Since opening Horton Common in 2014 I’ve had guests turn up with pretty much every brand and type of caravan awning you can think of. However, over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of guests setting up with inflatable caravan air awnings. I’ll often see other guests going to talk to those who have chosen to take the ‘leap of faith’ to an inflatable caravan air awning. They often ask questions such as:
- How durable is an inflatable awning?
- Does an inflatable air awning weigh more?
- Can one person set up an inflatable air awning on their own?
- How often do you have to pump up an inflatable awning?
- Does an air awning expand when the air temperature rises?
- Can I use an electric pump to raise an inflatable awning?
I thought with this post I would try and answer some of these questions and then provide some details on the most popular inflatable air awnings currently on the market.
While inflatable caravan air awnings are becoming more popular are they really a better option when compared to a standard pole awning? Image – Amazon
How Durable is an Inflatable Air Awning?
The first company to develop the concept of the inflatable awning was Vango with their Air Beam concept. The construction of the air tubes is based on a canvas outer materials with a thick PVC inner tube. You may be wondering how durable is this PVC air tube to withstand punctures etc? Well from the feedback I’ve received from guests pretty robust. I’ve only had one person mention to me a beam which had a slow leak. However, it was a second-hand purchase from eBay, so that comes with the territory. They were able to get it sorted though relatively easily. Of those who purchased their inflatable air awnings from new, I’ve not heard any horror stories of leaky air beams.
Are inflatable caravan air awnings such as this Kampa Air Pro Rally 390 as durable as a standard pole awning? Image – Amazon
One thing I do know of is that inflatable air awnings are much better at dealing with the wind. Due to our location at Horton Common, we have amazing views but the wind at certain times of the year will be higher than in other locations. Inflatable caravan air awnings are much better at dealing with gusts of wind. With a standard pole awning (depending on the make and how it was put up) the poles can come out of position. However, inflatable caravan awnings just bend with the wind and then pop back into position! That doesn’t mean that I don’t still recommend decent storm straps and pegs to keep the awning in position.
Does an inflatable air awning weigh more?
This is something that a few guests with an inflatable air awning have commented on. Yes, an air awning does weight more than standard pole awning. The reason being the ‘all in one’ nature of an air awning. With a pole awning, you have two separate bags, one containing the awning fabric and one for the poles. Well for an air awning its just one thing, and there is more fabric/PVC involved.
Can one person set up an inflatable air awning on their own?
So this carries on quite well from the previous question. Inflatable air awnings can be easier to put up on your own. However, the additional weight of an inflatable air awning needs to be a consideration. Remember, lift with your legs and not your back 🙂 . Depending on the design and manufacturer there will either be an air valve for each pole, or a single air value (cross-beam). I’ve often heard the joke from guests about an awning is ‘divorce in a bag’. Therefore if you are looking to put up an air awning on your own you should be looking for a cross-beam design. With a cross-beam awning, it’s simply a case of laying it out and connecting the pump to one air value. A couple of pumps later your awning is up, divorce avoided!
To make it easier for one person to put up an awning you could consider an Easy Awning Pulley – Image: Amazon
Top Tip: One of the hardest parts of putting an awning up on your own is getting it into the rail. Now, you may be tempted to use a bit of WD40 or a similar product to lubricate the rail. However, WD40 and detergent based products can actually de-nature the weatherproofing on the fabric of your awning. Therefore, purchasing a small bottle of awning rail lubricant is a better option. With proper lubrication, it can be possible for one person to pull the awning along the caravan rail.
How often do you have to pump up an inflatable awning?
Once set up correctly you shouldn’t have to be getting the pump out again. I have seen a few guests checking the pressure of their air beams once a week, with maybe the odd pump. Most manufacturers such as Kampa recommend a pressure of between 8-11 psi. If the poles do appear to be dropping, its often not a puncture of the air beam but a loose-fitting. There are dark grey tubes with cross-beam awnings that link the air poles together. During storage, packaging or assembly they may have been disturbed. Kampa provides a 2-year warranty on the air poles. However, it is also possible to repair the beams with an approved tape and adhesive.
Does an air awning expand when the air temperature rises?
