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Time to consider a drive-away awning?

There is little to match the satisfaction of exploring a region from a motorhome. Luxurious coach built to the versatile campervan via panel van conversions and more – a motorhome is truly your four-wheel passport to freedom.

Yet, while they feature everything needed for life on the road, you can always benefit from a little extra space when you reach your pitch…

Time to consider an awning. These quickly attach to a motorhome  to add sheltered living space that can be closed off from rain, wind and nosey neighbours – perfect to mark your pitch and safely house bulky items, like chairs and table, when you drive away for the day.
This is especially important for owners of smaller units like campervans. These compact vehicles are so versatile as a daily run around with the easy to drive characteristics and size perfect for exploring the countryside around a campsite. But the small size does have a draw back when it comes to life outdoors. While wind-out canopies often feature to sit under during short stops and overnighters, they do little to alleviate the lack of space inside the vehicle that hampers comfort when on a campsite for any length of time.

An awning solves the problem. Most use connection methods that allow them to quickly attach/detach from your campervan so you can use the vehicle without having to keep taking down and erecting the awning. In fact, it also allows them to be used with other vehicles, like vans and SUVs. This versatility is perfect for when you need additional shelter at picnics, markets and more, or a place to change and prepare for events and outdoor pursuits. 

The simplest connection method uses guylines thrown over the vehicle to support the rear entrance and provide a draft-free closure. This is ideal for vehicles that do not feature an awning rail and you do not want to go to the expense of adding one. Other connection methods include ties to a roof rail and the use of magnetic or suction attachment points.

Many awnings have beading around the edge of its rear entrance that slides into and attaches to an awning rail channel situated along the side of the campervan above the side door. This rail often features on those factory-fitted or after-sales wind-out cassette canopies found on many campervans. If not already installed, it is worth considering having an awning rail fitted for it improves stability and stops material from flapping in the wind. And a rail on a cassette canopy can be lowered to make fitting easier before winding back in to get the right fabric tension.

It is especially important to measure from the awning rail to the ground to ensure its connection height corresponds to your chosen awning. If you haven’t got an awning rail, then consult your specialist dealership to get the height. 

Attaching the awning directly to the awning rail means it is firmly fixed to the vehicle for the duration of your stay so you cannot drive away when needed. The solution is to use  a connector set. This has a double bead tape − one is inserted into the awning rail and the other into one side channel of the supplied plastic strips. The awning beading then slides into the opposite channel on the plastic strips. Simply slide the plastic strips off the beading when you want to drive away and re-connect the strips when you arrive back at your pitch. 

Awning rails normally take either 5mm or 7mm beading and the connector set should provide both sizes on the tape to allow an awning to be connected to any vehicle. Latest VW models have larger diameter awning rails so our awnings and connector sets feature 5mm and 7mm dual beading that can be used together to ensure a positive fit.

Other key factors to consider when buying an awning include size and weight that may well impact a campervan’s versatility as it might well need transporting in the living area where it will get in the way if, for instance, you decided to stop on route for lunch and a brew. A large awning also makes home storage and maintenance difficult, while the heavier it is the more awkward it is to pitch and it might also effect a vehicle’s payload. 

Poles, pegs and outer of a traditional awning can be packed into separate bags to make ‘Campervan Tetris’ an easier game to play and handling less of a chore. It also helps to store fabric away from component parts that might rust. But, pitching poled awnings can be stressful, especially in windy conditions where a rogue pole might damage your precious vehicle. 

While easier and simpler to pitch, you’ll find an inflatable awning packs into a single large heavy bag that is harder to shift and the awning is more difficult to maintain due to its bulk and weight. And this neatly demonstrates the secret to buying an awning is to think about your needs and balance pros with cons. 

As you see here, living space and headroom provided, connection to a vehicle, ease of pitching and use, size and weight for transportation and storage, plus maintenance, should all be in the front of your mind when buying an awning. And you need to look at how your life on the road will be improved by the awning’s quality, reliability and the right features, such as windows and vents,  alongside options, like comfortable, warm carpets and inner tents for additional bedroom space and storage. 

There is a lot to consider but never fear. Our Outwell drive-away awnings have been designed to address all these factors so you can pitch up and enjoy a carefree life outdoors in comfort, safety and style.