We’ve had our Hybrid Camper now for about 3 years, and have clocked up somewhere near the 200 nights slept in it, ranging from weekenders around Perth through to 6 week trips to the Kimberley, then 3 weeks in the Pilbara, heaps more in between and finally our Lap of Australia.
Our reasoning behind a hybrid was to get something that would be able to get us off grid for extended periods, with a level of comfort and convenience that you don’t get from a camper trailer whilst not killing our ability to explore off the beaten tracks with something too heavy or too big.
So, what have we learnt since getting a Hybrid Caravan
There is no perfect setup
We’ve learnt this previously using other setups, but once again, I want to reiterate that no matter what you buy, it will not be perfect. Nothing that is perfect exists, and you are going to have to pick and choose what is most important to you. Everyone wants the luxuries of a full blown caravan, in a unit the size and weight of a soft floor camper trailer, and it’s a physical impossibility.
If you want something light and small, you need to put up with a tiny interior space, or having to pop out a section, or having to set a toilet and shower up outside. You cannot have everything.
Every hybrid is a compromise
Hybrids by design are a compromise. They are compromising on size and weight in order to give you some, but not all of the luxuries of a caravan. However, it goes further than that. If you want a bulletproof, well engineered hybrid you will pay for it, and some of them start off at 90k plus!
You might find the perfect hybrid but it doesn’t have the kitchen layout that you want, or the indoor toilet, or something else, and you have to pick and choose what you are willing to live with. Every hybrid is a compromise in many ways.
Some ‘hybrids’ are not hybrids
I chuckle when I see people asking for suggestions of a hybrid that sleeps 5, has an internal kitchen, toilet and shower, as well as an external kitchen. If you want all of the luxuries of a van, you are chasing a van, not a hybrid. I see a lot of ‘hybrids’ sold today that are essentially just small caravans. They are not light enough or small enough to classify as a hybrid.
Providing you understand this, there’s nothing really wrong with it, but don’t be fooled into buying a small caravan advertised as a hybrid and then expecting to be able to drag it behind you on rough, tight tracks without suffering major damage.
Outdoor kitchens suck at times
Outdoor kitchens are a dream to have, until they aren’t. If its raining, or its red hot, or so windy you can’t even boil a kettle, or the bugs are biting every inch of skin you have exposed, outdoor kitchens are rubbish.
Even ours, which is recessed, and ready to go is a pain in the bum at times, and I’ll happily admit we’d gladly have an internal one at times.
Some mornings, when you have to wake the entire clan up to head out and boil a kettle, I’d love a stove inside, but we don’t have one.
That said, for the most part we are happy with our outdoor kitchen, but if you are getting a hybrid you need to know they can be really unpleasant to use at times!
Having a tiny space inside is a challenge
Hybrids compromise on space, and that means your internal room is not going to be great. Sure, those that pop out are much better than those that don’t, but you won’t have much internal room.
Ours is probably up there with the worst, due to its sheer size and then the design of having 2 bunks plus the café layout, and we literally struggle to have more than 1 adult standing up trying to do anything, without people hopping on beds.
As soon as you get a few shoes and clothes laying around, or kids toys, say good bye to any organisation and ease of use!
Easy towing is hugely appreciated
Towing a trailer can be quite a learning curve, and when you have one that tows well, it’s a dream come true. Our Reconn R2 is the same width as the Dmax, and tows like a dream on and off road. A tyre can drop into a decent sized hole, and it will rock and sometimes skip around a bit, but it never sways, or causes much concern.
Good entry and departure angles are hugely appreciated off road, and on tight tracks having it follow the vehicle relatively well means we reduce the number of scratches on the camper, and are less likely to break something.
Rough roads don’t worry us too much
There’s a lot of things that we like about the idea of owning a caravan, but rough roads is not one of them. Our Reconn R2 has been well and truly used on a heap of very average roads, and its taken some pretty decent hits through wash outs and dips, and doesn’t ever seem to blink an eye.
I’m so grateful that we tow something built like a brick, and that will handle shocking roads without falling apart like so many caravans do!
Lots of water on board is a big plus
We carry 270L of water in the Reconn R2, and another 50L in the Dmax, which is incredibly appreciated when travelling long term. Including doing washing on the road, having showers and so on we can comfortably survive 9 – 12 days, and much longer if we use creek water to supplement it.
The idea of not having to go into town every few days to get water is so great, and means we can explore remote areas at a much more relaxed pace, without worrying about running out of the vital component needed for survival.
You need a decent payload
If the hybrid that you are looking at only has a 400kg payload, its not enough, by any stretch of the imagination. Fill the pantry up, get the gas bottles filled, get your water tanks completely full, throw some food in and basic other gear that you need and you’ll blow that in a matter of minutes!
We use about 650kg of our payload, and still have heaps left.
A low tow ball weight is best
I cannot stress how many times I’ve been grateful for a low tow ball weight on our Reconn R2. Fully loaded, it sits around 130- 180kg, which is absolutely amazing for a 2300kg van. It tows perfectly, and we can easily adjust the weight if we are doing nasty off road work by moving items around in the rear storage hatch.
With a dual cab Ute I’m especially wary of the chassis being bent, and a high tow ball weight is one of the biggest contributors to this. If you have 200 – 250kg of tow ball weight, you are likely applying about 400 – 500kg of weight to the rear axle from the tow ball weight alone, and that’s a lot of leverage!
Clothes storage can be frustrating
One of the biggest complaints from Sarah about our Hybrid is in relation to room to store clothes. We have 5 drawers, a small hatch and then a little larger hatch next to our hot water unit, and that’s it. Trying to store enough clothes for 2 adults and 2 kids on the road full time is a huge challenge, and she’s asked if we can build another drawer to help out.
Outdoor toilets and showers can really suck
We don’t beat around the bush here, and tell you as we see it. There are times where having an outdoor toilet and shower really sucks, and you’d love an internal one. Of course, this isn’t often an option with a hybrid so we live with it.
When its cold, or there’s lots of bugs around, or its blowing a gale like on the Bunda Cliffs, an outdoor shower and toilet really is a pain in the backside.
Hybrids are a compromise
I’ll finish with a statement I said a long time ago; a Hybrid is a compromise. It’s not got the best of a caravan, or the best of a camper trailer. It has slivers of both, and for a small niche its as good as it gets. If you want comfort over accessibility though, get a caravan.
Overall, we are really happy with our Reconn R2. We’ve talked for hours about upgrading to a caravan, but there are so many advantages of a good hybrid that we are sticking it out for now.
What have you learnt since getting a Hybrid Caravan/camper?