The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Travel Trailers (Plus A Few Tips!)

Jayco Hybrid Camping Trailer

This year my family decided to get a new camper. After much deliberation, we decided to go with a Hybrid Camping Trailer from Jayco.

In the past, we’ve owned a large travel trailer, done countless tent camping trips and enjoyed pop ups, but the benefits of a hybrid camper we’re too many for us to pass.

Here are the reasons I chose to go with a hybrid travel trailer as well as the negatives that I have experienced with our camper. Hopefully, it will help you with your camper buying decision.

For more info on buying an RV, check out our RV Buyer’s Guide.

Index

What Is A Hybrid Camping Trailer

Hybrid Camping Trailer at Bear Head Lake State Park
My family’s recent trip to Bear Hear Lake State Park in MN using our Jayco Hybrid Camper.

A hybrid camper is a blend between a hard-sided camping trailer and a pop-up camper.

When towing a hybrid, it looks like a medium to small sized travel trailer, yet when you get to your campsite, beds are extended out of the front and rear of the camper (like you would see in a pop up) which creates more sleeping space and floor space within the camper.

Over the last 20 years, hybrid trailers have gained popularity while pop up campers have slowly dwindled.

Hybrids have taken over the market of people who are looking for lightweight campers that accommodate a lot of people (usually families).

Interested in learning more about pop up campers? Check out our post Everything You Need To Know About Pop Up Campers.

What Are The Benefits of Hybrid Campers

Hybrid campers offer a lot of benefits to the average RV camper. Here are a few benefits to be aware of.

Lighter Weight Than Standard Travel Trailers

Compared to a standard travel trailer, you can usually get more space in a hybrid while keeping the total weight lower. This allows you to pull a camping trailer with more space with a smaller vehicle.

Open Floor Plans

Because hybrid campers have two queen size beds that extend out of the front and the back, they don’t need to fill up their floor space with beds. This allows for a more open floor plan through the center of the camper. It also typically means bigger kitchen, bigger dinette tables, and more storage space.

Larger Bed Than Travel Trailers and Pop Up Campers

One big benefit of hybrid campers is that they typically offer two queen size beds, one on each end of the camper. Most will also offer a folding couch for a bed and a dinette that turns into another bed. Larger models may even offer bunk beds if more beds are needed.

Less Expensive Than Similarily Sized Travel Trailers

A hybrid trailer will typically cost you less per square foot (bed space included) than a similarly sized camper. Of course, many other factors make up total price such as quality of finishes, but in an apples to apples comparison, hybrids tend to be cheaper.

Hybrid Offer More Amenities and Storage Than Pop Ups

Pop up fold down so far that you can’t actually keep a lot of camping supplies in them, nor can you have many of the nice features of travel trailers. You have to keep it to the bare necessities.

In a hybrid camper, you basically have a normal travel trailer with expandable beds, so you get drastically bigger kitchens, fridges, and more storage space for your cooking supplies, food, clothes and more.

Set Up is Quick and Easy

In my Jayco Hybrid Camper, I can typically get both beds extended and fully set up in less than 5 minutes. I don’t know about older models, but newer ones such as mine are incredibly easy to set up.

Less Storage Space Is Required

Our Jayco Hybrid is our second RV. Our first was a 28′ Trail Cruiser. It was 4′ longer than our current Hybrid (which is 24′) and weighed about 1,800 pounds more.

The extra 4′ on our old camper made keeping it in our driveway very difficult. Our new Jayco is a much better fit. Also, the 1,800-pound difference means much better towing.

The most interesting part is that our new 24′ Jayco sleeps our family better and actually has more space and more storage than our old 28′ camper.

Closer To Nature

One benefit that I actually love about our hybrid camper is that the queen beds on each end of the camper are covered with fabric (thick fabric) and allow you to hear the sounds of nature more than typical trailers. You can even zip down the sides, leaving just screens up, and really feel like you’re camping in nature.

What Are The Negatives of Hybrid Campers

While I absolutely love my Jaco Hybrid camper, there are a few negatives that any hybrid buyer should be aware of.

