Hybrid trailers are changing the game, as they combine travel trailer features in a unique design approach. Perhaps you’d rather go traditional with a non-hybrid travel trailer. How do you choose?
Here are 15 points to think about as you decide over whether your next trailer will be a hybrid or a travel trailer:
- Towing experience
- Floor plan
- Air circulation
- Light control
- Wildlife protection
- Water protection
Ahead, we’ll go one by one and touch on each of these points above so you can determine with certainty whether a travel trailer or hybrid trailer is the better choice for you. Make sure you keep reading, as there’s lots of great information to come!
Hybrid Camper or Travel Trailer? Before You Choose, Consider These 15 Points
Both options have its pros and cons, so it’s important to see what your family would need. Are you looking for a hard-sided trailer or a combination of that with a pop-up camper. If your’e not sure what a pop-up camper is, we explain further here.
You can’t shop for your next trailer without a budget, so let’s not leave you in suspense any longer.
The average cost of a hybrid trailer is between $18,000 and $40,000. Travel trailers on average are $11,000 to $35,000.
The good news? There’s not much of a price differential between the two trailer types either way, so you don’t have to let that dissuade you. The bad news? If you were hoping to strike a deal by going with a hybrid over a traditional travel trailer or vice-versa, no dice.
We must note that these prices are just averages. You will surely find more expensive travel trailers in your research just as you might come across some cheaper ones as well.
Our recommendation is this. If the cost of a new travel trailer or hybrid trailer is overwhelming to you, there’s nothing wrong with buying a lightly used trailer! You can usually shave some serious money off the overall costs, especially if you’re willing to buy a trailer that’s five years or older.
This doesn’t seem like an important consideration until it’s 3 a.m., you drove for nine hours, and you can’t get a wink of shuteye. You need a trailer with an enclosed environment that provides enough quiet that you can sleep.
Keep in mind that almost no trailer will block out noise completely. However, some types of trailers are certainly more adept at preventing every tree rustle or twig snap from making it to your ears.
Hybrid trailers, which usually include hard-walled and pop-up elements, are not that kind of trailer. Anytime you have soft walls in your trailer, you’re sacrificing noise reduction.
In a hybrid travel trailer, you will hear everything, from the overtly loud noises to the softer, subtler ones. Besides earplugs, we’d also recommend plugging in a white noise machine (or using a battery-powered one if you’re off the grid) or perhaps an oscillating fan.
In a traditional travel trailer, you’ll certainly hear your generator if it’s running for several hours right outside of the vehicle. You might also hear some wildlife sounds and maybe a strong wind, but minor noises shouldn’t be audible. You can always put in some earplugs to drown out the sounds you can hear and then call it a night.
You wouldn’t want to live in an uninsulated home, right? Of course not. In the summer, you would have no protection from the sweltering, humid air. It would fill your home and leave you feeling sweaty and weighed down.
In the winter, you’d have no protection from the cold. You’d have to layer up or hope you have a fireplace in your home!
In a travel trailer, either the traditional or hybrid variety, insulation is critical as well. We’re sure we don’t have to tell you this, but the hard walls of a traditional travel trailer are far better at insulating your space than canvas walls.
Some hybrid travel trailer owners buy additional canvas layers to cover the pop-up sections to increase the trailer’s insulation. Even then, a hybrid travel trailer still isn’t as insulating as a traditional travel trailer, but it’s a closer comparison at this point.
Now, don’t get us wrong, it’s not like hybrid travel trailers offer no degree of insulation whatsoever. Of course, they do or why would anyone want one? That said, even if your hybrid trailer is mostly warm, you’re never going to get that chill completely out of the air due to the trailer’s design.
The weight of your trailer matters a lot. It’s a defining feature of your towing experience (more on that in just a moment), but it influences far more, including how you drive, where you can park, and how much cargo and passenger room you have.
The average dry weight (without gear, cargo, or liquids) of a travel trailer is about 5,200 pounds. Compared to an RV, that’s incredibly light, but let’s be real, 5,200 pounds is not exactly featherweight here.
