RV Awning TypesAnthony Day
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These days, just about every common RV comes equipped with an awning, but you should know that there are a number of different awning types.
One of the best ways to make yourself feel right at home when RV camping is to pull out your RV awning to create a pleasant atmosphere for your outdoor seating area. However, RVs have different types of awnings, which can usually be distinguished based on their style, design, as well as their fabric material.
RV awnings are made with either acrylic, vinyl, or canvas materials. The different RV awning types that we see on most RVs are either electric (automatic), manual, roll out, or detached (patio). However, there are also fixed awnings, which are permanent covers on your RV.
RV travel is a way of life for so many people out there, as this is the ultimate way to see the country. Although RV travel has been around for decades, we are seeing that it is as popular now as it ever has been in the past - given that 2020 and 2021 were record-breaking years for the industry. With a country as vast and beautiful as the United States, experiencing it in an RV only come naturally for a lot of people. However, it is important to note that the RV industry is constantly evolving and growing - with new technology and innovation to make this kind of travel more practical and comfortable than it was before. RV components such as awnings keep getting modernized with advanced features and more reliable fabric materials, which is why we can see a lot of different awning types on recreational vehicles. Virtually every RV out there has an awning but they can vary depending on a number of different factors. To help you understand this better, we are going to take a closer look at RV awning types in more detail.
After extensively researching RV awnings, I have been able to gather enough information to determine the various types that are currently in circulation. My research has shown me that RV awning types are often correlated with the various manufacturing eras of recreational vehicles.
RV Awning Rollers and Mechanisms
There are a number of different RV mechanisms that enable RV awnings to function. The majority of awnings will always have travel locks that keep them fastened and secured.
Unlocking these will enable you to have access to your rafter arm. To give it movement, you first need to open the mechanism that locks the rafter arm in place.
Once the mechanism has been unlocked, you can then roll out the rafter arm and extend the awning to your desired position. As you do this the awning fabric will stretch out over your RV’s outdoor space. You can then tighten your rafter arm so that it is secured and immovable.
Once the rafter arm has been rolled out to the desired area and fastened, you can extend the leg to be grounded in a position near your RV. Some RV awnings are equipped with compression mechanisms. This enables them to compress when there is weight on the roof such as from water building up.
Benefits of RV and Camper Awnings
Having an RV awning is a go-to for so many travelers out there. They come with a lot of added benefits and they are going to make your camping and traveling so much more convenient, practical, and homey.
Regardless of the type of awning that you have, its main purpose is to give you cover and protection from your local environment. When RV camping, you tend to spend a lot of time hovering around your campground, lounging, and enjoying meals, which is why having an awning is the perfect addition to your recreational vehicle to help make you feel right at home. These are the primary benefits of RV camper awnings:
- Rain Cover
- Sun Cover
- Snow Cover
- Wind Cover
We all travel in our RVs to spend time in the great outdoors but, at the end of the day, it is nice to feel as comfortable as possible when you are on the road and camping. An RV awning provides the perfect cover for you from virtually every environmental condition that you encounter. The protection that it gives you from the sun is not only good at stopping you from getting sunburned but it also helps your RV’s exterior, as well as any camping equipment that you have outside from getting sun-damaged.
In addition, there are some great RV awning options that are quite high-tech and enable you to have the ultimate defense from intense weather, as well as bugs. You can customize your awning to create an entire barrier which is pretty much an added room connected to your RV. With all that being said, awnings are great because they make your RV camper feel even more like home, which is why it’s understandable to see some folks living out of their RVs.
RV Awning Materials
One of the biggest distinctions between different RV awning types is the different materials that are used to make them. Over the years, we have seen different eras of RVs come and go. It is often the case that each era brings with it new technology and innovation - with awnings seeing some changes and improvements regularly.
However, you will find that some awning materials are better suited for certain conditions than others. At the end of the day, all awnings are designed to do one thing - protect you from your environment and help you feel more comfortable when camping. But some materials will have features that make them more ideal for certain situations.
If you are on the market for an RV awning and want to pick out the best type for you and your RV, you should be sure to read the specs and characteristics of each awning material.
Acrylic RV Awnings
By today’s standards, acrylic awnings seem to be a crowd favorite among so many RV travelers. This is a more new-age material that has become very popular in recent years, as it is one of the most practical RV awning materials that you can equip your vehicle with.
The reason for this is how well-rounded they are for a variety of different camping conditions when traveling. Acrylic RV awnings are very breathable, which is a great feature to have when you are camping out on hot summer days and need a nice cool place to relax in the afternoon.
Another great characteristic of acrylic awnings is how durable and versatile they are. Acrylic is a tough material and it was designed to handle virtually every type of condition that you throw at it including:
Acrylic is generally the all-arounder, hassle-free choice for so many RVers, as you get a lot out of this material. However, despite acrylic’s shining qualities, it does have some drawbacks that you should be aware of. Although this material can handle moisture very well, it is not going to be ideal for heavy rain. Light rain is usually okay but pro-longed and heavy rain, in particular, are going to soak into your acrylic awning and this will lead to drips.
This can sometimes result in wear and tear happening rather quickly with acrylic awnings, as the moisture can lead to sagging. If sagging does happen, an acrylic awning is still useful and will do its job but it can end up flopping around when it gets windy.
Aside from these drawbacks, acrylic awnings are great and they offer RV travelers a standout feature - you can roll them up while they are still wet!
