Val Chapman gets to grips with the family-sized air-frame awning with easy single-point inflation and robust fabric.
Esprit is Outdoor Revolution's flagship range of air awnings. There are two sizes, 360 and 420, both made of fibre-dyed polyester and both have the ease of single-point inflation. The fabric's 800 High Density (HD) weave makes these awnings exceptionally robust.
The process of dyeing the yarn before it is woven to create the fabric making it highly resistant to sun-fade.
The mesh fabric used for the flynets on the front and rear is designed to 'self-repair' in the event of snag damage; Outdoor Revolution tells us that when you manipulate the mesh fabric it returns to its original form.
We're building the 420 size – 4.2m in width and 3.1m deep, which is an ideal size for family holiday use and a perfect match for our big long-term-test Bailey Unicorn Barcelona. The awning clears the front window and reaches almost to the rear of the caravan. It weighs a hefty 38.8kg – but, as with all air awnings, you have to keep in mind that the weight includes the substantial air frame structure. You also have to be mindful that, once you've hauled the awning along into your caravan's channel, that all of the hard work is done.
Rainy days and Mondays...
The rainy day of our build test added a huge element of realism to our review; had we been constructing the Esprit 420 on a rain-soaked Day One of a family holiday, we'd have got on with the task as speedily as possible…
The team – Hannah Wilkinson and Benn Crookson from Outdoor Revolution plus photographer, John, and myself – all had a hand in getting the big Esprit into the channel of our caravan. While it doesn't actually take four people to do the task, it does take two and is made a lot easier and quicker if you have three… Especially when you are trying not to allow the awning to touch the mud rapidly being created by rainfall. I quickly discover that Outdoor Revolution's new pump design makes for very efficient inflation – these pumps have a metal shaft, to enable the pump to handle more pressure than a plastic pump. In less than two minutes I have the 420's frame fully inflated; the single-point inflation system speeds the process and so do Hannah and Benn – they go under the awning as I pump, to ease the frame outwards and speed the rate at which the 6-7 psi of air pressure spreads to all of the frame. (There are two deflation points to enable the pack-away process to be speedy.)
The porch is four-square and most of the team go inside to shelter. Benn and I inflate the three bracing beams – each takes just two actuations of the pump to fully inflate. These beams adhere to Velcro pads on the central beams of the porch.
Hannah and I fix the white curtains, made from fine, robust fabric and shaped to follow the slight curve at the top of the windows; simple plastic clips fit onto a plastic rail easily and quickly. The curtains can be secured, cottage-style, at each side of the window, by simple ties; when they're closed, tiny squares of Velcro hold each pair together and the curtains slide into wide fabric straps to hold them flat against the windows. Benn takes care of pegging. Had we not been pausing for photos, our Esprit 420 would have been completed and ready for use in about 20 minutes – not bad for a big, family-sized porch!
We put two Outdoor Revolution San Remo chairs (reclinable, padded and with adjustable headrests; £69.99 each) and a four-seater Outdoor Revolution Premium Table £69.99) inside and discover there is plenty of space left for more awning furniture. This is an awning to choose if you're looking for a sizeable outdoor living area.
Time to highlight the finer points. Parallel to the cord that runs into the caravan's channel is a second slightly smaller cord, which enables you to attach an awning storage hanger.
There are three rooflights, which, together with five windows, make this a very light and bright environment; we go inside the Barcelona and discover that the Esprit takes very little light away from it. The awning has a broad strap running across the front at ground level; its purpose is to prevent you from over-tensioning the awning when you are pegging it out – it ensures that the awning's front legs are in precisely the correct position. Metal-framed eyelets enable you to anchor the strap to the ground, with flat-topped pegs, to avoid any trip hazard.
The options list includes two poles to help the vertical pads that sit against the caravan side fit more snugly; we'd invest in those (£16.99). We'd also opt for another accessory – Outdoor Revolution's new Lumi-Link tube lighting system; there are Velcro straps on the front three horizontal sections of frame, above each window, to fit around each of three lights in the pack (£89.99). These can be powered by mains, 12V or a USB point – and there's a remote control, with seven different brightness settings.
The 420 is an air awning to consider if you want plenty of space and if you don't mind 10 minutes of minor workout to pull it into the rail. Like all substantial air-frame awnings of this size, it's not in the lightweight category. The flagship Esprit, with its robust, dense-weave, fade-resistant fabric and triple-sleeved TPU air tubing, is designed to last; the strength of the tubing is backed up with a guarantee for the tubing system for the duration of the awning's first ownership.
The 420 is an air awning to consider if you want plenty of space and if you don't mind 10 minutes of minor workout to pull it into the rail. Like all substantial air-frame awnings of this size, it's not in the lightweight category. The flagship Esprit, with its robust, dense-weave, fade-resistant fabric and triple-sleeved TPU air tubing, is designed to last; the strength of the tubing is backed up with a guarantee for the tubing system for the duration of the awning's first ownership. Good value? Considering the robust construction and its family-use size, we think so, for those that caravan regularly.
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