While this site is primarily focused on pop up campers, the dividing line between pop ups and travel trailers might be a little fuzzier than you think. Although pop up campers come in a number of different styles, they all fit within the same basic definition: campers that collapse for travel and storage. Tent trailers, a-frames, tent-on-trailer units, and pop up truck campers are quite different from one another, both functionally and aesthetically, but they all conform to that basic definition. In that same vein, travel trailers all fit within the basic definition of towable RVs with solid walls. So what, exactly, are hybrid travel trailers, and what category do they fit in?
The simple answer is that hybrid travel trailers are, quite literally, hybrid mashups of the travel and tent trailer categories. That means you could put hybrids into either category or into their own category, since they have characteristics of both.
Hybrid Travel Trailers: Defining a Mashup
Hybrid travel trailers aren’t pop up campers, but they share more than a little DNA with tent trailers. The main body of a hybrid is a travel trailer, and that’s exactly what they look like during transport or storage. However, either one or both ends of a hybrid travel trailer holds a secret. In a manner very reminiscent of pop up tent trailers, hybrids conceal either one or two “pop up” sections on either or both ends. These sections pop out just like the fold out sections of a tent trailer, and they’re typically made of similar materials. They are also used for sleeping space–just like the fold out sections of a pop up tent trailer.
There are a number of manufacturers that include one or more hybrids in their travel trailer lineups, and there is a great deal of variety from one line to another. Some hybrids are traditional, boxy travel trailers, and others have a teardrop-style look. In either case, the presence of at least one pop out tent section is what defines the trailer as a hybrid.
In most cases, hybrid travel trailer pop-out tent sections are located in either the front or the rear of the trailer. Some hybrids have a pop-out section on both ends, and others have pop-out sections that extend from one or both sides of the trailer. In addition to pop-out tent sections, some hybrids also have more traditional slide-out sections.
Hybrid Travel Trailers Vs. Pop Up Campers
Hybrids possess a grab bag of the best and worst qualities of both travel trailers and pop up campers. A lot of hybrid travel trailers fit into the ultralight category, which means they’re easier to tow than similar sized, non-ultra light travel trailers. The fold-out bunk sections also add a significant amount of length, in the form of usable sleeping space, so a hybrid can typically sleep more people than a similarly-sized, non-hybrid travel trailer. However, hybrids aren’t as suitable for cold weather camping as traditional travel trailers.
On that note, hybrid travel trailers are better suited to cold weather camping than pop up tent trailers. If inclement weather makes it undesirable to have the tent sections extended, a hybrid travel trailer provides the option of simply leaving the pop out sections folded up. That reduces the total amount of sleeping space in the trailer, and may push one or more people into sleeping on the floor, but that’s still an option that tent trailers don’t provide.
The main benefits that tent trailers have over hybrids are the same as the benefits that they have versus regular travel trailers. Tent trailers are lighter than hybrids, which means they can be towed with lighter duty hitches. They’re also lower in profile, which makes them easier to tow, and may provide a boost in fuel efficiency versus towing a bulky travel trailer.
Hard-Sided Pop Up Travel Trailers: The Other Hybrids
Although the term “hybrid travel trailer” typically refers to travel trailers that have pop out tent sections, hard-sided pop up campers are also a form of hybrid. Although some pop up campers are hard sided, most of them fit into the a frame style. There are some examples of hard-sided tent trailers, although they are relatively rare, and the bunks are still covered in canvas, vinyl, or other similar materials. Unlike these pop ups, hard-sided pop up travel trailers essentially nest the top section of the trailer down over the bottom section, which results in a unique “stepped” appearance. This is a design that is often associated with Hi-Lo trailers, although other manufacturers, like Trailmanor, also make hard-sided pop ups, and manufacturers like Forest River use the term “hardside” to refer to their a-frames.
Since hard-sided pop up travel trailers don’t have tent sections, they don’t have the benefit of additional length like tent trailers do when they are set up. However, the lack of tent sections also means that these hybrids are well-suited to cold weather camping. They also have a benefit that other hybrid travel trailers don’t. Since hard-sided pop ups collapse for transport and storage, they don’t provide the same type of visual obstruction or aerodynamic obstacle as hybrid travel trailers.
Hybrid Travel Trailer Manufacturers
Some of the most popular manufacturers of hybrid travel trailers include: