Hybrid Campers And Travel Trailers: Comparison And Pros And Cons
I rented six days a hybrid camper. I was almost decided to purchase a travel trailer when I started to pay attention to hybrid campers.
I noticed the benefit of a flexible floorplan that is very open when you open the expandable pop-ups and display the canvas. Also, an advantage is the weight, which affects towing capacity analysis.
Hybrid campers are a kind of camper that has its shell manufactured with standard materials, such as fiberglass. It has also expandable bunks with a soft fabric called canvas that lacks the density of traditional materials in exchange for flexibility.
Likewise, this expansion ability enables a dynamic floorplan in the hybrid travel trailer that is absent in classical travel trailers.
However, when I compare the pros and cons, I see several drawbacks in hybrid campers related to the density of the fabric of the canvas: noise from neighbors, lack of insulation in winter and less privacy, condensation, generator noise, just to mention some of them.
I finally preferred the travel trailer I describe in other articles that I purchased. Nevertheless, hybrid campers can be the right type of RV for a family of a couple and two kids, and my conclusions below are oriented to that family structure.
Below, I study the pros and cons of hybrid campers in comparison with classical travel trailers.
Unfolding And Setup Time
The timeframe required for the unfolding and setup of the hybrid travel trailer depends on the number of expandable pop-ups that your RV has: normally two.
During my six days rental of the hybrid camper, I had to unlatch the bed from the outside part of the RV, unfold the tent, insert the pole brace and popup them from the inside. Just a few minutes can take.
In the RV campsites, other owners describe us that they require from five minutes to about twenty minutes, but they do not complain about it and love their expandable hybrids.
It is a problem if you are just staying overnight and you know that you unfold and set up everything in the evening, and tomorrow morning you have to collapse the pop-ups again to depart towards a new destination.
Of course, you do not need to expand all the pop-ups but only those that you need and remain flexible to expand the others as needed afterward.
When it comes to the bunks, it is one extra step that you have to do. You have to put the bunks down from the outside, and then you go inside and put the bunks out with a bar so that the full canvas is popped out. You probably have a Reflectix insulator inside.
After the setup in the exterior part of the RV, the rest of the unfolding and setup happens inside. I have to pull out and brandish our little shepherd’s hook, open the pop-up, and then slide the mattress. More work than in a travel trailer but takes only a few minutes.
I am happy to have my Yamaha generator that is very silent and does not make noise.
However, despite being this generator very silent, it is important to understand that the fabric of the canvas is not good insulation for incoming sound, so it will be noisy in a hybrid camper. I will refer to other incoming noises below in a dedicated paragraph.
Depending on the height of your mattress, you can fold it in half to make it super easy to store it. If the mattress has more height or you have upgraded to a taller one, you have to pull it off every time, set it over the dinette, and then move it into the bunk ends.
This is definitely an extra step for the hybrids that you would not have to do if you had a travel trailer. In the worst of the cases in a travel trailer, you will have to open a Murphy bed, but that is no effort at all.
So, if you have a mattress in a hybrid travel trailer, it cannot be tall and huge. Probably your back will suffer in the morning in that case.
Hybrids are of course not the best option if you are RVing into extreme weather conditions when it is really cold or really hot.
Despite the fact that you can install a Reflectix, or that you can purchase an insulated canvas, there is no real insulation in the hybrid campers.
A hybrid camper is not an Arctic Fox travel trailer, not a four seasons RV, so do not expect real protection in extreme weather. Maybe not a real issue for many of you: if you are from Florida or California, you can have bearable weather during winter.
Nevertheless, this can be a deal-breaker as I have noticed that the air conditioner in hybrid campers was not so powerful as in a fully-fledged travel trailer. Other hybrid camper owners told me that their AC worked well. It is attached to the roof of the hybrid, which is a solid roof.
You can buy a gizmo and add it but in that case, it is another object to setup, another object to transport, and an additional step during the setup process.
In the RV campsite, a family (couple and a small child) with a hybrid said that you can simply “turtle up”. This setup is basically putting the beds up so that your bed is fully closed. Then you use the dinette or the couch as your sleeping quarters. Obviously, this approach depends on the size of your family and how much of the beds are utilized. This family had the little kid on the front bunk and they were on the bed bunk.
