A Guide to Choosing 4×4 Awnings

With the summer school holidays lingering, so has that camping trip you’ve been meaning to take the kids on but have been putting it off because you need a bigger tent.

Camping space can be a bit of an issue especially if you have a big family and can’t all fit in the tent or caravan. If you’re a big-time camper or an avid caravanner then it is probably a good idea to invest in 4WD awning.

It is a great way to significantly improve and expand the living conditions by turning it into a dining area, sleeping area or storage area. Depending on how often you camp or do outdoor activities will correlate to what type awning and how much it is going to cost you.

4WD awnings are extremely practical, easy to install, store and set up, and offer great protection from the sun and rain.

Before we dive into the different types of 4WD awnings available on the market, you’ll need to know how to choose the right one. 

How to choose a 4WD awning that’s best for you

The good news is, when it comes to choosing an awning there is no shortage of choice. They come in a wide range of sizes, made up of different materials, and a whole bunch ways to attach your favourite accessories. They can be as complex as a portable home with the full kit-and-caboodle, or as simple as a side awning that can be setup in a matter of minutes.

At the end of the day, what matters the most is how your awning best serves you and your family. Here’s what to consider before purchasing an awning.

1. The time it takes to set up

Let’s face it, if you’ve just completed a 7 hour drive from Perth to Kalbarri, taking 1 hour to set up the awning is the last thing you want to be doing. Depending on who’s accompanying you on your journey, you could get away with a simple side awning set up, which uses the roof of your vehicle and a couple of support poles to support itself. 

2. What to lookout for in terms of quality and construction

Make sure the fabric is UV resistant

Thanks to modern technology, most awnings fabric should come with a reflective layer or treatment which helps block out the sun’s harmful UV rays. Lookout for UV resistant fabrics which offer a UVP rating of 50+. It’s UV resistance will not only help protect you but also keep you cool and comfortable while under the awning.

Make sure it is waterproof

A high quality awning will be treated or coated with a waterproofing lamination that makes it weather resistant and will help keep you dry. Always ask your rep.

Make sure twist lock polls, hinges and fittings are made from stainless steel

Stainless steel is going to offer you much sturdier support and durability, as well as have a longer lifespan. Support poles should be well constructed and attach perfectly to the awning without feeling flimsy or flexing under the load. Avoid plastic and steel fittings wherever possible as they are generally weaker, and steel tends to rust.

Pay attention to the stitching

Firstly, take note of the overall construction of how the awning is put together and it’s practicality. Can it be set up with minimal efforts? Or does it require an engineering degree. Secondly, double check the stitching for any fraying or irregularities, as this means the awning is likely to tear. To be on the safe side, make sure the seams are reinforced and precisely finished.

Constructed from polyester/cotton of 300gsm

Anything heavier than 300gsm is added unnecessary weight, anything lighter and you’ll risk losing durability.

3. Is it accessory-friendly?

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, 4WD enthusiast or a seasoned adventurer, if there’s one thing we all have in common it would be the sheer amount of accessories we like to hoard. If you intend to camp in place for an extended period of time it would be ideal to be able to install or attach LED lights. Other features to consider are mosquito nets, awning extensions, light kits, flooring, and windbreaks.

How should I mount an awning?

Most awnings are mounted using an aluminium back plate that will attach to your vehicles roof rack, and is stored in a zipped-up PVC cover when not in use. Most 4WD awnings will utilise telescopic aluminium poles that have a twist and lock function.

Depending on your type of awning, identify which poles must be placed vertically and horizontally and twist and lock them into place. Your horizontal poles are usually housed within the backing plate.

Most awning sets will also include a number of ropes and pegs, it is always a good idea to peg your awning down if you leave it overnight in case the wind picks up.

Recommended types of awning

Side awnings 

They are arguably one of the most practical, quickest and easiest to install and setup awnings available on the market. Side awnings are usually placed on the longest dimension of your vehicle with a long rail mounted to your roof rack where it will act as a base for all other components.

A second rail will usually have the legs attached to it which need to be pulled out along with a pair of struts that need to be clipped onto each end of the bar.

The struts allow for stability and also prevent the awning from flapping about in the wind. If you are looking for a side awning, the Sunseeker by Rhino Rack covers over 4 square metres and is the perfect set for picnics, camping and lazy days on the beach.

Batwing awnings

A lot larger than your standard awning, they are designed to cover a huge space due to its long wings that extend out.

This type of awning is a lot larger than others and the base requires to be mounted securely to your roof rack. At the back end of the base is a huge hinge that supports the entire awning, this is where the ‘wings’ are attached and will need to be placed towards the rear corner of your vehicle.

Like the side awning, the batwing by Rhino Rack utilises a similar design, making it easy-to-use and can be packed up or setup within minutes.

It is the perfect awning type for extra storage space, sleeping area or dining with its large 270-degree shade covering 11 square metres.

Rooftop tent awning

eezi-awn tent

Similar style to the Eezi Awn, or the Featherlite tent/awning this awning utilises a rooftop tent for sleeping, mesh windows and doors, and a step ladder for easy accessibility.

The bonus of having a rooftop tent means you are elevated from any creepy crawlies that lurk below and escape the heavy rains.

With a little more than just a couple of telescopic poles, the Open Sky awning will cost a little more and may be harder to set up depending on your experience.

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