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Hybrid Camper: Benefits & Shortcomings

This post was updated on July 4th, 2020

Expandable Hybrid campers have been one of the lightest travel trailers on the market since the late 1990s. They give people the ability to have the amenities of big travel trailers in smaller spaces. Hybrids also give large families a comfortable sleeping space at an affordable price. In this article, we’ll explore the many sides of a hybrid and if they are right for you.

What Is A Hybrid Camper

A hybrid RV camper is a small travel trailer that ranges in size between 15- 20 feet in length. When folded up, they look like a traditional travel trailer. You can find fiberglass or aluminum hybrid campers on the market. Since they are so lightweight, the majority weigh below 5,000 pounds.

On the front, back, and rear driver side (on some models), there are platforms that look like extra-large window protectors. When opened, they fold out perpendicular to the coach, creating queen-sized sleeping areas. These expandable sections use canvas or vinyl to house the sleeping areas, like pop-up campers.

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The interior of the trailer has full bathrooms, kitchens, dinettes, and even sofas. By designating the bedroom spaces to the fold-out sections, it allows for more open walking space in the coach than what traditional small travel trailers offer. The amenities within the hybrids are comparable to travel trailers over pop up campers.

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Popular 2020 Hybrid Camper Models

Before we get into the ins and outs of hybrids, here are examples of some of the best lightweight hybrid campers on the market. They are from the top manufacturers that have been on the cutting edge of hybrid development. These RVs have proved time and again that hybrid trailers are good and worthy of attention.

Forest River Flagstaff Shamrock

  • 21.2- 24.10 feet in length
  • 4,179- 5,640 unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) pounds
  • 11 floorplans
  • Sleeps between 8-10 people
  • $16,900-$28,932

This series of hybrid is very versatile. There are floorplans that offer two and three foldout beds. Some models have slideouts to maximize floor space. One model has a kitchen island for increased counter space (23IKSS). Another offers a 96-inch front deck (21SSL) to bring your ATVs, snowmobiles, and other equipment on your adventure.

The same production line builds the Flagstaff Shamrock and the Rockwood Roo. At first, the only difference was the decals and color options. The Roo evolved into a luxury brand with higher-end features. The Shamrock now caters to the outdoor enthusiasts. It’s better insulated for all-weather camping.

Pleasure-Way Tofino

  • 17.9 feet long
  • 12-14 miles per gallon highway unloaded
  • One floorplan
  • Sleeps up to 4
  • Starting price: $70,850

Hybrids aren’t only in the towable types. Class B motorhomes have hybrid features as well. The 2020 Tofino has an expandable roof. When opened, it creates a full-size sleeping loft that allows for two people to enjoy the night sky as they doze off. Pleasure-Way was one of the first to offer this feature. The Tofino is built on the Dodge Ram Promaster 1500 chassis.

Keystone Bullet Crossfire

  • 19.6 or 24.11 feet in length
  • 2,459 or 4,515 UVW pounds
  • 2 floorplans
  • Sleeps 7 or 9 people
  • $22,337 or $28,684

The Bullet Crossfire by Keystone has 20 different floorplans. Of them, two are hybrids. The 1650EX has two queen-size foldouts and the 2190EX has three. The bigger of the two also features a U-shaped dinette on a slideout to open the floor space. No matter which one you choose, you can enjoy travel trailer-sized amenities, electric stabilizer jacks, and other features.

Kodiak Cub

  • 18.10-21.8 feet long
  • 3,298-3,774, UVW pounds
  • 3 Floorplan
  • Sleeps up to 7-8 people
  • $16,987- $34,232

The Kodiak Cub is an outdoor modern living series of travel trailers. The travel trailer and hybrid trailer models have enclosed and heated underbellies for cold weather camping. You will find USB and three-prong electric plugs throughout for all of your electronics. The laminated flooring, single-piece countertops, and other features are easy to clean if you bring the outdoors in with you.

Jayco Jay Feather

  • 18.7- 26.8 feet in length
  • 3,285- 5,120 UVW pounds
  • 4 floorplans
  • Sleeps from 6- 9 people
  • $26,987- $35,150 MSRP

The Jayco Jay Feather line offers four hybrids in this series. As all-weather camping becomes more popular, they seal and heat the underside of the coach. The tent material is a patented vinyl material that is water and scratch-resistant. The biggest of the four (X23E) has three foldout beds and a slideout U-shaped dinette for ultimate sleeping and floor space possible.

Weighing Your Options

Hybrid campers have pros and cons to them. In the almost 30 years since they’ve hit the market, many advances have been fine-tuned to make them better. We always recommend renting the RV type you are considering before you make the investment. This way you’ll have the opportunity to get the feel for the experience.