Condensation: Just Unzip The Canvas
Condensation is not a problem of the hybrid campers only: it is a problem of all types of RVs, in general. It happens when hot and humid air encounters surfaces that are colder than its dew-point temperature.
Keeping the canvas slightly unzipped and the windows of the camper slightly opened helped notoriously to expel the hot moisture-laden air to the exterior of the RV.
We have noticed when we return from camp trips as little as one night after, is whenever you get ready to close the bunks collapsing them, as we move the mattresses it is not just damp: it is completely wet underneath the mattresses.
This is something important to note. We tried to figure out what the best way is to keep the condensation to a minimum so it does not affect the fabric. What helps is to keep the windows open in a very small amount, as explained right above.
If you do not avoid condensation, you might have mold or mildew very soon in the fabric. This is the main issue with condensation that I see.
Inbound Airborne Sound Transmission
When you are in hybrid campers, and considering you will normally sleep in one of the bunks, those loud neighbors or noisy kids or people out partying late at night in the RV campsite can be a problem. It happens that one of the neighbors can turn on his generator in the morning, very early. The canvas has less density than a classic travel trailer structure, so it will not protect you at all from noise.
Likewise, your kids, wake up and start to make noise. They are not far, they are in the other bunk, so they will wake you up.
A classical travel trailer will have better soundproof walls and less inbound airborne sound transmission. If you have noisy neighbors, you can shut yourself inside your travel trailer.
Lack Of Privacy In Hybrid Travel Trailers
Again related to the airborne sound transmission in hybrid campers, this time, the consideration is regarding the outbound noise.
Neighbors can hear the baby crying in your hybrid, or your conversations as well. This is a huge con of hybrid campers and consequently, a big advantage of classical travel trailers built with hard materials.
UVW In Hybrid Campers
Thanks to the fact that the bunks in the edges of the hybrid campers are made of this special fabric so they can unfold and collapse, the unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) is much lower in hybrid campers than in travel trailers. This is the specific weight, the weight for each unit of volume of the RV.
The shell of hybrid campers is manufactured with standard RV materials but the bunks with tha canvas have a very low weight.
With a lower unloaded vehicle weight also the towing capacity requirements of the towing vehicle are much lower. Fewer problems of course and you will not need an F-150 to tow the hybrid travel trailer.
I recommend you to use a weight distribution system for safety reasons anyway. If you are one of the readers from the European Union, it is mandatory to have a weight distribution system in hybrid campers and all travel trailers, with the exception of teardrop campers, in general.
So this paragraph is a clear advantage for hybrid campers: the living space during the day is the shell of the hybrid. Furthermore, you will sleep in the bunks, so during the day, you will enjoy space without worrying about the towing capacity of your tow vehicle.
Here, hybrid campers are a good option for folks who want some of those modern conveniences, like bathroom and kitchen, but do not want to go over five thousand pounds from a towing perspective because they would need a more expensive towing vehicle.
Hybrid Campers Keep the Camping Vibe
If you enjoy the sounds of nature and want to have that boondocking feeling, it makes sense for people to purchase hybrid campers or pop up campers.
This is a con if you have nearby neighbors that are noisy as it happens always in busy RV parks and campsites. I describe in another paragraph the problem with incoming sound transmission.
But again, if you are boondocking in the middle of nowhere, that is something that is a real bonus because you can hear the river, the birds, inhale that nature and camping vibe that I am sure every one of us loves. In a traditional travel trailer, it will feel more as if you are in a small apartment.
Hybrid Campers Have A Bathroom And A Kitchen
Please allow me a short clarification. Hybrid campers are not pop up campers. In hybrid campers, the shell of this expandable RV will host modern conveniences as a bathroom with a shower and a toilet that works and is embedded in the RV.
You also can have a microwave oven with a TV device and all the amenities and conveniences that you will also have in travel trailers.
