Running a small caravan site I’ve seen our guests take down and pack up hundreds of awnings over the years. How successfully the process goes depends on lots of different factors. The weather obviously plays a significant part in how well taking down and packing away the awning goes. Now ideally, when you take the awning down it will be a dry/calm day. However, sometimes you have just got to take the awning down no matter what the weather. So with this post, I wanted to provide a sort of beginners guide for taking down and packing up an awning in ideal and none ideal weather conditions. Furthermore, I’ll include a couple of videos with regards to pole awnings and air awnings. While the process is generally the same for both, there are few little differences you need to consider.
I’ve now written quite a lot of posts around awnings such as best caravan awnings and motorhome awnings. I’ve discussed the pros and cons of air vs pole awnings as well as the benefits of small porch awnings. I’ve frequently discussed the various considerations about putting up the different types of awnings. However, I’ve never actually discussed an equally important topic, how to take them down and pack them away. Please note, this particular post is not about taking down and packing away rollout awnings. As rollout awnings are very simple to set up and pack away. This post is focused on how to take down and fold up air and pole awnings.
Introduction to Taking Down and Packing Away Awnings for Caravans and Motorhomes
There is an ongoing debate in the caravanning community about whether air awnings are easier to put up than pole awnings. Well, there are also differences when it comes to taking them down aswell. As I’ve previously discussed in my previous awning related posts, I think air awnings are simpler, but not necessarily easier to put up. The reason being that air awnings can take more effort and time to actually get into the awning rail. When it comes to taking the different types of awning down I’ve also observed a few differences. In fact, while I do not think air awnings are necessarily easier to put up, I do think they are easier to take down. I’ll get on to why that’s the case later in the post. However, first off I wanted to reference some of the best videos I’ve found on how to take down and pack up air and pole caravan awnings.
How to Take Down/Pack Up a Pole Awning
Now I obviously can’t reference the individual instructions from every awning manufacturer. So please bear in mind the information below and the video is a ‘general guide’. If the instructions for your particular awning state otherwise, always follow those instructions. Isabella produces some of the highest quality pole awnings for caravans. I came across the video below from Isabella Awnings and its generally good advice on how to take down and pack up any pole based caravan awning.
While your particular pole awning may be larger or smaller than the one seen in the video above the same basic steps and principles apply. Below I’ve just highlighted some important points from the video that everyone taking down and folding an awning should consider. I’m not going to state to empty the awning beforehand, because let’s be honest, that’s a bit too obvious.
- Remove any internal curtains/blinds/awning lights
- Remove all of the pegs closest the caravan and along the sides of the awning. If windy, only remove the pegs on the front of the awning once lowered.
- First, remove any additional support poles which may be present.
- Then remove the central roof support poles.
- Lowering the front poles may help if you need to remove a front canopy.
- Bring the foot of the central vertical support pole forward to lower the height of the awning.
- Then remove the remaining corner roof support poles.
- Remove the side legs and horizontal support poles.
- Finally, remove the central vertical support pole.
As this point, all of the support structure of the pole awning has been removed. Before you start to remove the awning fabric from the caravan rail you want to bag up all the poles so they are out of the way. This way you will avoid damaging the poles, or the poles damaging the cover while its been lowered to the ground. At this point, you may also want to consider removing the draught skirt. Once the awning cover has been removed from the awning rail and on the groundsheet, you can then fold it up on the groundsheet. When folding up an awning cover, bear the following in mind.
- Use the width of your awning bag as a datum for how wide to fold and roll your awning.
- Always fold the awning clean side to clean side, which also means dirty side to dirty side.
Some awning bags provide more room than others. So make sure you have folded and rolled the awning cover to suit the size of your particular bag: Image – Amazon
How to Take Down/Pack Up an Air Awning
If you have or are looking to purchase an air awning the process of taking down and packing away an air awning is a little different to a pole awning. While you obviously have no rigid poles to remove and pack away you have got to remove the air from the support beams before you can fully lower and fold up the awning. As I stated above with regards to pole awnings, the guidance shown in the video below and my own comments is only general advice. For specific instructions, always follow the manufacturers instructions for your specific awning. When it comes to air awnings the most common brands I see here at Horton Common are Kampa and Vango. Therefore, below I’ve included a video from the YouTube channel Here We Tow, where Julian is going through the process he personally follows to lower and pack away his Vango air awning.
I think Julians points with regards to having a sturdy bag to store your awning pegs is important. Most caravaners need to be prepared for hard and soft ground conditions. Therefore, you can end up having a lot of awning pegs to carry. Having a cloth to clean the mud off the pegs before you place them in the bag I also think is good advice.
I also agree with Julian that you don’t want to be folding up an awning on a gravel surface. Stones could damage the awning fabric/windows. Ideally, you would fold up the awning on top of the groundsheet. If that’s not possible try and find a grass area. Now I collect the grass when I mow here at Horton Common, however, some site owners don’t. Therefore in that situation folding up an awning on grass can be a pain. As you end up getting some grass inside the awning as its folded up.
