If you’ve got any kind of interest in the Australian caravan and camping scene, you’ll no doubt have heard of the newest kid on the block, the hybrid caravan (or camper).
A hybrid caravan is the perfect combination of a regular caravan and a camper trailer. With the solid side walls, roof and lockable door, you have the security and comforts of a caravan. But, with the pop top roof, narrower width and underbody designed for off-roading, you’re not just bound to the bitumen.
Here we will nut out what exactly a hybrid caravan or camper is, plus the four different types that are currently on the market. From there we will run through the advantages and disadvantages of a hybrid, as opposed to normal caravans and camper trailers.
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What is a Hybrid Caravan or Camper?
A hybrid caravan is the comfortable middle ground between a full-sized caravan and a camper trailer.
The hard, solid walls of the hybrid make is much like a caravan, yet the off-road capabilities and narrower width yield it comparable to a camper trailer.
With the best of both worlds, you can enjoy the creature comforts of a caravan, while still having the benefits of being able to head off the beaten track. A hybrid caravan is the perfect combination for tackling the Australian landscape.
Hybrid Caravan Features:
- Similar width as a 4WD
- Lower profile than a caravan
- Higher clearance than a caravan
- In-built furniture (bedding & seating)
- External kitchen
- Solid walls
- Pop-up roof
- Built for off-roading (upgraded chassis, suspension, tyres etc.)
- Built for off-gridding (water tanks, solar power etc.)
What’s the Difference Between a Hybrid Caravan and a Hybrid Camper?
There is no difference between a hybrid caravan and a hybrid camper. The term seems to be used interchangeably, but essentially a hybrid caravan and a hybrid camper fall into the same category.
Some of the caravan manufacturers are marketing their pop top, off-road vans as hybrids, giving them the term ‘hybrid caravan.’
However, the camper trailer companies are generally the brands who offer the truly rugged ‘hybrid camper.’ These guys are more compact, with higher ground clearance, entry and departure angles, bash plates, off-road suspension and chassis, off-road tyres, water tanks, solar power and more. They are more intentionally designed for 4WD tracks.
Types of Hybrid Caravans & Campers
According to The Dirt 4WD, there are four different types of hybrid campers and caravans. From what I can find, no one else has set out clear hybrid categories, but this could possbily evolve over time as the segment grows.
Canvas Hybrid Camper
A canvas hybrid is among the smallest of the clan, with solid, insulated walls and roof around the bed.
The fold-out hard floor gives an extra section of living space. This can work for kids mattresses, a dog bed or a table and chairs when you want to keep out of the elements.
The uniquely shaped awning, which only takes a few minutes to set up, quickly and easily gives cover for the outdoor kitchen.
Canvas hybrid campers generally weigh about 500kg less than a standard hybrid, with good clearance and departure angles for off-roading.
Canvas Hybrid Camper features:
- Smallest hybrid camper
- Solid walls & roof around bed
- Fold-out hard floor with canvas tent
- Outdoor kitchen
- Approx. 500kg lighter than regular hybrid
Micro Hybrid Camper
Any hybrid camper that is under 5.5 metres long (from the hitch to the furtherest point at the end) and under 2.2 metres tall is considered a Mirco Hybrid.
Some of the micro hybrids have shorter, solid walls, but a taller pop top, which gives them a lower profile for traversing tracks and better aerodynamics behind the 4WD along the highway.
Micro Hybrid Camper features:
- Medium hybrid camper
- Smaller side walls, taller pop top
- Lower profile for travelling than a full-sized hybrid
- Less than 5.5m long (total length)
- Under 2.2m tall
- Outdoor kitchen
Expandable Hybrid Camper
At this stage, the expandable hybrid camper style is endemic to Kimberley Kampers.
When this hybrid camper is packed down for travel and storage, it’s no bigger than a normal off-road camper trailer. However, once you lift the roof and push the bed out, you’ve got yourself a much larger hybrid camper.
When it comes to on-board facilities, full self-sufficiency is easy with a full-sized shower and diesel hot water system, composting toilet, diesel heater, lithium battery set-up and an inverter to run the air conditioner. In addition, there’s an internal kitchen with a queen bed and dinette seating.
Externally you will find an outdoor kitchen and pantry underneath the awning.
Expandable Hybrid Camper features:
- Unique to Kimberley Kampers
- Folds down to normal off-road camper size
- Roof lifts up and bed pops out
- Internal & external kitchen
- Diesel hot water with shower
- Diesel heater
- Air conditioner
- Lithium battery bank & inverter
- Compost toilet
- Water tanks
- Airbag suspension and more
Full-sized Hybrid Camper
The full-sized hybrid campers can be anywhere from 5.6 metres – 7 metres long. This is the most common hybrid caravan on the market.
Inside you will find a double bed and dinette seating, plus possibly even bunks with a small ensuite (depending on your chosen layout). Full-sized hybrids can come as either a single or duel axle.
With a full hybrid, you will get more storage space and internal bedding/ living space than with the smaller versions. Plus, the option of including an ensuite makes them very appealing for self-sufficiency while free camping.
Full-sized Hybrid Camper features:
- Larger hybrid camper
- Higher side walls
- Pop top roof
- 5.6m – 7m long
- Internal bedding, dinette seating, bunks, ensuite (optional)
- Outdoor kitchen
Hybrid Caravan Advantages
Similar Width as a 4WD
One of the biggest benefits of a hybrid caravan is its width. Many hybrids are about as narrow as your 4WD, which makes navigating bush tracks much more do-able than if you had an off-road caravan.
It also helps to conserve a bit of fuel along the highway, rather than tugging a big caravan behind you, which causes wind resistance and adds extra weight.
However, don’t assume that all hybrids are this slender, as some can be a bit wider. Make sure to check the measurements if having one the same width as your 4WD is a ‘must have’ for you.
