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.
- What Is A Hybrid Camper
- What Are The Benefits of Hybrid Campers
- What Are The Negatives
- Who is a Hybrid Best For
- Comparing Floor Plans of Hybrid and Other Trailers
What Is A Hybrid Camping Trailer
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.
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?
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.
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 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 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.
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!
Tuesday 14th of March 2023
Hi! We own a hybrid. We went from a tent to a pop-up to a hybrid. None of the hard-sides had the same openness that our pop-up had. We found the hybrid had plenty for my husband and I. We have taken our grandchildren camping and it is very cramped. One set has 2 children and the other set has 5 children. We made it work. Our camper is 16 feet closed and 22 feet with beds extended. I pull it with my Jeep. It's perfect for us. I made a screen room that connects to the awning. It gives us a place to store our coolers, shoes, garbage can, and chairs when we bring them in in the evening. We have made almost 100 modifications to make it more livable. We have about 10 more mods on the list. The only complaint I have is there isn't any clothes storage. We could use the food pantry, but it is tiny enough without trying to cram clothes in it. No, I like it the way it is. Our favorite part is the shower. In our pop-up, we had a makeshift bathroom but no shower. I hope we can keep this one as long as we kept the pop-up. 23 years! I loved your article. It's the first one I've read about hybrids. Thanks!
Saturday 21st of January 2023
Enjoyed reading your hybrid comparisons. We have a 2017 X17Z which fits perfectly in our driveway and we can still park a truck and small SUV. It's just the 2 of us but... it is perfect to take our grand kids camping! Being from Texas and doing a lot of summer camping, it got quite warm with the beds unfolded. My solution, the smallest, cheapest window unit I could find ($89 at the time). I remove the screen from one window and use that for the a/c. Pretty easy to install/remove. Have only used it a couple times but well worth it.
Friday 16th of September 2022
Hi i have a large fifth-wheel that i don't enjoy at all. It was a spontaneous purchase that i regret now! Im looking to purchase a hybrid and have found a three tip out one that for the price might be a good choice allowing for extra company and bigger middle area. Any suggestions welcome!
Elisabet M Coulter
Tuesday 10th of August 2021
Hi! Are there limitations on where in the country you can travel with a hybrid trailer? We really love the idea of how light, but spacious they are. Thank you!
Sunday 27th of June 2021
Do you use bedding? If you do, do you leave it on when you fold the beds in. What is the best way to protect the mattresses from dirt, etc. ?