Campervans are great but there are a couple of drawbacks. One issue is a lack of space, especially when compared with some of those mammoth family tents. The other issue is getting in and out of the van without getting wet if it is raining. We spend far too much time ruminating on the pros and cons of the various awning options available so I thought I would share:
The Fiamma awning is permanently attached to the side of your van using the roof gutter. Unless you are pretty handy you will do best to get a specialist to fit it. When you have arrived at your campsite unroll the awning, add the support poles and voila! The basic awning gives you a large undercover area. You can purchase privacy panels, which zip onto the awning.
- Very easy to erect.
- A good size covered space, will prevent rain coming into the van assuming it’s not too windy to use it!
- Vulnerable to wind – you can buy a tiedown kit but that will add to your pitching time.
- Pretty expensive – around £300 plus fitting (depending on size).
The Bus Shelter
The Bus Shelter is attached to the Bongo via the rain gutters. It is supported using poles and guide ropes in a similar way to a tarp. The end result looks similar to the Fiamma awning but with more guide ropes! We currently have a Bus Shelter and I love the look and usefulness of it, but it does have a major downfall. As it is not self supporting it has to be taken down each time you want to drive away.
- A good price only £130 for the larger size.
- Provides good rain shelter especially for getting in and out of van in rain.
- The adjustable support poles and guide ropes mean that you can position it so it can be quite secure in relatively strong winds. Ours survived a fair test on Bodmin Moor but you do need the three pole option for the most adjustment options.
- It is still vulnerable in strong winds
- It has to be re-erected each time you drive away.
Quechua Pop Up Base Tent
We have just bought ourselves a Pop up base tent. We found the Base Seconds Full on ebay which has extra pod canopies on two sides so that a two man pop up can be slotted in creating either a modular tent system or, a living space with storage space (in the two man tent). This model is no longer sold new, but models without the pods are available from Quechua.
The big attraction of this was the extremely quick pitching and striking time, and the fact that it conveniently fits pretty exactly with door of the Bongo creating a similar system to a driveaway awning without the hassle of unhitching and attaching each time you go away.
Having used the tent now on two occasions, we are very happy with the set up time but we tend to use it as a seperate tent. We pitch it so that if it rains we can place the van next to it and use it as an awning.
- Very quick and easy to erect
- Free standing and no fiddling around with attachments to the van.
- Fits very well with the door of a Bongo (and VW’s I’m told)
- Good price
- It does get blown out of shape in strong winds but it pings straight back into shape again. Ok as an awning but I wouldn’t want to sleep in it!
- The packed tent is a large disc, quite an awkward shape to pack.
The Bell Tent
Of course the bell tent is not an awning but as it is fairly quick to erect (20 mins) and generally lovely, many people do use it as an additional space along with their campervan.
- Relatively easy to erect
- Creates a lovely living space
- Can be used by itself as a tent, party venue, garden den etc
- If it gets wet it is harder to dry.
- Quite expensive compared to other options (from £375 for a 4m bell tent).
- Does not provide shelter from weather when getting in and out of the van.
Drive Away Awnings
There are a huge number of different driveaway awnings available. Kyham do a ‘quick erect’ system where you don’t have to thread the pole into sleeves and there have recently been a few inflatable pole awnings such as the Vango airbeam. Having watched videos of pitching them I am not convinced they are particularly quick but can create a good large space. They all still feature the fiddly attaching and detaching business! Perhaps it’s just me but part of the reason I choose to camp in a campervan is to cut out some of the tedious setting up time, I feel driveaway awnings take you right back to the tent pitching issues.