Hybrid Travel Trailers

So what exactly are hybrid travel trailers? 

They are basically a light weight conventional travel trailer equipped with the pop out beds of a popup in the front and the rear of the trailer.  Sometimes they will have a pop out off to the side, too.  This feature expands the size of your camper when in use, allowing for more open floor space in the cabin of the trailer and is the reason they also called "expandables". 

Hybrid Travel Trailers -
Small Trailer BIG on Space

  • Hybrid travel trailers are a wonderful trailer and deserve consideration when you are looking for a camper to purchase.  They are great for a family looking for a small travel trailer that is big on comfort, convenience, and space. 
  • Hybrid travel trailers are usually a light weight unit and are more convenient than popups, when vacationing with your RV.
  • There are many varieties of floor plans available on hybrid travel trailers to accommodate your individual tastes and needs.  They are well thought out and make the most use of every available space.  Some of the plans include a slide-out room and three pop out beds, which expand the livability of these units even further. 
  • Hybrid travel trailers are very family friendly and can accommodate sleeping for up to 10 people, in some models.  They have all the comforts of home, like a refrigerator, bathroom with tub and shower, hot water heater, furnace, and air conditioner. 
  • They are more costly than popups, but offer better protection from the weather, offer more room to move around in, and are a safer option than a popup travel trailer.
  • Their  lengths run between 16 and 25 feet and weights range from right around 3,000 pounds to somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 pounds. Because of this, many of these units can be towed by smaller vans, pickups, and SUV s.

Caring for Your Hybrid
A Quick Overview

A hybrid travel trailer requires less maintenance than a popup, but a bit more than a conventional unit.

  • One thing to be aware of is that they are prone to leak where the pop out bed meets the body of the trailer.  Check the seals and caulking frequently to prevent damage to the interior of your trailer and always check for any mold issues that may arise due to the dampness.  Unfortunately, hybrid travel trailers are prone to mold issues. 

Beyond this point, the maintenance of your hybrid travel trailer includes...

  1. Checking for tears and rips on the vinyl "boots"
  2. Checking and resealing the roof
  3. Cleaning and testing the refrigerator, stove, furnace, and water heater
  4. Checking the tire pressure and tread wear.
  5. Also making sure you don't have any "soft spots" inside, outside, or on the roof

Tidbit: When traveling with your hybrid travel trailer after a heavy rain, instead of folding the beds up in to the bunks, try leaving them down below in the trailer so the boots can dry on your trip home.  We've done this many times and it does help so the air can move through the boot helping it to dry better.

Replacing a Water Heater
In our Hybrid

Check out our RV Maintenance section for more detailed information.

Keeping Your Cool

One challenge of hybrids is keeping the cabin cool during the summer months and warmer when it's cooler out in the Fall.  The wings are the main reason for this.  They allow heat in, in the summer, and out in the colder months.

Most expandables have curtains to close off the bunks, but these are seldom adequate enough to maintain the comfort in the main living area; unfortunately, on the older units sometimes the curtains don't even close.

We have noticed that as soon as we drop our bunks, it gets very warm, or cold inside the camper. 

The easiest and least expensive solution is to clip blankets across the entrance of the sleeping areas using ordinary clothes pins.  This was one of the first things we did one hot Summer.  It is very effective for anyone who is budget conscious, since most people already have blankets packed and clothes pins can be purchased at any general store or camp store.  Light blankets work the best, since heavy ones may fall over the day.

Another solution, that we stumbled upon at a weekend camping trip, is solar covers from Popup Gizmos.  We came across a couple who owned a hybrid and they had these covers on them, so we talked to them and they told us about these covers that changed our hybrid from a hot furnace to a nice comfortable camper during the Summer.  They also work in colder months.

They are custom made to fit the bunk ends of any hybrid or popup.  These covers have a shiny silver side to reflect the sun.  Many individuals think to turn them over with colder weather to the green side, but this is not the case.  You need to have them with the shinny silver side up at all times when in use.  This is stated on the manufactures website.

Pop Up Gizmos on our Hybrid

They do an excellent job of keeping the bunks warmer in cooler weather and cooler in hotter weather.  The living area is comfortable, they are relatively inexpensive, and easy to install using the clamps that are included with the covers.  The newest model, Super High Wind Series, uses bungee straps along with the clamps which help if you have any type of winds.  They are much easier to install than the ones with just the clamps.  This is the set we purchased last year for our hybrid.

One draw back we've noticed on our hybrid, is they don't do the greatest in constant wet weather.  The dampness soaks into the canvas and in turn, the bunks get wet on the inside; however, they are wonderful for those warm sunny days, and definitely worth the investment. You just might get dripped on and feel like your tent camping again!

Another Great Tip!

Another great idea we have recently come up with is to tarp the bunks.  If you own a hybrid, and you have the issues like we do with ours, this may work for you as well.

On a recent camp out we decided to tarp both bunks, knowing with what weather was a possibility on this trip.  It worked very well.  It would have been nice to be able to officially get the bunks up, Gizmo'ed, and tarped before the Good Lord decided to let go with a torrential downpour with about 50mph wind gusts!!  Wind is another thing you need to be aware of with expandable travel trailers.

So our bunks aren't soaked on the inside, nor are they on the out.  They are damp, but doable for tearing down. 

If you try this, be sure to have the correct size ladder for your safety.  You will also need some twine to tie the tarps on the top of your camper and use tent pegs for the ground.  Be safe setting up, as they act like a parachute if it's windy! 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Lightweight, easy to tow, and store
  • Expandable bunks leave more living space on the floor
  • You have the convinces of a traditional travel trailer
  • It feels more like your "camping"  because of the canvas bunks
  • You can hear the sounds of nature

Cons:

  • Not the best camper for a long trip, it can get crowded
  • Storage can be an issue
  • They are a lot of maintenance due to dampness seeping in
  • Leaks in the bunks and seams where the canvas meets the trailer
  • If its wet, when tearing down, you'll need to pop out the bunks and dry at home
  • You can hear your neighbors more easily because of the canvas
  • Campfire smoke can seep into your trailer
  • Hybrids are lower to the ground making it difficult to dump your black and grey water at certain campgrounds
  • Not all campgrounds allow the "tents." Do your research first
  • Not a trailer for any winter or cold month camping, as if the bunks are put out you have a high possibility of ripping your canvas in the cold weather. (For example, an emergency trip that comes up)

For more detailed information, check out the RV Forums.

On an end note

Expandable travel trailers are not a camper for everyone.  These units require more maintenance than your conventional travel trailer, but less than a popup travel trailer.  If you have the time, space, and area to work on them they are great trailers, but if you don't have that it's a very difficult trailer to maintain.

If you love to camp and you're more of an outdoorsy person, this camper is for you and your family.  If you're not, you may want to consider a different model.   

Since we have owned an expandable travel trailer, or as we like to call her Cabbie, we have learned so much in the past 10 years.  She was a great starter camper for myself and a great re-entry for my husband Scott.  At the time of purchasing her, we had a lighter vehicle and smaller land area, she was stored offsite.  So this worked well for our situation. 

Those are things to consider when first starting out in the RV world. 

A Trailer we Love

We currently own a 2001 Keystone Cabana Hybrid, and we love it!  It is a fun trailer, that is easy to tow and store.  The thing we love the most about it is we have the convenience of a full 21 foot travel trailer that expands to 30 feet with the beds set up. Every bit of floor space is well thought out and well used.

Cabbie has done a lot of traveling and has seen may campgrounds, with more to come!

Written By: Melissa

Exploring Travel Trailers>Types of Travel Trailers>Hybrid Travel Trailers