Temperature Fluctuations

This one is a minor inconvenience with an easy fix for me. When we’ve been camping during the spring, where nights get down to 40 degrees or so, we’ve found that the main middle of our hybrid camper stays toasty warm with the furnace on, but the pop-out beds can get a bit chilly. The same goes for them being a bit too hot in the summer.

I wouldn’t say it’s really bad, but you notice a temperature difference between the beds and the main part of the camper.

A couple of cheap bed fans helped us get the warm (or cold) air better moving around inside the camper and keeps the temperature more even throughout the night.

Condensation Build Up

If you’ve been tent camping, you know how much condensation builds up on the walls of your tent overnight. Condensation happens when the warm moist air inside an area meets a cold surface and condensation forms. Add in that the average person breaths out over 2 cups of water during the night, the beds provide the perfect area for condensation build up.

We’ve found that the soft walls in our hybrid camper can have a lot of condensation build up in the mornings. We’ve even found that condensation builds up under the mattresses.

The solution for this is to fold up the mattress every morning and let everything dry properly. If you have to pack up the fold out while they are still wet, make sure to extend them back out at your next destination and allow them to dry.

It’s not a huge hassle, but it is worth mentioning.

Who Are Hybrid Campers Best For?

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Travel Trailers (Plus A Few Tips!) 1
This is my family that camps in our Jayco Hybrid camper. Amazingly, we all fit!!

Because hybrid camping trailers are able to sleep more than their similarly sized counterparts, they tend to be the perfect RV for families with children.

I have seven children (although my two oldest rarely join us camping anymore) and when shopping for a new RV I found that hybrid campers offered me the most sleeping quarters for the best price.

My Jayco camper has two queen beds, one of which my wife and I sleep in, the second my two daughters sleep in. The couch folds down into a bed that is perfect for one, and finally, the dinette table turns into a bed (similar to queen size) that I can easily fit two kids on. So I can easily fit seven into my hybrid.

If I were to get a travel trailer that could sleep seven, most ended up being bigger than I wanted and either maxed out my Suburban’s towing capacity or exceeded it. If I had to invest in a truck to tow my camper, I wouldn’t be able to fit all of my kids in the car!

Want to rent a hybrid for the weekend to try one out? Check out our Camper Rental Page to view rentable RVs in your area and you can even read everything you need to know about renting an RV here.

Floorplan Comparisons

Jayco Hybrid Camper Floorplan
Jayco Jay Feather Hybrid Camper

The Jayco Jay Feather X23B hybrid travel trailer has an exterior length of 24′ 5″ and a dry weight of 4,425 pounds. As you can see, the floor space is wide and open. You have plenty of kitchen and sofa space, the bathroom isn’t cramped and there is room to move about.

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Travel Trailers (Plus A Few Tips!) 2
Jayco Jay Flight Standard Travel Trailer

The similarly sized Jayco Jay Flight SLX 8 is actually 1 foot longer with an exterior length of 25′ 5″ and a dry weight of 4,215 pounds. Yet the camper comes across as a bit cramped. This is because the queen size bed is 6.5′ long and takes up a significant amount of interior space.

Both campers have a bathroom, fridge, microwaves, sink, couch, and dinette, yet with the hybrid being one foot smaller, it actually has a second queen size bed (along with more open space)!


The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Travel Trailers (Plus A Few Tips!) 3
Jayco Jay Sport 12SC Pop Up Camper

The Jayco Jay Sport 12SC is the closest pop up camper that I could find for this comparison. It comes in at a travel length of 18′ 6″ and weighs2,295 pounds.

This pop up has all of the same sleeping arrangements as the Jayco Hybrid, if not actually even a bit more as the front bed is a king size bed. Other pros are that it is lighter, meaning you can tow it with a smaller vehicle and shorter, making storage even easier. That is where the similarities end though.

The Jay Sport Pop Up lacks a bathroom and has a minimal kitchen, no fridge, and very limited storage space when compared to the Jay Feather hybrid. It also has no grey water or black water storage which makes sense since there is no bathroom.

A pop up like this is perfect for a family that needs a lot of sleeping space, is on a limited budget and/or doesn’t have the towing capabilities for a bigger trailer.

Conclusion

When looking at hybrid travel trailers, basically you get the benefits of a compact pop up and a hard sided travel trailer, while avoiding many of the negatives. This is what has made the hybrid camper one of the fastest growing segments in the RV industry.

