of canvas flaps & fly screens around the pop top section
- More interior height – pop tops have a higher interior than normal caravans (better for tall people)
Disadvantages with Pop Top Caravans
- Less storage space – no interior overhead cupboards or shelves
- Wet canvas in rainy weather – need to dry out the canvas if packing up on a rainy day
- Limited headspace once popped down – especially annoying if you want to duck in to make lunch on travel days
- Tricky to lift & lower roof – need a relative amount of strength to be able to push upwards
- Extra steps for set up & pack up – more tasks involved with setting up and packing down
Common Pop Top Caravan Problems
Roof Can Be Hard to Lift & Lower
Depending on the design of the pop top roof bars (for pushing up the roof), some of them can be awkward to lift. This may not be a problem for the younger, fitter folk, but for those who don’t have as much strength or height, it can be tricky. If the gas struts aren’t 100% competent, lifting a heavy roof is no easy task, especially with the addition of air conditioning units, tv aerials and roof hatches.
|Cause||Gas struts not working well enough|
|Solution||Replace gas struts with good quality, strong ones|
Canvas Tucking the Wrong Way
Before lowering the roof, you need to go around and make sure that all of the canvas is tucked inwards. Sounds like an easy enough task, right? The problem is that quite often as you start to lower the roof, the canvas tends to push back out with the air pressure. And if you lower the roof and end up with canvas getting caught, you have to lift the roof back up and start all over again with the tucking, folding and lowering.
|Cause||Air pressure pushing canvas outwards as you lower the roof|
|Solution||Tuck all canvas inwards as best as possible before lowering|
Must Dry Out Canvas if You Pack Up in the Wet
Another small annoyance with the pop top caravans is that when you pack the canvas away in wet weather, you’ll need to open it all back up again on a dry day to let everything air out. This just adds another task to the pack down process.
|Solution||Open up awning & pop up roof to let everything dry out once the weather is fine|
One of the most common pop top caravan problems is a leaking roof. This is generally caused by a crack somewhere, which needs to be fixed as soon as possible before any major water damage occurs.
|Cause||Age, weather, collision, tree branches, pressure etc.|
|Solution||Clean the cracked area, then add a flexible rubber coating sealant|
Stress Cracks in the Roof
Over time, you may find little stress cracks in the roof (particularly common with fibreglass-roofed Jaycos), which are caused from regular movement and flexing of the caravan. While they may start out as harmless, they can sometimes lead to actual cracks down the line. It’s best to get onto them and fill them with a flexible rubber coating sealant, which you can find on eBay.
|Cause||Pressure, flexing, hitting pot holes & large bumps|
|Solution||Clean the stress crack, then add a flexible rubber coating sealant|
Roof Latches Becoming Stiff
Over time, the roof latches can become stiff or hard to use. The main reasons are generally due to rust or the latch being knocked or overtightened when pulling down the pop top. You can easily get replacement pop top roof latches from Caravan RV Camping.
|Cause||Rust or the latch getting knocked/ overtightened when collapsing|
|Solution||Lubricant for rusty latches, replace bent or distorted latches|
Rips, Tears & Loose Stitching on Canvas
Wear and tear over time can cause the canvas to sustain rips, tears and loose or broken stitching. This can happen from accidents or not keeping the canvas and stitching clean and dry when packed away.
Those who are handy with canvas sewing can mend these things as they arise. If not, getting an expert to fix the little issues before they become big issues is highly recommended.
|Cause||Normal wear & tear + not keeping the canvas clean & dry|
|Solution||Mend any rips, tears and stitching or replace canvas|
How to Take Care of a Pop Top
Always Dry Out the Canvas
Oftentimes when you’re packing up the caravan to go home or move to the next camp, the pop top canvas and awning can still be wet from rain or condensation. While packing the canvas away wet is not an issue in itself, keeping it packed away while wet is where the problems arise.
Issues caused from consistently wet canvas:
- Canvas stitching rotting, breaking and disintegrating
- Mould & mildew growing on canvas
As soon as the weather is clear and you’re able to open the caravan back up to dry it out, make it happen. This means popping the roof back up and rolling out the awning to allow them to air dry.
Maintenance & Re-treating the Canvas
Regularly check over the canvas, gas struts, zippers, grommets, fasteners, latches etc. and replace or fix any issues as soon as possible. Although the canvas will come with a water resistant coating, you can retreat it every year or so with a flouropolymer or petroleum sealant. Avoid silicone-based products because they may cause the canvas to break down.
Resealing the Windows
Every 12 – 24 months you should reseal around the caravan windows and also redo any other outside seals that are becoming brittle.
|How to Reseal the Pop Top Caravan Windows|
|1. Remove the window from the frame (unscrew, then pop the seal)|
2. Scrape off all of the old silicone (must be completely cleaned back to the metal)
3. Put a line of Sikaflex around the clean window frame
4. Fit the window back into its frame
5. Screw back into place
How to Clean Pop Top Canvas
Cleaning pop top canvas is easy. Here are the basics.
- Brush off dust and dirt
- Using a bucket, sponge and detergent, wash the canvas as you would a car
- Leave it open to dry out
How to Clean Mould Off Pop Top Canvas
The best thing to use against mould and mildew is good old vinegar.
|How to Clean Mould Off Canvas|
|1. Mix a bucket of water with 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar|
2. Use water & vinegar mixture to scrub the mouldy canvas
3. Do not rinse the vinegar off, instead let it air dry in the sun
Despite popular belief, bleach is not the way to combat mould. All bleach does is kills surface mould, bleaches the colour so that you think it’s gone, plus increases future mould due to the spores seeing the bleach as an “attack.”
Here’s the full guide to dealing with mould in a caravan.
