At Horton Common we have a lot of guests with caravans come along with awnings. Occasionally we also have guests with motorhomes arrive with an awning. However, motorhome awnings are a far less common occurrence on our site than caravans with awnings. If you are a motorhome beginner you may be wondering why motorhome awnings are less common. Well, in most cases its due to the different use of the vehicle. Many of our motorhome guests typically stay for shorter periods of time. They will be commuting to various locations, where our caravan guests typically stay for longer periods. Hence, putting up a motorhome awning may seem like a bit too much of a faff without much of a benefit. However, that’s not always the case. So with today’s post, I thought I would discuss when a motorhome awning may make sense for you and what to consider before buying one.
Where caravan awnings do differ from motorhome awnings is the use case. What I mean by that is with a caravan once its on-site its doesn’t move until the end of the visit. However, with motorhomes or campervans its a little bit different. For instance, we will have some motorhome guests who come for weekend breaks in the spring and summer months and they don’t use the motorhome to leave Horton Common. They may walk down to the village shop/pub or they may get a taxi, but the motorhome doesn’t move. In that case, you could fit the same type of awning to the motorhome as you would typically fit to a caravan.
However, quite often if we have motorhome guests who want to go to the shops or explore while they’re staying at Horton Common they will go in their motorhome. Hence, they cannot use a standard fixed awning. So what options are there? Well, with motorhomes there are two types of awning a roll/wind-out canopy awning or a permanent driveaway awning.
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Roll-Out and Wind-Out Motorhome Canopy Awnings
What are they? Well, the clue is obviously in their names, these are awnings permanently fixed to the side of the motorhome (above the door) which either roll-out or wind-out. Many of the wind-out motorhome awnings are very discrete when closed. I remember one of our guests once commenting that when they initially purchased their motorhome via private sale they didn’t notice it actually came with a wind-out awning. When it comes to roll-out and wind-out awnings the two brands to know are Fiamma and Thule.
What’s the difference between a Roll-Out and Wind-Out Awning?
Ok, I not trying to be annoyingly obviously with this title to state ‘a roll-out awning rolls out from the motorhome and a wind-out awning…’ There is actually some important differences between the two. So firstly, a roll-out awning can be much cheaper than a wind-out awning. This is due to the simplicity of roll-out awnings over wind-out awnings. For instance, take a fairly typical Fiamma 3m roll-out awning below which will cost around £300. However, you will not find a wind-out awning from Fiamma or Thule for less than £500.
This Fiamma roll-out awning is a fairly typical 3m example, in this instance fitted to a caravan: Image – Amazon.co.uk
With a roll-out awning to get it into position its a two-person job. Firstly to roll out the awing from the bag which hangs on the side of the caravan/motorhome. Secondly, once unrolled you then have to fit a series of polls to hold up the awning and keep it suspended against the side of the van. While roll-out awnings for motorhomes serve a purpose, they are definitely viewed as the budget option. Caravan rollout awnings are more common.
A wind-out awning is a very different proposition. Wind-out awnings are either manually operated or electrically via a small 12V motor. The awning and be extended from the van by one person. While you do still need to put vertical support poles in place in the corners, this again can be done by one person. Below is an example of a Fiamma wind-out awning. This is a manual version which costs around £1,100. However, the automatic 12V electric versions can cost significantly more. For the largest 4m ‘Delux’ versions they cost close to £1,800.
If you look underneath this Fiamma wind-out motorhome awning canopy you can see the large metal hinged support arms that move the awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Roll-Out vs Wind-Out Motorhome Awning Canopies
So from the above hopefully its clear what the differences are between roll-out and wind-out motorhome awnings. However, what are the specific pros and cons of each type of awning canopy? Well, roll-out awnings are obviously cheaper which means they may be more suited to your budget. Roll-out awnings are also considerably lighter than wind-out awnings. A typical roll-out awning will weight between 10-20kg depending on its size. Whereas a typical wind-out awning will weight in excess of 35kg. Therefore, even if you have the monetary budget to opt for a wind-out awning do you have the payload budget on your van? While a wind-out awning does cost more they obviously have ease of use going for them which is a big pro. That ease of use benefit applies to both the manual and automatic versions, but obviously more with the later.