I’d love to hear your experience with hybrids, share in the comments below!

26 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Travel Trailers (Plus A Few Tips!)”

  1. Hey Ryan we also have a hybrid and love the space it gives us for our family of 4 plus 3 dogs. What we have done to help with temp fluctuation is to make our own pop up gizmos using reflective survival blankets (thin, plastic ones with silver on one side and solid color on the other). When it’s really hot or we are parked in a sunny location we do shiny side up and when its cooler or for fall camping we do shiny side down which reflects heat back into the bunk ends. It has also helped with condensation and keeping out rain in heavy rain storms. We simply attached them using binder clips or tarp clips which i purchased at the dollar store. I ordered mine on amazon and use x2 on the larger bunk end and one on my smaller bunk end. I think total cost was under $45.00 where as the gizmos can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars. on the day that we are leaving the campground we just hang them up to make sure they are dry and they are good to go for next time. the tend underneath is always nice and dry and mold free. I have been using the same ones for 3 years now and they are still in great shape! Just make sure if you have to use 2 per side that you put the bottom one on first then the one at the top of the bunk otherwise water will get in under the bottom one and you will end up with soggy tent ends.
    Hope that helps.

    1. Thanks Donna, I love this idea. I’m going to have try this on our next trip, I’m curious to see how big of a difference it makes keeping the heat and condensation down in the tents.

      1. Our hybrid has 3 pop out queens and a fold down dinette. We never use the dinette as a bed. We have plenty of room. And so much storage in hybrids. Unlike a pop up, they don’t have to be set up to load for a trip. Ours is a 21 foot and more then enough room for our family. Love it.

      1. We are looking at a Rockwood for a family of 2 adults, 2 young kiddos, a baby and 3 small dogs haha! We would like to be able to tow using our SUV. Can anyone speak on the mattresses, are they comfortable? We just rented a really big SUV and the beds were very comfy which made for a more relaxing trip. Thanks for any information.

  2. We also use a pop-up gizmo on our hybrid bed. It has been a game changer for us. No more condensation and much cooler in the summer. It doesn’t cover windows.

    1. We also use the pop up gizmos and added reflectix inside the windows. Makes a huge difference in summer in Texas! We currently have a pop up but wanting to move into a hybrid. I do not like not having a full functioning bathroom but we need something light weight that accommodates a large family.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. We are looking to finally buy our first camper- and we have been leaning towards a hybrid. Did you ever find a better solution for the temperature in the beds? Being from Texas- the summers can get brutal. Haha.

  4. I am looking for some sort of full cover of the hybrid pop out beds. A full jacket if you will. Colorado gets cold spring and fall. Would love to put some sort of full cover around the pop out. I know there are covers to keep the beds cool during the day.

    1. Pop up Gizmos can be purchased online custom made for your tent ends. Do a search. They are thin blankets made from “space blanket” material that is reflective in one side that you clip or use thin bungee cords to hold them on. Very quick and easy. You could make your own if you can find the material and can sew. It would require joining 2 pieces together as the tent ends are longer than the material you can find. We had the guy who sells Popup Gizmos sew a strip of Velcro to camper end of ours and Velcroed it in place and just leave them on and fold them up with the bunk ends. Very easy setup and take down.
      Next, we cut and fit panels of Reflectix from Home Depot for the zippered windows. We put them in the window and zip it up to hold them in place. The window can be partially unzipped with them in place or removed and stored behind the sofa. We simply leave them installed and fold everything thing up in the bunk ends. Leaving everything in place and folding them up will cause some wear but after 2 seasons of doing this the wear has been minor. To us the convenience is worth the minor wear and replacing after several seasons.
      The combined improvements of these upgrades has been significant. The AC and furnace easily keep up with temperature swings, the beds are comfortable temperatures at night if you us some small fans and condensation is minimized. It is still good practice to keep a window cracked and the roof vent open or on the lowest speed if you have speed control. We added a Maxxair fan to get that extra flow and control. It further enhances comfort and enables us to avoid running the AC a lot.
      Gary

  5. We have a Jay feather 16xrb hybrid. Love it! We found that we never used the dinette. We took out the booth seat and made a couch. We made it so that it can flip to the other side making a queen size bed inside . We also can still use the table when it’s in the couch position with the bench on the other side, it fits more people at the table. 16 foot trailer with 3 queen beds! Amazing.

