What Is A Hybrid Camper? All You Need To Know About Hybrid Travel Trailers
By Marshall Wendler
If you want an RV that you can take camping on the weekends that is small, reasonably lightweight, yet has sleeping space for a larger family, a hybrid camper may be worth checking out.
An expandable camper trailer may not be for everyone, but they offer advantages over other towable recreational vehicles (while having some disadvantages).
Read on to learn about hybrid camping trailers and if they are the right choice for your camping style.
What Is A Hybrid Travel Trailer?
Well, what is a hybrid camper? A hybrid RV trailer takes a traditional hard-sided travel trailer and adds 'pop-out' sections on one or both ends (front/back and sometimes sides) that have the sleeping space (beds).
The pop-outs are manually opened and have fabric/mesh walls.
The slide-out will have additional living space, whereas the pop-outs (up to 3) will have beds.
Hybrid expandable travel trailers are a mashup of the better parts of a hard-sided travel trailer and a pop up trailer camper. They are a niche product as they appeal to a certain kind of camper and make an excellent option for weekend RVers with a family of 4+.
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Hybrid Travel Trailer Quick Stats:
- Length: 13 to 25 feet
- Sleeping Capacity: Up to 6 people
- Slides: 0 to 2 (plus up to 3 pop-outs)
- Gross Vehicle Weight: 3,000 to 7,000 pounds
- Retail Price: $18,000 to $40,000
*Above stats are approximate ranges to give you a general idea
Hybrid Camper Pros and Cons:
Hybrid Camper Interiors
The main body of hybrid trailers uses the same construction techniques and materials as traditional travel trailers.
The fabric/mesh walls in the pop-out sections differ and are unique to this RV style (though pop-up trailers have this).
The interior of the expandable trailer will look much like a traditional travel trailer floor plan, except for canvas-sided pop-outs.
It will have similar equipment and amenities to most traditional campers (not high-end), giving you an equivalent comfort level for daily living.
You may find a traditional slide-out on larger hybrid camping trailers that can significantly expand the living area. Remember that with a slide-out, you will have a heavier trailer overall, but the additional square footage might be worth the extra weight.
These slide-outs may have a sofa or other additional seating area, so a larger family has room to spread out inside during the day.
There will be a small kitchen with a stove and fridge, a dinette table where you can eat, work, or play games, a bathroom with a toilet and most likely a shower, and on larger rigs, you may find a couch in the living area.
Typical RV-style windows will be present in the hard-sided portions of the hybrids, with the pop-outs having screen windows that have zippered panels to close them off.
Interior storage space will be similar to other similarly sized RVs, including a place to stash your food, cooking supplies, clothes, and other daily use items.
Bed space is where hybrids shine. With beds that fold out of the side of the camper (pop-up mattress), this design helps open up the floor plans and makes it so a lot more people can sleep inside expandable travel trailers than traditional campers.
Remember that the mattresses on the fold-out beds in a hybrid camper are most likely thin and uncomfortable. They are okay for kids who can sleep on anything, but not for someone with an achy body and needs certain sleeping comforts.
Just tell the kids they are on a tent camping adventure with the canvas sides and hard laying surface. Then remind them how bad you had it growing up. LOL!
Sometimes models have bunk beds, which helps free up floor space while having multiple sleeping areas.
Are you into queen beds? There's most likely a model with a camper queen size mattress and otherwise would work for you.
Camper replacement mattresses are available, but you will likely have to remove them from the folding pop-out areas to close the rig back up. A bit of a pain unless you can purchase a replacement similar (but more comfortable) than the stock mattress.
Stand-Out Features Of Hybrid Travel Trailers
The most significant feature of hybrid campers is the number of people they can sleep.
The 'pop-outs' greatly expand the sleeping capability of a regular travel trailer without requiring a much larger overall length.
This lets you bring everyone along yet still fit into a smaller campsite.
Because an expandable travel trailer has hard sides and can be of pretty good length, you will likely find exterior storage bays.
Shorter hybrid trailers may have a wet bathroom to save room. This means that the toilet and shower share a small area, and everything gets wet when you are bathing.
Smaller expandable RVs will only have a single axle, whereas larger ones will have dual axles.
Due to the lighter weight of most hybrid camper trailers, towing is possible by most light trucks and SUVs that have a decent tow rating.
Heck, with the right lightweight hybrid trailers, you may even be able to use a minivan as a tow vehicle.
A hybrid RV is an excellent option for weekender camping, but it won't withstand the rigors of heavy, full-time use very well.
Downsides Of Hybrids
The canvas walls of the pop-outs limit the seasons in which you can use hybrid travel trailers, as they do absolutely nothing to keep temperature extremes outside of the RV. (How to keep an RV cool.) Heat comes in, as does the cold. When the wind is blowing, expect to feel air drafts.
