Last Updated on December 31, 2020
Camper awning is the perfect way to get some extra shelter from the elements when you are relaxing outdoors.
The awning is often made from canvas or tarpaulin that has been stretched and hoisted to form a taut, sloped surface. They are often found over the entranceway to shops but are easy to construct and provide excellent protection from the elements.
Constructing an awning will allow you to spend more time outdoors, no matter the weather. They provide protection from the rain and give you much more space to play around in.
An awning is attached to your camper and often installed over the doorframe. Awnings are easy to construct and remove, making them the perfect temporary shelter.
Types of Awning
You can get either a manual or an electric awning.
There are pros and cons to both styles, and ultimately the decision should be made based on your individual needs.
There are 2 main styles of manual awnings – pull-style and hand crank.
A pull-style awning requires a strap to be pulled to open the awning. Hand crank awnings are opened by rotating a crank to move the fabric.
Manual awnings are sturdy and easily adjustable. They do not require electricity so can be used even in a power cut. They’re much cheaper to purchase and install than electric awnings and work perfectly for budget camper remodels.
The only downside is that they are slightly more difficult to open than electrical awnings, as you must manually raise and lower the fabric.
The electrics can be powered by batteries or can be hardwired into your camper’s electronics. They are incredibly simple to use as the mechanics do all the hard work for you. All you need to do is press a button and move out of the way!
Some newer models will automatically close when strong and fast winds are detected. This will prevent any damage being incurred to the awning. It also means that you do not need to worry about closing the awning to prevent damage, as the smart electronics will do this for you.
These awnings will only work correctly when there is a power supply. They often come with a manual override function in case of a power outage. However, this defeats the purpose of purchasing an electrical awning as they will operate in the same way as a manual awning.
Electric awnings are more expensive than manual ones, although the price gap is often no more than $250. They are harder to install as you need a level of electrical knowledge to be able to hardwire the awning to the camper’s electrics. Battery powered awnings do not need to be hardwired and are a better option for people with little knowledge of circuitry.
These awnings often fare worse in strong winds, so this is something to be aware of when deciding which awning type to install.
These are awnings that cannot be removed from your van and are generally installed to keep the rig in place. They do not get moved or adjusted while you are stationary and are best suited to windows.
They add drag to your RV and so are not the best choice for windy climates.
These are usually automatic awnings. When extended and in use, there are extra walls that appear to create an enclosed area, similar to a home patio. This is a lovely feature but requires more effort to store, put up, and take down.
What will you need?
There are kits that you can purchase that include most of the parts you will need, or you can buy them individually. The awning kits are easier to use but less customizable.
The general components of an awning kit are an outer arm, inner arm, pitch arm, roller tube, canopy, wall-mounted bracket, and in hand crank awnings, a crank wand. You will need to buy a rail extrusion separately as this is not usually included.
If you are purchasing the parts separately, you will need butyl tape, a roller and fabric kit, drive head, manual (or powered) arms, rail extrusion, idler head (if manual), and a pull strap (if a pull-style awning).
Cover the back of your extrusion rail with butyl tape to make it waterproof.
Hold the rail against your camper and ensure it is aligned. Screw tightly in place, being careful to keep it level. If you need wall brackets, screw these in now too.
Your next step is to attach the roller to the arms. There will be a hole drilled into the top of the roller, which you must slide the post at the top of the arm into. Align the holes and screw in place on both sides.
Hold the awning up to the side of the camper and thread it into the rail track. If you are struggling to insert the fabric, consider the use of a silicone lubricant to make the process easier. You can also use a screwdriver to open the extrusion track at one end to make it easier to insert the fabric.
Simultaneously walk the awning down the side of the camper. It is vital to keep the arms parallel to each other to prevent damaging the mechanics.
Screw the arms in place to secure and then extend the awning fabric. Ensure all of the mounting holes on the arms are secured to the side of the camper with screws – at the top and bottom. Cover with butyl tape to waterproof the holes you have made.
Gather the fabric of the awning back up and practice storing it. This is a good time to check there are no wrinkles or ruching of the fabric as it rolls away. Secure the ends of the track channel with a self-tapping screw. This will make sure your fabric remains straight and taut when in use.
As with any DIY project, there are safety risks involved. If you are unsure, contact an expert.