04/04/2016
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Guide to choosing caravan awnings

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Caravan awnings and porches are specifically designed for use in different conditions. For example, some are extremely light in weight and speedy to build, so ideal for weekends. Others are made to withstand severe weather. Some can be pitched for an entire season. Our guide takes you through the detail…

When you've got to grips with the basics below, be sure to read part one and part two of the best caravan awnings for 2016.

 

Porch or full caravan awning?

Before you pick your frame material, the first choice to make is whether to go for a full awning that runs the whole length of your caravan, or a porch. And the choice between these two types is governed by the way you want to use it.

Full awnings give you maximum space, so they’re ideal for holidays. They take longer to construct than porches, but that’s worthwhile when you’re staying for a week or more. A full awning will more than double your living space, as they project from the side of the caravan by between 2m and 3.5m.

On the downside, they are very heavy to handle and transport, which may affect the other payload you can carry. If you want to tow with it in your caravan, its weight must be subtracted from your payload. With some full awnings weighing 50kg, that’s a big issue.

Porch awnings are quicker to construct and lighter to transport. A sweeping generalisation would be that porches are smaller than full awnings. In most cases, that’s true. But some porches are very nearly as large as full awnings. 

The downside, is that you don’t have as much space as with a full awning. That said, some big porches nearly match the length of an average caravan.

With such a wide choice, you can pick a porch to suit your exact needs, rather than being dictated to by the length of your van, as with a full awning.

 

How much space do I need?

Are you going to be dining in the awning? If so, you need enough space for a table plus chairs for everyone. Do you want to shelter cycles or a pram in the awning? Toys, perhaps? Somewhere to put the barbecue when it has cooled and needs shelter from the weather? Somewhere to towel the dog dry after rain-soaked walks? Somewhere to hang towels? Extra sleeping space?

The answers to these questions will instantly refine your search.

 

How to find out the size of awning you need

The measurement of full awnings is expressed in centimetres, and depends on the length of your caravan.

Awning sizes are called A-measurements – that’s the distance around the caravan’s awning rail, plus the distance from each end of the rail to the ground.

Caravan manufacturers list awning measurements on their websites. In addition, awning manufacturers and retailers will be able to tell you which awning size will fit your caravan perfectly.

If you’re buying a used caravan, and the awning size isn’t easily found, you will need to measure your caravan to determine its A-measurement. The best way to do this is to feed a cord or thin rope into your awning rail. It’s not easy, takes two people and must be done on level ground, but it will produce an accurate measurement. Ensure the cord or rope reaches the ground under each end of the caravan’s rail. Now measure the rope.

Some awning manufacturers have size guides on their website; you type in the make, model and year of your caravan and up comes the size you need.

Which frame?

Awning frames come in four types: steel, aluminium, glass fibre and air. With many awnings you get the option to choose your preferred material, to suit the use to which you’ll be putting your awning or porch.
 

• Steel

Steel is the best option if you are planning to leave your awning up for a lengthy period of time, in varying weather conditions. For example, if your tourer is sited for a whole season on the same pitch. Weight isn’t usually a consideration when you’re only transporting your awning to and from a park at the start and end of a season.
 

• Aluminium and glass-fibre

Both are lighter-weight options, suitable for touring, when the total weight of your awning may be an important consideration in relation to the payload of your caravan.

When it comes to building the awning, both aluminium and glass-fibre frames are easier to handle, because each pole is lighter in weight than steel.
 

• Air

The invention of air technology in awning construction has revolutionised the market and has provided buyers with a new breed of porches that are speedy and easy to construct.

The principal behind air awnings is a system of pipework, which you inflate using an upright pump. It’s easy and very quick. If you’d rather let battery power do the inflation for you, there are 12-volt pumps to buy.

 

Which fabric type?

Awning fabrics vary from lightweight, thin polyester to top-quality, solution-dyed acrylic. They can vary enormously in weight, look and feel. Fabric choice depends on how you’ll use the awning.
Frequent users should invest in a better, more expensive awning which, typically, will be built to last. Occasional users may struggle to justify such major expenditure.

Lightweight polyester has some advantages. It’s quick to dry after rain and light in weight to handle when you're constructing and packing it away. They’re less expensive than acrylic options. Within this sector, there’s a considerable variation regarding thickness and density of weave, tautness and weight.

Expensive, high-quality acrylic awnings are made to last many years. They look more taut and rigid than lighter weight fabrics.

In the acrylic sector, there’s an interesting fabric: fibre-dyed material also called solution-dyed. In the manufacturing process, the fibres that make up the woven fabric are dyed before they are made of the material. This fabric is more resistant to the effects of ultraviolet light than fabric that has been dyed after it has been made into yarn.

 

How much to pay? £200 or £2000…

If it’s going to be used almost every weekend, then it’s worth investing in a top-quality, expensive awning. If you go for a luxury Isabella full awning, for example, you’d be looking at upwards of £2000, depending on the length of your caravan.

At the opposite end of the price spectrum, you can find lightweight, simple porches for as little as £200. In between those prices is a vast choice; there is an awning or porch to suit every budget.

• Now take a look at part one and part two of the best caravan awnings for 2016.

 

Top Caravan Awning Tips

Ensure your awning is packed away dry. If it’s wet when you take it down, you should unpack it to dry and air as soon as you get home.

A roll of duct tape can be used to make temporary repairs to awning fabric

For awning repairs, try Outdoor Sewing Solutions, Brian Park Camping or search for 'Caravan Awning Repairs' on Google.

Awning accessories

  • Tent pegs
  • Storm straps
  • Awning carpet
  • Heater options
  • Cleaners

Also read:   Caravan reviews       Subscribe to Caravan magazine     New and used caravans for sale    


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