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Expandable Travel Trailers: Why Hybrid Travel Trailers a Great Choice

Published on November 15th, 2023 by Rene Agredano
This post was updated on November 27th, 2023

Do you have a friend or family member who is looking for a low-cost way to get into the fun RV lifestyle? Expandable travel trailers are a great option if someone is brand new to RVing. Are you that person? These towable trailers (also known as “hybrids” or “pop-ups”) are a great choice for weekend RV camping trips and vacations. They have low maintenance requirements, can often be stored in a garage, and don’t usually require a higher-priced heavy duty truck for towing.

If you or someone you know is in the market for a low commitment RV, why not consider buying a hybrid camper? Let’s review the pros and cons, and examples of expandable travel trailers at every price point.

What is a Hybrid Travel Trailer?

A hybrid travel trailer is like the Swiss Army knife of the RV world. Imagine combining the robust chassis of a traditional bumper-pull travel trailer with the soft, expandable segments of a tent. You get a solid structure complete with amenities and a versatile space that brings you closer to nature when expanded. The pop-out sections can serve as extra sleeping quarters or additional space to stretch out. A hybrid trailer is also lighter than traditional travel trailers. 

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In other words, a hybrid travel trailer gives you a rolling hotel room up front, and a breathable, sky-gazing platform in back. It all comes in a package that is lighter and easier for towing with smaller vehicles.

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Travel Trailers

Like all RVs, hybrid travel trailer pros and cons need to be considered before you make the leap into RVing. There is no perfect camper out there, because every RV buyer’s situation is different. What is affordable to one may not be to another, and the vehicle that is safe for trailer towing might be hazardous for another model. Let’s look at the advantages of pop-up campers first.

Rockwood Roo interior Image: @Av8Chuck, iRV2 Forums Member
“We felt that for our first trailer this would fit our needs.” @Av8Chuck, iRV2 Forums Member

Some Advantages of Buying an Expandable Travel Trailer

Expandable travel trailers give you an upgraded camping experience. What a step up from tent camping! No more sleeping on the ground. Plus, you’re close enough to nature to hear the crickets, yet high enough to keep dirt and bugs out of your bed. You also get many conveniences like a kitchen galley, and sometimes your own bathroom.
You get versatility for any terrain. Whether you love beach camping, mountain boondocking, or visiting national parks, a hybrid fits into any of those experiences. A hybrid travel trailer’s small footprint is one of the best RV sizes for national park campgrounds, and they can be parked just about anywhere your vehicle can safely take it.
Hybrid travel trailers are lightweight and towable by most vehicles. Unlike heavy bumper-pull trailers and toy haulers, expandable travel trailer models are easier to tow because of their lightweight construction. Many weigh less than 2,000 pounds. Even smaller SUVs and minivan models can usually pull these campers.
They are one of the most affordable RV models: Generally, hybrid travel trailers are less pricey than full-fledged RVs. You can often find a good-quality used one for less than $5,000! They are an ideal choice for casual RVers who prefer saving money for other adventures.
2003 Coleman pop-up (Image: @smonagle, iRV2 Forums Member)
2003 Coleman pop-up (Image: @smonagle, iRV2 Forums Member)

The 3 Biggest Disadvantages of Expandable Travel Trailers

Like anything, buying a hybrid travel trailer comes with some downsides, too. If you are a casual RVer, cons like their RV depreciation values might not be enough to convince you to avoid buying one, but it’s important to look at all pop-up disadvantages before deciding. Here are the top three disadvantages of pop-up trailers to consider.

Limited features: While you do get many features of a traditional RV, they tend to be miniaturized versions of what you would find in other RV classes. Pop-up trailers with bathrooms tend to only have a fabric privacy curtain for the actual toilet area, not a hard-sided wall. And the more traditional RV features you add, like a full-size dinette, the heavier the pop-up gets. This can limit your tow vehicle choices.
Lower resale value: Generally, hybrid travel trailers don’t offer a great return on investment. The RV depreciation rates of these campers is one of the lowest among RV models. Class C RVs generally hold resale value longer than any other RV type.
Lack of privacy: Hybrid campers usually come with night shades. But with fabric walls for your camper, your neighbors can hear, and often see, everything that goes on inside.