Leave your awning carpet/groundsheet in place until the end, as its the ideal surface to fold your awning on if there is sufficient space: Image – Amazon
Air Valves and Folding the Awning
Depending on the make and model of air awning the exact procedure to follow varies. Some air awnings have a single inflation point, others have an individual inflation point on each support beam. Whichever is the case, make a visual note of the location of the inflation points on your awning. When you come to fold up the air awning you want to roll towards the air valves. Hence, you will be pushing the air out of the awning. If you don’t do this its likely you will trap some air inside the awning. If that happens you may not be able to get the awning into its bag. Furthermore, putting pressure on the awning to try and force it into the bag may damage an air bladder. Then when you come to put up the air awning again you may find out you have a leak in the air awning.
Considerations When Taking Down/Packing Away Awnings
The above information and videos have provided you with some general instruction, recommendations and tips for taking down/packing away both air and pole awnings. However, before I end this post I want to discuss some important considerations and some of my own observations over the years when it comes to taking down/folding up various awnings.
Weather Conditions – Wind and Rain
Ok, it should be fairly obvious you don’t want to have to take an awning down in the wind or rain. Granted sometimes you just have to, but it should be avoided where possible. As Julian states in the video above, due to impending bad weather, he lowered their awning a couple of days before the end of their trip. First off, let’s discuss wind. Now, here at Horton Common, we do have amazing views at our elevated location. However, those views also come with higher than average wind speeds. Therefore, unless its a calm day I never recommend you try and take down an awning on your own if someone else is available. The video below is relevant in this regard. Its the official video from Vango on how to pack away their air awnings. As you can see, they are having to take down the awning in less than ideal conditions.
After watching the video above you will appreciate just how important it is during windy weather to have two people to keep an awning under control. Granted, if its just a small porch awning, even in windy weather a single person can normally keep it under control. Another important point is leaving the front row of pegs in place until just before the awning is pulled from the rail. Hence, the awning is still anchored to the ground to some degree up until its finally lowered to the ground.
Lowering Air vs Pole Awnings in Windy Weather
From my own observations of watching our guest’s awnings cope with windy weather conditions I generally feel air awnings cope better. I also feel its safer to take down air awnings in windy weather. With a pole awning in windy weather, it will be bouncing up and down. As you are trying to remove the poles a couple of things can happen. The poles may up hurting you or damaging your awning fabric. With an air awning as there are no rigid poles to deal with I generally think they are the safer option to take down in windy weather.
Lowering and Packing Up Awnings in the Rain
Now its no fun putting up or taking down an awning in the rain. However, with regards to taking down and packing up an awning in the rain that presents its own issue. If you have to pack away an awning wet you need to get it out again to dry out as soon as possible. Due to the sheer size of many awnings that going to be a bit of a challenge if your garden isn’t big enough. However, if you don’t unpack the awning to dry out you may get a nasty surprise next time you come to use it. You may find your awning has become a breeding ground for mould. Not only will it smell pretty disgusting, but mould can also discolour the awning fabric. You will then want to clean your awning the best you can to return it to its previous condition.
The Benefits of a Proper Peg Mallet
I’m really not a fan of the basic peg mallets and awning peg puller tools that come as standard with most awnings. The mallets for one typically have a cheap wooden handle. When you actually have to put some force behind the mallet to drive a peg in hard ground on more than one occasion I’ve snapped the wooden handle. In term of the standard peg puller, I often find it too short and the handle too narrow. Therefore, when trying to pull a peg out of the ground which is particularly stuck in its not easy or comfortable to do so. The best option I’ve come across is the Moscatelli camping mallet. Its well built, and I can pull the toughest pegs out of the ground with ease.
This Moscatelli peg mallet is by far the best I’ve ever used for driving pegs into the ground and pulling them out again: Image – Amazon
Conclusions on Taking Down and Packing Away Caravan Awnings
When it comes to taking down and packing away any caravan or motorhome awning the best advice I can give is to plan ahead and be prepared. Hence, check the weather forecast. If you have a large awning it is often best to take it down while the weather is still reasonable. With a smaller porch awning there are fewer risks of it ‘going wrong’, but with any awning, you really do want to avoid taking it down in the rain for the reasons stated above. In windy conditions, I do believe taking down a pole awning carries more risk to you and the awning. To the point, I might even advise having some safety specs in the caravan. As poles falling out and hitting you in the face/eye is not that far fetched. Finally, try and fold the awning upon the groundsheet if possible. It will do the best job of protecting the awning fabric as its folded/rolled up.
Thanks for reading. I hope this post and the associated videos have helped to answer your questions on how to take down and fold up/pack away either a poll or air awning. Remember though, take the above information onboard with your awning manufactures own instructions, and follow those instructions first and foremost. I also hope at some point you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common caravan site. 🙂