The awning is an essential part of the van, affording shade from the sun, but also shelter from the rain and snow. It keeps you dry if you’re cooking outdoors or BBQing, but also stops the rain coming in through the sliding door. We really do use it a lot.
We considered several different options and sizes, but settled on the ARB because of its simplicity and the rugged appearance. Many of the other options looked ok for summer camping and sheltering from the sun, but the ARB looked strong enough to cope with rain and wind. The size is 2.5m x 2.5m and fits nicely along the length of the van without obstructing the cab doors and reaches out far enough to give a good sized covered area.
It fits snuggly against the van when fitted using gutter mounted Fiamma awning brackets, although we had to remove the excess thread from the bolts to prevent it catching our pop top seal. The cover is robust and waterproof. It has two integral telescopic arms that engage with self contained extending legs. Velcro straps attach the edges to the arms and guylines tension it all.
We like it a lot, it’s brilliant in the rain and with two guy ropes on each corner it resists all but the real hoolies with strong winds. We leave it up most of the time, but if winds are forecast to be more than a very stiff breeze, say 10 – 15mph, we put it away.
But….. the niggles:
1. In the rain you must ensure that you drop one leg lower than the other to ensure the rain runs off. If you don’t, the canvas fills with water and sags terribly. It will shrink back after it dries, but it then leaks along the seams.
2. The telescopic arms and the front edge can be used to suspend a room from it (optional), providing a dry, wind proof outdoor space, that’s useful for kids to play in etc. You can also fit a windbreaker along these arms. But… if the breeze is strong and sustained, then the aluminium arms will slowly bend and then refuse to telescope back down for storage. You can easily bend them back, but they will look wonky and it’s difficult to get it right.
3. You can’t easily put it up without help as you need a helper to hold it whilst you tension the arms and lock the legs etc. It can be done though.
Don’t get me wrong, we still think we made the right choice and would definitely recommend this awning, but like many things, it’s not perfect.
Our awning was bought from a company via eBay, but they are widely available from 4×4 stockists and from Camper Van Culture.