What To Look For When Buying A 4WD Awning

Source: Grant Wilson

Not so many years ago an awning consisted of a tarp and ropes tied to the side of a 4WD. These days there are several low cost and functional 4×4 awnings to choose from so everyone can afford to enjoy the outdoors in comfort. A 4WD awning is one of the best value for money additions to your camping experience.

What you should be looking for in an 4wd awning is a good quality heavyweight quality canvas that’s been waterproofed and treated against mould.

We have done some brand research and highlighted below a few of the main features and things to look out for in a 4WD awning.

How Do You Choose A 4WD Awning?

There are plenty of awnings on the market and with so many options available it’s hard to evaluate which brand will best suit your needs. You’ll find awnings range in sizes, made of different fabrics and with a whole range of ways of attaching accessories. You really want a sturdy weatherproof shelter that can be erected in with ease and constructed with durable and again manufactured using quality zips, poles and cast metal hinges.

Most 4WD Awnings have the same basic structure so we have outlined a few considerations when purchasing an awning and provided some practical tips for making your camping experience even more enjoyable.

Easy Setup

If setting up requires effort chances are you will use it so seldom. Most awnings can free stand on their two support poles some do not even require guy ropes so the less time an awning takes to set up generally the more often you will use it.

Quality of The Canvas and Construction

The traditional tent fabric is canvas because of its durable and long-lasting. You will find that most awnings these days are manufactured using polyester cotton and it comes in a variety of weights. Anything much lighter than 300g p/sqm you tend to lose durability, but any heavier and you’re just adding weight and bulk. Most importantly you will want a quality leak-proof canvas awning and not one that made from cheap, flimsy nylon. Having said this, it really doesn’t matter how good the fabric and tubing are if it’s badly stitched or held together with flimsy joints it will not last.

Things to look for in the quality of the fabric used is features such as the coatings like a reflective layer or treatment used on the fabric, check if it is UV-resistant? A reflective layer reflects sunlight away from your awning and helps to keep temperatures down under the awning and help to reduce the hazard from UV light. You want a radiation factor of 30 + to ensure you do not burn.

A new trend we are seeing is awnings that combine a waterproof lamination A good quality awning will be treated or coated to make it completely weather resistant or laminated with a waterproof fabric this will help to keep your dry.

Look for features such as twist lock poles and cast metal hinges and fittings we have seen many manufacturers use plastic which just doesn’t last. The poles should be well constructed, fit snuggly and offer sturdy support to the awning and they should not feel flimsy or appear to struggle under the load. The strongest material for fittings is steel, however, to avoid these parts rusting you want fittings made of stainless steel wherever possible. Plastic fittings should be avoided if possible and the same goes for cast alloy which tends to stress easily and generally weaker.

Overall take note of how the awning is put together and overall practical design. Run your eye along the main stitching seam looking for any fraying or irregular stitching because this is where it is likely to tear apart. Check if the seams are reinforced and neatly finished.

After Sales Service

Ask the manufacturer about the availability of spare parts. It is sometimes necessary to replace parts such as the awning because it wasn’t secured down properly and bent out of shape.

Add On Accessories

Some awnings come with LED strip lighting as standard, others are an added option. While LED strip lighting is super easy to install yourself just check if this is included as it may save you the added cost of purchasing this afterwards if you are needing lighting. Check for features such as awning extensions these are great for longer camp stays which allows you the advantage of a larger shelter when you need it. Some awnings have the capacity for a mosquito Net which is a feature that will be valued when camped in a mozzie area.

What Style 4WD Awning Should I Choose?

Instant Awnings

What instant awning designs aim to do is cut down on the set-up time and less paraphernalia. A good example of this is the Hannibal awning where heavy duty outriggers replaced the side struts eliminating the need for poles of guy ropes making better use of the space under the awning and around it. There is often a cost to this convenience and these awnings will usually not be as affordable as other brands.

Side Awnings

Side awnings are an extremely versatile accessory for your vehicle and one of the biggest decisions is whether you want your awning at the side or rear of your vehicle. One of the primary advantages of a side awning is that the awning is placed on the longest side of your vehicle. This means you have several benefits such as

  • Mounting your awning can be done more securely
  • you can park the vehicle to act as a windbreak and protect the awning and you from adverse weather conditions
  • You have the advantage if the extra space under a side awning

Rear Awnings

A rear awning doesn’t offer as much space as side ones because it is limited to the width of the roof and is usually limited to 1.4 by 2 metres any longer than this and the awning becomes unstable. If you already have a side awning, then adding a second one at the back can give you more options for setting up your camp.

