Category Archives: Vehicle Awning

Side Awning – Complete Guide

Overview

One of the more recent trends to create a private outdoor living space is to add a “Side Awning”. If you are unfamiliar with the term, we have a detailed guide which will share all the information about them. It is a method of shelter which attaches to any vehicle such a car, van or even truck. When deciding which product to purchase, you want to ensure the one you choose will work with your specific type of vehicle. For example, one that is designed for an SUV will work for most manufacturers; however, it would work poorly if you were attempting to attach it to a truck. They are most commonly used on vans, and are often called “Van Awning”.

Side Awning Material

These are nearly all a lightweight and waterproof polyester. They are perfect for outdoor adventures as they can be cleaned by wiping them down with a damp cloth. The material is usually coated with either a vinyl, laminate or acrylic coating. For average weekend use, the specific coating chosen by the manufacturer will have minimal impact on the overall product. That being said a coating will extend the lifespan of the fabric so we recommend a coated material over one with exposed and untreated polyester.

Open Awnings

These are least expensive and easiest to setup. These have a fixture which attaches near the roof of the vehicle, and sturdy arms attach to these fixtures which provide the backbone to the frame. The material is then slid over the arms to create the final structure. Most manufacturers include poles which support the end of the arm for additional support. The entire setup time can be accomplished by 1 person in about 5 minutes. While this is a great entry level option, there are usually upgrades such as mosquito nets or panel sunblocks to create additional shade. Both of these will be covered in detail in separate posts.

Enclosed Awnings

This product is occasionally called a “Side Tent”. While the previously described model offers open walls, this type has at least 3 fully built out walls. There is one side that is left open to provide access to the vehicle. This product is great for those looking for incremental space for their camping adventures. The frame of the vehicle creates an incredibly sturdy frame, and more delicate items can be stored inside the vehicle to fully protect them from the weather. These are about twice the price of the open models.

Opening Mechanism

Most of the awnings are stored in a bag which is permanently attached to the top of the vehicle. When the user is ready to set up the outdoor space, he only needs to open the bag and then extend the arms. For the more traditional square awnings, there will be three arms that are on some hinges. You merely pull the straight out from the vehicle, and there will be bolts that hold the hinge in place while the awning is up. Most of the DIY models use this type of opening mechanism.

The second design is the “Foxwing”. There are several companies that make versions of this style, and we have not seen any DIY plans for this layout. When opening the Foxwing, the user unzips the bag, and then merely walks around the vehicle while holding the first arm. The structural arms have built in spacers. Once you walk to the other side of the vehicle, you can simply attach the arm to the roof and that side. If bad weather is expected, there are tie-down straps and a single post for support. Using these is not required when no wind is present; however, if there is any significant wind then it is highly advised to use the additional support. We’ve included a video which shows how to open the Foxwing awning below:

Vehicle Mounts

If you are buying an off the shelf model, then it will be packaged with mounts, and we always recommend using all the material from the manufacturer. For the reader who is doing the DIY project, we strongly recommend using high caliber, strong mounting brackets. We have had good experience with Rhino-Rack mounting system, but they are just one of the top brands. We’re not steering you to one brand or another in this post. We may do a full review at a later time, but for presently whenever you are looking at the bracket system compare what you’re buying with specs of Rhino Rack to ensure you are comfortable with the specifications.

Best Inflatable Awnings

Inflatable awnings are a popular now option for RVs and mobile homes. They are lightweight usually weighing less than 10 pounds and conveniently fit into a duffel bag when not in use. Instead of using the large rigid metal support beams, they use sturdy air ribs that inflate to form the structure of the awning. The ribs are inflated with either a hand pump or a motorized pump. The awning is attached to the RV via a metal track that runs along the site of the structure with the actual material being threaded along the track. The entire setup can be finished by a single person in about 15 minutes.

What is an inflatable awning?

The simple answer is that it a large piece of weather resistant fabric with air pockets sewn at key places. When the air pockets are inflated, the become rigid and provide the frame. Most sets also come with the track that attaches to the side of the camper or RV, the necessary stakes that pin it to the ground. Some also come with storm straps to ensure it stays put even during severe wind. These are almost sold as DIY kits in which the homeowner installs the track and sets them up.

What are advantages of inflatable awning

The two main advantages are the cost and the mobility. Because there are no metal brackets in the frame, the kit can sell for about half the price of a traditional removable awning. Additionally, they are also far cheaper to ship from the manufacturer with many companies offering free shipping. The second advantage is mobility and space. Once the track is attached to the outside of the camper, the remainder of the awning can fit in a large duffel bag that can easily fit in the corner of a closet as most take up about 8 cubic feet. Finally, they are also incredibly simple to setup or take down even without a ladder.

What are disadvantages of inflatable awning

The biggest drawback to this model is that many people feel they are ugly and feel more like a tent than a canopy. They usually have walls like a tent so while you do get shade while sitting in one, you do not get the cool breeze. They can also seem a bit off-putting to the other campers around you as there’s a level of separation that just doesn’t exist for the standard options.

