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Hybrid Trailers vs Travel Trailers: 14 important considerations


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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.

Generator Noise

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.

Security

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.

Insulation

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.

Weight

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

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

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.

Durability

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.

Light Control

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!

Leakage

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.

Conclusion

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.

30 thoughts on “Hybrid Trailers vs Travel Trailers: 14 important considerations

  1. I’m new to this and haven’t made up my mind. My only issue is safety. Are hybrids safe to leave unattended up to 4 – 5 hours?

  2. Here is another consideration. With the number of glamping, massively long trailer spots are usually all taken up. Thus you are more likely to find a camping spot at a park that is open for your 16 – 21 foot Hybrid. Definitely an advantage.
    Also Heaters and A/C do work in a Hybrid very well if needed.

  3. The whole point of camping is to experience the outdoors, and the sounds of nature. Almost all parks have electrical or electrical/sewer sites, so the crackling of a campfire, birds chirping, etc. is what you are supposed to hear, no generators needed. Tents, pop-ups and Hybrids get you the closest to REAL camping. I never understood those people who park their “Home on wheels” at a site, then sit inside and play cards or watch movies and never even put out a lawn chair or a picnic table cloth. Unless you leave meat/food that they can smell in your camper/tent, bears & animals are not likely to come into a camp site, and they can go thru the side of a 5th wheel if they want to.

  4. We are shopping for a camper. I would be happy with a hybrid, my wife wants traditional. My truck can’t pull a very heavy load but with six of us, a hybrid would fit. If staying in in RV Park or State Park, can’t you plug into their electricity if they have it? Wouldn’t that keep someone from having to use a generator?

  5. We own a 2006 Kodiak Hybrid 17′ when extended. We have towed it just over 59,000 miles and “camped” with it hundreds of nights. Weather from 20 degrees and snow to 80 degrees and multiple days of thunderstorms. Never, ever, been wet inside the sleeping area. Unzip a window a bit an that solves condensation. It takes about 15 minutes to set up including making the bed. We camp of the grid as much as possible and use solar power with two 6 volt Trojan “golf cart” batteries. Always have tons of DC power and can go 4 days without any sun. We avoid campgrounds as much as possible and despise hearing a generator. If you want the comforts of home…then stay home and let the rest of us enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.

  6. You sound like a real camper’s nightmare! Go to “get peace” in the woods by running a godforsaken generator to be able to hear your movie in peace? Stay home!! Please. Those of us who go camping to actually camp, enjoy the set up, tear down and other challenges, like-god forbid, condensation and a cold back. That’s what it’s about! If I wanted the easy life, that’s what my house is for. Please don’t run generators unnecessarily. It’s the face of utter douchebaggery.

    1. It used to be really nice camping , when they didn’t control where or how we camped. Could camp ANYWHERE.
      You could use a generator if you wanted or make as much noise as you want till whatever time you wanted. People don’t know what real camping is. Now everybody is fighting and name calling.Sad.

  7. We’ve had our hybrid for 3 seasons…….love having 3 rv queen size beds for everyone, the couch and table never have to be used for sleeping, everyone gets their own space to sleep very comfortably and privately. Before this we had a pop-up for 3 years. Never had a leakage problem with either. No condensation problem. During the day, if the sun is hitting your canvas, simply pull the bar and let that bed collapse while the sun is hitting it, this helps to keep the camper cool. It’s a sunny day, you’re out enjoying the day anyhow, just a little trick we’ve learned along the way.

  8. Just bought a hybrid. Our old camper was a pop up. The bed ends look to be sealed extremely well. The beds on our pop up never leaked and I can’t see why the hybrids would be any different. Can’t wait to use it.

  9. Thanks for the interesting article about hybrid trailers and travel trailers. I didn’t know that a hybrid could be good if you like the feeling of real camping. This sounds important to consider especially if the camping aspect is important to your trip.

  10. On first look I didn’t think hybrids looked like a good idea, mostly because I thought they would deteriorate too quickly but I just looked at one at a local RV show and it was so well made and super roomy while still only being 16′ and easy to tow. It’s definitely back in the running when I’m ready to buy next year

  11. An hour to set up?? What are they doing? You push out the bed and put the pole in place. Of course you have to level and brace but other campers require that also.

  12. I camp host in my hybrid. Love the larger floor plans as beds are outside of footprint. I even was at 10,770′ elevation in Colorado and had frost many mornings. I used a survival blanket on the inside of my bunks with the foil in, and heavy duty windshield sun panels on my sides and ends, It was just as cozy in the bunk as the main body was with the heat on. We may have to live in it this winter. I will put foam board on the interior of the bunks to keep us warm, put plastic over our windows to make them double pane like, heat tape around all our water tanks to keep from freezing.

  13. We just purchased a hybrid. It is 21’ ft. Long. With 3 queen push out “rooms”.
    It is super easy to open the queens. Literally 2-3 mins.to open. Not an hour! The newer push out room canvas isn’t the old cloth type that we camped in when we were kids 50 yrs ago, that stay wet and gross. Ours is all a heavy vinyl product that is waterproof, not water resistant. And they dry fast.
    I’ve the smell of the forest and the feeling of sleeping outdoors, like in a tent. But also have all the luxuries of a full hard sided trailer. If it is only my husband and I we only need to open 1 push out queen. And have the full use of the rest of the camper.
    Great engineering! Kudos!, Love it. You will too.?

  14. Ive owned a hybrid for years and love it. The only thing I had to learn was to open the zipper a bit for condensation.

  15. I can?t imagine that it takes an hour to an hour and a half to set up a hybrid. Literally, you unlatch the beds from the outside and pop them up from the inside. 5-6 minutes max.??? Also, having a pop up for 10 years, the gizmos or something similar eliminate early morning sun issues and condensation. I?m not sure I would have a hybrid without having covered storage. I can see how water would seep in around the pop outs over time.

  16. Having a hard time with anyone thinking an hour to an hour and a half is a long time to set up. After tent camping with 3-4 hours of set up for the last 15 years an hour sounds like just what we are lookig for.

  17. This article was sooo good! We are having the hardest time trying to decide on a trailer…I love the idea of the hybrid because it sleeps so many people and it’s so compact and lite…but I hate the thought of kids waking up early lol! Thanks so much for this great article!

  18. So you like to run a generator while you’re out in the woods enjoying some peace and quite? Why? So you can watch TV or something. How about you just leave the effing generator behind. Batteries and solar allow you to have enough power for the basics. Maybe you can close the door to your trailer and block out the noise but what about everyone else? This is why most RV people are just dicks.

      1. I concur. The single most annoying problem when camping, running the generator at crack of dawn or into the night. F em!

    1. Agree 100%. Funny that he mentions he can go in his trailer and not hear the noise, but what about everybody else in the campground? Also goes on to say that he doesn’t want his kids laughing to disturb other campers if he had a hybrid. Serious cognitive disconnect.

      People running generators are just assholes with little consideration for others. Go inside and watch a movie for two hours? Great, now everybody else gets to listen to the generators for the entire time. Such considerate behavior.

  19. Floor plans are an issue. As a snorer, I need the separation and my 13 yr. old wants his own bed. A hybrid with three slides for beds is perfect. I am searching for hard sides that have a good option as a floorpan but have not found much so far. Another advantage of hybrids is the smaller size of trailer needed for a comfortable fit. That enables you often to camp away from others instead of being confined to parking next to close neighbors. We go out to get away, and a neighbor with Christmas lights strung up and a boom box drives us nuts.

  20. I like the idea of canvas trailers. They sound like they are very safe and protected. I would like to get one of these because of the privacy they give.

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