Caravan awnings - extra space
A caravan makes great holiday accommodation, but however large your unit, floor space will be limited inside.
The simplest way to increase your living space is to use an awning, which brings part of the pitch next to your unit under cover.
There are three basic types of awning on the market today, the full awning, porch awning and canopy awning, though you’ll find many variations on all three themes.
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 awnings to fit all types of caravan, but if you choose a more unusual unit, such as a pop-top or folding caravan, you may need a specialist awning.
The full 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.
These large, tent-like structures 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. Others even boast curtains that wouldn’t look out of place in a show home.
Measuring up for a full awning
When you look for a full awning you’ll need to consider two measurements, the awning’s depth and your caravan’s ‘A’ measurement.
The depth of an awning is the distance from your caravan to the awning outer wall. Most awnings are between 2.1m and 3.5m deep. Clearly, the greater the depth the more floorspace inside – but also the larger the amount of fabric you’ll need to transport and erect on site.
Your caravan’s ‘A’ measurement is usually given in the owner’s handbook but, if not, you can measure it yourself. First, level your caravan. Then take a length of non-stretch string and run it through the awning track of your caravan – the rail that runs around the caravan on the door side and through which you will eventually thread your awning.
The string should project from each end of the rail – maintaining the exit angle of the rail – to meet the ground. If you have an older caravan, note that modern awnings are not designed to follow the underside contours of the rail.
Fasten one end of the string to the ground, then tension it to find out how much string is needed to reach the ground at the other end. Measure this length in centimetres to give your caravan’s ‘A’ measurement.
The porch awning
Porch awnings are smaller than full awnings, meaning they’re generally quicker and easier to erect if you’re 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.
They also keep the worst of the wind and rain away from the door. And you can store bikes out of the rain.
In better weather, most offer enough space for a couple to sit at the table if the evening breeze is just a bit too stiff – roll up the front and you can still enjoy the view.
And they’re great for dumping buckets, spades and body boards after a day at the beach.
Measuring up for a porch awning
There are two main things to take into account when you go to buy a porch awning:
First, you’ll need to know your caravan’s height – measured from the top of the awning rail to the ground.
Second, does your caravan have a window close to the entrance door? If so, you may find the edge of many porch awnings comes down over this window. Only you can decide if this is a serious problem. Would it be awkward to have that window closed at all times? For example, is it above the hob? If so, you may need to open it for safe ventilation when cooking.
The canopy awning
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.
Fitting a permanent canopy awning is normally a specialist job, so it’s worth discussing this with your local caravan dealer.
Awnings and hardstandings
Can you put an awning on a hardstanding? You’ll struggle to peg one out on a tarmac or slab pitch, but these are increasingly rare on campsites.
Most hardstandings are now gravel or made of a plastic grid that allows grass to grow through.
Either way, you’ll be able to peg out an awning, though you’ll probably need hardened steel rock pegs on a gravel hardstanding.
- If you carry an awning in the caravan, 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 green or muddy.
- 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 your prize possession.
- 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.
On the next page we provide some advice on getting away including finding your route and setting up on arrival.