Bongo Campervan Awning Options

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:

Fiamma Awning

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.

Pro’s

  • 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!

Con’s

  • 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.

Sunny day -Awning as shade set up

Sunny day – Awning as shade set up

Pro’s

  • 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.

Con’s

  • It is still vulnerable in strong winds
  • It has to be re-erected each time you drive away.
Hunkered down with added guide ropes for wind and rain.

Hunkered down with added guide ropes for wind and rain.

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.

IMG_5775

Base tent next to van, you can see the two man poking out the back.

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.

Bongo and quechua base tent

Parked separately, you can see where the door canopy of the base tent juts out at the side.

Pro’s

  • 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

Con’s

  • 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.

Pros

  • Relatively easy to erect
  • Creates a lovely living space
  • Can be used by itself as a tent, party venue, garden den etc

Cons

  • 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.

What’s your extra space of choice with your campervan?  I am feeling pretty happy with my Pop Up Base tent and I’m looking forward to trying it out for a longer stint on our summer holiday!

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14 thoughts on “Bongo Campervan Awning Options

  1. Pam says:

    We treated ourself to the Quecha Base seconds last year, we love it! Pitching time is greatly reduced so that results in happy campers 😀 I agree it can be a bit ropey in strong winds though! We will also be trying it out for a longer camping trip in Cornwall in August. Cannot wait!!

    • Hazel says:

      Hi Pam, thanks for commenting 🙂 Always good to hear about other people’s experiences. Maybe we’ll see you in Cornwall, look out for Bongo’s with Quechua Base Seconds!

  2. Glenna says:

    Exactly who might you say is the very best for Volkswagen accessories?
    Looking for things such as alloy wheels, roof
    racks along with camper components. There’s a huge shortage of vendors around me

  3. wild2012 says:

    I’m with you on driveaway awnings. Like you, I think they start to re-introduce the unwanted clobber and hassle you got fed up with when you were camping with a large tent (and before you ‘traded up’ to a camper).

    I’m still searching for the perfect camper van awning but for the meantime I’ll be testing out a large canopy which gives much more flexibility, weather protection and an ‘outdoors’ feel to the other options … at least in my opinion, but at the end of the day your solution is all about personal circumstances and choice.

    http://wildaboutscotland.com/2013/10/06/wanted-the-perfect-camper-van-awning/

    • Hazel says:

      Hello. Thanks for commenting, love your blog. I know what you mean about the canopy option, I love our bus stop shelter but it is a bit of a faff to put up and down. Do love sitting under it when it’s raining though, as long as the rain isn’t coming sideways! Kids like having the enclosed area of the pop up tent when weather is less than good so they can draw and stuff. Ah, so many options. 🙂

  4. debbie lakin says:

    Hi we found the coleman instant tent was the best option for us to use with our bongo. It goes up in 2 mins and is just under 3 mtrs square with sewn in groundsheet, we use it mainly as a store room and dressing room. Great !

    • Hazel says:

      Thanks for that. I like the look of the Coleman instant. Similar idea to the Quechua pop up but looks sturdier and the sewn in ground sheet a definite plus!

  5. Beth says:

    Hi Hazel
    We’re currently looking at bongos and very excited about getting one. We are a family of 5 (8, 5 and 3 year old children) so will be getting an 8 seater to make sure we’ve got enough 3 point seat belts for travelling. I am not sure there’ll be enough room for us all in the van so was looking at some kind of awning for one of us to sleep in that attaches to the van. The pop up tent is appealing as it looks quick and easy to put up and down but I assume it doesn’t fit well enough onto the van to allow the van door to be left open at night? Do you think this is an option with the proper drive away awning??

    • Hazel says:

      Hi Beth, sorry for the delay in replying. The pop up doesn’t create a great seal with the van. Not sure it would be great leaving the door open anyway, think it would make the awning and the van cold. However there are plenty iof drive away awnings that you can put a sleep pod into. One adult could sleep out there until the children are a bit older and you can turf a couple of them out there and keep the comfy beds for yourselves! Sleep pods would be warmer and feel more secure and proper waterproofing.

      • Beth says:

        Thanks Hazel. I hadn’t realised until yesterday that the front seats also lay flat with the bed meaning if the two adults shuffle down we can probably fit 3 on the bottom, at least while our youngest is little. Hooray! So can probably just go for the pop up.

      • Hazel says:

        Ah yes! With no conversion there is oceans of room downstairs! Your only issue might be the contouring of the seats can make it a bit of a bumpy bed but a bit of padding can help resolve that. Have fun camping in your bongo!

  6. Graham says:

    Hi Hazel,

    (Great website! Thanks)

    We rented a Bongo for a holiday in Wales before we bought one: the rental had a side conversion which we decided wasn’t for us as ‘downstairs’ was then too narrow to me and my wife to sleep in.
    As this is our only vehicle we bought a TDi bongo with split rear seats (for shopping/tip duty) and left it unconverted. I have made a removable MDF kitchen unit with a compressor fridge and SMEV twin burner hob that sits in the rear of the vehicle until we camp.
    We have a memory foam mattress topper, but am looking at re-upholstering the seats so we don’t have to lug that around.
    We started off with a 2nd hand Khyam (quick erect) awning which was great til we camped in the rain: it had no sewn in groundsheet so we had a river running through it.
    We now have an Outdoor Revolution awning which is great but bulky.
    We have a Thule bike rack on the rear door for bikes or the back box (Thule). The back box is great as anything wet can be dumped in it without muddying up the vehicle.
    Am currently trying to work out how to carry bikes for the 3 of us AND back box for awning etc. a Towbar perhaps…….

    • Hazel says:

      Thanks for your comment, love to hear what other people have done to make their Bongo’s work for them. I would recommend getting the seats re-upholstered, those mattresses take up so much space! I like the idea of a back box, especially for longer journeys. Let us know if you figure out a way to do back box and bike rack! Happy Bongo-ing!

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