How Well do Roll/Wind-Out Awnings Cope with Wind?
Here at Horton Common while we have amazing views over the Staffordshire Moorlands and Peak District National park we do have higher average wind speeds than many other caravan/motorhome sites. Hence, its why I always encourage good storm straps and pegs for awnings. However, I generally give that advice for permanent air or pole awnings. With a roll-out or wind-out awning, their use case is a little different. Presuming you don’t opt for the wall/side panel kits (as below) you can very quickly disassemble and retract these awnings. Hence, in a strange sort of way they are actually the best type of awning to cope with windy weather, because they are the quickest to take down!
Logic would dictate the sturdier and firmer wind-out awnings would cope better in windy weather if still erected over a roll-out. And that’s probably true on the face of it. On first impressions, the wind-out awning may still be in position, where the poles of the roll-out awning have fallen in the wind. However, I think under high wind speeds damage is actually more likely to a wind-out awning. If the metal mechanism on a wind-out awning became bent or buckled in the wind, it could be permanently damaged. That strength of wind does not come along that frequently, but it can happen here over winter. Hence why I close Horton Common between October and March. In summary, with either a roll-out or wind-out canopy awning, I would personally never leave them erected unattended.
Turning a Roll/Wind-Out into a ‘Proper’ Awning
It is also worth pointing out that you can turn a Fiamma roll-out or wind-out awning into a ‘proper’ awning with side and front covers with a door. Fiamma refers to this as a ‘Privacy Room’. They sell these kits for pretty much all of their roll/wind-out awnings. For instance below is an image of their Privacy Room Light 260 for their 260mm awnings:
The Fiamma Privacy Room kits provides side and front panels for their roll-out and wind-out motorhome awning canopies: Image – Amazon.co.uk
What I do like about the Fiamma awnings and the Privacy Room kits is the flexibility they provide. On some trips, you may just use the roll/wind-out awning canopy on its own. However, if you were staying on a site for longer (and not leaving) you could put the side and front panels up and you’d have a fully enclosed awning.
Now, I have used several examples above of Fiamma products for the different types of roll/wind-out awnings available. However, as I referenced at the start of this post you may also want to consider the offerings from Thule. Again, like Fiamma, Thule offers roll-out, wind-out awnings including manual and automated options. Furthermore, they also provide the option to turn their canopies into full-on awnings. While Fiamma has the Privacy Room, Thule refers to their ‘awning tents’.
This is an example of the Thule ‘awning tent’ specifically for Fiat Ducato campervans/motorhomes: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Roll/Wind-Out Motorhome Awnings – Why Would You Want One?
So in line with the theme of this post, in what circumstances would/should a motorhome owner want to consider a roll-out or wind-out awning canopy? Well personally from discussing this type of awning with our motorhome guests I think this type of awning fits well with how a motorhome can be used. A motorhome is a vehicle that can both be highly mobile or a fixed ‘base camp’. With either a roll-out or wind-out canopy awning you can use it as a temporary sunshade on sunny days or install a privacy room kit for the full-on awning experience.
However, I feel their strength really lies in their ability to be used as a temporary awning/sunshade on warm summers days. As a full-on awning, I think a driveaway awning discussed below may be a more suitable option. With a roll/wind-out awning and a Privacy Room, your motorhome is effectively stuck until you take that awning down. Therefore, with a Privacy Room kit while you do get additional shelter you do lose mobility. Therefore, I think to maintain mobility if you need a ‘proper’ awning, a driveaway awning may be a better option for you.
Driveaway Awnings for Motorhomes
As before, I don’t want to point out the obvious, but how they work is in the title. A motorhome driveaway awning can be viewed as a separate entity to your motorhome. When in use it is linked to your motorhome, often via the roll/wind-out awning. However, when you want to leave site you can relatively quickly unattach the awning from your motorhome and driveaway! There are lots of driveaway awnings to choose from, large and small. The typical size of driveaway awning may commonly be described as a porch awning. There are traditional pole options or the more modern option of an air/inflatable awning. I discuss this topic more in air awnings vs traditional pole awnings. As an introduction to the topic of driveaway motorhome awnings I’ve included the video below from Practical Motorhome:
Inflatable Motorhome Driveaway Awnings
There are a lot of mixed opinions on air awnings as I’ve previously discussed in my post are air awnings any good. They can develop punctures which I discuss in my post on how to repair an air awning. There is also a common misconception with air awnings which is also stated in the video above. Within the video above it is stated that ‘air awnings aren’t as heavy as a standard pole awning’.