Benefits of Owning a Hybrid

  • Affordable for larger families: Many smaller travel trailers sleep up to four people. If you’re a family of five or more, fitting everybody for the night may require a longer and more expensive travel trailer. Hybrid campers are under $40,000 and can sleep up to nine people.
  • A lightweight option: Most hybrid travel trailers weigh below 5,000 pounds. As long as your vehicle is capable, your mid-sized SUV or truck shouldn’t have any problem towing it.
  • Travel trailer protection: With the hard shell of the trailer, you can have peace of mind that you are thoroughly protected against weather, debris, and other possible damage. While soft-shell pop-up campers use heavy-duty canvas, it still doesn’t protect as well as fiberglass.
  • Better insulated: The insulation of the trailer section is as good as a traditional trailer. You may experience some temperature loss through the vinyl/canvas in the bed sections. The loss you experience is significantly less compared to soft shell folding campers.
  • Worst night setup conditions: If you pull into your campsite during a rainstorm at night, the last thing you want to do is be outside setting up. Hybrids have dinettes and couches that fold out for sleeping. Everyone can stay dry and comfortable until the morning.

Solutions to Shortcoming on Hybrids

  • Bears and knives: If you are camping in the wilderness or isolated areas, soft shell bed sections are vulnerable to sharp objects. Many state and national parks have warning literature for those that tent camp. You may want to close the beds when you are away from your trailer.
  • Moisture damage: Manufacturers have come a long way to overcome moisture from leaking in. Newer vinyl materials and plywood alternatives are resistant to moisture. Yet you may have condensation build-up overnight. If this happens, make sure you lift up your mattresses and dry things off.Older models used heavy-duty canvas and plywood as a base for the mattress. If not maintained, the moisture from condensation can lead to the wood rotting away. If you buy an older model, make sure you check for water damage under the mattresses. Check for any rust on any zippers as well.
  • Engines, early risers, and sunrise: The bed areas don’t have the noise and light reduction advantages that traditional travel trailers have. Unless you are a heavy sleeper, sleeping masks and earplugs may be a way to go. If you must have a quiet environment, research various campgrounds that have extended quiet hours.
  • Privacy: The bed areas come with privacy curtains to give the sleepers visual privacy from the rest of the coach. The bathroom has a real door to conduct your personal grooming. To find that alone time, the best option is staying behind while everyone else is out exploring the area.

Head-To-Head Comparison with a small TT

The best way to see how a hybrid compares to a travel trailer or a pop-up folding camper is to attend an RV show in your area. For our discussion, we’ll give you a floorplan comparison.

The example RVs we’re going to present, are from Forest River’s Flagstaff brand. They will have similar dimension when expanded and interior features. This will show you how the hybrid gives you the best of both the travel trailer and foldout camper types.

[Floorplan image:]

Our first example is the Forest River Flagstaff Shamrock 21SS. This hybrid trailer is 22.10 feet in length and has an unloaded vehicle weight of 4,985 pounds. It has two queen-sized bed areas and a slide out with a dinette and three-seater sofa on it. From the floorplan, you can see there is an incredible amount of walking room and it has travel trailer amenities.

[Floorplan image:]

The Forest River Flagstaff Micro Lite 25BDS has the same amenities as its hybrid counterpart. It’s 25.11 feet long and 5,471 pounds UVW. It can sleep up to four people when you fold down the U-shaped dinette that’s on a slide-out. For daytime seating, the master bed is a murphy bed that folds over the sofa. The floor space is tighter than the hybrid.

[Floorplan image:]

The pop-up comparison is the Forest River Flagstaff Tent 627M. It has a U-shaped dinette on a slideout and a sofa bed that folds out. The floor space is better than average. The kitchen fits within a cabinet. The wet bath is cabinet size and has a full curtain for privacy. This RV measures 25.9 feet when expanded and is 2,854 UVW pounds. This camper can sleep up to seven people.

As you can see, the hybrid is the best of both worlds. The hybrid can sleep up to eight people, which is more than the pop-up and travel trailer. Its amenities measure up to the travel trailer and is lighter. Compared to the folding trailer, the hybrid does give you more walking space, bigger amenities, and a better comfortable living situation.

Maintaining Your Hybrid

Maintaining your hybrid trailer is similar to a travel trailer.

  • Look after your seals
  • Check for roof soft spots
  • Maintain tire pressure and integrity
  • Winterize when stored

Your dealer should supply you with a checklist of items to go over. When it comes to the canvas or vinyl, keep a weather eye on where the material meets the hard shell. Take care of small tears before they become bigger.

Avoid folding up the beds when they are wet to avoid the growth of mold. If you have to fold up your hybrid camper when it’s wet, make sure you unfold them when you get to home. The soft shells will need to dry out overnight. Once mold sets in, you may have to replace the material. Pricing can vary, but you can spend anywhere from $450 or more to replace the canvas.

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Hybrids Solve the Argument

Hybrid campers can be the ideal RV for many camping lifestyles. They are lightweight, affordable, and give you plenty of room to move around in. Their amenities are most like a travel trailer. The hard shells of the trailer give you the protection and climate control that folding trailers don’t have.

One advantage we didn’t talk about is how they can be a great compromise for those that love the tent lifestyle. If you look into the backgrounds of how some travel trailer companies started, the founders had family members that refused to camp in tents. That inspired them to create travel trailers.

Not all of us have the skills, finances, or ability to build our own RV companies. Hearing the sounds of the night, or the rain hitting the canvas is one of the great things about camping. With a hybrid, you can still have that. Yet, your family members can still have the creature comforts of a travel trailer. You can settle that argument with an affordable hybrid.

Product data was last updated on 2023-12-04 at 11:24.

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