11/04/2022
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A buyers' guide to motorhome and campervan awnings

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The best way to increase campsite real estate is with an awning. With choices, choices everywhere, let’s take a look at what’s out there...

Words by Geneve Brand, Editor of Campervan magazine

Page contents

 


Introduction to buying an awning

Once you’ve bought a campervan or motorhome, you will need to invest in a whole array of camping accessories, from cups and cutlery to an electric hook-up lead and levelling blocks.

However, the most expensive thing you’ll buy will probably be an awning, so it’s important to get it right. There’s a lot to consider, so let’s take a look at some of the basics...

#1 What size awning do you need?

Firstly, you need to think about how you’re going to use it. Like campervans and motorhomes, awnings come in many sizes and layouts, ranging from basic touring canopies that simply offer shade for a couple of chairs through to awnings the size of a bungalow that provide space to seat an army as well as sleeping pods for them all.

Whilst the temptation may be to opt for the latter, just in case the need ever arises for you to host your own festival, remember that the bigger you go, the more valuable space and payload it will take up in your motorhome or campervan, so only buy what you need.

#2 How will your awning be attached to your campervan?

Another important consideration before you buy is how the awning will attach to your vehicle and whether you need to make provision for this. The most common (and secure) method of attachment is via an awning rail on the side of your campervan. The awning will have a beading strip on it and this simply slides into the rail when you’re on site.

If it’s a driveaway awning, you just slide it off when you want to go out. There are only two types of rails and beading options – a ‘C’ rail (because the channel is C-shaped), or a figure-of-eight kador rail – but don’t worry about this because awning conversion kits are inexpensive (around £20) and are readily available.

More important is whether you have a rail or wind-out canopy awning (these have a rail included) fitted to your campervan already. If not, you can get one retrofitted, but this can be quite costly. DIY kits are available but we’d always recommend using a professional fitter because drilling holes into the side of your motorhome or campervan is never a good idea unless you really know what you’re doing!

If you don’t want to go down this route, there are other options available. Lots of awnings come fitted with straps on them, which you simply throw over the roof of your vehicle and peg down on the other side.

Another alternative is a tailgate awning (if you have a tailgate rather than barn doors), which either uses the roof or raised tailgate for support.

#3 Fixed awning or driveaway awning?

Once you’ve figured out all of the above, you’re almost ready to go awning shopping. There are just a couple more things to consider. Firstly, do you want a fixed awning or a driveaway one? If you tour a lot (move on from day to day), or generally just go away for weekends and leave your motorhome or campervan on site, a fixed awning will be fine.

If you often go away for a week or more and stay at the same campsite for the duration of your holiday and want the flexibility of being able to go out for the day in your vehicle without having to pack up the awning, opt for a driveaway one.

#4 A poled awning or an inflatable awning?

The final thing to decide is whether you want a traditional poled awning or a more modern inflatable one. Contrary to popular belief, the weight of an air awning is comparable to a poled one because the inner tubes used weigh about the same as poles, so this doesn’t factor into the equation. The choice will really come down to personal preference.

If you’re inexperienced or not particularly fit and able-bodied, an inflatable awning will be easier to put up, and should be manageable with two people once you’ve had a few goes and got the knack. Many air awnings have single inflation points and you can get a 12V or mains 230V pump rather than having to use a foot or hand pump.

Inflatable awnings are safer and more robust in the wind, as they flex and there are no poles to clunk you on the head. A potential drawback is that they can puncture (or explode if you overinflate!), which would leave you without an awning until you can get it repaired by the manufacturer. However, the canvas protecting the inner tubes is usually pretty robust, and pressure gauges on pumps are reliable, so punctures and explosions are rare. The main advantage of a poled awning over an air one is that they tend to be quite a bit cheaper, comparatively, so they are appealing if you’re on a budget. If you come from a tent background, you’ll have no trouble putting one up; if not, it won’t take you long to figure it out.

Top advice: View your awning before you buy it!

As with anything, we’d always recommend seeing awnings in the flesh rather than just ordering one off the internet. The best place to view them, where you’ll find them all set up and decked out with camping furniture to give you a sense of what it will be like on a campsite, is at a motorhome and campervan show.

We host a calendar of these shows throughout the year and across the UK. To find the nearest one to you, take a look at our upcoming events here: Motorhome and campervan shows

When you arrive at a show and get your site map, you’ll usually find that all the awning manufacturers will be exhibiting in one place, so you can see them all side by side. 


Featured awnings

Due to our lovely, unpredictable weather in the UK, awnings are extremely popular accessories, so we’re lucky to have an array of reputable, well-known brands to choose from. Here's a selection of some of the best awnings from the 2022 season on the market today.

