Tuesday, September 26, 2023


RV Review: The Rockwood Tent HW296 makes a lot of sense

Today’s review is of the Rockwood Tent HW296 pop-up travel trailer. Now, before you stop reading, these trailers actually offer a lot of space and are a good use case for a lot of RVers. 

In fact, when you think about what we’re all talking about, fuel prices, one of these pop-up trailers makes a tremendous amount of sense. One of the biggest factors in the lousy mileage we get when we go RVing isn’t so much the weight of an RV, it’s the size. 

Specifically the frontal area. 

At some point I think all humans have put their hand out of the window of a moving vehicle and made different shapes. A flat hand slices through the wind, but when you put your hand up vertically there’s much more resistance. 

The larger the surface you’re shoving through the wind, the more energy it takes to overcome that resistance. That’s why you might think a small single-axle trailer wouldn’t have as big an impact on fuel mileage as a big, honking trailer. But then you get almost the same lousy mileage with either one on a relatively flat road. 

Wind resistance.

So, something like this that actually sits below the roofline of whatever is towing it will have a much lesser impact on fuel mileage than would a much taller trailer. Plus, you can also pop this into many garages, eliminating the need for paying for storage. 

Highlights of the Rockwood Tent HW296

As far as pop-up trailers in general, this one’s pretty large at almost 22 feet in length when closed. But when you open it up, it really opens up. 

On either end there’s a bed that slides out and a tent that goes around that. On one end this bed is an actual king-sized bed at 70” x 80”. At the opposite end is a true queen bed at 60” x 80”. The mattresses on both ends are also heated. Oh, and there’s a fan that hangs from the ceiling, too. 

Further, both ends also feature a “hammock” arrangement that’s really more of a night table or place to put stuff while you’re sleeping. But it’s there. 

That’s entertainment

Surprisingly, this trailer features a lot of seating space, too. There’s a couch at one end along with a “U” shaped dinette. This dinette is actually in a slide and, of course, can sleep two. That brings the sleeping capacity up to six campers. 

There’s also a folding table for the folks at that couch, but this can also go outside, naturally. 

Outside is where you’ll find a portable griddle like the one I have in my own Rockwood, and a metal table. In fact I use my griddle quite a bit. 

But there is a full kitchen in this trailer with a three-burner stove with an actual, albeit 16”, oven, a fully plumbed sink and even a three-way refrigerator. 

On those three-way fridges, they have the advantage of working on propane, shore power or even battery power. But the battery power is really more about maintaining the temp as you’re rolling down the road rather than cooling the fridge to operating temperature from room temp. 

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The bathroom

You might be surprised to know that this actually has a shower and a toilet, and that the toilet is plumbed into a black tank. 

But here’s where I know I’m going to lose some of you. Remember the sidewalls above the hard walls are all a canvas-like material. That means the bathroom walls are also a canvas-like material, too. 

So the reality is, unless you turn the music way, way up, you’re sharing the audio soundtrack of your visit to the potty with your fellow campers. I can imagine if you’re camping with teenagers they probably won’t go to the potty the entire weekend, whereas someone like me would consider this an opportunity to share. 

And never ever be invited to camp with the family ever again. 

Challenges in the Rockwood Tent HW296

In fact, the necessity of the canvas sidewalls is really where a lot of the disadvantages of something like this come into play. The bathroom walls are canvas, the bedroom walls are canvas.

The countertop has to be no higher than the sidewalls of the trailer in order to fit under the “lid.” So the fridge is smaller, too.

One thing I wish they had done is used a 12-volt cooler-style refrigerator on a sliding tray. The reason I write this is that it would be great to be able to access the cooler from the outside or inside and you wouldn’t have to raise the roof to pack the fridge. As it is now, that’s the only way to get to the fridge, unless you can talk your neighbor’s 10-year-old into crawling in—which they would likely think was fun.

There is a lot of space including seating space in the Rockwood Tent HW296. It opens up to be a pretty large space overall with some incredible headroom. But the canvas sidewalls can be a deal breaker for some.

Further, there are places in bear country that very specifically prohibit trailers with canvas sidewalls. If one of these is a consideration, you should first consider where you’ll be camping and make sure that those planned destinations will allow a trailer of this sort.

In summary

My first RV was a pop-up tent trailer that had very few of these amenities. This trailer really does have all the features of much larger and more traditional trailers. 

The lower overall height is one of the bigger advantages of this style of camper. The weight would certainly enable more different types of vehicles to safely tow this. In fact, the lower height means this trailer would likely be less affected by side winds, as well. 

Further, Rockwood (and Flagstaff) utilize a Dexter torsion axle suspension, which is really unusual in this category and results in a better towing experience. Other things I like are the high-performance vent fan, plus this comes with a proper air conditioner, although it is not ducted. 

I’ve seen fewer and fewer pop-up trailers on the market only because, when manufacturing capability is constrained, most companies smartly focus on the more profitable units. That leaves this style of trailer on the proverbial cutting room floor. 

