July 11, 2021 9 min read
So what’s the best driveaway awning?
Which driveaway awning should you buy?
Or should you even buy one at all?
You think I’m going to say you should buy a Glawning, right?
Not everyone needs a driveaway awning - and if they do, there are other types of awning which may be better suited to individual needs.
So, before deciding to purchase a campervan driveaway awning, you need to weigh up the pros and cons of having one at all, and also of the different awning models available.
A driveaway awning is simply a tent/shelter that you can attach to the side of your van and then drive away from, without having to take it down. These are especially handy if you’re going out for the day.
Some driveaway awnings, such as the Glawning (just saying!), will also work as a standalone tent on occasions when you don’t want, or need it attached to the side of the van (such as garden parties!).
So why might you want to buy a campervan awning?
Campervans are very convenient and versatile, but they can also be very cramped and limited on space. When the ground is bone dry and the sun is shining with a gentle breeze, then it isn’t too much of a problem. Your van lifestyle can simply spill out onto the camping pitch.
However, the reality is that these times are rare or, at least, interspersed with rain showers and all the rest of it. Also, when night falls, you will need to bring everything in to make sure it is safe, dry, and secure.
A driveaway awning will add extra usable space directly to the side of your vehicle, so you can move from one space to the next without having to go outside (in the rain, or in your underpants!).
Campsites are not always the most private of areas. If you want to enjoy your gin and tonic in peace, or scoff your pizza without attracting all the neighbouring dogs, an awning can give you the privacy and protection that you need.
You will all have experienced those times when you are huddled up inside your van with the rain lashing down on the roof. This is fine so far as it goes, but it can soon become uncomfortable when the windows start to steam up and there isn’t room to swing a cat (NB. We don’t condone the swinging of cats).
This is where a campervan awning can really come into its own. If the awning also has the ability to be heated, this adds an extra dimension and can take your camping to the next level.
While everyone loves the idea of camping light, with just a toothbrush, a Swiss Army knife and a few essentials, the reality is usually very different. Once you start on a campervan lifestyle you realise that lots of home comforts come in very handy, and they soon start jumping onto the packing list (“yes, dear, of course we need to take the chenille throw”). Before you know it, you hardly have room in the van to move. This is where an awning can be extremely useful – as a place to cook, get dressed, chill out or even sleep.
For us at Glawning, this is what it all boils down to. Most people don’t go off camping in the hope of being cramped, cold, wet or uncomfortable. In our opinion, the more comfortable you can be, the better your experience of camping will be – which means a more relaxing and enjoyable holiday! And where do you get this comfort? In our driveaway awnings of course!
But wait, before you rush off and buy a campervan awning, at least stop to think about how it might impact your #vanlife experience. Here are 5 considerations we can think of:
1.You’ll need to spend money on it – like everything else in life, you get what you pay for, so a decent awning could be a significant investment;
2.You’ll need to have somewhere to store it when not in use;
3.You'll need room for it in your van when travelling to places;
4.You’ll need to set it up and take it down at campsites; and
5.You'll also need to make sure it is well looked after if you are going to get many years use out of it.
Here are some of our top tips on what to think about when deciding on a driveaway awning (apart from whether or not it looks cool, which is probably what you’ll end up basing your decision on ;-))
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding what size awning to buy. These are:
Closely linked with the size of the awning is the weight. This will be most important when considering where and how you will store the campervan awning and how far you will need to carry it to either get it to your vehicle or to get it to its place of storage. Will you be able to carry it around, or will you need to purchase something like a sack trolley to help you?
You will need to consider how easy a driveaway awning is to put up. When most people think about this, they do so by reference to the length of time it takes to erect, but this is not the only consideration.
First, you should beware of any ‘quick erect’ claims that do not include the time to actually peg the awning down. No matter how quickly an awning goes up, if it has 20 pegs, it will always take the same amount of time to peg out as another driveaway awning with 20 pegs.
You should also consider the complexity of putting the awning up and how easily the system could become damaged. For a pole awning, how easy is it to put the poles in? Do they need to go in a specific order or are there different poles for different sleeves? If one of the poles breaks, how easy is it to repair? If it is an inflatable awning, what is the procedure if it punctures? What device is needed to inflate it and what happens if you forget that device or it malfunctions?
Generally speaking, the simpler the design of the driveaway awning, the easier it will be to put right with a DIY repair if something goes wrong, or if a certain component goes missing or is forgotten. Bells, whistles and technological advances aren’t necessarily a good thing when you’re stranded in the middle of a field with no phone signal.
You should also consider what assistance you will have when putting the awning up. Will the kids be helping you out? Will you be doing it together as a couple or would you prefer your partner to be a good half a mile away? If so, is it easy to put up when only one person is doing it? Also, how easy is it to put the awning up in adverse conditions, such as high winds or rain? If it is raining can the awning be kept dry inside while it is being put up?