 

Outdoor Revolution Sportlite Air 320L

Outdoor Revolution Sportlite Air 320L

(Photo courtesy of Outdoor Revolution)

Specifications

Price:

£649

Pack size:

83cm x 50cm x 41cm

Weight:

19.37kg

Based in Yorkshire, Outdoor Revolution has been designing camping accessories for over 13 years. It specialises in family tents and awnings, as well as offering everything you’ll need to deck them out, from furniture and camp beds to lighting and storage units. We’ve tested plenty of its products over the years and have always been pleased with them.

Featured here is the Sportlite Air 320L, which is a fixed inflatable awning with a single inflation point so that it’s easy to put up but with two deflation points for a faster pack-up.

It’s designed for use as a porch, so it offers myriad uses, from somewhere to sit out of the elements to a place to store bicycles or dry off wet coats, for example. It features four doors – two side ones, with mesh flyscreens, to which bedroom annexes (available separately) can be attached, and two large front ones with fully roll-back doors, which are ideal for throwing open on a hot summer’s day. There are zip-up curtains throughout for privacy, too.

The Sportlite Air 320L is designed to fit an awning rail connection height of between 250cm and 265cm, and a standard width of 320cm. It comes with dual beading, so it will fit either size of awning rail. It also comes with a pump, draught skirt and a peg set.

Outdoor Revolution Sportlite Air 320L side view

(Photo courtesy of Outdoor Revolution)


Vango Kela V Air Tall

Vango Kela V Air Tall

(Photo courtesy of Vango)

Specifications

Price:

£730

Pack size:

78cm x 35cm x 33cm

Weight:

18.45kg

Contact:

vango.co.uk

With its headquarters in Glasgow, Vango is a Scottish company that was established in 1966. It makes camping equipment for all occasions, from family camping trips through to mountaineering expeditions. The brand likes to be at the forefront of innovation and has even sent a tent into space!

Once, we pitched a Vango driveaway awning behind a light aircraft to see what would happen when it took off... The awning stayed put.

Featured here is the Kela V Air Tall, which is an inflatable driveaway awning. It has a tunnel design with a door on either side for easy access to the front or rear of your vehicle. In addition to windows on the sides, there’s also one on the roof for stargazing, and a sewn-in groundsheet to keep draughts and bugs out.

Vango uses its SkyTrack system in all of its awnings, for which a wide range of accessories is available, so you can add storage pockets and lighting, for example, which attach to the SkyTrack using Sky Hooks, of course.

The Kela V Air Tall is designed for motorhomes and bigger campervans, but a Low version is also available for smaller campervans. It connects using either kador beading, 8m over-vehicle straps or roof bar attachments, so the Kela V Air should be compatible with any vehicle type. A pump and set of pegs are included.


Vango Magra Air VW

Vango Magra Air VW

(Photo courtesy of Vango)

Specifications

Price:

£955

Pack size:

75cm x 41cm x 40xm

Weight:

22.5kg

Contact:

vango.co.uk

A great choice for smaller campervans is the Magra Air VW, which is an inflatable driveaway awning designed to fit medium-sized campervans, such as the VW T6 pictured here. It can be used on campervans with either a left or right-hand side sliding door, which is handy for VW California owners.

The Magra Air VW belongs in Vango’s Sport collection, which means it’s made from lightweight yet durable fabric, so you get a good weight to awning size ratio. With sports enthusiasts in mind, there’s lots of space for your biking or surfing gear, for example, while still having plenty of room to chill out after a busy day.

With front and back doors, access is easy, too, and a SkyLiner keeps condensation at bay and provides a thermal barrier in winter.

The awning connects using either kador beading, 8m over-vehicle straps or roof bar attachments. A pump and set of pegs are included.


Outwell Beachcrest

Outwell Beachcrest

(Photo courtesy of Outwell)

Specifications

Price:

£612.99

Pack size:

69cm x 31cm x 31cm

Weight:

10.6kg

Contact:

outwell.com

Having been around since 1984, Outwell is such a household name that you’d be forgiven for thinking it is a British brand. However, it hails from Scandinavia, and those Scandi folk certainly know a thing or two about the great outdoors.

In fact, we’ve seen for ourselves what Outwell tents are subjected to at its testing facilities at its headquarters in Denmark. Rigorous is putting it mildly.

Featured here is the Beachcrest, which is new for 2022, and joins a line-up of a further five models in the Active collection. It’s a poled tailgate driveaway awning, which features a rather innovative design. In driveaway mode, it looks like an ordinary free-standing dome tent.

However, when you want to attach it to your campervan, you simply unfurl a tunnel at the back, which is supported by the tailgate. It tucks over the top and around the sides of your campervan to keep wind and rain out (with an opening for towbars, if you have one), and bungees clip to the rear wheels for extra security.

The Outwell Beachrest attatched

(Photo courtesy of Outwell)

Side windows of the beachrest

(Photo courtesy of Outwell)

It's really quite clever, and we were impressed when we saw it at the product launch earlier this year. The way it attaches to the vehicle means it will work on a wide range, too, and is suitable for smaller campervans (attachment height is 155cm to 185cm).