Compared with the typical slide outs with travel trailers, hybrid travel trailers with canvas walls that weigh around 3,000 pounds. If you were thinking you’d cut down on a trailer’s weight with soft-sided pop-ups, changing the wall materials doesn’t make all that big of a difference in weight.
Heavier hybrids are 5,000 pounds, which is barely lighter than the average travel trailer weight.
We must once again share a caveat that these weights are merely averages. You will come across heavier travel trailers and hybrid trailers alike. If you buy a smaller trailer, then some will weigh under 3,000 pounds. That’s especially true once you get into the teardrop category for travel trailers.
If you have a certain weight limit your trailer must meet, it might be slightly easier to stick to that weight limit with a hybrid, but not exclusively.
Okay, so let’s talk about your towing experience as we said we would. Knowing now that travel trailers and hybrid trailers weigh about the same, you can use roughly the same type of towing vehicle for them.
Usually, for a load that’s at least 5,000 pounds, you’ll need a heavy-duty vehicle such as an SUV or a pickup truck. Again, if yours is a teardrop trailer, then it might be towable by car (provided your car has an excellent towing capacity, that is), but an SUV also more than suffices.
When towing a hybrid trailer, all its pop-ups features would be pulled down and secured so the wind doesn’t catch them when you drive and create a road hazard. SUVs and pickups are again recommended here.
Trailers these days are catching up to RVs in size. Although they’ll never outpace a class A RV, most class Cs and many class Bs don’t have much of a size advantage compared to today’s travel trailers.
Smaller trailers will leave you wanting more space, but if yours is an average-sized trailer, it’s usually quite generously sized. Yet between hybrid trailers and traditional travel trailers, which is more spacious?
Well, while it always varies by design, usually, it’s the hybrid trailer that offers more space. These trailers can expand horizontally or vertically (and sometimes both) to afford you more space.
You’ll be able to fully stretch your legs after a long day of driving or adventuring. Having access to more space makes it easier to fully relax so you might feel rested for tomorrow’s long itinerary.
If you need extra sleeping areas, such as for the kids, or a storage area, hybrid trailers and their pop-ups afford you this. They typically come with two queen size beds on either pop-out.
With a travel trailer, what you see is what you get, so make sure you’re happy with how spacious your vehicle is before you purchase it!
If you’re average height, then RVs and travel trailers alike might be a tight squeeze, but you can get through the entire vehicle without bumping into anything. Those who are more vertically gifted do not have the same benefit.
They’re constantly hitting into too-short ceilings. The beds are always too small, so their legs are left dangling off mattress. Bathing in a travel trailer shower is about impossible as well.
A lack of headroom makes it very difficult to enjoy time in your trailer. Only when you’re seated are you even slightly comfortable.
Both types of trailers could be the solution to your headroom issue. If your hybrid trailer has vertical pop-ups that extend the height of the ceiling, then you can enjoy walking around in your trailer without bumping your head.
Some travel trailers are designed with exceptionally high ceilings, such as the Airstream Classic, the 2019 Forest River Cherokee 274DBH, and the Winnebago Spyder 32SC.
Do you have to go out of your way to find travel trailers with taller ceilings? Yes, but they are out there.
Unless you have a luxurious class A RV, then designated sleeping quarters are not something you’re going to come across very often. Privacy is often at a minimum in RVs and trailers alike, which can be awkward at times whether you’re camping with family or friends.
Most trailer floorplans feature a layout with bedrooms and bunks on opposite sides, which does create some degree of privacy. If you need more privacy still, then a hybrid travel trailer is the right pick for you.
The pop-ups create extra space that can be used for sleeping (as we established) or changing clothes. Some pop-ups feature zippered compartments so prying eyes can’t see in or out.
It’s about the best privacy you’re going to get in a trailer!
Considering that the cost of a travel trailer is tens of thousands of dollars, you want to ensure your investment is going to last for many years to come.
The average lifespan of a travel trailer is between 10 and 40 years. We couldn’t find a different prognosis for hybrid trailers, but between the two, hybrid trailers have more issues that could shorten their lifespan.
If the pop-up walls are soft, then the canvas material can rip or separate. Holes or tears could puncture the canvas, which would also be time-consuming and expensive to get repaired. For hard-walled pop-ups, the mechanisms that allow your trailer to expand can stop working.
