ARE AWNINGS NECESSARY?
Shade is important when it's hot and sunny, and cover is necessary when it's raining. The range of awnings available means there is one for every budget. When researching awnings, it’s a good thing to know what your expectations are before purchasing. If you’re only going to use it on that one camping trip you take each year there’s no point spending big bucks on a top-of-the-range awning. However, if you are looking at taking three months off to lap the country, it would be wiser to pay the extra so that you know it will last the distance.
THEY COME IN ALL SHAPES
Awnings come in all shapes and sizes from square, rectangle, 180-degree, 270-degree to 270-degree with extensions. So many options are available that it all comes down to what you’ve got to mount the awning on, and what type of cover you’re searching for. There’s no point buying a 270-degree awning if you don’t have a canopy on the ute, and maybe it’s worth buying just one awning to cover two sides instead of two or three rollout awnings that have the same footprint.
In this case, size does matter. If you have a partner and two kids, a 1.8 x 2.0m awning won’t impress the family. Is a free standing 270-degree awning worth the higher cost if you’re a solo traveller? I can answer that question for you — bloody oath. It provides me with enough space to set up my swag, my stove, and my chair while also providing cover over the rear door of the Prado, where I do my writing when on the road.
The Offtrax Feenix camper trailer integrates the awning into the roof of the camper, so it provides excellent coverage once set up. Zip on the extension and you have 360 degrees of cover — something that was highly desirable at the CTOTY Showcase.
WHAT ARE THEY MADE FROM?
Everything from ripstop canvas to Hexacore to acrylic impregnation and heat reflection coatings that keep the awning cooler underneath. That’s one of the problems with canvas, PVC and groundsheets — you roast when sitting beneath them.
SOME ARE POLES APART
Integrated poles makes life so much easier when trying to set up your awning — especially if it isn’t self-supporting. Having to try and hold a pole under your arm while you roll out the awning and affix the crossbar can be a frustrating process, where being able to spread out your awning and then drop the legs — and ropes if needed — is a pleasure.
IT ALL HINGES ON THIS
The hinge is all-important, as it must take the weight of the arms and the covering. I once owned a Drifta 270-degree awning that I installed on my camper. The first time I tried to set it up the wind caught it and snapped one of the knuckles, meaning the awing couldn’t be set up. It cost me $15 plus freight to get a replacement. The Quick Pitch I have on my camper now and the Alu Cab on my Prado both have steel brackets that are designed to carry all the weight, and then some — and yep, I’ve hung from them when I was a tad lighter.
THE NEW BREED OF GUY ROPE
It’s very handy to have the tie-down ropes tuck away neatly into the awning arms instead of having to find the bag that has the pegs and ropes. The Alu Cab awning even has a bag attached that holds the pegs for the integrated tie-downs.
Most awnings have an option for walls that can either be velcroed or zipped on. Patriot colour code theirs so they are easier to install, which is simply brilliant. Even one wall can be handy, especially in windy or wet weather.
IS IT WORTH THE WEIGHT?
Self-supporting 270-degree awnings like the Quick Pitch Weathershade, the Alu Cab ShadowAwn, and the Bushwakka True Blue all weigh up to 24kg — unsurprising when you consider their size and strength. Even the Peregrine 270 from 23 Zero is 19kg and the Darche Eclipse 270 awning comes in at 23kg. The smaller awnings like the TJM 2000 x 2500mm weigh up to 11kg. It is extremely important that you check your roof load rating plus the load rating of your roof bars or roof rack before you buy an awning.
WHAT ABOUT MOUNTING THE AWNING?
Some awnings come with proprietary brackets, some use off the shelf brackets like Rola or Rhino-Rack, and sometimes an L-bracket from Bunnings will do the job. The important thing is that the bracket is designed to hold the weight.
Ironman 4x4 has a Quick Release bracket to suit roll-out awnings that allow you to easily remove them from your 4WD, add a couple of legs and ropes, and it becomes free-standing. You can also mount a set in your garage and store your awning there when it’s not needed. Crock Hinge has designed a bracket that enables you to carry your awning on top of the roof rack and then pivot it to the side when ready to use.
Some awnings come with ingenious solutions to add a room — for example zipping an Oztent awning to your awning — while Darche has created the Eclipse Retreat that connects to the arms of the Darche Eclipse awnings to offer a protected room.