What is the best Awning for my Camper?
A guide to the common awning options for Camper Trailers.
To begin, I would like to clarify what my definition of a camper trailer is. A camper trailer is a towable unit that normally winds up to allow two beds to extend out from it. Some examples being Jayco Swan, Hawk, Eagle etc... but of course there are others made by other companies like Coromal, that are comparable.
These campers are loved by mostly families for their quick setup times and range of equipment fitted, like a fridge, hot water system and even aircon in some cases. But when it comes to the awning off the side, there are some choices that all come with their pros and cons. I would like to share my 20+ years of experience to describe what options are commonly used and detail the good and bad for each of them.
Pull Through Awning
The most basic of awning covers. This simply is what the name suggests: a piece of usually canvas or vinyl is cut and sewn up, with a rope sewn down the long side designed to feed into the sail track that is fitted to the camper roof. Some pull through awnings come fitted with gables and valances that create the attachment possibility for annexe walls or shade to be added. The awning is supported generally by a tent pole structure that is roped off to the ground. Whilst in the early days of campers this style of awning was common place, the advancement of other options has made it a rarely sought-after solution in modern times.
- Does not remain as a permanent fixing on the side of the camper assisting those that have tight clearance allowances when it comes to storing it in the garage or what not.
- Can fold up to the rough size of a pillow, making it easy to tuck into a tight storage place
- When poled and roped properly, they are able to withstand stronger weather conditions than some
- Generally, requires two people to erect the awning
- Can be troublesome at times to feed the material into the sail track
- Can tax some internal storage space you may want to preserve
- Quite a slow process when you consider the entire process of feeding, poling, roping and pegging
These are by far the most common supplied solution in modern times. These awnings are regularly supplied by caravan traders on campers, either installing by way of an added sail track or by utilising the moulded throat that a lot of the modern-day campers include in the standard design specifications of the camper roof itself. Commonly, the Camper Bag Awnings are made from a white PVC block out vinyl, utilising generally white powder coated aluminium poles to structure the unit. Typically, the gables are also included onto the main awning roof, which provides the provision for annexe or shade walls as well. Depending on the country of origin, there are some variations on what quality is available. Australia has some quality locally made options (yes, there is some form of manufacturing still surviving in Australia), and these units are generally all comparable in quality, with style elements and some component differences, like eyelet type and zip quality some of the common differences that separate them out. In recent years, like most other things, the Chinese options have arrived onto the market, and in true Chinese fashion, you get something that looks pretty much the same, but lacks the lasting quality in most cases. Price of the unit generally gives away if it is a local or imported awning. The old saying… ‘you get what you pay for’ very much applies.
- The awnings are stored on the outside of the camper leaving your other storage areas free to use for other things
- It reduces the setup time compared to the pull through awning as there is no need to feed it in first
- The vinyl bag protects the main awning from the elements and is easy to keep clean
- Most use a block-out PVC vinyl material that reflects heat
- Can tolerate stronger weather conditions
- Still requires two people to erect the awning
- When rolling back into the bag, it can at times be difficult to roll it tight enough to get back into the bag
- Being vinyl, it does not breathe like a canvas would.
- Increases the overall width of the camper by the largest margin (approx. 220mm) per side.
This is one thing that most owners are looking to upgrade to… the Box Awnings offer an alternative to the manual process of setting up the Pull Through and Bag Awnings styles. Box awnings generally originate from the European market, with one option from the American market also available. These awnings install to the roof structure of the camper, generally by using the three wall plates supplied by the awning supplier. They are relatively easy to install, with most handymen that are handy with a drill and a silicone gun can complete the reasonably simple installation process. Most Box Awnings come engineered with a side wall attachment throat as part of the standard design, but what is important to know is that the throat size is typically smaller than that of regular throat sizes found on sail track and American rollout awnings. This can catch some people out when they order shades or prefabricated annexe walls kits off an online retailer for instance.
- Offers fast setup times compared to the other options and can be handled by one person
- They have a hard powder coated aluminium case that protects the awning fabric and looks sleek and modern
- Generally, makes the camper more desirable to potential buyers
- Installs to most campers quickly and easily
- Some makes in the local market are not hugely represented, therefore can become difficult to get in touch with parts or listed options
- Not as tolerant to strong weather – the use of anti-flap equipment is highly recommended
- Only come in half metre increments, meaning some of the campers with the ideal size being between two common sizes means annexe fitment and overall cover could be affected
- Generally using more plastic parts than the other options
- Genuine accessories can be expensive
If you are undecided on what awning style fits best with you are your camper, I encourage you to take a walk through a camping grounds or caravan park and quiz other camper owners what they like and dislike about the awning style they are using. Often, when you get chatting to other camper owners, ‘real experiences’ are often shared freely - which gives you a non-biased insight into the awning styles practicality.
At RV Warehouse, we manufacture and supply all the above options, with some custom creations also produced to suit varying needs. We pride ourselves on always using only the best materials and components to ensure continual performance into the future. Furthermore, with our vast experience in the installation of every type of Box Awning on the market, we can ensure that the awnings are fitted correctly.
If you require advice on what is best for your camper, simply contact one of the team and we will be more than happy to go though the options with you. Better again, either send a picture on the email or book an inspection at one of our locations and we can measure up and quote instantly. If you are sending a photo to our email... which is email@example.com , please ensure you let us know the length between the upright raiser arms from front to back. If you are part of the small group of camper owners that have an inset raiser arm, then please measure the overall roof structure.
We hope this has been informative and you have enjoyed the read. Be sure to sign up to our VIP email list for continuing blogs and content all about caravanning and camping. Get to the website www.rvwarehouse.com.au to find out more.
Click here to watch a quick video we shot in the workshop of a Box Awning Upgrade: https://youtu.be/cLD0UDfFAMs
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