Now you’re looking at incrementally higher costs than to repair soft walls. Your repair fees could be thousands of dollars.
Then there are all the standard issues that can affect your hybrid trailer, such as problems with the transmission, engine, electricity, heating, cooling, etc., etc.
A travel trailer only has those issues to contend with since the sides don’t expand. With less than can go wrong, you’re likely to get more years out of your travel trailer.
Of course, the longevity of your trailer is not a foregone conclusion. You must care for your vehicle to keep it in running condition for several decades. As we just outlined, hybrid trailers have the additional complication of the pop-out sides.
You must keep the fabric clean and hole-free if yours are soft-sided pop-ups. Each year, as you winterize your trailer, you’ll have to safeguard the material from hungry critters as well as mold and mildew.
For hard-sided pop-up walls, you’ll have the extra responsibility of keeping the mechanisms that allow the walls to expand and retract in working condition.
Very little trailer maintenance is free, so the costs of caring for your sidewalls will add up over the months and years.
The last thing you want is fluids seeping out of your trailer, as that would put a damper on any camping expedition in a hurry. Travel trailers can have leaks, of course, especially if yours is older or maybe hasn’t been well maintained in several years.
That said, hybrid trailers are a lot likelier to develop a leakage issue, especially if yours has soft sides. The harder and softer walls are a prime spot for leaks to develop.
You know what stale air tastes like. It doesn’t feel great for your sinuses or in your lungs. Worse yet, this old air is recirculating germs, which isn’t wonderful for your health.
In your trailer, you have the benefit of being able to crack open a window, but this isn’t always feasible. For instance, overnight, it’s not safe to keep the windows open. In warm or cool weather, you’ll also want the windows closed.
For the same reason that hybrid trailers leak more, they also allow for fresher air than a traditional travel trailer. In this case, it’s a double-edged sword!
Although one of the benefits of trailer life is getting back to nature, that doesn’t mean you want to be awoken by the sun at the crack of dawn each morning. Your ideal trailer will offer some light control.
Both hybrid and traditional travel trailers have windows that feature curtains and/or blinds so you can adjust just how much light gets in.
Additionally, the hard, well-sealed walls of a travel trailer will prohibit bright sun rays from filtering into your eyes.
You can’t say the same about a hybrid trailer. If yours is a soft-walled trailer, then the canvas material only offers so much sun protection. A very bright, sunny morning can still end up waking you up if the canvas doesn’t block all that much.
Plus, you could be starting your day with a big dose of UV rays, which is another issue.
Even if yours is a hard-walled hybrid trailer, the gaps between the trailer walls could be just enough for an errant strand of sunlight to come right through and wake you up.
We hope you wouldn’t plan to camp where treacherous wildlife is native, but we also know that you can’t realistically plan for everything.
If there’s a bear spotted in the area or a mountain lion, you’re going to want to pack up and vacate in a hybrid trailer. A soft-walled trailer is no match for the claws and teeth of these ferocious creatures.
Harder-walled hybrids offer a greater degree of protection, but the fact that the walls are detachable could give animals an opening if they were that desperate to get in.
Traditional travel trailers with their single solid walls offer more protection. It’d be a lot harder for a wild animal to get into your trailer, but probably not impossible.
The last consideration we want to discuss is water protection. This is a doozy and should absolutely influence your decision-making.
When a rainstorm pelts the area, will a hybrid trailer or travel trailer protect you better? You already know hybrids can leak, which isn’t promising. Soft hybrid trailer walls can get wet, but they shouldn’t soak through. That said, condensation can be an issue.
When the storm passes, you’ll have to let your canvas ceiling or walls fully dry so they don’t get moldy and/or mildewy.
Hard walls offer more waterproofing, which is good. Water damage can short electrical wires, rot wood, and destroy your trailer. It’s one of the biggest risks you face as a trailer owner, as the cost of expenses would be so astronomical that you’d have to let your trailer go in most cases.
Hybrid and traditional travel trailers are two very different beasts. Both have their advantages and disadvantages in certain areas. We recommend taking the information from this article and weighing the points carefully so you can choose the perfect trailer for you. Good luck!