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Drive Away Awnings - Buying Guide

Buying a drive-away camper van or motorhome awning is a difficult task without the necessary knowledge. This article aims to arm you with all the necessary knowledge you could possibly need to make an informed choice. A drive away awning is an expensive outlay, but it will add living space, flexibility and storage space to your vehicle, without tying the vehicle to the campsite. To maximise the potential of your vehicle, it is well worth exploring the option of buying a drive away awning.

What is a drive away awning?

A drive away awning is a free-standing tent, which has two parts - the main awning, and the connecting panel. The connecting panel attaches to the side of your motorhome or camper van, and will fold away and detach from the vehicle, allowing you to drive the vehicle off-site - leaving the free-standing awning pitched on the campsite for your return. Drive away awnings typically come in three sizes - Low, Mid and Tall, and each size depends on the type of vehicle you own.

Popular Examples of Drive Away Awnings

For Camper Vans (VW T Vans / Ford Torneo or Similar) (180-210cm tall)

For Motorhomes (245 - 295cm Tall)

Why Buy an Awning?

  • Greater Flexibility - a drive away awning offers greater flexibility to the camper van or motorhome.
  • Storage - opens up more space inside the van by allowing you to store items in the awning.
  • Living Space - additional storage space to the vehicle - camper vans are pretty cramped living quarters at best - so awnings can provide great areas to relax in - to get changed in - or to cook under if well ventilated.
  • Sleeping Space - awnings can have either a two berth inner, or four berth inners attached into them - which will increase the sleeping capacity and allow friends or family to join.

How does it connect to the Van?

There are four main connection methods available for your van - and each awning we supply comes with the four types of attachment. We have a dedicated article regarding how to attach your awning to your van, and a separate article on detaching the awning. For a more in-depth analysis of attaching your awning, see the below articles for a greater understanding.

However, there are four main attachment methods which are as follows:

Via Pre-Attached Kador Rail

  • All awnings come with a 6mm Kador Rail
  • Outdoor Revolution Awnings have a 4mm and 6mm Kador Strip.
  • The kador strip slides straight into the side of your rail or C-Channel, or you can use a drive-away fixing kit for speedier results, and the ability to come and go from the awning with the vehicle, as you wish.

Pole & Clamp Kit

  • Ideal for older styles of Camper Van with a gutter
  • Simply thread the steel pole through the sleeve - and use the clamps to secure the awning to the gutter.

Storm Straps

  • 8m metre storm straps buckle into the awning.
  • Pegs down the other side of the van or motorhome.

Velcro Tabs

  • The Velcro tabs secure to the roof bars if you vehicle has roof bars.

Which Height to Choose?

There are three different sizings of awning - each with a different height of connection panel. The awning is the same size and shape, however the connecting panel fits a different height of camper van or motorhome. Typically, the rule is that camper vans take a Low awning and motorhomes take a Tall or Highline awning. The Mid or Standard height awnings fit those odd shaped vans in between a camper van or motorhome. 

Low or Lowline (180 - 210cm)

Typically fits any camper van, with an attachment height of 180cm - 210cm off the ground. All Volkswagons Transporters and California vans will take a LOW awning.

Standard or Midline (205-245cm)

Mid or Standard Awnings are the least popular choice of awning, due to the fact they fit fewer styles of vehicles. A Mid Awning will fit any van with a height of between 205 - 245cm. Each awning will tell you the height recommendation, so it's worth checking the product listing before committing to a purchase.

Tall or Highline (245 - 295cm)

Tall or Highline awnings will always fit a motorhome, which typically the attachment point is 295cm tall. Usually to attach an awning of this height, it is better to have a wind out rail on the side of the motorhome, which will allow you to wind the rail down to standing height, to attach the awning into the channel, before winding it back in.

Purpose of the Awning?

Is it to offer extra space, or some storage space or additional sleeping space if the Grandkids or friends join you camping for the weekend. It is important to determine early on, which purpose (s) you require the awning for. Most awnings offer a combination of different options, allowing for sleeping inner tents to be added into the awning. However, some awnings are merely storage space - so be sure to double-check to make sure the awning suits your needs.

Styles of Awnings

Front Facing Awnings

Faros Low

A front facing awning will face outwards from the side of your van as in the photo below. A popular style of awning, for those wanting a smaller, more compact awning.

These can be a disadvantage however, if on a type of campsite, whereby they make you back the van up to the rear of the pitch. A front facing awning will then face directly to the side of the campsite pitch - which is usually right at a neighbour - instead of facing out towards a view.

Side-ways Facing Awnings

Vango Cove Low - Sideways facing awning

A side ways awning sits parallel with the van, offering a connection panel to the side of the awning. Side-ways awnings also offer great space, and offer great ability to fix sleeping pods into the awning. With a sideways facing awning - you need to be careful to select the right type of awning, to make sure the connecting panel is on the correct side of the vehicle.

Example:

Galli Low: Fits most UK camper vans - where the doorway is on the passenger's side. Sits parallel to the van, and faces the same way as the van front faces.

Galli RSV - the RSV would fit onto a van with the connecting door on the driver's side (UK) / passengers side (EU). So this Galli would fit onto the driver's side, and face the front of the van - alternaltely you could fit it to the passengers side, but it would face the rear of the van - not the front.

Annex or Tail Awnings

Tail annex awning fits to the rear of the van, covering the back doors of the camper van. Ideal for VW's or Fiat Ducato style vans.

Type of Fabric

Polyester Fabric

Polyester fabric typically tends to be used to manufacture drive away awnings, owing to its lightweight, smaller pack size nature. Perfect for touring campers - as it will be easier and more portable.

  • 70 Denier - an entry level fabric, which is mainly ideal for shorter term camping trips in the Summer time.

Example:

Vango Palm Low Awning

  • 150 Denier - a 150 denier polyester is a nice balance between higher quality, and weight. The 150 Denier will be stronger, thicker fabric, which is perfect for those wanting an easy-pitching awning, with a durable fabric.

Vango Magra Low Awning - see here

  • Double-Ripstop Polyester - these are typically stronger awnings, which are ideal for campers going out earlier, or later in the camping season. The durability of this fabric is much higher, and will be anything from 420 Denier to 600 Denier - which is 245% stronger than 70 Denier polyester fabric. 

Polycotton Fabric

More ideal for those camping in colder or hotter climates, as the fabric adapts to the weather. In addition to this, the fabric is more durable, making it better for longer term campers.

  • Perfect for hotter climates as the fabric breathes.
  • Naturally waterproof fabric, which adapts to the weather conditions.
Categories: Buying Guides