In crappy weather, an expandable trailer might not be the best place to spend a camping trip. You will feel the elements, and rainwater may become a 'feature' inside the rig, making for a miserable experience.
Another thing to consider with the canvas walls of the fold-out portions of an expandable RV is your sense of security while camping. If you are worried about people being able to get inside your rig (not an issue one should be overly concerned about at most campsites), then having an RV with canvas walls that won't even stop the wind should give you pause.
And finally, with the canvas walls, you have to be careful not to let anything cause rips or tears in the fabric. Also, mildew and condensation can be an issue if you live in a damp climate.
The videos below give you more pros and cons of hybrid campers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does A Hybrid Camper Cost?
A new hybrid camper can cost the same as many traditional travel trailers of the same size, typically ranging from $18,000 to $40,000.
But when you consider the cost per person you can sleep in these expandable campers, they offer a better deal than other similarly sized conventional recreational vehicles.
Do Hybrid Travel Trailers Leak?
Yes, hybrid campers can leak depending on the quality of the build and the ferocity of the storm you are camping in. When you have canvas sides in a recreational vehicle, you are inviting all sorts of leak issues that won't be present with solid walls.
You might consider taking a water hose to any pop out travel trailer that you are considering owning to see how well it can handle a deluge of water. Simulate a heavy rainfall and look for leaks inside.
Do Hybrid Campers Stay Cool Or Stay Warm?
Staying cool during the summer and staying warm during the winter are two issues that hybrid RVs have to deal with differently than a 'normal' recreational vehicle. The canvas pop-outs let heat out/in and cool air out/in (depending on the season).
The canvas wall sections mean that the furnace and air conditioner will have to work harder than their solid-walled counterparts.
Imagine if you removed a double-pane storm window from your house and replaced it with a plastic or canvas sheet. This would be an excellent place for exchanging air (causing unwanted heating or cooling) during the times of the year in which you want to keep the cold air in and the hot air out, or vice versa.
The below video shows one hybrid trailer owner's experience with cold-weather camping. He also discusses a possible solution to the temperature transfer issue.
How Long Do Hybrid Trailers Last?
How long a hybrid trailer lasts depends on a few factors, including how well you take care of it and the overall quality of materials used during manufacturing.
The canvas sides are often the first trouble point (sometimes immediately after taking delivery). The very nature of canvas means that it will wear down MUCH quicker than a solid wall and be more susceptible to mold and mildew, which can significantly shorten its life.
You have to ensure that the canvas doesn't get rips or tears in it by treating it well while folding out and packing up the rig and making sure nothing damages the soft sides while in use.
Other than the 'soft belly' of a hybrid RV (aka, the canvas), the rest of the structure should fair very much the same as any other recreational vehicle. Take good care of it, limit the abuse, and it should last you many camping seasons.
Are Hybrid Campers Worth It?
Answering the question, "Are hybrid campers any good?" is tough, more so than other RV types, because they represent certain compromises due to the canvas sides. Suppose you don't mind the lack of privacy and security, as well as increased exposure to the elements, of the canvas walled pop-outs and are willing to put up with the inevitable leaks that will crop up due to the material used (canvas). In that case, hybrid trailers may be worth it.
They offer more interior living space for a given overall trailer length than a conventional pull-behind RV. Generally, they also have more sleeping space, which can be important for larger families.
Also, the lower weight often found in an expandable RV means you possibly can have a smaller tow vehicle, which is a significant factor for many people.
Hybrid trailers may be worth it for people wanting a comfortable camper for weekend adventures, but I would certainly think twice about living full-time in one.
Hybrid travel trailers combine the benefits of a traditional travel trailer with the flexibility of a pop up camper to make an excellent weekender rig for those needing to sleep a larger number of people but who don't want a large conventional camper.
The light weight of smaller expandable campers makes this an excellent option for those with 1/2 ton trucks or SUVs with lower towing capability when a larger conventional trailer might be out of their reach.
That said, a hybrid camper is probably not the best choice for a couple looking to head out on camping adventures, but it could be a good idea RV for families looking to head to the great outdoors.
While hybrid campers aren't for everyone, they certainly fill a need in the RVing community. Now that you know the answer to the question 'What is a hybrid camper?' you know if this kind of rig is right for you.
Author: Marshall Wendler
As the co-founder of Camp Addict, Marshall Wendler is a seasoned expert in the world of RVing, with years of hands-on experience living the full-time RV life in his travel trailer. From 2014 to 2020, Marshall learned the ins and outs of the lifestyle and has enjoyed sharing his knowledge and expertise with others. After a brief hiatus as a part-time RVer in 2021 and 2022, Marshall is back on the road full-time, embracing the vanlife and all the exciting possibilities it brings. He particularly enjoys the freedom and flexibility of boondocking and is excited to share his technical insights with the Camp Addict community. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the RV world, Marshall has valuable insights and information to share, and is here to help you navigate the exciting world of RVing with confidence and ease.