Built for Off-roading
Hybrid caravans are purpose built for taking off the bitumen. They come standard with off-road suspension, stronger chassis, departure angles, water tanks, solar power, bash plates and more.
But, as with everything in this day in age, just because an RV is advertised as being ‘off-road,’ doesn’t mean your warranty will cover you for everything. Always remember to read the fine print and know where you stand. From there, your future adventuring choices will at least be educated ones.
By far the largest advantage of choosing a hybrid caravan rather than a camper trailer is for the caravan-style comforts.
Dependent on your layout, you can enjoy in-built beds, interior seating, a well appointed kitchen, fridge/ freezer, easy pull-out awning, solar set-up, water tank/s, diesel heater, air conditioning, ensuite, hot water and more.
It’s important to remember that the more options your hybrid caravan has, the heavier it will weigh.
For those who prefer a simple, yet comfortable set up, but still want the ability to head off the beaten track, a hybrid caravan is a no-brainer.
Quick Set-up Time
Another great advantage of going for a hybrid caravan is that you still get to enjoy quick set up and pack down times.
The beds, furniture, ensuite and kitchen are always set up (even if they are tucked away). All you need to do is pop up the roof, pull out the kitchen and awning, then throw out a few camp chairs. If you’re pulling up for a one-night stop over, you don’t even need to do that much.
Solid Walls & Roof
With a hybrid caravan you can pull up to camp in awful weather or after a long day on the road and simply pop up the roof and fall into bed. The one downfall is that the kitchens are often external, although some hybrids (usually the 2 – 3 berth ones) have internal kitchen options.
Those solid walls make for a much more secure experience in windy and rainy weather, as well as offering a feeling of safety from dodgy characters and wild animals outside the van.
Having a fully-lockable van is great for keeping your belongings safe and secure while you’re out, plus you can safely lock yourself in at night.
Another benefit to having solid side walls is being able to have permanently-fitted accessories and fixtures, such as an awning, external kitchen, LED lighting, outdoor drop-down table and so on.
With the solid walls and roof comes in-built insulation, which is a far cry from the canvas that would be surrounding you in a camper trailer. This insulation will make all the difference in overly hot or cold temperatures. Insulation also helps to hold the heat/ cool in if you’re using an air conditioner or diesel heater.
More Fuel Efficient
Having a lower profile and being narrower than a full-sized caravan, means that the hybrid caravan will not be creating so much ‘drag,’ nor will it be as heavy. What this equates to is less wind resistance and less weight being pulled, hence less fuel being used, particularly at high speeds.
Easier to Tow & Store
Being smaller than a full-sized caravan, a hybrid camper is easier to tow and manoeuvre, especially if you’re a bit nervous about towing a 23 foot caravan. Storing a hybrid at home will also require less space than that of a caravan.
Lighter than a Caravan
On the one hand, hybrid caravans are less heavy than their full-sized counterparts. But, once you start to add in all of the extras that you wouldn’t find in a camper trailer (e.g. full kitchen, ensuite, air con, extra battery power), the weight can add up extremely quickly.
In addition to all of the mods and options, you need to allow at least a few hundred kilos of payload for your food, water, clothing, towels and camping paraphernalia. Trust me, a few hundred KG might sound like a lot, but it won’t go far. One full 80L water tank and you’re almost halfway there.
Hybrids can weigh less than a full-sized caravan, but they will be much heavier than a camper trailer.
So, while it’s easy to get lost in the clouds of having it all, you need to make sure that you’ve got a suitable tow vehicle and work through all of your towing weights to make sure you’re covered.
For more info, check out my caravan towing weights explained post for a simple run-down.
Plus, the heavier your hybrid camper is, the less capabilities you’re going to have off-road and on sand.
The take-away point here is to keep it simple and keep your weights in mind when choosing and kitting out your hybrid caravan.
Hybrid Caravan Disadvantages
As with all RV types, there are always a few trade-offs, no matter which way you go. The goal is to figure out what things are the most important to you and go from there.
Here are some disadvantages of hybrid caravans:
- Outdoor kitchen – great when the weather is beautiful, sucky when the weather’s atrocious
- Heavier than a camper trailer – but lighter than a caravan, so depends on what’s important to you
- Top heavy – compared to a camper trailer for off-roading
- Limited storage space – compared to a full-sized caravan
- Limited living space – designed for living to be done outside
- Not large-family-friendly – you’ll be lucky to find one higher than 5 berth
- Less insulated than a caravan – expect hotter in summer & colder in winter
- Expensive – often more expensive than a regular caravan (due to off-road capabilities, lighter weight & being the latest iPhone equivalent)
Hybrid Caravan FAQs
Hybrid caravans are narrower than a normal caravan and have a lower roof height (which you pop up for use). This, along with their off-road chassis, suspension and tyres, plus departure angle, bash plates and higher clearance makes them more suitable for off-roading.
The cost of a hybrid caravan can range anywhere from $38,000 for an entry level imported hybrid, right up to $180,000 for a top of the range hybrid. On average, you can expect to pay around $50,000 – $70,000 for a quality hybrid caravan with everything that you’ll need.
There are loads companies selling hybrid campers in Australia. Some brands, such as Mars and Lumberjack import their campers, while many of the well-known Australian brands are building them right here. Jayco, BRS, Bruder, Track Trailer and Kimberley Kampers are among the Aussie manufacturers of hybrid campers.
Hybrid Caravans Australia Spreadsheet
Fast track your hybrid research with the Hybrid Caravans Australia Spreadsheet ↓
- 40+ manufacturers & 200 different models
- Select what you’re looking for in a hybrid
- Dimensions, weight, number of berths, bathroom, tank sizes, power etc.
- Narrow down your perfect brands and models