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What Is a Hybrid RV? It’s Not What You Think!

Many of the large car manufacturers are releasing “hybrid” versions of their most popular cars. However, did you know “hybrid RVs” have been around since the late 1990s? The terminology is a tad confusing, though, as the word “hybrid” in the RV sense isn’t what we now expect. Rather than a combination of electric and gasoline-powered vehicles, a hybrid RV instead refers to a combination of tent and RV camping.

These unique RV styles can be a great choice and have several benefits. Let’s take a closer look at this innovation!

What Is a Hybrid RV?

When you hear the word “hybrid,” you likely think of the gas-saving cars zipping around roads. However, hybrid RVs are completely different.

Hybrid-powered and electric RVs are a completely different topic, one we discuss in-depth in our article:Are Electric RVs the Future? Here’s Why We Haven’t Seen One Yet

A combination of gas and batteries doesn’t power “hybrid RVs”. Instead, the term refers to a mixture of a tent, a pop-up camper, and a travel trailer. 

hybrid rv camper
Hybrid RVs have hard sides like a travel trailer, but canvas pop-outs like a pop-up camper.

Unlike a pop-up camper, the sides of the hybrid RV will have the solid look and feel of a travel trailer. However, the ends will have canvas slide-outs, typically for sleeping areas. These are great options for small families or couples seeking weekend adventures that don’t need a large travel trailer or fifth wheel.

The Benefits of Choosing a Hybrid RV

There’s a handful of benefits that we think you’ll love when it comes to a hybrid RV. Here are a few notable mentions.

Can Fit Through Tighter Spaces

Because these RVs aren’t overly long or tall, it’s easier to fit into a campsite. The smaller size also prevents you from accidentally bumping into a pole or limb as you maneuver through the campground. 

Hybrid RVs are big RVs in small packages, and as the saying goes, sometimes great things come in small packages! 

Cheaper Per Square Foot

You want to get the best bang for your buck when purchasing an RV. A hybrid RV is one of the best ways to do this too!

These compact recreational vehicles utilize slide-outs on the ends for sleeping space. This use of space creates a generous amount of openness for the living area. Many of these slide-out beds will provide an additional 6-8 feet of length. That extra length can be a serious increase in price points when compared with travel trailers.

Because the ends are a tent-like canvas material, manufacturers can keep costs lower on these units. These canvas slide-outs do more than just save you money; many campers prefer the canvas because it reminds them of days spent tent camping.

Lighter Than Traditional Campers

A hybrid RV is significantly lighter than traditional travel trailers or fifth wheels. Less weight means you can use smaller trucks and SUVs to easily tow your hybrid RV to and from your favorite campsites. This means you won’t need a massive truck or its monthly payment to tow your camper.

Easily Towed

As hybrid RVs are often lighter, they’re easier to tow than larger RVs. They’re also usually shorter. When you factor in the weight and length, it’s easy to see why the towing experience is significantly better than a traditional bumper pull travel trailer. 

New to towing? Check out our helpful guide → How To Tow An RV: Guide For New RVers

The Best (and Worst) of Hybrid Travel Trailers | Things to Consider When Purchasing a Hybrid Camper

The Disadvantages of a Hybrid RV

While there’s a lot to love when it comes to hybrid RVs, they’re not perfect. Let’s look at a few of the disadvantages of owning one of these innovative trailers.

Set Up Time/Take Down Time

This is an extra step over a standard travel trailer. If you’re coming from a pop-up, this may not seem like a big deal. However, it is something to consider. Your mattress and sheets will need to be set up and picked up every time to you move.

Less Protection from the Elements (Risk of Leaks)

If you’ve ever stayed in a canvas tent, you know they’re prone to leaks. It’s never fun to wake up to a leak where you’re sleeping! Once your stuff gets wet while camping, it’s hard to enjoy the rest of your trip.

Also, RV water damage is the biggest downfall of RVs in general. If water gets in your RV, it may bring about a shorter lifespan.

These canvas ends are also very limited in the amount of insulation they can provide. This means that it transfers the weather conditions into your hybrid RV when the weather is hot or cold. These canvas areas are massive and will likely be too much for a heater or air conditioning to cancel out.

Some hybrid RVers will “turtle up” and bring in the canvas portions in the case of serious weather and use the dinette and sofa as temporary sleeping areas to keep the elements out.

hybrid rv canvas pop outs

Risk of Mold and Mildew

When it’s time to leave, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like; you still have to go. Sometimes this means you’ll be packing up in the rain, which means the canvas ends will be wet. Packing up items while they’re wet is an invitation to mold, especially if you can’t let them air dry as soon as possible.

You don’t want to mess with mold and mildew, especially mold. There’s always the possibility of it having a direct impact on the health of not only yourself but those camping with you. Once mold begins to take hold in an RV, it’s tough to eliminate.

In the video below, this couple had to do a bigger renovation job than anticipated due to mold in their hybrid camper:

Camper Makeover Before & Afters (look inside our renovated hybrid camper!)

Some Campsites May Not Allow Hybrids

It may sound surprising that there are campgrounds that do not allow hybrid RVs in the campground. These campgrounds often have frequent bear sightings, and the canvas ends of a hybrid RV would provide little safety from a bear.

Bears have an incredible sense of smell and could easily smell food and snacks through the canvas material of a hybrid RV. Prohibiting them keeps both humans and bears safe in campgrounds.

How Much Do Hybrid RVs Cost?

While you might think a hybrid would be cheaper, it’s still somewhat pricey. You can expect to pay in the $17,000 to $50,000 price range for a new hybrid RV. If you’re looking for a used model, you may be able to score one in excellent condition for less than $10,000 from a private seller.

Is Buying a Hybrid RV Worth It?

For many looking to make memories with their families, a hybrid RV is a great choice. It provides room for everyone to sleep and wait out those less-than-ideal weather conditions while camping.

Many hybrid RVs provide a tremendous bang for the buck when it comes to living space and amenities. The designated sleeping spaces on the ends are a huge selling point and benefit as well.

If you want an excellent weekender RV, a hybrid RV can be the best of both the pop-up and travel trailer worlds. It’s a tremendous value, especially if you can get a deal on a slightly used model.

hybrid camper in red rock

Would you consider buying a hybrid RV?

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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