Features-wise, there’s everything you could need, such as a large two-section front door fitted with flyscreens, tinted windows and rain shelter, and side windows also fitted with flyscreens and waterproof curtains. A sleeping pod can be added inside, too.


Outwell Bremburg Air

Outwell Bremburg Air

(Photo courtesy of Outwell)

Specifications

Price:

£986.99

Pack size:

72cm x 42cm x 42cm

Weight:

21.1kg

Contact:

outwell.com

If you prefer a side awning, there's the Bremburg Air, which is new for 2022, and joins a line-up of a further six models in the Air Cruising collection. It’s an inflatable driveaway awning featuring roll-away walls with flyscreens on three sides, as well as tinted windows.

Canopies to either side mean you can leave these slightly open in bad weather, too, to improve ventilation.

The Outwell Bremburg Air awning

(Photo courtesy of Outwell)

The interior of the Bremburg Air

(Photo courtesy of Outwell)

It can be used on campervans with a left or right-hand sliding door, which is handy if you own a VW California. A sleeping pod for two can be added inside the awning, too.

The Bremburg Air attaches to your vehicle using a (dual) beading strip, whilst suction cup sets and magnetic band connector sets are also available separately from Outwell. A pump and pegs are included.


Isabella Air X-Tension

Isabella Air X-Tension

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Specifications

Price:

£1,249

Pack size:

120cm x 50cm x 50cm

Weight:

23kg

Contact:

isabella.net

The story of how Isabella came about is a tale as old as the hills. Back in 1957, Danish-born Søren Odgaard needed a tent, but couldn’t find what he was looking for, so he designed and built his own in his basement. Of course, he didn’t stop at one and, when caravanning became popular in the 1960s, the brand moved into awnings.

Isabella is, of course, renowned for its caravan awnings today, so it makes sense that it now includes campervan and motorhome awnings in its range, too.

Inside the Air-X Tension

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Air-X Tension setup

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Featured here is the Air X-Tension, which is new for 2022 and joins a further five awnings in the Air range. It’s an inflatable driveaway awning that is great for use at any time of year, as three of the sides can be completely removed or rolled back in hot weather, but then you can fully batten down the hatches on wet or chilly days.

Features include net windows for ventilation and roll-down blinds, and a specially developed connection tunnel that ensures a snug fit to a VW T4, T5 or T6 campervan, including the VW California, and it’s compatible with other models of van of a similar size, too. It connects using an awning rail.


Isabella Levo Cosy Corner

Isabella Levo Cosy Corner

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Specifications

Price:

£376.99

Pack size:

5.5kg

Weight:

5.5kg

Contact:

isabella.net

For something a little different, how about the Levo Cosy Corner? This offers something quite unique, as it’s a cross between an open awning, a shelter and a windbreak, and offers the benefits of all these things. It’s quick to put up, as it attaches to an awning rail and only has one pole and guyrope in the corner, which can be erected in a jiffy.

It’s perfect for when you just need a little protection from the sun or wind, or even a shower, but don’t want to go to the whole bother of putting up a full awning. It also offers a handy space to keep things like your camping table and chairs in, too.

The Levo Cosy Corner awning

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Cosy Corner interior

(Photo courtesy of Isabella)


Easy Camp Wimberly

Easy Camp Wimberley

(Photo courtesy of Easy Camp)

Specifications

Price:

£306.99

Pack size:

72cm x 25cm x 25cm

Weight:

11.7kg

Contact:

easycamp.com

If you’re wondering who Easy Camp is, we’re going to let you in on a little trade secret... It’s actually a sister company of Outwell (part of Oase Outdoors). The Easy Camp brand was launched to appeal to a younger audience with limited camping experience and on a tight budget.

That means Easy Camp sits below Outwell in the family hierarchy, but don’t be mistaken in thinking its products are inferior. Less technical and featuring fewer bells and whistles, perhaps, but the quality is still there.

The Easy Camp Wimberley interior

(Photo courtesy of Easy Camp)

The windows inside the Wimberly

(Photo courtesy of Easy Camp)

Featured here is the Wimberly, which is a fibre-glass poled driveaway awning. At the front, there’s a large roll-back door for access with a canopy above, which not only keeps the entrance to the awning dry but also gives you somewhere to remove muddy boots out of the rain. There are windows on either side, which feature curtains, and a two-berth sleeping pod can be added inside, if desired.

The Wimberly has an attachment height of 180cm to 205cm and connects to the vehicle using a beading strip, roof bar straps or throw-over guyropes.

Please note: Any advice given is designed to be by way of suggestion only and does not negate a reader’s responsibility to obtain professional advice before acting upon it. Any such advice is not a recommendation on behalf of the Editor or publishers and is followed entirely at the reader’s own risk. Consequently, the Editor, consultants and publishers shall not be responsible for any loss or damage incurred by a reader acting upon such advice.


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