If you’ve been camping in a tent and you’re not ready for the weight of a fully enclosed camper trailer, a hybrid trailer might be for you. So, What is a hybrid camper?
A hybrid camper is a hard-shelled camper that has canvas pop-outs. Usually, the pop-outs are at the front and/or rear of the camper and store one bed on each side. Sometimes, there may be a bed in the middle of the trailer that pops out. The beds slide out and the canvas is maneuvered into place and then supported, normally with poles. A hybrid travel trailer has all the aspects of a travel trailer or RV like a kitchen, dinette, and bathroom.
How does a hybrid travel trailer work?
A hybrid travel trailer works much like a pop up camper, except it has hard-sided walls. The canvas pop-outs slide out to maximize utilization of space in the trailer. Normally, the beds pull out of the pop-outs and then are set into place. A support system, such as poles, keeps the canvas erect to provide a comfortable sleeping area. These trailers are It’s certainly a little more work to set up than a fully hard-sided trailer, but not as much work as a tent trailer.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Travel Trailer?
- All the functionality of a hard-sided trailer
- Maximum use of space
- Great for families
- Susceptible to condensation
- Not a good choice for bad weather
- Susceptible to mold/mildew
- No sound dampening
- Trailer can’t be used unless the beds are deployed
- Longer set up times
- Not permitted at some campgrounds
One of the best things about a hybrid travel trailer is that it is lightweight, like a tent trailer, but still has most of the functionality of a hard-sided trailer. As I mentioned, most hybrid trailers have a full kitchen, a bathroom with a shower and toilet, and a dinette. Because the beds fold-out, hybrid trailers can sleep more people per trailer weight than a hard sided trailer. That makes these trailers especially good for families. There are some hybrid trailers that you can pull with a smaller SUV or light truck.
Hybrid trailers maximize the use of space. When in tow, beds are pushed inside the trailer and retracted when camp is set up. This maximizes the usable space when the trailer is stationary and deployed. This maximized space makes them great for families. Most hybrid trailers have two pop-out beds and some have three!
Hybrid trailers are usually less expensive than a comparable hard-sided trailer. If you purchased a hard-sided trailer for your family, it would have to be larger than a comparable hybrid trailer and would cost more money.
On the flip side, there are some downsides to hybrid trailers. Hybrid trailers are susceptible to condensation. Condensation forms when you take a shower or run a propane heater. The condensate collects on the canvas and can drip onto the beds. We owned a hybrid trailer for a short time to house our adult boys. During the winter, when the propane heater was running, condensation would form on the canvas and drip on their beds while they slept. Condensate can also collect from cooking, humidity, and breathing.
If you put the beds away while the canvas is still wet, mold/mildew will develop. When this happen in our trailer, I was alarmed. However, I was able to clean it and remove the mold/mildew with a soft rag and Bass Pro Shop Mildew Remover. I did test an inconspicuous area prior to applying the solution to the whole affected area and proceeded according to the directions.
Hybrid trailers are fair weather trailers. They are great on warm sunny days, but not the best choice in inclement weather. If you do get rain on the canvas, you’ll have to set the trailer up when you get home to let it air-dry. Wind will flap the canvas around which sounds annoying.
Just like a tent, hybrid trailers have very little sound dampening. If you are in a loud, busy campground, you may find it difficult to sleep. Likewise, it’s easier for people to hear what you are up to in when you’re in a hybrid trailer.
Unlike a hard-sided trailer, the majority of the trailer, and sometimes all of the trailer cannot be utilized until the beds are deployed. This means that the trailer will not be useful if you need to use the bathroom or want to stop for lunch on your way to the campground.
And, similar to a tent trailer, it will take you longer to set up a hybrid trailer than it will a hard sided trailer.
Some campgrounds that have bear activity only allow hard sided trailers. For example, some campgrounds in Glacier National Park periodically do not allow canvas-sided campers due to grizzly bear activity.
How much do hybrid campers cost?
New hybrid campers vary in cost from $25,000 to $48,000.
Here are the costs of some popular hybrid trailer brands:
- Keystone Bullet Crossfire: $30,000 – $43,000
- Forest River Rockwood Roo: $32,000 – $48,000
- Forest River Flagstaff Shamrock: $34,000 – $47,000
- Jayco Jay Feather: $25,000 – $48,000
- SolAire EXpandable Travel Trailers: $30,000
Are Hybrid Trailers Worth It?
If you have a large family, a hybrid trailer might be your most cost-effective option. If you enjoy traveling in inclement weather or on the travel shoulder season, a hybrid travel trailer will probably not fit the bill.
How Long Do Hybrid Trailers Last?
