Not so many years ago the best 4WD awning that money could buy was a tarp tied to your roof rack with a couple of tent poles and A LOT of ropes!
Then innovation came along and changed the market seemingly overnight.
Nowadays, a 4WD awning is one of the best value for money additions to your camping experience; but with so many out there which do you choose, and how do you make best use of it?
What to choose:
If you can’t set it up in 30 seconds for some quick shade on your lunch break then you won’t use it as much. Most awnings can free stand on their two support poles, a couple on the market don’t even need any poles to prop them up! This is good; guy ropes can be a pain in the bum. The Foxwing awning makes a compromise: A heck of a lot more shade, but more poles and guy ropes.
As always look for a quality canvas, twist lock poles (again most on the market have this) and cast metal hinges and fittings. That last one is a far less common feature as most manufacturers are using plastic hinges (I’ve broken a few). On that note also ask about availability of spare parts for when your awning picks up, flips over the roof and bends the arms because you didn’t tie it down properly (experience talking).
Every awning needs an LED strip light. Some awnings come with them, some are an option but anybody can add one to their awning extremely easily. Some manufacturers offer an awning extension; great for when you’ve got the little extra time to set it up and you need a larger shelter. But if your manufacturer doesn’t offer this you can of course rig up something simple with a tarp! Increasing your setup time a little further is the mosquito net awning. Pretty self explanatory, might not get used as often but I bet you’ll appreciate it when you’re camped in a mozzie ridden swamp… Top of the line option is ditching the tent or swag completely and going with the full enclosure option.
Tips & Care:
First up: If there’s any breeze around or you might leave the awning unattended for a moment, peg it down. Most awnings have a loop of rope at the base of each leg to do this. If you’re keeping it set up for a while, or the wind is pretty bad then use the guy ropes too. I find that in the rain it is a good idea to set one leg higher than the other, this obviously allows the water to run off better. Never leave your awning rolled up and wet for too long, it will go mouldy like any other piece of camping gear. And when it comes to mounting the awning on your roof rack, do so as close to the vehicle as possible to avoid damaging it on tree branches and such; it also avoids the annoyance of rain coming in between a huge gap you left between the vehicle and the awning.