Retractable Awnings

Most awnings are pretty simple to set up and usually consist of two ends fixed to aluminium pole or bar with a stabilizing tube down each side and legs on the end. When they’re stowed away the awning rolls around the outer end pole, and when you’re setting it up it just unrolls again. The only challenge with this manual system is that if there is any sort of wind rolling up or out makes it a two-person job and then this is where an automatically rolling up system would be useful.

Awnings like the Eezi Awn 2000 series are designed with a spring-tensioned roller running the length of the base, which takes most of the work out of setting up and taking down. The main advantages are that

  • you don’t get any sag in your roof especially when it rains it does not pool up
  • the awning will smoothly unroll and roll up from its casing
  • Once it’s set up the roller keeps slight tension on it which increases the stability.

Obviously, this convenience feature adds to the cost, but the retractable awning certainly makes a single-handed set up much easier.

Batwing or Fox Wing Awnings

Batwing awnings are simple and super effective. The Fox wing designed awnings look a little different, but they are extremely practical. These awnings are more solidly mounted to the side of your vehicle because the hinge supports the whole wing when it folds out. And quite literally swings out through 270 degrees creating a large roof around one side and the rear of your vehicle. A fox wing takes about as long to set up as a standard awning, requires time to set up extra poles and guy ropes but offer the most coverage and shade space.

The Tough Toys 2.5 by 3-metre fox wing provides approximately 7.5 square metres of covered area. The Rhino-Rack Fox wing covers 10 square metres and it’s just as good and has the added feature of sidewall sections you can add to enclose your awning

Tips For Setting Up A 4WD Awning

  1. Peg it down! Most awnings have a loop of rope at the base of each pole where you can secure the awning down. If your camp is unattended and the wind picks up the risk of damage to both your awning and vehicle increases with loose flapping and unsecured poles. If you don’t plan on moving for a while it doesn’t hurt to use the guy ropes too.
  2. When it rains creating a sheltered rain break with your awning. I have found it useful to angle the awning by adjusting one leg higher than the other, this obviously allows the water to run off better.
  3. Avoid mould stains on your awning by always packing it away when its dry. Rolling your awning up when it’s still damp only encourages mould especially if it remains stored for long periods of time so Never leave your awning rolled up and wet for too long.
  4. Mount your awning as flush as possible to your roof rack, to prevent possible damage due to tree branches snagging on a protruding awning and by reducing the gap between the vehicle and the awning it prevents the rain from coming in between the vehicle and the awning.

Which Brand Of 4WD Awning Do I Choose?

All we can say is do your research and you’ll see that some manufacturers use plastic fittings and other use heavy duty alloy knuckles for strength. It really depends on your purpose and what you value most out of your purchase whether than be ease of set up, shade coverage, strength and stability, there is literally a plethora of options to suit almost every type of camping.

Adventure Kings

https://www.4wdsupacentre.com.au/2-x-2-5m-kings-side-4wd-awning-upf-50-waterproof-incl-mounting-kit.html

The Adventure Kings awnings are the #1 selling 4×4 awnings in Australia and are one of the best value for money awnings on the market. At just under $100 for the basic set up they still offer a quality product for the price.  Adventure Kings has four awnings on offer and their range consists of a few different measurements- 2-metre widths, extending 2, 2.5 or 3 metres out from the side of the vehicle.

Then there’s an extra-wide 2.5-metre model, that’s also 2.5 metres long. The extra width provides much-needed shelter on very hot days. King awnings also include mounting kits at no extra charge, you will find that some of their competitors don’t include these.

Eezi Awn

http://www.4x4awnings.com.au/

Traditionally awnings were stowed in a heavy fabric bag attached to the awning base. Faulty zips and torn bags meant the awning needed to be replaced. Nowadays Eezi Awn’s models are built into an extruded aluminium hard case that acts as a combined base mount and protective shell. The front cover is held closed by spring loaded catches which makes it easy to stow everything away. The awning itself is tough laminated PVC and waterproof and if you store your awning away when its slightly damp you don’t have to worry as the fabric is rotproof.

Eezi Awn’s standard Series 1000 model is 2.5 metres long and extends out 2 metres from your vehicle.

