There are some pretty incredible vans being built today, and deciding on whether you are more suited to a caravan, or a hybrid is quite a challenging decision.
However, today we take a look at whether its possible to live full time in a hybrid camper trailer, and what the compromises might be. No, its not for everyone, and we know this all too well.
To give you some history, we travel extensively with two young kids (2 and 5) and have owned our Reconn R2 Hybrid Caravan for more than 3 years, clocking up some 150 odd nights away, with a lot more on the way.
Prior to that, we had a soft floor camper trailer (and one kid for most of its ownership), and have done the tent thing too.
Hybrid campers are a compromise by their very nature. If you haven’t already worked this out, you’d probably appreciate the Hybrid buyers guide that we wrote some time ago, covering everything you should think about and look into before laying your hard earned money down.
The very name suggests that they are part Caravan and part camper trailer, and that means whilst you can get the best of both worlds, you also lose out in many ways too.
You will be more comfortable travelling in a full size van with all of the fruit, but not everyone can do this due to cost, weights or simply the unwillingness to tow something so large.
Whether it’s a limited towing capacity on your vehicle, or the tow ball weight would put you over your GVM, or your GCM isn’t high enough (check out our simple towing guide), or you simply don’t want to spend that sort of money Hybrids fill a niche that is very unique.
The answer is actually quite simple; you can easily travel full time in a hybrid camper trailer, and many people do. If its just yourself, or two people it can be done with plenty of comfort, and ease.
Throw a kid or two into the mix and it becomes more challenging, but its still possible. The reason for this is that you often lose the ability to have an indoor kitchen or ensuite, which means you are spending more time outdoors when lets be honest, its more comfortable indoors.
So, what’s the limitations and compromises?
Hybrid Caravans are small by nature. That means they are small inside, and some of them are tiny. If they are not, they are not really a hybrid; they are a caravan. If you can fit everything that you’d normally have in a caravan inside a Hybrid, is it really a hybrid at all?
Our Reconn R2 has bunks up the front, and a queen bed at the back. There’s enough room for two people to stand up inside, but if you are both trying to get changed, good luck without someone being on the bed.
Some have a lot more space than ours, but many are also much larger externally, or they fold out in one way or another; you have to compromise in one way or another.
We love our outdoor kitchen, except when its pouring rain, or blowing a gale. We’ve started using an induction cooktop which has made the cooking in wind much easier, but you still can’t avoid the bugs, dust blowing around and water coming in if its really pouring down (without mucking with awnings).
As a result of this, we try and travel where there is good weather, and for the most part it works pretty well. Keen to know more? Check out our Outdoor vs Indoor Camper Kitchen post.
Toilet and shower
A lot of hybrids are trying to squeeze toilets and showers internally, which can be done without bunks easily, and with bunks much less easily without changing the physical size of the unit to something that’s basically a caravan.
If you have an outdoor toilet and shower, you will find this frustrating in one way or another. Whether its the black sand that blows over everything, or getting your feet dirty as you walk back to the camper, or the shower tent blowing on you while your having a shower, or mosquitoes having a feed on your arms while you go to the loo, its not perfect.
We could put our toilet inside, but who wants a toilet in a tiny living space, right where you sleep?
Again, you can read the post we wrote on outdoor vs indoor toilets and showers.
For us, the bad weather is the most difficult thing to deal with. If its raining, or windy, you are going to enjoy staying in a caravan much more. The wind makes the sock flap occasionally, and sitting inside with 4 people for hours on end isn’t much fun.
At least with a Caravan you can stretch out, have your own spaces, and shut the door completely to the outside weather.
Being small inside, most hybrids have limited storage space, and ours is probably up there with the worst. We have 6 drawers inside, a couple of pockets, and that’s it.
Having enough room to store school work, clothes, games, laptops and so on is always a struggle, and in a Caravan you are at the other end of the spectrum with enough cupboards and drawers to take everything you need and more (but you usually don’t have the payload for it!).
The storage from the outside of our camper is exceptional though, with a huge storage hatch at the rear, and plenty of other hatches so we make do, but it does mean you often have to exit the hybrid to grab items.
How do we go living full time in our Hybrid Caravan?
Straight off the bat, I’m going to say that if we could tow something bigger (due to weights), and it didn’t hinder our ability to explore this great country, I’d move to a Caravan.
However, we aren’t able to tow anything heavier, and we love the camping feel of travelling in a Hybrid Caravan, and the fact that we can tow it a lot more places than you would a full size van.
That said, we do find it frustrating at times, and in particular when the weather is bad and you have to cook outdoors, or spend a lot of time indoors. Essentially we use our Hybrid as a base, and don’t spend too much time inside unless we have to.
We find the lack of storage of clothes a bit of a pain, being so close to the kids when they are sleeping, and not having solid walls hurts the insulation for both temperature and noise considerably.
The other main annoying factor is the outdoor toilet and shower, which whilst they have some benefits, we’d take an internal one any day of the week (but we can’t, due to space!).
We long since accepted that there is no perfect setup, and for now, cannot find anything more suited to what we want, so we keep using the R2 and Dmax. We really do love it, and appreciate every night out in the bush, and look forward to many more.
If you are wondering whether you could live in a Hybrid Camper full time, that depends on what you are chasing, but don’t go into it disillusioned!
Also, realise that you could be doing it in a soft floor camper, or even a tent; you don’t need too much to travel this great country and having access to a Hybrid is a big step up!