Other hassles of pop-up travel trailers cited by owners include the care required to maintain the canvas tent material, and the physical act of setting up the trailer at a campsite. But, if you compare these expandable trailer cons to what it takes to buy, own, use, and maintain other types of RVs, you’ll probably find that they’re a wash.

Three Best Examples of Expandable Hybrid Travel Trailers

RV manufacturers know that hybrid travel trailers are a popular way for people to get into the RV lifestyle. The marketplace is full of innovative designs to suit different needs. Whether you buy a new or used pop-up, you will always have a long list of choices in every price point. Here are just some of our favorites.

Coachmen Clipper 

The Coachmen company prides itself on offering one of the largest selections of pop-up camper models. In 2023 the company’s line of Clippers included Teardrops as well as the LS, Epic, Escape, Express, Explore, TD XL, TD Max, and TD Pro. Combined, these trailers offered over a dozen different models to suit every camping style. A few models weigh less than 1400 pounds unloaded, making them perfect matches to small SUVs and some passenger cars. The Coachmen Clipper features most models share in common include:

Four layer insulated roof
Cable-supported bed system (no clunky poles!)
30-second roof raising via dual drive winch
Widest stance of any hybrid (more stability on the road)
Learn more about Coachmen Clipper Hybrid Teardrops

Rockwood Roo

Rockwood’s Roo expandable travel trailer is one of the most well-known and popular hybrids in the industry. Made by Forest River, the Roo is an ideal choice for small families and couples who want a bit more room than the average expandable travel trailer offers. The unloaded vehicle weight of 2024 models starts at 4,259 pounds for their smallest 21-foot model, the Roo 183, and weights go up from there. You’ll need a larger SUV or light truck to tow any Roo hybrid trailer, but in return you 3njoy high quality features that include:

Azdel composite wall construction
200 watt roof-mounted solar panel with 30-amp controller and 1800 watt inverter
15,000 BTU Air Conditioner
TST Tire Pressure Monitor System and
Dexter® Torflex® Axles
Learn more about Rockwood Roo Hybrid Travel Trailers

Aliner A-Frame Pop-Ups

The inside of an Aliner is bigger than you think.

Made by an independent Pennsylvania manufacturer that’s more than 40 years old, Aliner pop-up trailers are unique in the expandable travel trailer marketplace. Their hard-sided walls are the exception, and allow you to safely camp in places where bears are a concern. Plus, their 13 to 18-foot long frames make Aliners a good choice for storing in a typical suburban house garage. With a starting dry weight of  1,300 lbs, Aliner makes the perfect entry-level RV for camping couples and small families. Each pop-up includes basic features like:

120 volt/12 volt Electrical System
Electric Trailer Brakes with
Break Away Safety Switch
LED interior lights and Fantastic fan
Optional galley appliances including a fresh water tank, compact refrigerator, and/or 2-burner stove
Learn more about Aliner Pop-up Trailers

Some Things to Consider When Shopping for an Expandable Travel Trailer

Before you start visiting RV dealers in search of your ultimate pop-up travel trailer, it’s smart to know exactly what you want to get out of one. Some important things to consider when looking at any towable RV include:

  • Overall Weight. Do you know what camper your vehicle can tow? Will the camper’s weight exceed your tow car’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating?
  • Number of Passengers. Who will use the pop-up? And how often will you have guests?
  • Your Must-have Amenities. What trailer amenities are a must? Is lack of an indoor toilet dealbreaker? Can you live with an outdoor kitchen? Which RV amenities can you do without?
  • The Budget. Don’t just think about the purchase price of your camper, but how much it will cost to maintain and store the unit.
Learn about hybrid travel trailer pros and cons.

Expandable travel trailers can give you an ideal combination of creature comforts and outdoor experience if you love the idea of camping but prefer a soft bed, more living space, and a weather-resistant shelter. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler looking for a lighter alternative or new to the RV world, a hybrid could be your perfect choice for short-term adventures. Whether you buy new or used, expandable travel trailers offer a convenient, low-commitment entry into the RV lifestyle for very little cost compared to traditional full-size RVs.

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