This is a reasonable question, after all, you don’t want to hear a loud bang when the sun comes out and to see your air awning on the ground! Kampa who is one of the main brands when it comes to air awnings state temperature rise is not an issue. As stated the recommended inflation pressure is between 8-11psi, but they are tested up to 22psi. Kampa provides a chart to demonstrate the relationship between temperature and pressure changes.
So in the UK even in the middle of summer going above 30 degrees Celsius is a pretty rare occurrence. If you set up at 20 degrees and the temperature increased to 30 degrees over the next couple of days, that’s less than a 1psi change in pressure. So, in other words, you shouldn’t need to worry about an inflatable awning popping in hot summer days. Therefore there are no pressure relief valves fitted. This would just add to the cost and create another potential leak point.
Can I use an electric pump to raise an inflatable awning?
So most inflatable air awning manufacturers either include a manual pump with the initial purchase or offer one as an optional accessory. With a manual pump, it takes a minute or so to build up to the required pressure, but it’s not that taxing. However, some people may be interested in using an electric pump to do the work for them. Some of the inflatable air awning manufacturers provide their own electric pumps, set to a pressure of 11psi. Could you use your own pump? Well only if you can set the pressure on the pump. You don’t want to use an electric pump that will just keep trying to build pressure until something pops! You could pretty easily cause damage to the awning and void the warranty.
It is not advisable to use a 12V air compressor to inflate an air awning unless you can limit the pressure to 11 psi: Image – Amazon
Kampa Inflatable Caravan Air Awnings
Most of our guests are choosing to purchase Kampa air awnings. Kampa are a popular brand in the outdoor leisure market, they also have a range of popular caravan kettles. While Vango initially created the principle and have a strong presence in the inflatable tent market, it’s Kampa who appear to be dominating the inflatable caravan awning market. The video below shows their current range of air awnings and accessories:
Notable Kampa Awning Features
For those of you not able to watch the video above I thought I would just highlight a few of the notable features of Kampa inflatable air awnings:
Dual Pitched Roof System
Something which was obvious from the initial inflatable awnings was that head height wasn’t as good as a traditional awning. There were wide and thick curved air beams which anyone around 6 foot would have to duck underneath. However, now Kampa has been able to improve the design with the Dual Pitched roof. Not only does this feature improve head height it also has benefits with regards to dealing with wind and rain.
When you’re up close and personal with the Kampa caravan awnings you are able to appreciate the quality of fabric they are using. Their Weathershield Pro fabric has now been improved with better UV protection. There is also their Expert and 4Season fabrics to choose from depending on your circumstances.
As previously noted, our brilliant views at Horton Common do come with a higher wind speed than average. Therefore when I see an awning fitted with webbing straps apposed to a thin string I do feel more comfortable. When combined with decent pegs inflatable awnings are the best solution to deal with more exposed locations.
Limpet Ready Fixing System
The Limpet Ready (great marketing name) fixing system will fix the sides of the awning to your caravan. You feed the limpet fixings through the pre-made holes in the awning sides. The suction pads are then twisted to create the vacuum. You will notice this mechanism from modern portable SatNav systems. Its really impressive how much grip strength is created. Again, a really good solution for an awning in an exposed location.
Single Point Inflation
As mentioned previously, a cross-beam inflatable air awning design benefits from a single inflation point. This is the case with the Kampa range of caravan awnings. So through this single inflation point, you can pressurise all of the air beams in one go. If you are going to be putting up an awning on your own, a single inflation point is the way to go.
Roof Lining (Optional Extra)
So anyone who has been in a caravan awning before will appreciate the dramatic temperature changes that take place. Especially if you have slept in an awning annexe like myself. Within the same day, you can wake up cold in the morning to sweating buckets at midday. Well, Kampa is now offering an optional roof lining for their inflatable awnings to address this issue. How successful it is I’m just not sure, I’ve not had any guests with it fitted as yet. Presumably, the roof liner is reflective to keep the heat out from the sun but keep the inside warmer when it’s cold. Depending on the cost this could be an option worth considering.