    1. Love the idea! You gotta customise your trailer to fit your needs. I have been looking at the Jay Feather X23E model for its extra queen size bed. I have 7 kids, 5 of whom still camp with us, so an extra bed is tops on my want list!

  6. We love our Rockwood Roo 233. For condensation problems unzip a small crack in at least window per bed.. then either leave the ceiling vent open or open and on a very low setting. We leave ours on a low setting and don’t lose heat.

    1. We purchased a Rockwood 24WS last year and haven’t looked back. This article absolutely hits the nail on the head in regards to the pros and cons, and for us the pros have far out weighed the cons. Rockwood uses a heated mattress which is great in early spring and late fall. I’ve debated the sun shields for the tent ends and think I may try to make my own this year. Thanks for the read!

  7. Ryan, thank you for the article. the information is very helpful. I have several questions. My wife is our only driver. I’m a vision impaired guy. So I’m trying to find something that’s easy for her to tow. Are hybrids easy to tow? We have one vehicle and will have to purchase another to tow this. What do you guys use? Also, I read somewhere that hybrids are not always safe in state parks due to wildlife. Have any of you heard this before? And lastly, I’m having difficulty visualizing these gizmos you guys mentioned. What are they exactly? How to you affix them, inside or outside? What are they made of? thanks
    Marshall

    1. Hey Marshall,
      The ease of towing really depends on the type of hybrid you buy. They are every bit as easy to tow as any similar sized hard-sided camper. I tow ours with a Suburban, but if you’re thinking of buying a hybrid, talk to your local dealer about what you would need for towing.
      As far as not being safe in some areas, I have heard of some areas banning anything with soft sides if they are having a bear problem, but that is it. I have never personally run into this restriction.

  8. We currently have a pop-up and are looking at upgrading to a hybrid for a lot of the reasons that you mention here. One question I have is: Can we leave the beds made (with the sheets, blankets, etc) when they are stowed for towing? I would love that as it’s so much work to set up our pop-up. Also, when you’re sleeping on the bed, can you “feel” the crease where the it is folded in half when stored? Thanks!

    1. Hi Megan,

      I cannot speak for all hybrid mattresses, but we do not feel the seam on our mattress. It is a little hard though, so we keep a 1″ memory foam pad in our camper to make the bed a bit softer. We do have to take off all the sheets and fold everything up for transportation though. I don’t consider this a problem though. It’s much easier to set up than many pop-ups I’ve used over the years.

  9. We are considering a hybrid for the many good reasons mentioned here. Just Hubby and me now so we plan to do some extensive road tripping & boondocking alone, but still love trips with others along… Grandkids! We figure most of the time we’d be able to have bunkends out but wonder about the possibility of “turtling” in certain situations. (Bear country, major rain storm, major noisy situation, campground that doesn’t allow soft sides, extreme weather) Is it possible to pull the mattress down on the floor of wider ones with slideouts? We are just wondering what we might do to have a backup plan. Maybe we’d buy a folding foam mattress for the floor? Seems the dinettes & couches are just too small but maybe worth ruffing it occasionally to have the space and openness a hybrid can give.

  10. We rented a Rockwood Roo hybrid and the beds have mattress heaters! You have to be plugged in or in generator so not for boondocking. But very toasty for those cool Colorado nights. It also had insulated silver material on top which the ow er said made a big difference in the summer. We loved it and if I buy another camper (have had 3), I’m definitely leaning towards a hybrid.

  11. One solution to humidity I read is Eva-dry Portable dehumidifiers.

    One thing I loved about having a pop up 25 years ago was the rain hitting the canvas and the nature sounds. So relaxing.

    I’m debating on a Roo 235s with theater seats and 12v refrigerator with solar panels. I say debating because of the negatives and that I hope to use it for my wife going to state and national parks.

    Another negative might be security (also from animals).

    I hate having to modify something (changing the nice look) because of design deficiencies. I’m an engineer and love good design. I would love for it to look great ad be designed to overcome the negatives.

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