A good motorhome or camper awning can double your living space. We show you which one to buy, and how much to pay.

Awning types

There are two types of awning: canopy – those wind-out units that are permanently attached to the side of your ’van at roof level; and drive-away – the tent-like units that can be attached to the side of your ’van but can also be left free-standing.

You can also get a front-and-sides arrangement for a canopy awning, which is usually referred to as a safari room.

Which brand to buy?

It’s down to just two names for canopies: Fiamma and Omnistor. When it comes to free-standing awnings, there’s a massive choice, from the likes of Isabella (and its Ventura subsidiary), Outdoor Revolution, SunnCamp, Royal and plenty more.
Choosing the right awning for you
Do you want to use your awning to sleep in, for extra dining space, or just for somewhere to store your muddy footwear? What you wish to use your awning for is the first thing to consider when choosing the exact style, make and model that’s right for you.

Outdoor Revolution’s Michael Maundrill suggests other key things to consider: “Design, good use of space, whether it’s water proof, how the awning attaches to the ’van and the height range the awning needs to fit to should all be thought about.”

SunnCamp’s Neal Summerfield adds: “Choosing an awning is much like selecting a tent. You’ll need to decide on the type of fabric you want as well as the type of poles.” Generally, fibreglass-based poles are more flexible and appear on cheaper models, while more upmarket products tend to go with steel poles which can add weight.

Neal Summerfield adds: “Since there is such a variety of ’vans on the market, you’ll need to check whether your chosen awning style will fit your particular model before you buy. All SunnCamp awnings are fitted with a rear tunnel to fit to the ’van and are supplied complete with a figure of eight channel to enable it to fit easily to a motorhome’s drip rails.

“Some models are also supplied complete with fixing clamps and a locating bar. Most SunnCamp models will fit ’vans with a height of 2.4m (7’8”); the Aspect model will fit ’vans up to 2.6m (8’5”) high.”

Finally, a quick word about fabrics. If you see a figure in millimetres quoted for the material of an awning, this refers to the fabric’s hydrostatic head, a means of assessing its waterproofness. Look for a figure of around 3000-5000mm; the higher the figure the better.

Awning retailers

There are numerous awning retailers – here are a couple to help get you started:

l. Brownhills
Like many ’van retailers that also sell accessories, Brownhills is a Fiamma agent. However, it also sells Omnistor wind-out awnings, as well as Outdoor Revolution Movelite and Isabella Ventura models.

It doesn’t sell used awnings but group parts manager Gordon Hamilton points out: “We do have 45-50 awnings in group stock at special offer prices – these are brand new awnings that have been ordered into different branches incorrectly, so are offered at a discounted price.”

Also, watch out for early season sales. This is often when retailers are looking to clear last season’s stock to make way for all-new stuff. It tends to be a good time to catch a bargain.

Address Brownhills Leisure World, A1/A46 Junction, Newark NG24 2EA
Tel 08456 033 394  

Web www.brownhills.co.uk
(Brownhills also has branches at Swindon, Preston and Durham)

2. Riversway Leisure
Preston-based Riversway is also a leading on-line retailer for all kinds of after-market accessories, with awnings just one of its many specialist areas.

Like Brownhills (above), Riversway does not sell used awnings, although it accepts such products can be viable as long as you know the exact condition of the awning.

As well as its own models Riversway sells awnings from Royal, Outdoor Revolution, Fiamma, Omnistor and others.

Address Riversway Leisure, Chain Caul Road, Docklands, Preston PR2 2PD
Tel 08448 794 901
Web www.riverswayleisure.co.uk

1. Outdoor Revolution [tl:gallery index=1 size=216×129]
Movelite Pro

Best price £299.99

“We have identified a gap in the market for a high-quality, more rigid drive-away awning range with the benefit of an optional, detachable zip-in annexe to allow extra living space,” says Outdoor Revolution’s Michael Maundrill.

“All the new Movelite Pro range have this facility and the great news is that the annexe can be fitted to either side of the awning allowing for greater flexibility and versatility.

“So, whatever ’van you drive there is something in the Movelite Pro range for you.”

Weight 21.1kg
Pack size 70 x 35 x 35cm
Key features 150D Ripstop nylon fabric with Revtex 5000 waterproofing and Sunpro UV rating. Poles with steel legs for extra rigidity. New front porch canopy plus the option of side canopies.
Other news Watch out for a new model, a traditional steel framed drive-away awning called the Valley Lodge.

2. Isabella Ventura Freestander [tl:gallery index=2 size=216×129]

Best price £600
This new, blue awning from Freestander, arguably the masters of awning manufacture, comes with a choice of a steel or fibreglass frame and removable side panels for the optional annexe.

