One of the more common accessories I see on four wheel drives today are side and rear awnings. They are very cheap, and extremely useful!
What is the point of an awning?
4WD awnings are designed for protecting you from the weather. They are very quick to set up, and as a result give you almost instant shade when you need it. Not only do they protect you from the sun, but they will protect you from the rain too (to a certain extent!).
Using a 4WD awning
Most awnings only take around a minute to completely set up. Unzip the bag, unclip the awning and roll it out. Fold the legs down, and then pull the other two supports out and clip them in, Strap the awning to the side supports and peg it down if required, and you are set!
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Do I need to peg them down?
On a calm day, there is no need to peg the awning down. However, I have heard of gusts of wind picking these up and flicking them. If this happens, expect a damaged awning at the least, and potentially even panel damage. I make a habit of securing mine down, purely because of the chance of it flicking. On the beach, you need sand pegs, or get a bag (the green shopping bags) and fill it up with sand, then tie the guy ropes to the bag.
Attachments for awnings
A standard awning is just to protect you from the weather. If you want, you can upgrade most awnings with various accessories. Most manufacturers sell side panels (either bug proof or solid) so you can have your own little tent on the side of the vehicle.
Majority of 4WD awnings are 2m x 2m, or 2.5m x 2m. However, remember that in the case of the larger awning, the longer measurement is the length along your vehicle, not the distance that it sticks out from the vehicle.
It’s important to think about the correct awning size for your vehicle. Most 4WDs that I see on the road have the 2m x 2m ones, because they are cheaper and a better size for a lot of things. The 2.5 metre wide awning tends to be too long, and it sticks out either side of your vehicle. My 80 series Land Cruiser has a full length roof rack, which from tip to tip is only about 2.3 metres. This means you have at least 100mm of awning sticking out (on the side of your vehicle) which is likely to get caught on stray branches. On a lot of vehicles, a 2.5 metre awning sticks out even further.
However, I have said previously that a 2.5 metre awning would be better when it comes to actually sitting under it. A 2 metre one allows for you to sit under with 2 people and a table comfortably, but if it really rains down hard then you are likely to get a bit wet. At the end of the day, measure your roof racks and decide what is going to suit the best before you commit!
Mounting an awning
It took me around an hour to mount my awning; they are really simple. Majority of the awnings come with a piece of aluminium that bolts to your roof racks. They come with bolts (6 or 8) which are used to fasten it in place. Make sure that these are stainless steel, with nyloc nuts; you don’t want them to rust, or come undone. The head of the bolt slides into the aluminium piece, and bolts through your roof racks. Some come with angles to mount the awnings on, but you may find you don’t need them.
In my case, I just measured where the awning would sit, and then marked the holes (8 of). Make sure that all of the holes are level, or you will have real issues getting the bolts to go through properly. The bolts supplied with my kit were 6mm, and I drilled 6.5mm holes. Make sure you use a centre punch; don’t let the drill bit have a chance to walk off your mark! Check that the struts on your roof rack all come down the same distance; mine didn’t, which meant I had to mount the awning up higher.
Once the holes are drilled, clean them up with a slightly bigger drill bit and paint the drilled area (if it is steel; if its aluminium you won’t have to worry!). Fit the bolts into the aluminium, in the locations that you need them. You should be able to lift the awning up yourself, and then get two bolts into their holes. Make sure you have the nuts and spanner ready, so you can fit a nut onto each. From there, move along and push the other bolts through, putting nuts on (so they bite but not tightly). Once all of the bolts are through, tighten the nuts up and you are finished!
Who makes 4WD awnings?
4WD Awnings are made by a number of companies. These include Powerful 4x4, Ironman 4x4, Tigerz 11, Roo Systems, Oztent, Kulkyne, Tough 4x4, Howling Moon, ARB, TJM and Bushranger.
Fox Wing Awnings
A product that is becoming more and more popular is known as the Fox Wing Awning. These come out from the side, and cover the side of the vehicle as well as the rear. They are massive, and come in a much bigger bag. They also cost a lot more. However, they are very popular and those that have them are extremely happy with the extra cover. Of course, you can mount a rear awning too.
A lot of companies make awnings designed specifically for the rear of the vehicle. Whether you use them in combination with a side awning or just separately, they are another great variation.
What side should I mount the awning?
I did a bit of research in regards to what side the awning is best mounted on. Both sides have a few advantages and disadvantages. The passenger’s side seems to be more popular from what I have seen. If you need to stop on the side of the road, you can set the awning up and have shade without having to worry about traffic passing by. However, as it is on the other side of the driver, it is more likely to get hit by stray tree branches. The driver’s side allows for better protection when driving through narrow tracks (often the snorkel is on this side too!) however it means that you can’t set the awning up on the side of the road without turning around or pulling further over. Have a think about which way you would normally park at the beach, and where you want maximum protection.
My 80 series had a shovel holder already mounted on the passenger’s side, so the Powerful 4x4 Awning is mounted on the driver’s side. I have no complaints as of yet.
Powerful 4x4 Awning review
I purchased and fitted my Powerful 4x4 awning around a month ago now, and have used it for two weeks camping down south. I paid $240 directly from Powerful 4x4 (their online store).
The awning is very quick to set up, and can be done by one person (although somewhat awkwardly!). It seems to be built reasonably well, however I have a few little complaints:
- The tie down ropes that come to peg the legs down don’t have adjusters on them, so you have to either purchase them or move the pegs every time you adjust the height of the awning
- On some of the seams, there is tape that has been stuck underneath (presumably to stop water coming through). The tape was already peeled off on a section around 15cm long when I purchased it.
- There are a number of straps that are used to attach the awning canvas to the supports going out from the vehicle. They are stitched to the awning and use Velcro to go around the support and back onto the canvas. These seem quite weak, although there isn’t a whole lot more that can be done about it.
I like the fact that you can set the awning up very tall; I am 6”6 and have no problems standing under it without the need to duck! It is also definitively waterproof; we allowed water to pool in the middle of the awning for quite some time and didn’t get a drop through. The poles have sharp points on the end so they dig into the ground properly, and I think this is a good idea. Overall, for $240 one cannot complain. They are incredibly useful and I am sure this one will get a workout for many years to come!
Are they worth getting?
From my perspective, an awning is imperative for those touring, camping or regularly fishing. There is nothing worse than being burnt to a crisp by the harsh sun that we all experience in Australia and an awning makes it possible to get out of the heat for a while. Whether you want it for a bit of shade, or protection from the rain when set up to camp for a few days, or you need it for the 30 minute lunch break I would highly recommend getting one.