Caravans are an excellent means of getting out and seeing the world. You can live in them, but that needn’t mean that you’re forced to live in the same area. Consequently, they’re a favourite piece of technology for many British holidaymakers, who every summer will pack their belongings and head to their destination of choice – without having to worry about things like booking flights and accommodation.
But the caravan does have a significant drawback, despite these obvious advantages. Among these is the fact that it’s, by nature, quite compact. After all, a mobile home wouldn’t be quite as mobile if it were the same size as a house.
Fortunately, we’ve a way of addressing this problem. With the help of awnings, we can effectively extend the front of a caravan, providing more living space without having to pack an entirely separate tent. An awning is effectively a three-sided tent which attaches to the side of your caravan via a special rail running along the edge of the caravan known as an awning rail.
Awnings, much like the caravans they attach to, come in a number of different shapes and sizes. In this article, let’s examine the options, and consider how one might choose between them.
There are three broad categories of awning. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn:
A porch awning is, as you might have guessed, akin to the front porch of a house. It provides a small space in which to store coats and boots on the way into a caravan. If you’re looking for something small and unobtrusive, then this represents an attractive way to get into the awning market without making enormous changes to your caravan.
A full awning takes things a stage further. They encompass the entire side of a caravan, and come equipped with removable doors and panels that can allow you to tailor the awning to the weather conditions. They’re ideal for those looking for a space to relax during their stay.
These awnings are the most substantial of the lot. They’re often permanent extensions of the caravan, and come equipped with their own supporting poles and tough fabric walls. If you’re looking for something that’ll make a big difference to your caravan, then accept no substitutes for a quality canopy awning.
Each of these types of awning can be built from different materials. More expensive ones will be made from superior materials. Let’s consider the merits of the different materials available.
Polyester awnings are inexpensive and lightweight. Consequently, they’ll dry very quickly after it’s rained, and they’re easily handled and packed down. They’re therefore an excellent choice for those occasions where you might have to leave soon after arriving. If you’re staying for the weekend and want to use your awning throughout, then quick-drying polyester will allow you to do so without fear that you’ll be carrying a soaking-wet sheet of fabric home.
If you’re willing to shell out a little more, then you’ll find polyester sheets available that are a little heavier and more durable. These will tend to last longer before wearing out, and so represent a more sensible long-term investment in most cases.
Acrylic fabrics tend to last far longer than their polyester counterparts. They also tend to look more solid – because they’re denser. There are many different sorts of acrylic fabric. The best of these consist of so-called ‘solution-dyed’ fabrics, which are dyed before they are woven. This allows them to be more resilient to ultra-violet light, and therefore last a great deal longer. If you examine the surface of this fabric, you’ll see that it’s been created from strands of many different colours of fabric – in much the same way that the image on the screen you’re reading this article from is composed of many different tiny points of coloured light.
Caravan awnings are available in several different sizes, and your choice will largely depend on your circumstances. You’ll find that awning sizes are measured in centimetres. If you’re looking for a full awning, then pick one which matches the length of your awning rail.
Awning sizes are measured in A-measurements, which describe the length of the awning rail (plus a little extra to allow the awning to reach the ground from the end of the rail) rather than the caravan itself. If you know the make and model of your caravan, then most awning manufacturers will be able to provide you with a recommendation of which to opt for.
If your caravan is of an older vintage, however, then such recommendations might be difficult to come by. In this instance, you’ll need to measure the awning yourself – but be aware that this is certainly a two-person job. You’ll want to use a length of string that will slot just within the rail, and then measure that. Trying to thread the tape measure along the rail is almost certain to result in frustration.
In addition to the factors we’ve mentioned, there are also several more minor considerations that one should take into account before making a purchase. Before concluding, let’s examine each of them:
You’ll want to get the most for your money, but you’ll also want to consider the cost of your caravan – after all, if your caravan is old and in need of replacement, then you might be better advised to get a new one rather than upgrading your awning. Any awning you buy for your existing caravan will limit you when it comes to buying a new one, as you’ll need to select one to fit your awning (rather than the reverse).
If you’re looking to accommodate extra guests in your awning, then it’s wise to select one that you’d feel comfortable sleeping in. Unless you want one half of your holiday party to be constantly grumpy after enduring terrible sleep for night after night, then this concern should be paramount.