Sheltered Life
4x4 Magazine Australia|December 2020
Rain, hail or shine, you can’t beat vehicle-mounted awnings for the extra protection they provide at camp.
Tristan Tancredi

The off-roader’s awning is a popular accessory for the four-wheeling community, and for good reason. Not only do they provide valuable shelter from Australia’s unforgiving elements – heavy rain, strong wind and relentless sun – by adding walls and/or annexes, they create additional enclosed areas for punters to store equipment or to spend their time cooking and relaxing without being punished by flies, mosquitoes and the elements. Plus, they can be erected in the same amount of time it takes to pop open the fridge and crack the cap off your first coldy.

Not only does an awning provide timely shelter for a roadside cuppa or a quick snooze at camp, but they can also prove invaluable if a vehicle breakdown occurs.

“There’s a reason why travellers are advised to stay with their vehicle when they break down in the outback, as exposure can be deadly,” said TJM’s James Jackson. “Anyone who has travelled in places like the Strzelecki or Simpson deserts knows that shade is hard to come by in these places, but if you have an awning you can create your own little oasis to have a cup of tea, make lunch or, in a worst-case scenario, wait for a good Samaritan in the case of a breakdown.”

While the idea of an awning may seem simple enough, it’s not an accessory you’ll want to skimp on when it’s time to swipe the credit card. There are many factors at play to ensure you get one that’ll stand up and protect when it’s needed most, and there’s no bigger challenge than the Aussie outback.

To dive deeper into the world of awnings, we spoke to a handful of industry experts from ARB, Alu-Cab/Ironman 4x4, TJM, and Darche.

CORE COMPONENTS

WHEN trawling aftermarket catalogues in pursuit of the perfect awning setup for you and your family, you’ll notice various sizes, configurations and designs – some with two poles, some with four; some with guy ropes, some without. However, despite the differences in appearances, a quality made awning will share the same core components. To ensure the awning will remain standing during high wind and heavy rain – and provide adequate UV protection and prevent water ingress – it’s important to ensure it has a selection of non-negotiable build features.

“Build construction is key,” advised TJM’s James Jackson. “An awning that is made well will set-up and pack away smoothly on the fifth or 500th time.

“Small details like the right-sized bag or case will make unzipping or zipping up simple; well-manufactured telescopic legs won’t get stuck when extending or collapsing; and overall build quality will mean the awning will stand strong in rough weather conditions, which is exactly when you want it to perform.”

It’s widely agreed that the best quality awnings are typically constructed using a polyester/cotton ripstop canvas, which is used for its high UPF50+ UV rating (the canvas in combination with the coating on the canvas provides the UPF50+ rating), overall durability, and its ability to prevent water ingress and withstand extreme conditions for prolonged periods.

“The thick ripstop canvas blocks the rays, and the materials are treated with PU (polyurethane) coating to stop (the rays) coming through,” advised ARB’s Shannon Alderwick. “Canvas is also a natural material for repellence and UV exposure.”

For example, TJM awnings feature a 280gsm (grams per square metre) poly/cotton ripstop canvas, with 75mm side flaps and a 1000mm water column to drain water. Plus, there’s added sealing on all stitching to ensure there are no leaks.

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