How do you setup an inflatable awning?

Below we will provide general guidelines, but most manufacturers will provide precise instructions. You should follow those, and the information listed below is primarily to aid people in deciding whether the should purchase one or not.

  1. When the kit arrives open the package and attaches the track to the exterior wall of the RV.
  2. Once the track is installed, it will never need to be touched again so going forward you may start with step 3.
  3. Remove the inflatable awning from its container and unroll it.
  4. Thread the edge of the fabric through the thread.
  5. Attach the pump to each of the valves and inflate to the specified pressure.
  6. With a hammer, drive the stakes into the ground similar to setting up a tent.
  7. Affix any storm straps that came with your awning.

For takedown, merely start at step 7 and work backward to step 3.

Complete Guide to Awnings, Residential, Commercial for Home or RV

Awnings can have a variety of uses and material depending on where they are to be used. They are quite popular throughout the entire US although their purpose varies depending upon which region they are being used. In the Southwestern states like Arizona and California, they are usually composed of a light fabric such as canvas. The goal of these awnings is primarily to provide a bit shade. In the Northwester states such as Oregon and Washington, you will see a lot of awnings on commercial buildings. These awnings will be constructed of a heavier canvas or vinyl that is watertight. Additionally, the structure will be of heavy aluminum or iron to handle the strong winds and rain. In the midwest and New England, awnings are composed of iron/steel frame with an aluminum shell. The metal awnings are far more resistant to the elements and can hold up the weight of the snow without having any issues.

Residential

The most popular type of awning is the residential retractable composed of a two tone striped fabric with a medium grade aluminum structure. This style is perfect for a deck, patio or porch, and it is versatile enough to stand up to weather throughout most of the US and because it is retractable, can be taken in before large storms which greatly increase its life. In terms of appearance, the cloth striping is usually about 8″ to 16″ per stripe with a pattern of one white tone and one dark or vibrant color. The vibrant color can really bring out the accent colors that appear around windows or other accents of the house. Residential awnings are an amazing way to bring a slight facelift to the exterior of the house for a few hundred dollars.

Commercial

These have a base that is usually constructed of weather resistant steel, and a heavy grade water resistant canvas. The awning serves as branding for associated business allowing customers to easily identify the entrance to the building. In terms of appearance, these are usually one strong color such as dark blue, forest green or crimson. Additionally, there is frequently writing on the front so that customers can easily identify which business is inside. Prior to buying a commercial awning, it is strongly advised to check with the property manager to confirm any restrictions about either size of the overhang or other requirements. Many retail establishments will have set guidelines and a short list of approved vendors.

RV

Canopies on an RV are always either retractable or detachable with most being the latter. Awnings are a fantastic way to increase the usable living space around the vehicle as it will provide a nice shaded area to get out of the sun. Additionally, the variety of colors makes it fantastic to support a local sports team if you are going to use the RV for a bit of tailgating or merely want to show some college pride the next time you are at the campgrounds.

Custom Build

A custom awning is a great way to add a lot of value to a home or make your business stand out at a reasonable cost. The awnings will usually cost about $100 to $200 for a window and closer to $1000 to cover a larger area like a patio or deck. The custom awning really helps bring a level of sophistication to the outdoor space and can be the focal gather point for family gatherings.

Retractable

These are gaining in popularity especially in states that have wide swings in weather. The awning can be extended during the hot months and taken down for the winter months to avoid the cold weather. This will greatly lengthen its life. Retractable awnings also work fantastically well for campers or RVs as they can be set up after the vehicle is in place.

Window

These are smaller usually around 36″ that cover the top portion of an exterior window. Their length can range from a small 6″ that is mainly used for decoration to an 18″ that will work to block the sun from going inside the house. By stopping the sun rays from entering the house, window awnings have been shown to lower the costs of cooling in the summer.

Patio

Used correctly, this can be a very fashionable method of extending the living area of a home. The fabric will tie an outdoor living area together and create a comfortable living space.

Canvas

This is the most popular type of fabric that have a useful life of 20 years. Nearly 100% of all residential awnings are composed of canvas or other fabric, and this type represents about 60% of the ones made for commercial use. The variety in color and thickness makes these the best approach for the majority of customers.

Metal

These are used for some industrial buildings and to keep the weather away from loading docks or other high traffic areas. The metal can be either steel or aluminum with the latter being chosen far more than the former. These stand up to snow, sleet, and other severe weather. Additionally, because they are made from a material that doesn’t move there is no risk of being damaged by the wind.

Aluminum

The vast majority of metal awnings sold in the US are made of aluminum, and unless the metal is stated the industry standard is to be composed of this. This material doesn’t rust and it is relatively inexpensive to create. It can have some issues standing up to heavy amounts of snow or rain unless there is an appropriate runoff.