Practical Motorhome tests the Ventura Freestander Cumulus Low drive-away awning for motorhomes to see if it's as easy to set up as inflatable awnings

Overview

The king (or queen) of caravan awnings is, arguably, Isabella, which was started in 1957 by Søren Odgaard. Yet this is a respected brand that has skirted the motorhome market. Instead, its other – less-costly – marque, Ventura, offers two drive-away awnings. They're both Freestander models: the Arcus and the Cumulus.

We tested the latter in its low format version, with a fixing height of 170-250cm, which should fit most van conversions. It is at its upper limit attached to the wind-out awning of the Auto-Sleeper Symbol high-top van conversion, shown here. The high version covers attachment points of 240-280cm.

You also get a choice of poles: steel for superior stability, or – as here – lighter and pricier glassfibre. The main fabric is a low-maintenance polyester that’s easily wiped clean.

A spike at the bottom of each vertical is put through the regulator tab at each corner when tensioning – that’s the secret of the Cumulus’s taut, good looks. Plastic pegs are supplied as standard, and metal ones for the mudflaps. All pegging points are neatly reinforced.

The central roof brace needs to go in when the frame is still at knee level (you’ll soon remember that little trick). Its slight ‘pitch’ adds to the frame’s strength.

Curtains are supplied on aluminium poles, to be added at the end, when everything else has been put up and pegged down. And here’s a tip: to protect the windows, retain some of the original packaging to put them on when you’re packing up.

When it's all packed away, the Freestander Cumulus Low's canvas fits into a bag 120cm x 34cm x 29cm. The poles go into a bag measuring 120cm x 19cm x 24cm. The whole thing weighs 34.7kg if you've chosen the sturdy steel pole frame, or 28.6kg if you've gone for the glassfibre poles.

At the front of the Ventura Freestander Cumulus awning, only one of the two windows has an insect-screen with a foil cover. The two side panels can be swapped if that suits your location better.

The optional bedroom or storage annexe can be added to either side – or you can order two and double your bedroom space. Each annexe measures 200cm x 130cm. Buying an inner liner for the main living area is another option.

Nearly all of the back of the Ventura Freestander Cumulus Low drive-away awning can be zipped open for the easiest possible access to your vehicle. There’s also a handy corridor that provides extra privacy and a place to leave muddy boots. If you position the awning correctly, you can have full use of your van conversion's sliding side door. This wide opening also makes it easier to line the 'van up with the drive-away awning later, when you return to your pitch after a day out or a short drive to the shops or the pub.

On sunny days, you can zip out the whole front of the awning if you wish. That’s when you may want to add chairs and tables from our selection of camping accessory reviews, fire up the barbecue, open the latest issue of Practical Motorhome magazine and pour yourself a well-earned long, cool drink!

Technical specs

Size3.08m wide, 2.54m deep
Pack size120cm x 34cm x 29cm
Pole bag129cm x 19cm x 24cm
PolesSteel or glassfibre
OptionsAnnex 220 (£353), inner tent (£117), groundsheet (£49.50-£84)
Weight with steel poles34.7kg
Weight with glassfibre poles28.6kg
High version's fixing height240cm-280cm
Fixing height on the 'van170cm-250cm

Verdict

A lot of Isabella know-how goes into its Ventura models, which are relatively keenly priced. However, you’ll have to shell out on extras to take full advantage of this high-quality offering. We've awarded the Ventura Freestander Cumulus Low drive-away awning three stars.

Before making up your mind which drive-away awning to buy for your motorhome, don't miss our blog about the inflatable awning revolution! You can read our Vango Attar 380 Tall inflatable awning review and more camping accessory reviews by Practical Motorhome's expert product testers. 

Conclusion

Pros

  • The frame comes in a choice of steel or glassfibre
  • Glassfibre frame is light
  • Ventura is made by the leading Isabella brand
  • Steel frame is strong
  • This is a high quality product
  • Annexe available for an extra storage or sleeping space
  • Versatile options turn a small van conversion into family accommodation

Cons

  • Curtains can't be left in place in storage
  • The groundsheet costs extra
  • Inner tents cost extra
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