There are two height sizes to choose from, too. The ‘Low’ model offers access between 170cm and 250cm; and the ‘High’ model offers access for between 240cm and 270cm. These models sport a new easy-clean polyester material.

Weight From 28kg
Pack size 95 x 45 x 25cm (canvas)/120 x 20 x 25cm (frame)
Key features Ventilation net window. Choice of three fittings. Optional annexe can be fitted either side. Back panel has two vertical zips for easy access from vehicle. Front and side panels can be removed or rolled down. Storage bags and full instructions supplied as standard.
Other news Isabella’s website includes full fitting videos.

3. Riversway Riviera
Mobil 300 Drive-Away

Best price £149.95
Leading accessories retailer Riversway tells us its own Riviera Mobil 300 Drive-Away was its most popular motorhome awning last season. It’s compact, versatile and easy to erect, and with a fixing height of up to 290cm, is ideal for larger coachbuilt ’vans.

For this season, the Riviera Mobil 300 will be available in a new blue/grey colour. If you contact the company early enough you’ll be able to take advantage of a product launch price of just £149.95 – down from a RRP of £199.95.

Weight 13.5kg
Pack size 80 x 24 x 24cm
Other news Riversway is launching the Riviera Camper at an introductory price of £109.95 (RRP £149.95). It has a fixing height of up to 2.2m (7’2”) making it ideal for campervans and van conversions. It goes on sale from April 2010, but you can contact the company direct on 08448 794 901 to pre-order.

4. Outwell Mountain Road [tl:gallery index=3 size=216×129]
Best price £149.95

The Mountain Road awning is one of three all-new models from Danish company Outwell (look out also for Country Road and Coastal Road).

Popular Outwell tent features, such as luminous guylines, panorama windows, ‘rain-safe’ side doors, mesh ventilation, zip-out groundsheet and a fully seam-sealed flysheet, have made it onto the Mountain Road.

Weight 25.3kg
Pack size 33 x 70cm
Key features Heavy-duty zips. Outtex 3000 fabric. Fibreglass poles plus two steel uprights. Reinforcement patches on all stress points. Outwell doormat included. Carpet options.
Other news Look out for the Easy Camp Daytona and Sebring.

5. SunnCamp Journeyman[tl:gallery index=4 size=216×129]
Best price
New for 2010, this awning packs in a lot of features – including a two-berth inner tent and flysheet, plus steel legs and fibreglass poles – yet weighs in at just
under 20kg.

As seems to be the trend for the season ahead, the Journeyman has an extra-large, roll-back front door that can act as a canopy (with poles included).

Weight 19.8kg
Pack size 68 x 28 x 28cm
Other news Also new for this season is the Seeker which takes its place alongside best-selling Aspect and Handy Moto ranges.

6. Kampa Travel Pod[tl:gallery index=5 size=216×129]
Best price £185.99
This awning from Kampa is suitable for motorhomes measuring up to 2.4m (7’8”) in height.

It is also comes in a choice of three colours: Lagoon Blue, Cactus Green and Wine Red. Optional extras include an Easyling connecting system, a two-person inner tent and floor carpet.

Weight 17.3kg
Pack size 80 x 28 x 26cm
Key features Weathershield 4000mm fabric. ‘Daylight’ roof panel. Panoramic windows with blinds. Twin side doors with flyscreens. The front panel can be rolled up or used as a canopy.
Other news Also available in XL form for coachbuilts.

7. Other options: Roof tent

[tl:gallery index=6 size=300×207]You’ll feel as if you’re on safari with one of these roof tents, but they’re useful awnings for campervans as well as Landrovers and other off-roaders.

1. In general, the higher the quality the heavier the awning. This will affect the amount of space it is likely to take up in your ’van’s garage and of your payload.

2. Make sure you keep an eye on prices, as they can vary considerably from retailer to retailer. Also, always factor in the cost of any options. Again, these can vary widely – one manufacturer’s standard offering can be another’s costly extra.

3. Ask to look at the fitting instructions. There’s a wide variety in standards here.

4. If you’re in the process of purchasing a second-hand motorhome, remember to ask about awnings – you never know, the dealer might throw one your way to secure the deal.

Key awning contacts
Caranex www.caranex.co.uk
Dorema www.dorema.co.uk
DWT-Zelte www.dwt-zelte.com
Easy Camp www.easy-camp.com
Fiamma www.fiammastore.com
Isabella www.isabella.net and www.ventura-camping.com
Jeff Bowen Awnings www.bowenawnings.co.uk
Kampa www.kampa.co.uk
Omnistor www.omnistor.co.uk
Outdoor Revolution www.outdoor-revolution.com
Outwell www.outwell.com
Royal www.royal-leisure.co.uk
Sunncamp www.sunnflair.com
Rooftents Ltd www.rooftentslimited.com