I think, for the right type of buyer, this makes a lot of sense. As fuel prices continue to choke a lot of campers’ budgets, these are an even more logical decision. 

Rockwood has done a good job with a camper that has a pretty robust set of features in a package that’s easy to tow and possible to garage. Not bad. 

More from Tony

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

If you’re RV shopping here are some tips on RV shopping from a former RV salesperson—me!

Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping .

You can also check out his RV podcast with his wife, Peggy.

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.

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Tony Barthel has been a life-long RV enthusiast and travels part-time with his wife where they also produce a podcast, write about RVs and love the RV lifestyle.


  1. We did take a pop up to Glacier with absolutely no problems. The only problem I have with pop ups is you have to put everything on the floor and make sure that the thing goes down. So basically you need bins to store stuff in, put it on the floor and then go. After two of them I was like seriously? And got a 21 foot trailer. I love my trailer. Yes you need to make sure nothing goes flying from the counters and everything else is stored in the cabinets. So unless you like tents, this is one step up from a tent. But when the family is grown its just you a pop up is a pain the neck. A good starter but a travel trailer is when you get tired of popping and spending hours setting up. Have fun but if you have a big family its the way to go.

  2. This popup is very nice especially with tandem axles. I love popups, but don’t expect to get into the big parks way up north like Glacier that only allows hard sided campers. A bear will tear this baby to shreds.

    • We did do Glacier in a pop up and no problems. So not sure where this is a no brainer rule but we had no problems with it. We did go travel trailer in 2018 and would never look back.

  3. This is a lovely pop up. But I am sure it was not as cheap as the popup I bought from a friend. I fixed it up, had it for a several years and loved it. I learned so much and expanded my knowledge of campers, maintenance and safety that prepared me to buy my first travel trailer. I love that one too and still have it. After 10 years my little TT prepared me for the big day to sell my house, put things I wanted in storage and moved on. I lived in that 16.5′ TT for over a year heading from Miami, FL to New Mexico. Now, that little TT prepared me to get my 31′ fifth wheel that I now live in as my home. It has plenty of room with 3 slides, great closet space, lovely kitchen, large living room and an amazing shower large enough for 3. However, I travel in my little travel trailer and the gas consumption is not bad. Now, that’s the life for me.

  4. My oldest daughter and family have a “larger” popup they have traveled with for 18 years. I financed it for them as they were just married without a pot….well, you know. Of course back then MSRP was under $10k with 33% discount to take another big bite off the selling price.

    This is a nice popup…but $33k MSRP? I’d have pushed them toward some of the hard side units Tony has reviewed in the same price range. That’s just nuts for a tent camper.

  5. I like 2 things about this glorified pop up. It’s got tandem axles and the steps themselves have drop down legs. Other than that I find it hard to believe all manufacturers have no imagination or design sense for both style and function. Oh yeah the kitchen cooks and the fridge is cold and the potty flushes. Other than that these things make no sense. this is a general rant about manufacturers who share the same pathetic layout over and over again. I’m not talking about high end MH’s or fivers that cost a mint. I have a very nice TT in which I have torn out things and rearranged “furniture” to be way more functional. I’m sure there are others who share my dismay at the lack of simple “right” thinking on the part of those who design “regular” RV’s. Somebody hire me. Unfortunately I’m a little too old to build anything on my own from scratch or else I would. I remember the first time I thought about this 30 or so years ago, and almost nothing has changed.

  6. VERY nice pop-up. Like you Tony, our first “camper” was a pop up. With ZERO amenities, but we loved it. This one is really as good as a small TT, if you can get over the canvas walls. But the price – yikes! That’s not far removed from a TT’s sticker. Oh well – you do get what you pay for…

  7. Personally I’ve never had the urge to camp where bears live, or any other type of animal that looks at me and starts licking the chops. Lol. My first experience with a pop up was in 1966 when I checked out a camper from special services when stationed at NAS Memphis, TN. It was 8’ long and 5’ wide and unfolded to the side making a large dressing room-inclement weather room and a double bed. With my late wife and 3 month old son we had a great time at Kentucky Lake. The Camping Bug bit me there.

  8. Having grown up camping in a pop-up, I have a soft spot for these functional, Swiss-army-knife style campers. They definitely aren’t for everyone but as you pointed out, being able to tow with almost anything and store it in the garage are worth consideration.
    My husband and I were actually given our old family pop-up by my parents so we could take our young children camping. But when I tried to get him to consider one of these amazing highwall campers, he just couldn’t do it.
    Though, when we were considering buying, the price was less than half what it is now!
    The absolute best part of a camper like this is that feel of being out in the woods (or whatever natural surrounding you are in). That’s what it’s all about – those memories of camping in our pop-up with our little girls were magical and have never faded.

    • We did the same thing. Once she hit 18 we traded for a travel trailer 21 foot and have not looked back. But yes some great memories with a pop up. Now we have memories with our TT.


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