Sabre Link LED Awning Lighting
Having to use your phone as a torch to walk around the awning at night is a pain. There are various camping lights available. However to get the best illumination you want the lights within the roof of the awning. The Kampa Sabre Link LED lighting system is modular and can be fitted with up to three light bars. In total it can offer up to 450 LED’s to provide enough light for an evening dining in the awning. The Sabre Link comes with a remote control, with various options including dimming. There are various other LED lighting systems on the market which may be cheaper. However, if your shrewd, you may be able to get the Sabre Link at those prices if you purchase it along with a new awning.
Downdraught Air Pump
Anyone who is reasonably fit and healthy will with relative easy be able to use a manual pump for an inflatable awning. The Downdraight pump included with Kampa inflatable awning purchases is pretty easy to use. I’ve had a go before with one of our guests Kampa awnings. On the upstroke, there is no resistance. So while it will take more pumps to raise the awning, you are able to use your weight to compress the pump. Its a pretty well-made piece of kit and the pressure gauge means you always know when to stop.
Gale Electric Pump (Kampa Approved)
As mentioned previously, you shouldn’t use just any electric pump or air compressor. Doing so could lead to severe damage to you your inflatable air awning. The approved option from Kampa is the Gale electric pump. You simply set the Psi and the pump works until that pressure is achieved.
New Kampa Inflatable Awning Range
In 2018 Kampa introduced more awnings to their current range which includes the:
- Frontier AIR Pro 300
- Ace AIR All-Season 400
- Rally AIR Pro Grande 390
- Rally AIR Pro Plus 260 LH
What is the Cheapest Kampa Air Awning?
Ok, I’m excluding used Kampa inflatable air awnings, though there are some very good deals on eBay. The cheapest Kampa air awning currently available appears to be the 2017 version of the Kampa Ace Air Pro 400 on Amazon.
Kampa Inflatable Awning Prices
You do need to be aware that you are going to be spending more on an inflatable air awning that for a standard pole awning. Therefore you need to weigh up the benefits of better wind resistance and ease of setup over that additional cost. For instance, while I’ve been impressed with the air awnings I’ve seen on site, the material quality and stitching are not as good as my fathers Isabella awning for instance. Isabella awnings are also not cheap, so you are looking at a similar cost to inflatable air awnings.
Standard pole Isabella awnings are not cheap, but the fabric materials do appear to be a higher quality to a comparably priced inflatable air awning: Image – Amazon
Kampa Trustpilot Reviews
As stated above, I’ve probably had 20-30 guests to our site over the last couple of years with inflatable air awnings. Most of those have been Kampa awnings and most of them have not experienced any significant issues. However, from some of the reviews for Kampa on Trustpilot, unfortunately, some people are having issues.
Something you do have to bear in mind is that most people who are happy with a product don’t bother to write a review. Therefore the Trustpilot rating for Kampa should not instantly make you dismiss the idea of purchasing an inflatable caravan air awning. However, that also doesn’t mean you should ignore the issues experienced by some individuals. The issues range from concerns over the build quality and customer service.
What other Brands of Inflatable Air Awning are there?
Quest Leisure Products
Based in the Midlands (Redditch) Quest Leisure Products have been in business for 25 years. They offer a considerable range of inflatable air awnings. However, it’s not clear who developed them. As the same design of awnings can also be purchased under the Westfield brand. The notable features of their inflatable awnings include:
- Advanced Air System (AAS) – There is an inflatable internal bladder which is surrounded by dual-layer polyester cover. These air tubes then slide into sleeves within the awning cover its self. Worth noting with the Quest awnings, the air tubes are individually inflated.
- HydroDore SL PRO Fabric – Apparently, this fabric has a 4000mm hydrostatic head pressure rating. For reference, anything above 1000mm is considered a fully waterproof fabric.
- Anti-Weather System (AWS) – This includes additional features such as guttering around windows and more use of PVC components.
Quest/Westfield Inflatable Air Awning Prices
Something that is very clear is that these products are priced as a ‘budget’ alternative. For instance, their porch awnings such as the Lynx and Dorado start at just under £300. Larger full-sized caravan awnings such as the Omega and Aires are between £750 and £1,000. Obviously significantly cheaper than offerings from Kampa.
