When the concept of a Hybrid Camper came out mainstream, I was so excited. The idea of having some of the luxuries of a Caravan in something small, nimble and light weight just ticked so many boxes. However, it seems like every man and his dog has jumped on the ‘Hybrid Camper’ marketing bandwagon, and a lot of the Hybrids being sold today are not really hybrids at all.
When you take a look at a lot of the options, many brands are selling pretty flash looking setups, but dig a bit further and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The whole idea behind a Hybrid is that it is light and small enough to take where your 4WD can go, and the primary way so many of these ‘Hybrids’ fall short of the mark is that they are either not at all, or barely smaller than a full size van and they weigh just as much.
Would it not be called a small Caravan then, and not a hybrid? What’s hybrid about it?
What matters for a hybrid caravan?
If you’ve towed anything off road before you will know that it makes a huge difference as to where you can go. Even a light weight soft floor camper trailer like we had, that would have topped out at just over a tonne makes life much harder off road, or on a soft beach.
These trailers are dead weight, and even with the correct tyre pressures you will work your 4WD so much harder to tow them where you want to go. The more weight, the harder the vehicle works, and every hundred kilograms makes a big difference.
True hybrid campers should come in at an absolute maximum of 2500kg when loaded (and even that is really heavy), and that cuts out a huge majority of the ‘hybrid’ market. In order to achieve this weight, you need a tare weight of below 2000kg, and even lighter is better.
If you are starting with something that weighs more than 2000kg empty, you are going to have a hard time taking it off road, especially on soft sand.
Having a trailer that is no taller than your 4WD is hugely important for ease of travel off road. The higher your hybrid, the easier it is to take trees and other bits and pieces out, and as they will never follow your 4WD’s tracks perfectly it makes it even harder.
If the unit you are looking at is over 2.5 metres in height, its going to drag on every tree branch, and have a much higher chance of knocking something when your trailer goes on an angle.
If you intend on towing a trailer on narrow tracks, you’ll soon learn why its so important to have a trailer that is narrow. Most 4WD’s are no more than 1900mm wide, and that means if your trailer is wider, its going to get wiped out. As above, your trailer will usually take a slightly different line to your vehicle, which means a track that your 4WD just fits down is going to be too tight for anything wider than it.
If you get something that is taller, and wider than your 4WD then you have the worst of both worlds. Any undulations will result in the van tilting over and getting much closer to the trees than your 4WD does, and that’s not a good place to be in.
You also need towing mirrors if the vehicles mirrors are not wider than the trailer.
You can’t call a 20 foot camper a hybrid. It is too long to be one, and some of these are starting to push the friendship. Even if you get the width and height wrong, and you have dual axles to combat the entry and departure angles, the longer your van the harder it is to take on tight tracks.
Is there anything wrong with these small caravans?
Now, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with a caravan that is marketed as a hybrid (but really isn’t) as long as you understand that you probably wont be able to tow it down a soft beach, or that it wont follow you through narrow coastal tracks without removing half of the paint.
Some people want exactly that; a small caravan that has an outdoor kitchen, and if that’s you, perfect. If you expect what many hybrids are designed to do in your small caravan you might be in for a shock, and disappointment, and I really have a thing for poorly, or falsely advertised products.
If you go big, you may as well go big
Our thoughts on this are simple; if you want a hybrid that you can take anywhere, get one. If you want the luxuries that don’t fit into a hybrid (in weights or size) then you may as well go full size. There’s no point getting something short if its full width and full height.
If we were to get a van (which we will at some stage, I’m sure) we’d get something much larger, because the incremental change really doesn’t achieve to much. Our current setup is 6 metres in total length, which is quite small compared to a normal Caravan.
How big and heavy is your hybrid? Are you happy with it?