Vanlife Awnings: Top 5 + Install Guide & How to DIY
If you’ve ever taken a road trip during the summer, you know just how frustrating the heat can be. While you could search the streets for cool shade, it’s much easier to invest in a van awning. This accessory, which attaches easily to your van roof, will supply instant comfort wherever you go.
One of the best things about van awnings is that they come in a large variety of models, which means you can definitely find one that meets your size and budget requirements. Of course, with this much versatility, it can be difficult to make a choice. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to pick the best van awning for your needs.
Do You Need an Awning on Your Van?
Before we go over the different types of awnings available, it’s important to answer the question: do you really need an awning for your Sprinter, ProMaster, or Transit van? In short, the answer is no — plenty of people enjoy van life without purchasing a campervan awning. However, there are many benefits to owning one, such as the following:
- Weather protection: With an awning, you can stay outdoors and remain protected from rain or hot sun.
- Quick shade: Setting up a van awning provides instant shade (and shelter).
- Easy set-up: A van awning is easier to set up than a stand-alone screen house or tent.
- Convenient for cooking: An awning is great for grilling or cooking food outside.
- Good for camping: Some awnings can extend into tents, which is useful if you’re an avid camper.
To sum things up, camper van awnings are not a necessity. However, they’re one of those accessories that just make vanlife awesome when you find yourself outside cooking or hanging out. Not to mention, they can quickly extend your living space by providing extra outdoor shelter.
What Type of Van Awnings Are There?
While all van awnings deliver similar benefits, there are a few different types you can choose from. Here are the most well-known styles:
- Retractable van awning: This awning can be easily put away and pulled out. It’s sometimes referred to as a roll-out or pull-out awning for vans.
- Rear van awning: A campervan rear door awning extends over the back of the vehicle.
- Side awning for vans: A van side awning is attached to the van’s roof and pulled out over the left or right side of the vehicle.
- Portable awning: This is a detachable awning for vans that can be easily removed and stored away when not in use.
- Campervan awning tent: When deployed, this awning serves as a comprehensive tent, complete with enclosed walls.
The main differences between these awnings are the locations in which they’re installed and the deployment process. Whether you choose a simple, portable awning or a sturdy roll-out awning for vans, you’ll enjoy the convenience of quick shade and cover.
What’s the Best Campervan Awning?
There’s no such thing as the “best awning for vanlife.” A model that works well for one van owner may be burdensome for another. When making a decision, you need to consider these factors:
- Your budget
- Your style preferences
- Which awnings your van is compatible with
The Fiamma F80, the latest van awning released by Fiamma, is one of the most versatile and customizable sprinter and Ford Transit van awnings on the market.
- Cost: $1,495 – $1,695
- Fits: Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Jumper van conversions. Can also fit into Renault Master, Iveco Daily, Mercedes Sprinter (2006+), Ford Transit and Nissan Interstar vans (with an installation kit)
- How it mounts: Can be attached to the roof rail with brackets
The Fiamma F80 is an innovative van awning that improves upon the brand’s former model (the F60). It’s about 20% slimmer than the older version, which means it won’t hinder the movement of your van. Not only is it highly functional, but it also offers a sleek, aesthetically pleasing design. With the right installation kit, it can be fitted onto a wide range of campervans — it’s an especially popular awning for Ford Transit vans. It comes with the following equipment:
- One winding handle
- Winding handle storage clips
- Four ground pegs
- An awning leg wall support kit
- A rafter (varies depending on length)
The mechanical parts of the Fiamma F80 awning, including the end caps, are crafted from quality aluminum, which makes it extremely durable. On top of its long lifespan, the Fiamma F80 features a secure lock that adjusts the height of the lead bar, as well as a triple guide that allows for the installation of two front panels and other accessories. The whole thing is topped off with telescopic legs and double front LEDs lights.
