When I first walked through the endless lots of campers in Boise, I immediately decided that I didn’t want a hybrid; however, I later talked to someone who owned one and learned some interesting benefits (and drawbacks) to the hybrid.
In the end, I still decided to go with the traditional travel trailer, but I now can see some real benefits to the hybrid.
Imagine you are in a hybrid travel trailer. It’s hot and the canvas sides offer nearly no insulation. The AC can’t keep up. There was heavy dew in the mornings and some of the bedding got a little wet. The person in the camp site next to you has a loud generator and your canvas walls do nothing to block the sound. Doesn’t sound very fun? Those can be drawbacks to SOME hybrids, however, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you get a quality hybrid and make smart choices, a hybrid has some nice benefits over a hard side trailer.
Here are some factors to consider.
I can turn on my trusty Champion generator and go inside my trailer and barely even hear it. That’s really nice since that’s why we like to get out in the woods in the first place–to get some peace and quiet!
In a hybrid, the generator is very loud. Canvas does basically nothing to block sound since it has no significant density.
Turning on the generator and then going in the trailer to watch a movie usually isn’t a very fun proposition.
The Openness of the Floor Plan
Hybrids offer fantastic, open floor plans. Since the popouts don’t weigh much, the manufacturers can include more popouts without making the trailer too heavy. Consequently, many hybrids have 3 or 4 popouts which greatly increases the openness.
Feels More Like Real Camping
My friend who has a hybrid said his number one reason for choosing one is that it still felt like he was camping. When I’m in my hard-sided travel trailer, it feels more like I’m in a nice apartment than camping. The hybrid is a great solution to that problem.
It’s extremely unlikely that a bear would come through the canvas of your trailer, but it’s always possible. A hard sided trailer obviously has some security advantages from the elements, or at least the FEELING of being more secure which is often important to kids and the women folk.
Also, a canvas trailer would be easy for a criminal to cut open to get access to your equipment inside.
Bigger Beds in Hybrids
Hybrid trailers often offer all queen beds throughout the RV because the popouts are not as heavy and easier to implement. This is a HUGE benefit!
Protection from Water
You can sleep soundly in a hybrid even during a rain storm, but condensation will still get inside. Your bedding will likely get a little wet, but you’ll stay dry.
The trouble with getting even a little condensation on fabric is that when you get home, you have to set the whole thing up again to dry it out so that mildew and mold don’t grow on the fabric.
Protection from water is one of the main complaints that hybrid owners have, but if you’ll always be camping in nice weather, it may not be so bad.
Obviously, canvas won’t do much to protect you from the elements. That’s why people buy popup gizmos to cover their hybrid sections of their trailers to keep them warm and dry. Do you really want to go around and put up another piece of equipment on your popups during bad weather?
However, after talking to a friend who owns a hybrid, I will say that they aren’t as bad as it probably seems. He reported being warm and toasty during the winter, but there still being a chill in the air. The heater would make the overall temperature hot, but you could feel your back against the canvas side being cold–much like standing by a fire.
A slide out on a travel trailer weighs at least 800 pounds. That is usually why you won’t find more than one or two slide outs on a trailer.
However, pop-outs weigh no more than 5o pounds, so the manufacturers often include many popouts without really affecting the overall trailer weight.
Setup/Take Down Time
Setup and takedown time depends on your hybrid and how many popouts you have, but I’ve heard from multiple hybrid owners who report an average setup time of anywhere from 5 minutes to 35 minutes, but really it’s very quick. The newer trailers are more like 5 minutes to set up, but some of the older models required more work. This is a chore in nice weather, but may mean a cancelled trip if you have to set up in bad weather. Also, if you work on Friday and don’t get to the camp site until late, you have an hour of work to do to set up the camper in the dark.
The setup and takedown time is not a major issue if you’ll be staying in a campsite for a week, but for a quick overnighter or when you’re on a roadtrip and want to move each night, setup and takedown time can be a pain!
Some hybrid owners don’t set up all of their popouts if they don’t need the bed space for a quick campout. This saves setup/takedown time but still allows for the flexibility to expand when needed.
Privacy is much less in a hybrid. If others are camping near you, they’ll hear the baby crying in your hybrid, and possibly even your conversation. With kids, it’s nice to have a travel trailer since I don’t have to worry about them laughing loudly and goofing off in the trailer. The neighbors won’t hear a thing.
Air flow is better on a hybrid trailer than in a traditional travel trailer. For days when it’s warm but not hot and you open the windows instead of running the air conditioner, the hybrid is the clear winner. The hybrids have many canvas windows that can be unzipped to let the air flow through.
A quality hybrid trailer will likely last many years and have few issues, but obviously canvas does rip, tear, mildew, and wear out. Maintenance on a travel trailer will likely be less over the years that you own your trailer.
Dedicated Sleeping Space
Hybrids are the clear winner in the dedicated sleeping space arena. With multiple queen bed pop outs, you can sleep an army of kids, or give each of the kids their own “bedroom.” That’s especially important if you have older kids.
One of the negatives of sleeping in a hybrid on a summer morning is that the sun often rises at 5:30 or 6AM. The sun wakes you up just like if you were in a tent. In a travel trailer, it’s much easier to control the light and convince the kids to sleep in.
This was an important consideration for our family because the kids like to stay up late while camping so we can sit around the campfire. If they wake up early (6AM when the sun rises)…. we’re all in for a LONG and GROUCHY day!
In addition to condensation and rain getting the bedding wet, hybrids also add the issue of leakage between the canvas and the hard portions of the trailer. Leaks in trailers are major issues that can cause significant damage, so be careful that everything is nicely sealed if you go with a hybrid.
However, ANY trailer (even a traditional travel trailer) can leak, so this may or may not be a real concern.
For our family, we decided to stick with the traditional hard-sided travel trailer so that it would be quiet when the generator is on, and so setup and takedown would be very fast. We feel like if the setup/tear down starts taking too long, then we’ll eventually not want to go. So traditional was the way to go for us.
Other families are very hesitant about a trailer because you lose the feeling of camping, and will likely stay for several days so the setup and tear down isn’t as big of a deal. For them, a hybrid is an excellent option.