A motorhome 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 a motorhome awning, which brings part of the pitch next to your unit under cover. In many cases, you can also leave the awning on site during the day while you drive off on your adventures.
There are three basic types of awning on the market for motorhomes, the traditional style that connects to your motorhome and has to be taken down if you leave site, the ‘drive-away’ porch awning and the canopy awning, though you’ll find many variations on these themes.
There are awnings to fit all types of vehicle, but since there is such a variety of motorhomes on the market, you’ll need to check whether your chosen awning style will fit your particular model before you buy.
The drive-away awning
A drive-away awning is self-supporting. It attaches to the motorhome’s awning rail, but you can slip it off and leave the tent-like structure on your pitch if you take your vehicle out for the day.It gives you a place to take off wet coats and wellies in comfort before getting into your motorhome – keeping the mud outside. It will also keep the worst of the wind and rain away from the door of the living area. And you can store bikes out of the rain. Most offer enough space to sit at a table, and if the evening breeze is just a bit too stiff you can roll up the front and you can still enjoy the view. They’re also great for dumping buckets, spades and body boards after a day at the beach.
Some of the larger drive-away awnings include sleeping cabins for extra accommodation but be aware that they may make your set up too large for many campsite pitches. A normal Club Site pitch, for example, is 5m wide. If your motorhome is 2.3m and you add a 2.5m deep awning with a 1m tunnel to attach it to your vehicle it will be a 5.8m wide, so it will not fit on a 5m pitch.
Getting lined up
Leaving your awning on site for the day may sound a good idea, but how do you ‘reconnect’ when you return to site?
One Camping and Caravanning Club member recommends the following:
- Before you drive away, place plastic ‘grips’ (which you might use in front of your tyres if you are pulling away on soft ground) by the side of your tyres.
- At the front, under the centre of your number plate, put a bright tennis ball. If you have a towbar, you may prefer to pop the tennis ball underneath this instead, as in our picture.
- Then simply unthread your awning and drive away.
- When you return, you can line up your motorhome with the grips and tennis ball, ensuring you are in the correct position to re-thread the awning.
The canopy awning
A canopy awning can be temporarily or permanently fixed to the side of your motorhome. 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 motorhome dealer.
And you can’t leave it on site when you drive off for the day…
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 a drive-away awning in the motorhome, position it carefully 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 motorhome holidays in winter, give some thought to the snow-carrying capability of your awning, 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.
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