In overlanding, you can not always guarantee to have perfect weather the whole day. The good thing though is that you CAN make every day a beautiful one—rain or shine! How? A car awning is your answer. Car awnings are foldable pop-up shades or shelters that offer comfort and protection during campings, beach drives, road trips, sports events, etc. They provide protection against strong winds, scorching heat of the sun, harmful UVA and UVB rays, heavy rains, and even freezing snowstorms.
What is an Overland Awning?
Overland awnings (also known as truck awnings or camper awnings) are heavy-duty portable covers that pop up and stretch over a supported framework to create a shade or shelter. When not used, they can simply be rolled up into a bag attached to a vehicle’s roof rack or crossbar for easy storage. Awnings are typically made up of fabrics (mostly waterproof) and aluminum or steel for the poles and framework. They come in different sizes and styles and can cover up to a 90- to 270-degree scope.
Purpose and Benefits of Getting an Awning
Aside from providing protection from undesirable weather conditions, a car awning can also be used as a sleeping extension when camping. When covered with detachable walls, it creates a closed shelter that can act as a sleeping quarter, changing room, or extra storage space. Open awnings also serve as a covering for your camp kitchens so you don’t get sunburnt when preparing your meals, hanging out, or eating on a picnic day.
Moreover, vehicle awnings are conveniently installed into the car’s roof rack. This means that they do not eat up any interior cargo space. This also means that they are readily available whenever needed and can be deployed just by pulling it out and tying a few straps.
Additionally, most overland awnings are durable, weather-resistant, and easy to use. Their waterproof canvas and mold-resistant materials are sturdy enough to withstand all sorts of weather conditions. Lastly, there are a lot of recent free-standing awning models that are becoming popular among off-roaders. This is due to its sleek style, absence of poles around the awning, robust built, and uncomplicated set-up and storage.
Considerations when Purchasing an Awning
While the advantages awnings have to offer are very convincing, we’ve also noted some considerations that overlanders should look out for when deciding to buy a camping awning. First, make sure your cross bars or rack system is ready to carry the weight of the awning. Larger 270 models typically require three mounting points to evenly distribute the weight. Most smaller awnings only need two mounting points.
Second, the quality of awnings can greatly vary—from basic and affordable ones to the toughest and heavy-duty models. Having said this, you get what you pay for, and here at Roof Top Overland we only offer quality products designed to last many years.
Third, they don’t come in one-size-fits-all—meaning you have to be 100% sure that the awning is compatible with your vehicle before making the purchase. This means that if you have multiple vehicles with different models and sizes, you may not be able to utilize one awning for all of them. For instance, an awning for a van would be too large and therefore can never be used for small cars.
Types of Car Awnings
As mentioned above, no two awnings are the same. May it be a difference in the size, style, material, or price, each camping awning is unique from one another. While there could be hundreds of variations available in the market, awnings are categorized into a few types.
There’s the drive away awning, which deploys and works similarly to a tent and can be detached from your vehicle. The second one is the tailgate awning, which is more compatible with truck campers and tailgates (thus, the name). Third and the most common of all is the canopy awning, which is permanently mounted to your vehicle’s roof rack or crossbars.
Canopy awnings can be as simple as the straight pull-out ones or as extensive as 180- or 270- batwing awnings. The former is relatively lighter and cheaper than the latter. Straight awnings simply unfold a rectangular shade that covers one side of your vehicle. Most of them come with an aluminum casing for storage. They weigh from 18-30lbs and go from 56" x 78" to 98.5" x 101.5" when opened. Prices range from $199.99 to $671.
On the other hand, batwing awnings (also known as foxwing awnings) provide continuous coverage around a certain extent of your vehicle (180-degree or 270-degree angle). They are named after the flying fox bats because they look similar to a bat’s wings when extended.
180 Awning VS 270 Awning
To illustrate the other difference between the two, we’ve compiled the following information below using the best-selling 180 awning and 270 awning we have online.