With good care and maintenance, hybrid travel trailers can last years, even decades. The Trail-lite Bantam that we purchased used was a 2002 and it was in good shape. It needed some updating, but the canvas was good and the floors and walls were solid. We didn’t find any leaks. The sink had a crack, but other than that, it was in good shape.
What Does a Hybrid Trailer Look Like?
Most hybrid trailers look similar to a hard-sided trailer, but with pop-outs on the front and rear, and sometimes on the side. Take a look at our hybrid trailer:
Do hybrid travel trailers leak?
All trailers can leak if not properly maintained, and hybrid travel trailers are no exception. However, the canvas of the hybrid trailer is another point of water intrusion if not properly maintained. Aside from that, hybrid trailers can leak in areas that hard-sided trailers can leak like roof seams and vent openings on the roof. Windows and side vents are also an area where water can intrude. Also, leaks can occur via plumbing pipes and fixtures.
Condensation can accumulate on the inside of the canvas and cause dripping; this, however, is not a leak.
Are Hybrid Trailers cold?
Since heat can more readily escape through the canvas of a hybrid trailer, they tend to be retail less heat than a hard-sided trailer. New hybrid travel trailers come with or come with the option of a heater that can keep the trailer at a comfortable temperature.
Are Hybrid Campers Comfortable?
With a couple of exceptions, hybrid campers are just as comfortable as a hard-sided trailer. They have all the amenities of a hard-sided trailer like a kitchen, bathroom, dinette, and beds. Mattresses in the bed expansions may not be as comfortable as a mattress in a full-time bed. However, they are just as comfortable or more comfortable as sleeping on the dinette cushions. Another issue with these beds is that, if you want to upgrade the mattress, you are limited to the size that will fit in the expansion area. Another potential issue for these beds is that the canvas may accumulate condensation and dripping condensation is not ever comfortable.
If you are currently sleeping in a tent or a tent trailer, a hybrid camper will be a huge upgrade in comfort.
How Do I Keep My Hybrid Camper Cool in the Summer?
Just like hard-sided trailers, most hybrid campers can be ordered with an air conditioning unit. Be sure to change the air filters on the air conditioning unit regularly. Parking your trailer in the shade will help keep it cool also. If the temperature is not too high, roof vent fans may be adequate to keep a hybrid camper cool. Keeping your windows closed and blinds drawn during the day can help keep the heat out. Cooking outside is a fun way to enjoy camping and will help prevent the camper from heating up. Consider cooking outside on hot days.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Canvas on a Hybrid Camper?
Cost for replacement of canvas bump-outs can cost between $475 for one bump-out to $1200 for three bump-outs, if you do it yourself. If you just need a patch, you can purchase those for around $40 each.
Where are Off Road Hybrids Made?
The majority hybrid off-road trailers are made in Australia. Most off-road hybrids are a style where the canvas roof pops up. Some have pop-out beds, but often these are hard-walled beds. However, there are more and more off-road hybrid trailers being manufactured in the US. For example, the Boreas E0S-12 is one of these types of trailers that are being manufactured in the US. Another US manufacturer of these types of hybrid trailers is Taxa Outdoors. Taxa makes several models of off-road trailers.
How Do You Fix a Leaking Hybrid Camper?
To fix a leaking hybrid camper, you must first locate the source of the leak. Leaks can be caused by water intrusion or plumbing failures.
With a hybrid trailer, water can intrude through the canvas if the canvas has been torn or otherwise compromised. If the tear is not too extensive, the canvas can be patched. Worn canvas or canvas with large tears may have to be replaced.
Like hard-sided trailers, leaks can also occur on the roof. Flat-topped travel trailers have seams on the front, back and sides where the roof attaches to the walls. The most common area where travel trailers leak is through these roof seams. In addition, vent fans have seams. These are very common areas that can allow water intrusion if not properly sealed.
Inspect all penetrations and seams, on the roof annually. Check all seals and gaskets to make sure they are tight. Reseal gaps or cracks. If the original sealant is flexible and not hard or cracking you may be able to seal over it. If not, you may have to remove the old sealant and apply all new sealant. Prior to applying any new sealant, be sure to wash and thoroughly dry the roof.
There are two main types of sealant. The Dicor self-leveling sealant works great in flat areas like the roof because it flows when first applied. It’s great for this kind of thing because it flows into cracks and crevices. For areas where you need a controlled width, non-leveling Dicor sealant is a better option.
What Companies Make Hybrid Campers?
The following companies currently make hybrid campers:
Keystone Bullet Crossfire
Forest River Rockwood Roo
Forest River Flagstaff Shamrock
Jayco Jay Feather
SolAire EXpandable Travel Trailers
Hybrid campers are a great option for large families who need a lighter weight option and enjoy camping in fair weather.