How to Stop Condensation in a Pop Top Caravan
Condensation in a caravan is caused from high levels of moisture in the air, which is trapped inside the van. The warm air touching the cold surfaces turns the water vapour back into a liquid form.
The way to manage condensation in a pop top caravan is by increasing the ventilation and getting the air flowing. Below are some tips for reducing caravan condensation.
|How to Stop Condensation in a Pop Top Caravan|
| • Open up windows & hatches|
• Make sure vents are uncovered
• Use exhaust fans when showering & cooking
• Switch on the air con/ diesel heater to dry out the air
• Use moisture absorbers (particularly in the back of cupboards prone to condensation)
• Hang wet towels & clothes outside
Pop Top vs Caravan
When comparing the pop top vs caravan, they both have their pros and cons. In the end, it really depends on what you’re looking for and which elements are crucial ‘must haves’ and ‘deal breakers’ for you.
Below I’ve rated the pop top vs caravan and chosen which one is the best for each category.
|Pop Top Caravan||Full Size Caravan|
|Overhead storage space||❌||✔️|
|Superior interior air circulation||✔️||❌|
|Extra interior height (for tall people)||✔️||❌|
|Better protection from water & dust ingress||❌||✔️|
|Simpler set up & pack down||❌||✔️|
|Easier to tow||✔️||❌|
|Easier to store||✔️||❌|
|Lower tow weight requirements||✔️||❌|
|Cheaper on fuel||✔️||❌|
Pop Top Caravans Australia FAQs
Pop top caravans are a great option for those who are looking for a smaller caravan when it comes to storage and towing, yet still want the ability to open it up and expand the living space while in use. The benefit of having a pop top caravan for taller people is in the extra head space that is available compared to a normal caravan.
Given their shorter travel height, pop top caravans have a lower wind resistance and drag, which in turn reduces the amount of fuel consumption compared to a full-sized caravan.
Yes, you can use a pop top caravan in the wind, however be prepared to be rocked around and not sleep as well with all of the noise and movement. The likelihood of the caravan flipping from the wind is slim to none unless you find yourself in a category 3 cyclone, in which case I wouldn’t want to be camping!
When the caravan roof is closed, most adults can’t stand up straight inside, however you can still duck inside to get something if you need it. Once the caravan roof is popped up, you will have loads of head space (often even more than a regular caravan).
Absolutely! The pop top canvas is heavily water resistant and as long as there are no holes, tears or cracks, you shouldn’t have any leaks.
Pop tops can be used all year round, even in the winter. The best ways to stay warm in a pop top in the winter is with the use of layered clothing, hot water bottles, cooking inside and switching on the diesel heater (if you have one).
Pop top caravans should not leak unless there is a crack in the roof, cracked seals or canvas that needs mending. Keeping on top of maintenance and repairs will ensure that you never have to worry about your pop top leaking.
Yes, you can get roof-mounted and under-bed mounted air conditioning units for pop top caravans. Keep in mind that if you’ve got a roof-mounted unit, that will add extra weight that needs to be lifted when popping up the roof. Air conditioners in pop tops will only work when plugged into power (240v or an inverter generator).
The best way to keep the caravan pop top cool in summer is by parking near shade and opening up the windows and vents on the shady side. Keep any windows closed along the sunny side or draw the curtains to keep the heat out. Make use of privacy screens and 12v fans, as well as cooking outside.
Pop Top Caravan Layouts
Every brand and caravan model will come with different pop top caravan layouts, so finding the right fit for you is going to require some research.
I recommend wandering through caravan yards in your area and walking in and out of as many different styles as you can to hone in on the exact pop top caravan layout that you’re looking for.
Things to decide on when buying a caravan:
- What length caravan do you want?
- What is your tow vehicle (is it suitable for towing a van that size)?
- How many beds do you need?
- Do you want an ensuite and/ or washing machine?
To help you with the process of buying a caravan have a read of my Guide to Buying a Caravan.
In addition, I’ve put together a digital Caravan Buyers Guide, where you can tick off tasks as you go, work through your tow set-up and weights, plus more. Check it out below.
The ULTIMATE Caravan Buyers Guide
Streamline buying a caravan with this interactive planner. From budget, towing weights, PPSR checks & more, we guide you through the process, step-by-step!
15-page Digital & Printable Planner
- CHECKLISTS to tick off
- DECISION PROMPTS to fill out
- Questions to ask, handover, hitching up & more…
To start you off, here are three different pop top caravan layouts.
Expanda Pop Top Caravan with Ensuite
Below is the Jayco Expanda Pop Top with Ensuite. When closed this van is 17ft long, although once you’ve got both beds expanded out, you end up with a length of 26ft.
- Two Double Beds
- Top Bunk with Dinette underneath (converts to second bunk)
Pop Top Caravan with Queen Bed
Most pop top caravans have a queen bed, however you can often opt for the twin single beds instead if you wish. Below is the Millard Toura Pop Top (16 ft).
- Queen bed
Family Pop Top Caravan with Bunks
For family pop top caravans with bunks, you’re going to be looking at a slightly longer van. Have a look at the layout of the New Age Road Owl Pop Top (18 ft) below.
- Queen bed
30 Pop Top Caravan Brands & Manufacturers
Here I’ve collated a list of brands and manufacturers of pop top caravans Australia. There are more popping up all the time, with many additional manufacturers offering hybrid caravans and campers.
The Pop Top Caravans Spreadsheet
Fast track your caravan research with the Pop Top Caravan Spreadsheet ↓
Use the pre-filled selection of 250+ different models across 50 caravan manufacturers to narrow down your search. Specify your desired weights, dimensions, number of berths, bathroom, tank size and solar power to get a shortlist with contact info and prices.