Many of our guests here at Horton Common choose to erect an awning on the side of their caravan. The range of caravans awnings on offer today can be pretty daunting, especially for a caravanning beginner. Therefore with this post, I wanted to discuss the different types and sizes of caravan awning on offer so you can decide which will best suit your needs and budget. You may be aware of the air vs pole awning debate within the caravan community. The reality is both air awnings and pole awnings have their strengths and weaknesses. However, that’s not the only decision you have to make.
Would a full-sized awning suit you best or a small porch awning? Do you want the option of being able to add an annexe? Perhaps the convenience of a roll-out caravan awning would suit you best? There are lots of factors to consider, and I hope this post can help you to answer those questions.
Something I do want to quickly note, no matter what type of caravan awning you choose you always want to make sure you have a decent set of awning pegs and storm straps. Here at Horton Common while we have amazing views over the Staffordshire Moorlands and Peak District National Park, we do have higher than average wind speeds.
However, any caravan site from time to time can get windy. So you want to make sure your awning stays fixed to the ground and not up and over your caravan.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or Caravan Guard are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase, with no additional cost to you.
Introduction to Caravan Awnings
In order to choose the best type and size of caravan awning to suit your needs you first need to think about how you will be using your caravan. For instance, do you wish to use your caravan on mainly short weekend trips or will you be staying on the caravan site for several weeks at a time?
Furthermore, do you want to use the caravan and awning all year round, or are you mainly focused on summer touring? Below is a list of questions I think you need to ask yourself before purchasing an awning.
Ask Yourself the Following Questions:
- Is the awning primarily for weekend use or longer/seasonal stays?
- Is the awning for all year round or just summer use?
- Will anyone or pets be sleeping in the awning?
- Do you want sufficient space for a table and chairs?
- Will you be putting the awning up on your own?
- Will the awning be stored in the caravan or your car?
After you have reviewed the information below your answers to the above questions will help you to determine which size and type of caravan awning will best suit your needs.
However, in some instances, one single type/size of caravan awning may not suit all your requirements. Hence, that’s why several of our guests have a small/porch awning for weekend trips and a large full-sized awning for longer stays.
In some instances, a porch awning due to the low weight and speed to put is a more practical/better option to a full-sized caravan awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
I like to reference other content in my posts, particularly videos when I feel they provide good information. Therefore, I would encourage you to watch the video below from Keith and Michelle of the YouTube channel Carefree Caravanning. They have done an overview of roll-out, air and pole caravan awnings.
Below I’m going to cover the different types and sizes of caravan awnings in more detail. The information below is a collection of my own thoughts along with the feedback I’ve received from our guests. My intention is not to imply that a particular manufacturer or brand is superior to another.
Or to imply that a particular size/type of awning is better than another in all circumstances. Each type/size of caravan awning has its own strengths and weaknesses. Whichever type or size of caravan awning described below will best suit you will depend on your own personal circumstances. Hence, when you read the information below, keep in mind your own answers to the awning related questions above.
Which Type: Air, Pole or Roll-Out Caravan Awnings?
Before I discuss the different sizes of awnings I first wanted to discuss the three main different types of awnings used with caravans today. I have previously written associated posts which I’ll link to which go into more specific detail.
However, in this particular post, I want to summarise my thoughts and the feedback I’ve received from our guests on the different awning types.
Air/Inflatable Awnings for Caravans
There is no doubt that air awnings have grown in popularity in recent years. Each year here at Horton Common I see more and more guests turning up with air awnings. The main appeal of air awnings appears to be easy of use as they are simple to erect.
For instance, once the air awning has been fed into the caravans awning rail its pretty much simply a case of connecting the foot/electric pump and up the awning goes!
A typical example of a caravan air awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
What are the Benefits of Caravan Air Awnings?
The first benefit as stated above is air awnings are simpler to put up, with regards to the fact you are not having to play around with poles. You are not having to spend time having to find the right pole and work out where it goes etc. Therefore air awnings can be quicker to put up in some circumstances when working with a partner.
As Keith notes in the video above, some air awnings have single inflation ports where with others you have to inflate each air beam. I believe this is an important feature to look out for. As when I have been observing our guests with different types of air awning its easier to put up an air awning with a single inflation point. With a single inflation point, all parts of the awning raise together at the same time.
Furthermore, from my own observations, I believe as a general rule air awnings cope better with higher wind speeds. Under higher wind speeds air awnings flex and move with the wind. Hence, absorbing the energy of the wind instead of trying to fight against it. However, as stated above, whichever type of awning you choose, you want to make sure you have decent pegs and storm straps.
What are the Drawbacks of Caravan Air Awnings?
Ok, so the first drawback is currently on a like for like basis with a pole awning of similar size you have to pay more for an air awning. Now, as air awning technology continues to develop and manufacturing costs reduce air awnings may achieve price parity with pole awnings. However, until that happens, the fact is currently you have to pay a premium for an air awning.
Furthermore, while I do believe air awnings as a general rule are ‘simpler’ to put up I don’t believe they are necessarily ‘easier’ to erect. There is a subtle difference between the two terms, but its an important difference. For instance, as air awnings are ‘as one’ they are heavier than a pole awning cover.