One of the best things about the Fiamma F80 is how easily it can be cranked open (either manually or with an electric motor – the electric motor only uses 12v power, so you don’t need an ac to dc power inverter to run it). Once it’s set up, users can enjoy a strong aerodynamic performance. However, the installation is a bit complex and may require at least two people.
If you’re looking for a compact, lightweight and affordable awning for your camping trips, you can’t go wrong with the Moonshade Portable Awning.
- Cost: $350
- Fits: All vans, trucks, SUVs and campervans
- How it mounts: Can be attached to mounts, roof rack rails, crossbars or even stationary objects using D-rings (which are located at each corner)
The Moonshade Portable Awning is a 9 ft. x 7 ft. foldable awning that can conveniently fit into a 28″ x 6″ zippered bag, then stowed away when not in use. It stands out due to its versatility — it nay be attached to a campervan, truck, fence, patio or even a tree. This makes it a great tool for outdoor adventures like camping, fishing and hunting. Each awning comes with the following materials:
- Guy lines
- Suction cups
Overall, this vanlife awning weighs just under eight pounds, making it easy to carry around. This lightness can be attributed to the material, which consists of 420-denier rip-stop polyester. It also features a 50 UV-plus top coat and inner reflective coat, which blocks sunlight. As an added perk, the van canopy awning is water-resistant, meaning you don’t need to worry about getting drenched by rain.
The last thing worth mentioning about this van life awning is its simple set-up process. The installation, which is similar to setting up modern tents, can be completed in just under five minutes.
The Thule Hideaway Awning, which debuted in 2018, is one of the most popular awnings for Promaster vans and Sprinter vans.
- Cost: $1,074.95 – $1,234.90
- Fits: Sprinter and Promaster campervans
- How it mounts: Can be attached to the van’s roof rack using an adapter (which is sold separately)
Since the 1940s, Thule has produced high-quality, long-lasting and durable awnings. One of its most recent models, the Thule Hideaway Awning, happens to be one of the brand’s bestsellers. This lightweight, roof-mounted awning is made of durable aluminum. It’s generally mounted next to the roof racks, which means you can still use your van’s roof to hold extra items. It offers the following amenities:
- Spring-loaded tension arms
- Corrosion resistance
- Wind resistance
The Thule Hideaway awning is designed to complement the aesthetics of your van. It’s housed in a sleek, hardshell box that integrates smoothly with the side of your van roof rack. When you’re ready to use it, just crank it open using the convenient hand crank.
This van awning has two versions: a 8.5 ft. and a 10 ft. wide version. The 8.5 ft. wide model, which is ideal for small vans, can extend to over six feet. Meanwhile, the 10 ft. wide version rolls out to cover an eight foot long shaded area. It’s most suitable for larger campervans and will allow you to store portable tables and camping chairs outside without worrying about rain.
Anyone in need of a budget-friendly, functional Mercedes Sprinter van awning will be satisfied with the ARB Touring Awning.
- Cost: $228 – $423
- Fits: Sprinter vans, SUVs and small trucks with roof racks
- How it mounts: Can be attached on the side of the roof rails using upright or inverted ARB brackets
The ARB Touring awning is a retractable awning for vans that’s made of ploy-cotton rip stop canvas and features a reflective underside and UV-50 sun protection. Not only will it shield you against the rain, but it will also ensure you’re safe from harmful UV rays. It comes with the following features:
- Sewn-in, dimmable LED light strips
- Reinforced aluminum extrusions
- Heavy-duty nylon PVC bag or aluminum casing
This pull-out van awning is available in three different sizes: 4, 6.5 8.2 and feet. It can be easily stored along the side of most roof racks, and it fits with a wide range of van types. When opened, the awning extends up to over 8 feet, creating ample room for outdoor camping. As an added bonus, you don’t need to worry about the awning maintaining balance when mounted — it comes with adjustable telescopic legs.
