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Guide to buying an awning

As all true caravan aficionados will agree, a caravan is quite simply the best kind of holiday accommodation; a true hotel-on-wheels packed with all the comforts of home and a view you can change whenever the fancy takes you. There’s just one thing…it can get a bit cramped. However luxurious and well designed your tourer is, space can be in short supply, especially if there is more than two in your party and you don’t travel light.

A simple, inexpensive and practical extension to your holiday abode can be created through the installation of an awning. With a caravan awning you can almost double the living space of your caravan for a fraction of the cost of buying a bigger caravan. They are very versatile and can be used as wind breakers, sun canopies, spare bedrooms or even as a dining area. An awning can make a lovely focal point outside your caravan where you can sit and watch the world go by. Protected by your awning you can relax and enjoy your surroundings.

Caravan awnings come in a generous catalogue of shapes and sizes, with many kinds available to suit any classification of caravan or budget. Choosing an awning has much in common with selecting a tent. You’ll need to decide on the fabric you want, the type of poles available and whether you need a groundsheet. There are three basic types of awning available, although you’ll find many variations on all three themes: full awning, porch awning and canopy awning.

A full awning will normally more than double the living area of your caravan, giving you space to relax comfortably under cover, whatever the weather. Like a tent, full awnings come in a variety of fabrics, qualities and sizes. Some have extra sleeping cabins and others have removable panels so you can enjoy the sun when it shines.

A porch awning is smaller than a full awning, and so is generally quicker and easier to erect if you are only staying for a couple of nights. They give you a place to take off wet coats and wellies in comfort before getting into your caravan, keeping the mud outside and the worst of the wind and rain away from the door. They also create a great place to store outdoor items such as bikes, buckets and spades, and body boards after a day out in the countryside or at the beach.

A canopy awning can be temporarily or permanently fixed to the side of your caravan. Permanent ones unfurl like a roller blind and generally have a couple of integral poles that fold down to form legs for stability. At the top end of the range, you can fit fabric walls to a canopy awning to enclose the space underneath.

When you decide to buy an awning, it is important to measure up correctly to ensure a snug fit. When you look for a full awning you will need to consider two measurements, the awning’s depth and your caravan’s ‘A’ measurement (usually given in the owner’s handbook). The depth of an awning is the distance from your caravan to the awning outer wall. The larger the awning you choose, the more floor space inside but the greater the amount of fabric you’ll have to transport and to erect on site.

There are two considerations to take into account when you go to buy a porch awning - your caravan’s height from the top of the awning rail to the ground, and whether you have a window close to the entrance door. If so, you may find the edge of many porch awnings comes down over this window and you cannot open it - only you can decide if this is an issue for you.

Fitting a permanent canopy awning is normally a specialist job, so it’s worth discussing this with your local caravan dealer.

Now you’ve chosen your awning, here are a few tips to make sure it travels safely and you can erect it easily:

  • If you carry your awning in the caravan rather than the car, position it over the axle and make sure it can’t move backwards or forwards if you stop sharply.
  • If the ground is muddy when you erect your awning, put a groundsheet or piece of plastic sheeting on the grass before you start. This allows you to lay out the fabric without getting it plastered in dirt.
  • It is generally best to put up an awning with its side panels zipped in place for speed but if it’s windy take the panels out first to avoid fighting large areas of wind-blown fabric or, worse, ripping the awning.
  • If you’re serious about winter caravanning, give some thought to the snow-carrying capability of your porch, because snow can be surprisingly heavy. Awnings with a good slope to the roof can shed snow, the weight of which might otherwise split the material.
  • When you arrive at the site you’ve chosen, your caravan is likely to be positioned on some sort of hard standing. Most hard standings are now gravel or made of a plastic grid that allows grass to grow through. You’ll still be to peg out your awning, but you’ll probably need hardened steel rock pegs on gravel hard standing.
  • And finally, the golden rule! If you buy a new caravan awning or canopy then always try to erect it a few times before you go on holiday.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll have a comfortable and practical addition to your caravan.

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