Vinyl RV Awnings
Depending on who you ask, most RVers either go for vinyl or acrylic awnings, as these two materials tend to have the most universal features. Vinyl is a great material that is highly regarded for how durable and reliable it is - making it a great option for anyone that wants to maximize the lifespan of their awning.
Unlike acrylic awnings, vinyl is not just resistant to water but is actually fully waterproof. This means that you can roll out your awning evening during a rainstorm and enjoy the comfort of your RV’s outdoor seating area without having to run inside for cover. This can also be an added feature for snow camping for RVers that like to get out and about in all seasons.
Another great characteristic of vinyl awnings is that they are damage resistant. Other awning materials tend to get scratched and worn quite easily - especially if they are not cared for. Whereas vinyl will not fade on you over the years nor will it get noticeable scratches every time it gets dinged.
However, there are some drawbacks of vinyl awnings that you should be aware of. Vinyl is not quite as breathable as acrylic, which means that it can get a bit hotter underneath your awning on warm summer days. You should also note that, unlike acrylic, this material will require that you fully dry it before you roll it up. Vinyl is notorious for getting moldy and mildewy after having contact with moisture - especially if you roll it up wet before long-term storage.
Canvas RV Awnings
Although canvas RV awnings are not quite as popular as they once were, they are still widely used today and do come with a lot of benefits. Canvas is a great material for an awning and some people prefer it over acrylic and vinyl.
Canvas is layered with cotton which makes it a great material for anyone that wants to avoid that scorching summer heat when RV camping. Given that cotton is such a breathable material, it is going to enable a lot of airflow into your RV’s outdoor space.
Although canvas is not as durable as acrylic or vinyl it is still quite tough - so long as you do not abuse it too much. We also like how easy canvas is to clean - you can wash, scrub, and disinfect your entire awning in minutes.
You will find that this awning material is pretty water resistant but it is not always ideal for rain. What happens with canvas is that water tends to build up within it - making it not ideal for wet conditions. With that being said, canvas is still the favorite material among RV shoppers who want to save money, as you can get this type of awning material cheaper than vinyl and acrylic.
Types of RV and Camper Awnings
If you are set on the material that you want for your awning, all that is left to consider is the style of awning that you want. We have seen the technology behind awnings change to make them more convenient and more practical for specific types of situations.
Depending on the type of characteristics that you are looking for, you may find that one type of awning is going to be better suited for your travels. Let’s dive into the different awning types that you can select for your RV.
The most innovative and high-tech awnings that we see equipped with RVs these days are electric (or automatic) awnings. These are hands down the most convenient and practical awnings out there, as they take away all of the hassles and procedures of traditional awnings.
The main idea behind electric options is that you essentially just push a button and the awning slides right out and creates the outdoor space for you within seconds. As you push the button for the awning to extend, the mechanism starts to slide down creating a roof cover. Once the cover is out there is often an additional roll in the awning that creates a curtain-like barrier.
In addition, a great feature that a lot of electric awnings have is that they have a built-in shock system that not only makes them easier for storage but also for getting rid of rainwater. During rainy weather, it is common for awnings to have water that pools up which requires you to go out and pour the water out manually. Whereas an electric awning will do this on its own.
Manual awnings are the most common types that you see on RVs. They are traditional, reliable, and get the job done just as well as an electric awning. The technology and mechanisms behind manual awnings can vary slightly depending on their style and design, but overall - they all have a pretty similar approach.
To release the manual awning, you always want to undo the travel locks. After you unlock the rafter arms, you can open up the awning roller so that you can pull it out. You can then extend the rafter arms and lock all of the components in place to create the structure of your awning.
Most manual awnings will give you the option to create an incline for the roof so that you can enable runoff for water. The legs of the awning can be extended based on the height that you want your outdoor space to have. To keep the awning from moving around due to wind or any kind of contact, you can stake them into the ground to add stability.
Aside from the manual work required, these are quite similar to electric awnings - they just require you to spend a few extra minutes to set up your outdoor space.
If an RV has fixed awnings, these cannot be adjusted or rolled in - they are permanent structures attached to your RV.
These provide protection for parts of your RV that are always there (such as over doorways) - without you needing to do anything. Fixed awnings can be great, as they eliminate the process of you needing to fold, roll, or maneuver them in any way.
However, this can also be a drawback for any RV traveler that enjoys the flexibility of having an awning that they can utilize when they want to, opposed to always being extended. They also have been known to be safety risks in some situations - given that they could potentially fall off when you are driving if met with some kind of contact.
Roller awnings use a technology that enables them to slide out of the side of your RV to provide cover. These are similar to manual options in many ways but they are even easier to extend out in most cases.
You can roll them out to create a roof for your outdoor space. However, these tend to be a bit less versatile than manual awnings. They will extend out and create a roof but you have got less flexibility with how the awning is used - given that you cannot change the slope of the roof.
Detached (Patio) Awnings
A detached or patio awning is the ultimate RV set up for so many travelers, as they pretty much enable you to extend the entire living area of your vehicle. A patio awning gives you the option to create walls around your outdoor area.
You can attach walls or roll them down (depending on the type of patio awing that you have). This essentially creates a separate room next to your RV, which is a fantastic feature to use for additional protection from the external environment. In addition, some people like to use patio awnings as a protected area for sleeping and storing items.