If you want the ultimate in easy operation and don’t mind paying for it, though, you need the Series 2000 which is available in four widths – 2, 2.5, 3 and 4 metres. These models have a spring-loaded roller which the awning rolls around, so when you pull out the end bar they unroll smoothly. The roller helps to keep everything under slight tension so there’s no sagging. The Eezi Awn is one of the easiest to stow of all the awnings because it automatically rolls itself neatly back up.

Hannibal Awning

https://www.hannibalsafari.com.au/product-category/awnings/

The Hannibal Awning seriously simplifies the no mess no fuss awning design and is available in two one that measures 1.9×1.7 metre and a 2.4x 2 metre. They’re both available with the option of detachable walls or just as a standard awning.

Hannibal has really paid attention to details and you will notice the base is a big, solid piece of aluminium with massive hinges at each end for the outriggers. The awning fabric is a made of a robust Dyna Proof ripstop polycotton. The seams are taped for waterproofing and reinforced with PVC. All seams are double stitched with heavy duty S25 thread. No upright poles mean the Hannibal relies on the two big outriggers to stabilize the awning and this also means there are no guy ropes particularly useful if you are camping a confined space. 

ARB 4×4 Awning

https://www.arb.com.au/tents-swags-awnings/awnings-and-accessories/

The Arb awning offers the ultimate in simplicity so if you are looking for a basic awning at a low price the ARB awning is solidly constructed and completely waterproof. It doesn’t have all the options that some of the high-end awnings offer such as a tent option (they do however offer the add-on mosquito nets) if this isn’t high on your list of priorities ARB awnings will definitely satisfy all practical and functional needs. The ARB’s awning comes in three widths – 1.25, 2 and 2.5 metres.

All the metal parts seemed durable and good quality, the awning itself is a PU-coated polyester and they offer a 2-year guarantee. ARB doesn’t give you any mounting brackets, so you’ll have to buy or fabricate those yourself. Buying them can easily add up to $80 to the total cost, so factor that in. The Awning stows away in a heavy PVC cover attached to the base, and to set it up, all you just need to do is unzip the cover, undo the straps and unroll everything.

Summary

The beauty of having so many awning options is that whatever your camping style looks like, getting yourself equipped with an awning can be done for as little as $100 and your camp can grow from there. You can extend your camp by adding a rear awning to the back of your 4WD or a waterproof and private awning tent to that extra awning giving you that full-on bedroom feel. There is literally only one thing left to do is head out to your preferred awning stockist and get yourself set up!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between A Waterproof And A Showerproof Awning?

You may hear or read the term ‘hydrostatic head’ which basically means the depth of water you can put on top of something before it leaks.

Anything with a hydrostatic head of less than 1,000mm is showerproof, which is why we recommend canvas as an awning material because it usually has a much higher hydrostatic head around 1,500mm which is classified as waterproof. This is really the minimum you need for an awning. As an example, expedition tents are rated around 3,000mm and All-season tents are usually rated to 2,000mm so 1500mm is the minimum you will want to settle for in waterproof awning specs.

Do not be tempted to opt for an alternative to canvas such as the modern breathable materials like Gore-Tex. While the look attractive Gore-Tex is breathable something you do not need in an awning and they’re almost never completely waterproof. So, this type of material for an awning is best avoided.

How Should I Mount An Awning?

Usually, an awning is mounted directly on the side of the 4WD vehicle and attached with a couple of brackets to whatever you use for carrying loads on the roof such as a roof cage or roof bars. Take your time to measure before drilling any holes. Almost all awnings are based on an aluminium extrusion that fits your vehicle. The awning itself along with its framework and storage bag is all attached to this base so all you have to do is make sure it’s not mounted upside down.

Your awning will usually come with 4-6 bolts and you will need to slide the head of a mounting bolt into one of the T profile channels that run along the back of the mounting bar. If you have a roof cage, all you have to do now is measure the distance between the centre of the tracks (or get it from the instructions that came with your kit) and mark up two or three of your cage’s uprights with the correct spacing. This is where you’ll drill the holes. Make sure at this point the lines of marks are parallel to the ground. Slide the mounting bolts along the tracks until they marry up with the holes, then fasten the bolts with the locking nuts.

If you have roof bars your awning may come with a pair of L brackets that will need to be bolted to the back of the awning base. If they have a channel along the top you might be able to slide bolt heads in there and fix the brackets to them. Alternatively, you might have to drill through the bars themselves to get the bolts in.

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