Quest/Westfield Inflatable Air Awning Reviews
None of our guests to Horton Common has as yet come with a Quest/Westfield inflatable awning. Therefore I’ve had no feedback in that regard. I’ve done some quick browsing through Google, Amazon and eBay reviews, and there are not many reviews for the Quest inflatable awnings. However, from those that were available, I’ve not read any horror stories of leaky air tubes etc.
The range of inflatable caravan air awnings that Sunncamp offer isn’t quite as considerable as that of Quest/Westfield. However, they are also targeting the budget end of the market. Information about Sunncamp on its website (even its address) is not readily available. Therefore, that doesn’t exactly build confidence in the quality of the products their offering.
This is the 2015 Swift 220 inflatable air awning from SunnCamp: Image – Amazon
SunnCamp Inflatable Awning Prices
As stated above, SunnCamp is a budget brand, the Swift 220 porch awning from the image above is currently £248 (August 2019) on Amazon.
SunnCamp Inflatable Awning Reviews
Again, as with the Quest awnings, there isn’t a lot of reviews out there. They are a smaller brand compared to Kampa, so that is understandable. The most significant number of reviews I could find was for their Amazon listing of the Swift 390:
The Amazon reviews for the SunnCamp Swift 390 are actually very positive on build quality and value for money: Image – Amazon
A Danish-based company and a big European player in the family tent market. Outwell are not competing against Quest or SunnCamp, they are a premium brand. Therefore, their products are more similar to the offerings from Kampa and Vango.
Outwell is a premium brand of inflatable caravan air awnings based in Denmark: Image – Amazon
Outwell Inflatable Air Awning Prices
The prices on the Outwell website start from £599 for the Cover 400A up to £1,699 for the large Reed 650SE.
Outwell Inflatable Air Awning Reviews
To date, I’ve only had one guest with an Outwell air awning. I personally was impressed with the build quality. The fabrics, in particular, looked to be of good quality.
Outdoor Revolution is based in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and appears to have their own in house design team and have been operating for over 13 years. They offer quite a considerable range of inflatable awnings from porch to full sized.
Outdoor Revolution Elise 390 Caravan Touring Inflatable Air Porch Awning: Image – Amazon
Outdoor Revolution Inflatable Air Awning Prices
Price wise, Outdoor Revolution is also targeting themselves as a premium brand. Prices start from around £500 for the E-Sport Air 325 up to around £1,00 for the Esprit 420 Pro.
Outdoor Revolution Inflatable Air Awning Reviews
I was able to find several very positive reviews for Outdoor Revolution and their inflatable air awnings on the Google listings for their products. In fact, I was actually unable to find a negative review at all!
As stated at the start of this post, it was Vango that really developed this concept of inflatable caravan air awnings. Vango is based in the Scottish Highlands and has been producing tents since 1966. They are another premium brand who are continuing to develop their air awning technology.
Vango produce some of the best quality inflatable awnings – Image: Amazon
Vango Inflatable Air Awning Prices
The cheapest awning from Vango currently is the Rapid III 250 at £450. Their top of the range unit includes the Vienna 400 and the Florence 420 at around £2,000.
Vango Inflatable Air Awning Reviews
There are not that many text reviews of the Vango air awnings however there is an excellent video review of the Vango Varkala below I would encourage you to watch. The review is balanced and fair, highlighting both the pros and cons of the Vango inflatable caravan air awnings.
Conclusions on Inflatable Caravan Air Awnings
So after preparing this post in combination with the feedback I’ve received from guests, I do feel that air awnings are an option worth considering for many people. I think where air awnings particularly shine is for larger setups, with multiple annexes and porches. This is where setting up a pole based awning can be a genuine challenge. It is also often possible to repair an air awning if your awning does develop a leak. You may also be interested in my post on lights for caravan awnings. I have also recently written a post on motorhome awnings, as they are a very different proposition to a caravan awning. If you are still undecided I have written another post on traditional pole vs air awnings and a general post on best caravan awnings.
I hope you found this post useful and informative and you consider coming to visit us at Horton Common in the future. 🙂