Hence, it can be much harder and slower to actually get an air awning into a caravan awning rail. Therefore, it can actually be slower to put up an air awning on your own, than a couple putting up a pole awning. This is discussed more in my post on air vs pole awnings.
Finally, its important to acknowledge that leaks with caravan air awnings can happen. Leaks are not an issue I’ve discussed frequently with our guests, but they are a possibility. I do also have a post on how to repair air awnings. Therefore, if you are considering an air awning I would encourage you to read that post.
Furthermore, if you do end up purchasing an air awning I would recommend having a puncture repair kit in the caravan ready just in case a leak occurs.
If you do choose to go with an air awning, I would recommend having a repair kit to hand in the caravan just in case: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Pole Awnings for Caravans
Pole awnings are often referred to as traditional caravan awnings. However, pole awnings have continued to develop over the decades. Cheaper pole awnings are still using steel/galvanised poles. However, premium awning manufacturers such as Isabella now offer lightweight but very strong IXL fibreglass poles. They also offer carbon fibre reinforced poles called CarbonX.
A typical example of a caravan pole awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
What are the Benefits of Pole Type Caravan Awnings?
Well, first off compared to an inflatable air awning you obviously don’t have to worry about air leaks. Furthermore, as discussed above as you are only pulling the awning fabric through the awning rail its generally quicker and easier to do than with an air awning.
As comparably sized pole awnings are cheaper than air awnings that is obviously a benefit. What this also means is you may want to consider investing in a higher quality pole awning with better quality fabric, more details below.
What are the Drawbacks of Pole Type Caravan Awnings?
The complexity of erecting a pole awning is definitely a drawback to some people. Hence, this is one of the main reasons our guests have told me they changed from a pole to an air awning. However, it is worth noting with properly labelled/colour coded poles the process will go a lot more smoothly.
However, the first time you erect a pole awning expect it to take much longer than the manufacturer states. Now, in most instances for full-sized (not porch) pole awnings, you really need two people. However, as stated above, I would probably actually say to get a full-sized air awning into the awning rail two people are recommended.
Roll-Out Awnings for Caravans
I have a full post on roll-out awnings for caravans. Therefore, if you are seriously considering this option I would encourage you to read that post. The name of this type of awning obviously perfectly describes its function. Roll-out awnings fit into the same awning rail on the side of the caravan as any other awning.
When not in use it simply rolls up and is enclosed in a zipped bag. The roll-out awning hangs on the side of the caravan during transit. Now, you could technically leave a roll-out on a caravan all year round. However, personally, I would remove it for over-winter storage otherwise its going to get very green.
A typical example of a roll-out caravan awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
What are the Benefits of Roll-Out Caravan Awnings?
For simple convenience and ease of use roll-out caravan awnings are pretty hard to beat. Roll out the awning, put up two corner poles/guy ropes and you’re done! I personally believe the best benefit of roll-out awnings is as a temporary sunshade instead of adding sides and turning them into an enclosed awning.
I’ll often have guests turn up for weekend trips on calm days in July/August and use a roll-out awning. They do not need additional living space, they are just looking for some shade from the hot summer sun to enjoy their time outside the caravan. As most caravans don’t have air conditioning, the shade and ventilation a roll-out awning can offer is very appealing.
What are the Drawbacks of Roll-Out Caravan Awnings?
From the comments I’ve received from our guests and other comments I’ve read, roll-out awnings are not the best option to cope with wind. Hence, this is why I believe if you are looking for an enclosed awning to provide more private living space an air or pole awning will be a better option.
However, I still rate roll-out awnings as an ideal summer sunshade. If the wind did pick up as long as the awning sides are not fitted a roll-out awning can be packed away in just a few minutes. Hence, the best awning to cope with wind is an awning you can quickly pack up.
Which Size: Small Porch or Full-Sized Awning?
After reading the advantages/disadvantages of the different caravan awnings above you may have an idea of which type will be best for you. However, I believe the type and size of awning have to be considered together. As well as your own answers to the awning related questions above.
My comments below on porch vs full-sized awnings primarily focus on pole vs air awnings. From my perspective, the main and most practical use of roll-out awnings is as a sunshade. Therefore, roll-out awnings are not really applicable to my comments on porch vs full-sized awnings.
When to Consider a Caravan Porch Awning
If you are touring as a single person or a couple who prefers just short weekend breaks a porch awning in many instances will be your best option. With a pole awning, the smaller size will obviously mean fewer poles. Hence it will be much easier and quicker to erect.
With a smaller porch air awning its much easier to pull it through the awning rail compared to a full-sized awning. Its simply much more practical to put up a porch awning on a short stay trip. You should be able to put up a pole/air porch awning in under an hour.
A typical example of a small caravan air porch awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
The benefits of a porch awning are first to create some separation between the outside environment and your caravan. Hence, when you open the caravan door heat is not drawn out so easily and wind and rain don’t just go straight into the caravan.
A porch awning also provides a space to keep your potentially muddy shoes. While space is obviously limited in a porch awning there is often space for a small table/chairs. Perhaps you want to store bikes in the porch awning or create a sleeping area for your dog.