Well, this statement is true and false at the same times. It is true that an air awning when you compare the total weight to that of a comparably sized air awning it may weigh less. However, that can be a bit misleading. A standard pole awning comes in multiple bags, the awning fabric in one, the poles in another. A typical air awning comes in one bag, hence its commonly, therefore, a heavy bag. Furthermore, as an air awning is ‘all-in-one’ it can be much harder to get an air awning up and through the awning rail.
However, while it can sometimes be difficult to put up an air awning on a caravan its actually much easier on a motorhome. You can see the reason why in the video above. If you have a wind-out awning canopy to attach the driveaway awning to it makes it a lot simpler. You can lower the wind-out canopy down to attach the driveaway awning to, and then retract it again to erect the driveaway awning. Hence, unlike with a caravan where you have to feed a heavy air awning up into the high awning rail, thats not the case with a motorhome and wind-out awning canopy.
A typical example of a Kampa driveaway air awning for motorhomes and campervans: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Traditional Pole Driveaway Motorhome Awnings
While air awnings are the ‘new thing’ they are also relatively expensive compared to a traditional pole driveaway motorhome awning. Also, I’ve spoken to several guests over the years who are still not interested in air awnings due to the potential leaks. Therefore, traditional pole driveaway motorhome awnings are still something you may want to consider and there are lots of options to choose from:
A typical example of a very affordable traditional pole driveaway motorhome awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
For a driveway motorhome air awning, you would be looking to spend between £700-£1,500. For a traditional pole driveaway motorhome awning, the cost is typically significantly less, starting from just a few hundred pounds. Are air awnings easier to put up than a pole awning? Typically I would say yes. With many its simply a case of spreading them out and using one valve to pump them up. However, the number of pumps it takes to get an air awning up is often understated. Air compressors can be used but you have to be very careful not to exceed the stated maxium air pressure in the manual.
Motorhome Awnings and Storage Space/Payload
Something you really need to think about before you purchase any type of awning for your motorhome is where am I going to put it and how heavy is it? This is an advantage with the roll-out and wind-out awnings discussed earlier in the post. As they are fixed to the side of your motorhome you don’t have to worry about them taking up internal storage space. This is unless of course, you want to take the Privacy Room kit with you to turn it into a full awning.
However, it is worth noting that the Privacy Room kit may take up less space in your motorhome than a separate/independent driveaway awning. For instance, the driveaway air awning example picture I provide above is going to take up a fairly significant amount of space in the motorhome. Now, depending on your class of motorhome you may have a rear garage. If that garage is not already full of bikes etc that could be a good place to store the awning. While I’m discussing payload and storage you may want to read my post on essential motorhome accessories.
So the other factor to consider is your payload. A heavy awning is obviously going to eat more into your payload limit. On smaller/mid-sized motorhomes you will often find a panel van conversion has a higher payload limit than a motorhome built on lightweight coach built chassis. The reason being a panel van conversion still has the heavy gauge steel commercial chassis as its foundation. Therefore, depending on your type of motorhome the impacts of the awning on payload may be more or less of a concern.
Conclusions on Awnings for Motorhomes, Why Would You Want One?
In the simplest terms whether you are considering a roll/wind-out awning canopy for your motorhome or a driveaway awning is about giving you more space to enjoy your time away. Yes, depending on the awning you choose there is some time attributed to getting it out, setting it up etc. However, they do provide more usable living space. Say for instance you have dogs. I have a returning guest with a motorhome and a driveway awning and that’s where the dogs sleep at night. If on the other hand going the full-on awning route doesn’t appeal to you a simple roll/wind-out awning can provide a much more comfortable seating space on hot summers days and with little effort to set up.
Anyway, I hope the above has given you something to think about if you are considering an awning for your motorhome. I also hope in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common to experience our fully serviced pitches and amazing views. 🙂