Any awning will need looking after if it is going to stand the test of time. As a general rule, the more looking after an awning requires, the longer it is likely to last. Some of the cheaper awnings will only last a couple of seasons at best if they are used regularly.
All awnings will also need to be clean and dry for storage, ideally. However, with a polyester awning, you are more likely to get away with a bit of dampness on the fabric without any adverse consequences. While polycotton is slightly more forgiving than 100% cotton, with both you will need to ensure that the tent is packed away bone dry to ensure that they do not develop mildew.
Tents also need re-proofing from time to time. This applies to polycotton tents and cotton canvas ones, and the frequency of application will depend on the frequency of use. However, it is a relatively straightforward operation as it can be done using a garden sprayer when the tent is erected.
Aside from the above, looking after an awning should be a matter of common sense. Some things such as adverse weather, however, are out of our control and it is important to ensure an awning isn’t subjected to too much of it if possible.
Ultimately, they are fabric structures which will only withstand so much battering by the wind. If it is unavoidable, then clearly it is better to have an awning which can be easily repaired if it gets damaged. To see the Glawning take a good battering like a boss, check it out during the Beast from the East:
Generally, the cheaper an awning is, the less durable it will be. In particular, awnings made of cheaper polyester without a ripstop weave will be susceptible to damage, and will be almost impossible to repair satisfactorily. Any repairs are likely to be short-term only.
In addition, cheaper poles will be more susceptible to snapping and cheap, lightweight tent pegs will be prone to bending (although these can easily be replaced). Canvas awnings will normally be the most durable of all if properly looked after, particularly if they are made of a quality heavyweight canvas, with treatments such as mould and mildew resistance. One of the main, helpful features with a canvas is the ability to repair it relatively easily, meaning that a good canvas awning could easily last upwards of 20 years.
Once you have considered all of the above, you can start to think about how you actually want to use a campervan awning. Will you mainly want it for storage or shelter from the rain when getting in and out of your campervan, or will it be more of a lifestyle feature? Will you want to sleep in it or sit and have your dinner in it, or have friends round for drinks? Will it be for long trips or shorter one night stopovers? All these questions are important when considering the design and usability of an awning.
It is important to keep in mind that unless an awning is heated, it will be the same temperature as the air outside in cold weather and in the evenings. In hot weather, it is likely to heat up inside and this is particularly the case for polyester awnings or other awnings which cannot breathe.
Canvas awnings will stay much cooler, as will polycotton (although not quite as cool as 100% cotton). Since a lot of entertaining or relaxing with drinks will be done in an evening when the days activities are finished, heating is important. Even in a UK heatwave, it can get chilly at night once the sun goes down.
Canvas awnings can be fitted with a wood burning stove and this can make a dramatic difference to the way in which an awning can be used.
Well we’re going to let you make your own mind up! The above points will give you a framework for making a decision, and for us the best driveaway awning will be the one which provides the best balance. It’s all about trying to minimise the negatives while finding an awning that best fits your particular needs.
As an example we’ve run a very quick comparison of the Glawning Lite 5m with a similar sized awning which is also extremely popular, the Vango Galli III Air.
The polycotton Glawning Lite 5m has an RRP £699, whilst the Galli III Air Low comes in at over £1000 (actual price varies slightly between retailers).
A Vango Galli III weighs in at 29kg and packs down to L78xH43xW45cm. The Glawning Lite 5m weighs in at slightly less (28kg) and packs down to a similar size (L115xH37xW40). Both driveaway awnings are similar in size when pitched, although the look and feel of them are very different (more on that later).
Both the Galli III and the Glawning Lite take around 15 mins to set up.
Because a Glawning has the advantage of being made of breathable fabric, it takes a bit more looking after, as it’s necessary to ensure it is bone dry when packing it away. So the Galli edges into the lead slightly for ease of care. However, the Glawning is made of polycotton, which is easier to repair and will generally last longer than polyester.
Both driveaway awnings score well in this category, providing around 10-15m2 of usable space, within a fully enclosed, waterproof structure.
It is in this area that the Glawning really comes to the fore. Because it’s breathable, it will stay cooler in the heat of the sun and while virtually eliminating condensation on the inside. The Vango is made of polyester, which is not breathable. Also, the Glawning is fitted with a stove flue hole, which allows for the use of a wood burning stove. In this category, the Glawning wins hands down (IMHO!).
But ultimately, you can ignore all of that and think screw it, which awning looks the coolest? And of course it’s the….(do you really need me to answer that?)
Whether or not you’re still deciding if a Glawning is the right fit for you, you still need to consider awning fabric choices. For more info on this, take a look at the next stage of our Buyer’s Guide, Choosing the Right Driveaway Awning Fabric (and why it matters) - See Part 2 of our Buyers Guide HERE.
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