As stated at the start of this post, we have guests who own both a porch awning for short weekend visits and a full-sized awning for longer trips. I also have guests who have downsized from a full-sized awning and now find that a porch awning can meet all their needs.
We also have guests who have told me in the past they would love to put up their full-sized awning but just don’t have the energy to do so. Hence, there are many instances where a porch awning is a better solution than a full-sized awning. But furthermore, a porch awning is often a better option than no awning at all.
When to Consider a Full-Sized Caravan Awning
So when is a full-sized awning going to suit your needs best over a porch awning? Well, there are a couple of different scenarios really. First, you will be staying at a caravan site for more than just a few days. Otherwise, in very few circumstances will the time it takes to put up and pull down a full-sized caravan awning make sense.
Second, you either have a lot of stuff to take with you, are looking for a large dining/seating area or people/pets are going to be sleeping in the awning.
A typical example of a full-sized caravan air awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Now, to be honest, I’m being a bit general with the term full-sized awning. I’m generally referring to any awning wider than 2-3m. Many people might reasonably describe a full-sized awning as one which extends the full length of the caravan.
Now, up until a few years ago, I would probably also have used that as a general description for a full-sized awning. However, in recent years, there have been some developments. For instance, Bailey has a new range of small caravans called Discovery.
There is an awning you can get specifically designed for this caravan that is a ‘wrap-around’ awning. This takes the definition of a full-sized awning to a whole new level. The space within the awning is far larger than the living space in the caravan!
Full-Sized Awning Annexes
Now, for many people, a full-sized awning as standard will provide sufficient space. However, many caravan awning manufacturers also offer the option to add one or two annexes on either side of the awning.
Typically a section of the sidewall of the awning unzips and the annexe is connected to the main awning via the same zip. The annexe will then have an additional air beam/pole for support and you need to fix down some additional guy ropes.
A typical example of a caravan air awning annexe: Image – Amazon.co.uk
My parents have a full-sized Isabella awning for their caravan with two annexes. The caravan itself is just a four berth. However, when at a site I’ll turn up and sleep in one of the awning annexes and typically my sister and her partner will sleep in the other annexe.
Now actually getting comfortable sleeping in an awning annexe is another question as discussed in my post on caravan bedding. However, really its obviously just like sleeping in a separate tent. The benefit being it gives quicker and easier access to the caravans facilities.
This is an example of a conservatory annexe which will let in more natural light. However, this particular annexe is obviously not ideal as a sleeping area: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Another benefit of awning annexes is you only put them up when you need them. Hence, you could consider a smaller awning with additional annexes. Erecting the awning on its own for say weekend trips, and adding the annexes for longer stays.
Hence, instead of owning a porch awning and a large full-sized awning, you could just own a smaller full-sized awning and a couple of annexes.
Awning Weather/Use Classifications and Fabrics
Above, I described the three main types of caravan awning based on their core structure of either air beams or rigid poles. However, under each type of caravan awning there are further classifications depending on how suitable the awning is for specific weather conditions, namely:
- Winter Rated Awnings (Type W) – Designed for snow loading
- Residential Rated Awnings (Type R) – Designed for seasonal pitches
- Touring Rated Awnings (Type T) – Frequent/Short Use (not winter though)
- Lightweight Rated Awnings (Type L) – Primarily short/spring/summer use
Awning Fabric Choice is Important
A significant factor in terms of how a caravan awning is going to perform and how long it will last comes down to the choice of fabric. Some fabrics breathe better than others so internal condensation issues are reduced. Other fabrics are more durable, hence less likely to suffer UV damage and tearing.
Some awning fabrics are lightweight, therefore may be the best option if you have a minimal payload allowance in your caravan or car. There is actually a huge range of factors to consider when it comes to the pros and cons of awning fabrics. The table below provides a good summary and the associated link goes into even more detail.
Conclusions How to Choose the Best Caravan Awning for You
Hopefully, you can see from the above, to actually choose the best type and size of caravan awning for your needs you need fully understand how and when you want to use the awning. If you purchase a full-sized awning when its unnecessary for your requirements you will likely stop wanting to use it due to the effort and time to put it up and take it down.
Alternatively, a porch awning while ideal for short weekend trips obviously provides limited space which may be needed on longer stays. This is potentially where a small full-sized awning with optional annexes could be a more suitable option. Whatever size of awning you choose, always fit the draught skirt.
With regards to the air/inflatable awning vs rigid pole debate, I personally feel there is no outright winner/best option. Whichever will be best for you will very much depend on your budget and if you have someone to help you to put up and take down the awning.
Finally, with regards to awning weather ratings and fabric options, this again may take you some time to decide on the best option. When cleaning a caravan awning you need to know what your awning fabric is and what products are safe to use. Furthermore, as I discuss in my post on the best awning groundsheets using a pressure washer may or may not be possible.
Thanks for reading this round-up post on my thoughts about the different types and sizes of caravan awnings. I really hope it does help you to find the best type and size of caravan awning to meet your needs. After the caravan, its self, the awning besides maybe a motor mover is the biggest additional expense. I also hope in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common caravan site. 🙂