I have an article about small campers with bathrooms. I wrote it because people were commenting that they wanted a tiny RV or a teardrop, but they were absolutely unwilling to resign having a full bathroom. So in this article, I have a huge list of tiny RVs that despite being very small have at least an embedded wet bath. This is not an issue with hybrid campers that will have a bathroom and a shower as well.
Admission Of Water Through The Canvas
The fabric of the canvas is water resistant, not completely waterproof. This is a typical problem in pop up campers and hybrid campers. Apart from the aforementioned issue of condensation, there is leakage that happens through the undesired admission of water, normally during the rain or immediately afterward. This leakage occurs between the shell of the hybrid camper and the canvas. This issue will normally do not occur in a classical travel trailer.
Sunlight Exposure Early In The Morning
When you are RVing in summer, you have already sunlight since very early in the morning. The canvas is not completely transparent and will allow a bright shade to invade the RV. In a travel trailer instead, you will close all windows and it can remain dark inside during the early morning.
American NADA RV values have, generally speaking, no special treatment for hybrid campers. No specific guidance to notice a differentiated approach from classical travel trailers. If you want to know more about how to manage NADA RV guidance and how much your RV is actually worth, check my article here.
There is an important pro for hybrid campers in the terrain of sleeping quarters space arrangement. Both expandable bunks in the corners of these hybrid travel trailers are sleeping quarters with standard queen beds. Having queen beds in both bunks is an advantage of hybrid campers.
The kids can be in one of the bunks and the parents in the other bunk. In a classical travel trailer, you have less space here. So here, a good one in favor of hybrid campers.
Not too much difference in terms of maintenance effort, durability, and maintenance costs between hybrid campers and travel trailers.
Whereas it is true that the fabric of the two canvas in the extreme bunks are subject to mildew, wear and tear, punctures, ripping, and humidity, the cost of replacement is very low. The rest of the hybrid travel trailer is the shell, manufactured with solid materials. Here, I do not see a difference in the durability of the RV in comparison with travel trailers.
Ventilation And Ambient Air Circulation
A pro here for hybrid campers. If it is not too hot outside and you do not wish to utilize the RV air conditioner device, simply unzip both canvases in the corners of the hybrid.
Remove any Reflectix, and you will obtain natural airflow ventilation.
Travel trailers can have also a proper ventilation opening all windows, but much less than when you open completely the canvas in your hybrid RV.
If you are doing boondocking, a bear can actually approach the vehicle and tear the soft fabric of the canvas. This is possible and bears will smell the food in your RV.
Of course that in a travel trailer you will not have this inconvenience, considering the materials utilized to manufacture a travel trailer. In the hybrid camper, the shell is manufactured with standard materials but as you know, the bunks have these pop-ups made of a soft fabric.
No doubt that hybrid campers enjoy the greatest advantage in comparison to travel trailers when we study the distribution of the areas in a floorplan.
Hybrids have at least two popups but can have more than two. RV manufacturers are very gracious here as they know that additional pop ups do not represent much more vehicle weight (UVW, in this case) and in exchange provide at least two more open spaces that are normally dedicated to host sleeping quarters.
RV Extended Warranties
There is a slight consideration here in terms of the extended warranties contracts. There is a specific clause to cover replacement in the canvas, that you have also in pop up campers.
Nevertheless, the real discussion in terms if RV extended warranties, as I describe in my related article, are problems in the axle and underbody of the RV, and not in the canvas.
In both cases, hybrid campers and travel trailers, and RV extended warranty will give you just some peace of mind. You do not have to allocate a segment in your budget forecast for replacement of the canvas or prospective repairs in your RV. You do not have the risk of having variances in your actual budget in comparison to your forecast. Just consider in your cash flow, that you will first pay for these repairs and you will be reimbursed by the warrantor or his agent afterward.
Hybrid Campers And Travel Trailer Comparison: Conclusions
My conclusions are that hybrid campers are a good choice for a family with two kids because of the expandable bunks that host queen beds. Furthermore, I would like to add weight. Lower weight means lower towing capacity requirements and this is an advantage, without any doubt.
The biggest issue for me is the lack of density in the canvas that allows noises to enter inside and we always go to RV campsites that are very noisy. An insulated canvas with a Reflectix panel does not add too much density either.
I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.