4WD Awnings; get some shade in your life

One of the most common accessories you’ll see on 4WD’s today are side and rear awnings (or even 270 degree awnings). They start off very cheap (and get seriously expensive), and are extremely useful! In this post, we’re talking about the types of 4WD awnings, what works well, and what we’ve used ourselves.

Alucab Troopy
Big 270 degree awnings are becoming very popular, and for good reason
4WD Awning on an 80 Series Land Cruiser
A great way to sleep

What is the point of a 4WD awning?

4WD awnings are designed to protect 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, and there’s some pretty magic ones out there today that do an exceptional job, and can even be made into little awning tents (or big ones!).

A lot of people also set them up to sleep under at night, so the dew doesn’t drench your setup, and if it does rain, you’re sorted.

Rear awning on our Dmax
Our new Darche Eclipse 180 degree awning on the Dmax

Using a 4WD awning

Most traditional 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!

However, if you have a 180 degree awning, or a 270 degree one, it can take a lot longer, depending on how they are designed, and the requirements for setting them up. You can get ones that don’t need any legs at all, and then others require the legs to be down and for guy ropes and pegs to be in place.

There are some pretty fancy 270 degree awnings that are very fast to set up as well, which makes life incredibly easy if you’re doing it often.

Do you need to peg them down?

On a calm day, there is no need to peg the awning down. However, I have heard (and seen myself) 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.

Gazebo on a caravan roof
You’d be surprised what a gust of wind can do to an awning, or a gazebo like this

That said, some awnings don’t have legs, and don’t need to be pegged down at all. See what the manufacturer recommends, and roll with that, unless you want a broken awning, or dented panels when it gets flipped over!

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. 

You can also get 12V LED lights, access hatches for roof top tents and heaps more, depending on what you want. 

Awning sizes

Most traditional rectangular/square 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.

4WD Awnings on a Patrol
A 2.5 metre awning on the passenger’s side

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!

Also, think about how far its going to stick out in front of your vehicle, because these often get caught by branches and can easily be damaged if they’re out too far.

It’s worth having a think about the actual shade area that the awning provides too, as its got to suit your shade and rain protection requirements or its rather pointless. We purchased a Darche 180 degree awning a while back for our Dmax, and its nice and light, but the usable shade area is fairly small compared to alternatives on the market.

Dmax on the beach
Our 180 degree awning is decent, but the shade area is minimal compared to other options out there

Mounting an awning

It took me around an hour to mount my first awning; they are really simple, but it does hugely depend on what you’re mounting it to. Majority of the awnings come with a piece of aluminium that bolts to your roof racks, with the associated brackets 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.

If you’re struggling to mount an awning, there are lots of different options out there that can help, depending on the roof racks and awning you have.

Powerful 4x4 Awning
Measure twice, drill once!

In my case on the 80 Series, 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, and some are the normal 90 degree ones, with others being 180 and even 270 degree. The best 4WD awning is the one that provides the coverage you need; not everyone wants a giant, heavy 270 degree one!

You can get them from Kings, Darche, Batwing, the Bush Company, Supa RV, Howling Moon, Supapeg, Powerful 4×4, Ironman 4×4, Tigerz 11, Roo Systems, Oztent, Kulkyne, Tough 4×4, Howling Moon, ARB, TJM and Bushranger.

Rear Awnings

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, depending on how you use your vehicle.

What side should you 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.

Setting up a tarp as an awning is quite a pain
A dodgy tarp awning

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 4×4 Awning is mounted on the driver’s side. I have no complaints as of yet.

Powerful 4×4 Awning review

We ran a Powerful 4×4 awning for a couple of years, and used it extensively until the zip broke. I then removed it, and my parents fitted it to their Pajero with a replacement zip. I paid $240 directly from Powerful 4×4 (their online store).

Powerful 4x4 make a wide range of accessories
My Powerful 4×4 Awning

This was fairly cheap, but it worked fine and we had no real issues with it, until the zipper broke a number of years later.

Awning weights

One thing I do recommend you consider when looking at an awning for your 4WD is the total weight of it. This is in terms of the roof rack load rating, increasing your centre of gravity considerably, adding a decent chunk of weight to one side of your vehicle and your GVM in general.

I really wanted to put a big 270 degree awning on our Isuzu Dmax, but I didn’t want the extra weight on the passenger side of the vehicle, where we’ve already got a long range tank, upright fridge, lithium battery, pantry and plenty of heavy weight.

The traditional awnings are light as, but some of the big 270 degree ones are 30 + kg, and that’s a lot of weight to have up high, and way out to one side.

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.

How much you spend depends on your budget and needs. As much as a 2 grand awning that sets up in seconds and creates a huge amount of shade is attractive, do you want to spend that sort of money? If you’re on the beach every weekend and need the shade then its possibly a no brainer.

4WD touring accessories
Having protection from the sun and rain is hugely appreciated in the moment

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  1. Hey Odd Ball,

    There’s certainly some in there like that, but no, not quite. There are lots of good manufacturers, and a number of average, and a couple of very average

    All the best

  2. The list of awning manufacturers… worst to best?

  3. There’s certainly a fair bit of their gear getting around.


  4. Kevin Vermaak says:

    It seems like the KINGS awnings are very popular, if not the most popular theses days. They are good for folks who don’t camp regularly and can’t afford the more expensive quality.

  5. Mike Seary says:

    That’s great! Thanks for the reply.

  6. Mike Seary says:

    These mobile type awnings are wonderfully rugged and versatile. Are they as durable as they look?