New hybrid RV is light weight, easy to tow

Farm Forum

Active families who are looking for a lighter Recreation Vehicle for better gas mileage and that can be towed with lighter-duty SUVs and trucks should take a look at the “hybrid” RV.

The hybrid travel trailer is also known as the expandable trailer. Hybrids look like a conventional travel trailer under tow. When parked at the campground, however, canvas-like ends fold out to make room for the beds.

A cross between a standard hard-sided travel trailer and a folding tent trailer, the hybrid’s ends expand out, adding sleeping space without the additional length and weight of traditional travel trailers. For many, the combination gives the best of both worlds.

These trailers appeal to empty nesters and young families who like to camp but don’t want the extra expense of buying a heavy-duty tow vehicle. The fabric-sided bunk ends give larger families the convenience of extra sleeping space without the inconvenience of a longer vehicle length.

Longtime RVer Ron Stockall, a retiree living in California, has owned a number of recreation vehicles, including small-sized conventional travel trailers and tent trailers. He said his 2007 16-foot KZ Coyote hybrid “is the best… it is an easy pull with my half-ton pickup.” Stockall’s Coyote weighs in around 3,300 pounds dry and 3,700 loaded.

Hybrid travel trailers come in lengths ranging from about 16 to 25 feet. There are also expandable toy hauler models with an 8-foot by 8-foot cargo deck that converts into a porch area when the toys are offloaded. The toy haulers range up to about 33 feet in overall length.

According to, lightweight versions have been designed specifically for towing behind many six-cylinder family vehicles. “It is important to match the loaded weight of the RV to the towing capacity of the tow vehicle. Always check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for towing weight restrictions and have your tow package professionally installed.”

For outdoor enthusiasts and avid tent campers who like to breathe fresh air at night, yet want to sleep off the ground, the hybrid offers more security than the pop-up folding camping trailer with its fabric walls and screened windows. It offers all the nice facilities of a travel trailer and at the same time maintains the outside sleeping experience so many tent campers desire. People can still hear the crickets at night and wake up to the sounds of birds.

The living, kitchen, dining and bathroom areas have amenities comparable to those found in self-contained travel trailers. “It has all the conveniences of home with a great kitchen space, great storage and a bath with shower,” said Stockall.

The Coyote kitchenette features refrigerator, three burner range, optional microwave, and sink with standard size faucet. It also comes with a 6-gallon gas water heater, furnace and awning. “The air conditioner is big for the size of the trailer,” he said. “It will freeze you out.”

Because the beds are essentially outside the main box of the unit, they don’t take up any of the interior space. “With the beds folded out,” said Stockall, “we still have the full 16 feet of interior space to lounge about in.”

New, prices typically range from around $10,000 to $30,000, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

Hybrid owners have reported some possible drawbacks on various online owner forums. They include:

· Increased setup times when you reach your destination because of the need to fold out the beds. For Stockall the arrival and take down time are not much of an issue. “It only takes about 15 minutes,” he said.

· Condensation in the canvas bedchambers during cool or rainy weather. For Stockall, it has not been a problem. “Weather has no bearing on the beds. I have been in some heavy rain and wind with no problems.” If need be, in inclement weather people can use the dinette or couch for sleeping and leave the ends closed.

· Noise, of all kinds, travels easily through the tent bed ends. While birds and crickets are acceptable, less welcome are the barking dogs, late-night revelers or a Class A diesel driving by in the morning.

“If I take all the pluses and minuses,” said Stockall, “the pluses far outweigh the minuses. RV traveling is always a new day of meeting people and seeing this great country.”

There are dozens of hybrid-expandable trailer manufacturers including Keystone, Forest River, Jayco, Starcraft and KZ. Most have Web sites and toll-free telephone numbers to order free brochures. Begin your search at and