While the ARB Touring Awning usually comes nested in a heavy-duty, nylon reinforced PVC bag, ARB has also designed a unique and sophisticated aluminum casing. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, this casing helps ease operation; the awning can be deployed in under a minute.
The Overland Vehicles Systems 270° awning is the ideal camping accessory for anyone in need of a quick-deploying, one-man operational awning for van campers.
- Cost: $1,079.99
- Fits: Most mid-high roofline vans with a factory or aftermarket roof rack
- How it mounts: Attaches to the side of the van’s roof rack with the help of brackets
Wrapping up this list of notable camper van awnings is the Overland Vehicles Systems 270° awning. What sets this model apart is the fact that it doesn’t require any poles to set up. Instead, it relies on a pair of reinforced hinges and heavy-duty rafters for support. Each awning comes with these features:
- Four-year limited warranty
- A 129-square foot covered shelter (when deployed)
- Free shipping to any state in the US
This awning is great for van novices and experts alike thanks to the simple installation process, which can be completed in under two hours. It also comes equipped with a number of safety features. For example, the awning has three pivoting aluminum poles that can withstand severe storms.
Along with strong poles, the van awning features a tough, waterproof fabric made of a 600D cotton rip-stop material. Not only does this provide durability, but it also prevents water from seeping through. When the storm passes, or when you’re done using the awning, you can easily stow it away in a 100-gram, PVC travel cover.
How to Install Your Campervan Awning
With so many different awnings for vans available, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that suits your needs. Of course, no matter which model you select, you’re going to have to install it. The good news is, most van awnings are relatively easy to install. In fact, the entire process can be done in just three easy steps:
- Mount the awning to your roof rack or rail system
- Attach the awning using brackets
- Use screws to secure the awning in place
Overall, the installation should take between one and two hours. You don’t even need to purchase extra supplies, as the awning should come with screws and brackets upon purchase. Of course, this installation process is only feasible if the awning is compatible with roof racks.
If your awning is incompatible with roof racks, or if your van lacks a roof rack or rail system altogether, youll need to screw the van awning attachments directly to your van’s roof. While this is a viable installation method, it should only be done if absolutely necessary. This is because it’s difficult, time-consuming and potentially damaging to your van roof.
How to Make a DIY Camper Van Awning
The easiest way to get a conversion van awning is by purchasing a ready-made one. However, if you want to save money, you may be interested in constructing your own awning. Making a DIY campervan awning is fairly easy as all the materials are readily accessible (and affordable). Start by getting together the following supplies:
- A tarp with grommets
- Tent poles (or other tall, sturdy poles)
Once you’ve got your materials, you can start building your homemade van awning.
To DIY your own Sprinter, ProMaster, or Transit van awning, follow these steps:
- Secure the U-bolts to your roof rack.
- Attach the carabiner to the tarp and the U-bolts.
- Attach the other end of the tarp to the poles.
- Secure the poles to the ground with stakes.
In just four simple steps, you’ll have a quick van awning tent that will supply comfortable shade and shelter. However, when you break camp, you’ll have to tear down the awning and stow away the components until you need it next.
Ultimately, setting up a DIY van awning is more tedious and time-consuming than just buying one. However, it’s far more affordable and makes for a great temporary solution. This method is best for people who live in their vehicles part-time, or who only need awnings once in a while.
How to Choose the Awning That’s Best for You
From comfortable shade to quick shelter, there are plenty of benefits to owning a van awning. And, with so many different models available, you should have no trouble finding an awning that works with your van. If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that there’s no such thing as the best awning for campervans — all the models mentioned above work great for vanlife. To make a decision, think about the following:
- Quality or durability
- Ease of set-up
- Protection needs (wind, sun, rain)
- Compatibility (i.e. if you need a roof rack for installation)
Can’t come to a decision? Our team is here to help. We’re more than happy to go over the different options and help you pick a Sprinter, ProMaster, or Transit van awning that suits your needs. Contact us today with any questions!