Retractable RV and Camper Awnings
Since the dawn of the motorhome and travel trailer industry, vacationers have wanted to expand their living space outside their camper, but rain or hot sun present a problem. Some people erect shade canopies or stretch a tarp between the camper and nearby trees, but many modern motor homes and travel trailers have retractable awnings installed, either by the manufacturer or as an aftermarket installation. You can even attach a small enclosed screen porch to your RV with the addition of zippered side panels and a large RV awning mat.
While roll up awnings can be made using ordinary canvas cloth, vinyl or polyester fabric, the best choices remain Sunbrella acrylic sun resistant awning fabric, or competing products from Dickson. These fabrics are world market leaders in the outdoor fabric industry, with a proven track record of durability and UV resistance, and a wide variety of colors and patterns from which to choose. Most new retractable RV awnings will be made with these weather resistant fabrics, and if you are looking for replacement fabric for your awning, don't be tempted by inferior fabrics. You will not get the fade resistance and durability of Sunbrella and Dickson fabrics.
Retractable Awnings Are Easy to Deploy and Put Away
The use of retracting roll up awnings has greatly simplified the process of deploying an awning and putting it away for travel. When it is not needed, the awning rolls up into a protective casing mounted on the side of the camper. You simply on the awning pull strap, and it unrolls and extends outward from the RV, supported by arms on sliding tracks. You can even get rid of the support arms using new retractable awning support trusses.
When shopping for a retractable RV awning, make sure that you examine the awning frame and retraction mechanisms carefully to ensure that they will fit your RV, and make sure that awning springs or torsion mechanisms are well protected and easy to lubricate and maintain. Anodized aluminum frames and stainless steel hardware will last longer than coated mild steel frames and galvanized steel hardware. Beware of plastic end brackets and supports, as those will need more frequent replacement. RV awning roller tubes and brackets can stain your fabric if they rust or corrode, so make sure all the parts are corrosion resistant,not just the awning support arms.
Potential Problems With Retractable RV Awnings
Roll up retractable awnings are very convenient additions to an RV, but they do have some inherent problems. Many awnings do not have sufficient support along the side edges, and those edges will tend to flap in the wind. Those loose edges can also allow pools of rainwater to collect in the center of the awning. Some awnings can benefit from the addition of a center rafter or truss, supported by a pole down to the ground. This can keep the awning tight, preventing it from flapping around and wearing itself out through abrasion against the roller tube and attachment points. Another alternative for tensioning RV awning fabric is the Awning De-Flapper (TM). Awning De-Flappers are clamps that grip the awning in soft, protected jaws, and are then tied or hooked with bungee cords to the awning support arms.
Morning and Evening Awning Shade Solutions
A retractable RV awning will shade one side of your camper from the sun, and will provide shade for a small outdoor seating area when the sun is high — but the morning and evening sun may shine in under the awning, bringing unwanted heat and glare. A good solution to that problem is to attach side curtains to the awning. Awning side panels are usually made of Textilene®, Phifertex® Plus, Sunsure® Plus, or other PVC coated polyester sun screening fabric. Sunscreen fabrics are heavy duty weather resistant screens available that reflect 60 to 90% of the sunlight, blocking out heat and UV rays and glare, adding to your privacy without interfering substantially with your view outside the screen or blocking the cool breeze. They are available in a wide variety of colors, to allow you to match your existing awning. These fabrics are fire resistant and waterproof, and hold up well outdoors.
Mesh Screen Side Curtains
Although less durable, RV campers in some areas may want to opt for a fine mesh screen fabric for awning side curtains, capable of stopping even tiny sand gnats and other small, biting insects. These ultra-fine mesh screens also block out light and heat, but will not allow as much breeze to flow through.
Keeping the Rain Out
At times rain can be a problem with your retractable RV awning. In addition to puddling on the top of the awning, rain can blow in under the edges, soaking outdoor furniture (and people). Rain gutters help, but do not prevent all the rain from entering. The cure for that problem is to attach clear, flexible plastic panels made of isinglass or similar materials to the edges of the awning canopy, creating an enclosed room outdoors.
Awning side panels are typically secured with zippers, though velcro is sometimes used. Zippered screen windows and doors allow easy entry and cross ventilation.
You can create a very nice little patio or room addition to any RV or trailer with an awning and appropriate side curtains or screens, but it will still have a dirt floor — and dirt and mud will be tracked inside. RV awning mats are polypropylene outdoor carpet sections that are breathable, reversible, and waterproof. Water will quickly flow through the fabric, and it will dry right out.
The addition of an awning mat or two to your campsite can improve your outdoor comfort while keeping your RV clean by trapping dirt. Some RV awning mats are reversible, so you can change your scenery from time to time and prevent the mat from wearing out as quickly. RV awning mats are typically fitted with grommets so they can be tied down with tent stakes.
Awning Solutions For Campers With Slide-Out Roofs
RVs and travel trailers which feature slide out sections frequently have a problem with water pooling on top of the slide out roof and then finding its way indoors. There is an awning solution to that problem as well, in the form of acrylic or vinyl slideout canopy tent awnings. These sections of weather resistant fabric move in and out with the slide out section, and usually have a peak support or truss of some kind to hold the fabric up, preventing the accumulation of water or leaves.
There are several manufacturers of retractable RV awnings, camping canopies, and other outdoor shade solutions. A and E Systems, King Canopy, Carefree of Colorado, On The Edge Marketing, Texsport, Unicage, QIC Plus, and others make specialized awnings for RV motorhomes, travel trailers, utility trailers, and pop up campers. If you have not yet found the new or replacement awning to for your RV or camper, don't give up! It is out there, waiting to be found.
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