$699.99 - $1,099.99
$729.99 - $1699.99
Dimensions (when opened)
240" x 78.5"
240" x 157" x 88.5"
Dimensions (when closed)
88” x 7” x 6”
88” x 7” x 6”
Factors to Consider When Buying an Awning
Shopping for a car awning or vehicle canopy is just a walk in the park when you know what you are looking for. However, if you are not sure yet and need help in deciding which awning to buy, these tips might help. We have compiled 10 features to check when purchasing a car awning.
- Material and fitting quality
- Design complexity
- Size and height
- Weight and storage
- Ease of installation and setup
- Vehicle and mounting tool compatibility
- Weather resistance
- Excellent warranty
- Brand name and reputation
- Add-ons available (LED lights, quick-release brackets, room floor, etc.)
Bonus tip: It would also be a wise move to purchase an awning from a company that also produces roof racks and mounting tools as this ensures easy installation and awning compatibility.
Awning Walls, Cases, and Accessories
Some awnings come with accessories and offer attachment systems that can make your overlanding experience even more enjoyable. These include different attachments, such as waterproof canvas walls, shade panels or windbreaks, and bug screens. Specific models like the Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic Awning 270 Awning already come with walls.
Other add-ons like quick-release brackets and room floors are also available for some models. Other awnings also showcase LED lighting and other amenities.
Carry bags and cases are the most important of all the awning inclusions. Most of the large awnings like the 180- and 270-degree batwing awnings are kept in a soft bag while straight pull-out ones are usually stored in hard aluminum cases.
How to Mount a Car Awning
Most awnings mount to vehicles the same way: install them using bolts, brackets, and straps to your roof rack, cross bars, or roof basket. While it is best to consult on your manufacturer’s manual, we will help you get started by laying out a step-by-step process of installing an awning to a car, truck, or SUV.
1. Check to ensure awning and roof rack are compatible
This should be done even before you make the purchase of the awning. Consult with an expert to see if your desired awning fits your roof rack, crossbar, or roof basket.
2. Check the tools and materials that come with the awning. Once your awning arrives, check all its inclusions. These may include the following:
- Tensioning straps
- Heavy-duty L-brackets
- Guide ropes
- Short-bolt and long-bolt knots
- Ratchet spanner
3. Attach the awning to your roof rack or cross bars
First, decide on the positioning of your awning and mounts. Then, bolt the brackets around the strong structural parts of your roof rack or bars. Use the plates and long bolts to secure it in place. After that, slide the other bolts into the awning’s channel access points and line them up with the brackets. With the help of a friend, mount the awning to the brackets by inserting the bolts into the holes. Do a final check on the positioning of the awning before tightening up all the bolts to make sure it is securely installed.
4. Do the initial set-up
Unzip the awning cover and release the straps to allow the canvas to drape. Then, extend the aluminum arms all the way and attach them to the roof rack using the tension straps.
5. Set up the legs
Undo the straps securing the support legs to release them downward. Attach individual legs to the remaining rafters by inserting them into holes at the end of each rafter. Then, secure the end of each rafter by anchoring and tensioning the guide ropes. Finally, ensure that all the guide ropes are secured.
6. Pack down
Undo all the pegs and guide ropes. Fold away the legs and canvas into the carry bag. Then, stow away and secure using the straps.
7. Clean and Store
Every after use, ensure that your awnings are cleaned and stored in a dry place to avoid mildew buildup. You can clean awnings with cold water and a soft-bristle brush. Keep the awning enclosed in its case or bag until its next use.
Car awnings are great overlanding upgrades for those who spend a lot of their time outdoors with their vehicles. Awnings come in very handy with a lot of convenient and useful benefits. They are easy to set up and stow away, durable, and weather-resistant.
An awning is another shade of improvement in an overlander’s adventure.
For your next off-roading trip, check out our wide collection of different awnings. We offer all sorts of awnings—pull-out, 180-degree, and 270-degree awnings. We also have awning walls and other overlanding accessories that will bring your adventure to the next level. Feel free to call, text, email, or message one of our experts.