Over the 3 years we had our first van we learn’t a lot about awnings and what worked for us.
I am a big believer in keeping things minimal and I do like the idea of being able to pitch up quickly. So we started in 2013 with a simple arrangement, a Kyham Sun Canopy and a windbreak. They worked OK, they were small and lightweight to pack and simple to put up. However they didn’t afford much protection from the British climate and weren’t big on privacy when needed.
Sue decided that we need something that gave a bit more protection and we liked the look of an Outdoor Revolution Sun Canopy. From what we could see it looked a good shape and seemed to give sideways protection. It packed quite small and it wasn’t complicated to put up. Sadly it turned out to be a real shambles.
The first problem was that they hadn’t made it clear that it was designed for a long wheelbase van, we found others who had been caught out by this, so it overhang the van quite bit. Next, because the van was on 30mm lowers, the awning was too high which was exacerbated by the excess in the roof panel. And to add insult to injury we discovered, after discussing the importer, that they had actually been made wrong which made it pretty impossible to square up. We persevered with it for the summer thinking that we would rework it but in the end decided against that. Recently it was cut up for material, that is now our floor mat bag, the fittings and the bag is just the right size for our new home made awning.
Sue decided that what we needed was a lot of extra space and the ability to leave stuff on site while we left site. So next in 2014 came a Vango Kella II Air Beam drive away tent bought on a deal at T-Fest. They seemed like the thing to have, we had watched people putting the up and they seemed simple enough. We made good use of it but it has to be said that it was used mainly as a dumping ground and we either sat in the van or if the weather was nice sat outside.
Again it was not a good fit for the van, they now do a lower version specifically to cater for the van market, so it was always difficult to get square. Worse still because of its size and all the bits of keder strip and figure of 8 in the wind it would walk out of the roof rail. Also when it rained there was a constant drip between the bits of figure of 8. It packed OK but it was a very large bag that needed up taking up a lot of floor space in the middle of the van.
Eventually it dawned on us that the most of our travels were just that, travels, and we weren’t pitching up anywhere for more than a few nights. So while planning our Scandinavia trip we looked at how we would cope with one and two night stops but still planned to take the Vango for longer stops. We went back to our simple Kyham Sun Canopy and worked out a way of making it more useful.
We could still use it as a canopy but by adding a couple of extra eyelets we could fold the canopy down to shelter the door and afford a little privacy. For 4 weeks in Scandinavia this worked a treat. It did just what we wanted, it packed small and took up very little space and was up within minutes of parking. We used it every night on our Scandinavian tour apart from 3 stops when we used the Vango and one when we stopped in a friends garden.
One time when we used the Vango we had to take it down because it was flexing too much in the wind. And then when we weren’t using it we ended up storing it on the drivers seat. It just took up space so that was the end of it and it was sold as soon as we got home.
By now we were planning our new van and a new awning along the lines of our Kyham adaption. It was going to have to be home made to get it just right. We bought a Kyham pop up toilet / shower tent to use as a utility. It doesn’t take up much space, goes up and down quickly, easily holds all of the kit to make space in the van and can still be used as a makeshift loo with a bucket if need be on a wild camp. And of course we can drive away and leave it on our pitch – its probably more secure than a drive away tent after all who would want to knick you loo?
I bought some Robens telescopic tarp poles instead of the Kyham steel ones and found an Isabella telescopic fiberglass ridge pole on eBay. So at Busfest in 2016 we tried our modified canopy, windbreak and utility tent and it worked great. Shelter from the rain, wind and sun and privacy on a busy campsite. If it had any draw back we would like a couple of hundred millimetres more between the van and the down turn and a slightly heavier weight fabric.
Size of the packed awning and utility is important to us. Even though it only takes minutes to put up there may be occasions when we are stopping at an Aire or stealth camping when we don’t want to advertise. In order to do that we need to be able to get everything into the van with the roof down and still get the bed down and Fred’s basket in. With this arrangement we can do that with space to spare.
And that was it. The basic Kyham canopy went with the van when we sold it so then it was on to the new one…..