The Best RV Awnings in 2020 (All in One)
Comparisons, Guide, and Reviews
The front porch is a natural meeting place, combining the indoors and the outdoors. You’re sitting in your own space while enjoying the view and able to interact with those passing by. It also extends your living space at relatively little cost. You don’t have to give up this experience when you move into an RV. The best RV awning allows you to replicate the sheltered area on your front or back porch while still allowing you to pack up and head out.
What is an RV Awning Actually?
An RV awning is a weather-proof extension. You can roll it out and create a sun-shade or de facto rain tarp. The best RV awning can be set at a variety of angles and lengths, allowing you to protect your grill, the extended cab of the RV or a large seating area. A few models simply provide protection for the area by the RV door.
The RV awning won’t serve as a full shelter, but that’s not necessary because the entire purpose of the RV. Instead, the RV lets you sit outside in the shade or work outside without being fully exposed to the elements.
This could give you a sheltered place to sit while the kids or pets play outside. It could give you a place to barbeque, sort laundry or leave items outside to air out while protecting them from the worst of the elements.
How Does an RV Awning Work?
An awning is simply a piece of cloth or tarp that extends beyond a building. It may give you a permanent shaded area for diners, or it may provide protection for windows. In the case of windows, the awning prevents bird poop and hail from damaging it. Depending on the RV awning you buy, it could provide the same protection for your RV windows or protect the entire RV on one side.
Note that there are RV awnings designed specifically to protect RV windows; that may be a worthwhile investment if you have a large picture window on the side or back of the RV.
An RV awning is an awning designed to work with the RV. When rolled up, it is generally a tube mounted on the top of the RV. This minimizes drag while giving you easy access to it. Pull the long tarp or plastic sheet out and use poles in either the ground or attached to the RV to hold it in place.
Now it resembles a tent, except that you don’t have to do nearly as work to set it up or take it down.
Several helpfulness to setting up the awning
There are several benefits to setting up the awning. It creates a sheltered area around the door to the RV. Now you aren’t getting wet as you fumble for your keys. Your dog could run outside in the sheltered area under the awning, though they’d be afraid to go outside if it meant running into the snow or rain.
It becomes much easier to empty waste tanks or cook on the grill outside if you aren’t subject to a beating by the sun or the rain. It significantly extends your living space.
Window awnings and RV awnings may significantly reduce heat gain in the summer. For example, when you have awnings on a building, it reduces heat gain by 50 to 60 percent. You’re essentially carrying your own shade for the RV.
However, the awning won’t interfere in air flow. This helps you stay cool in the summer while minimizing the energy required to do so. Adjustable awnings could block both the rising and setting sun, allowing you to minimize heat and maximize natural light.
Awning range of Sizes and Styles
Awnings come in a wide range of sizes and styles. They can be anywhere from 8 to 25 feet long. Most awnings have an 8 foot height, but you can find awnings as high as your vehicle. You can choose from a wide variety of colors, materials and styles.
You don’t want to choose a cheap awning, because it will cost you over the long run. The best RV awnings are capable of surviving a single hail storm and years of weathering.
A few models can be controlled via a remote control. Then you can extend the awning at the push of a button, though you have to be careful to close it, too, before you start driving.
The Benefits of Using an RV Awning
RV awnings give you the ability to create a front porch of sorts. Extend your awning, and you’ve created a sheltered outdoor space for work and play. However, there are a number of benefits to an RV awning.
We’ll explain the benefits of having an awning on your RV and the reasons to use an awning over trying to carry a tarp around.
One of the biggest benefits to an RV awning is the protection it provides you and your vehicle. It protects the side of the RV from sun, rain and hail. Whether it reduces the odds the paint fades from sun exposure or shelters you from the rain while you’re getting in and out of the vehicle depends on the weather that day.
It can also protect you from falling leaves and minor debris. All of this is beneficial when you’re trying to light up a grill or supervise pets and children playing outside.
Depending on the type of RV awning you choose, you may be able to pull it down over the window to provide extra protection from hail, sleet and flying debris.
An awning can increase your privacy. This is especially true for awnings over picture windows and doors. It is harder for others to look in, though you’re able to look out. If you’re putting laundry out to dry or working in the shade, your possessions aren’t as visible and are thus less likely to be stolen.
03. Shade from Sun
Shade from the sun benefits you and your RV in a number of ways. It becomes easier to sit outside and enjoy nature watching though the sun is beating down. The RV awning may shade the RV itself, too. That significantly reduces how much the RV is heated up by the sun in the afternoon. That may allow you to reduce your need for air conditioning or reduce how long you need to run the generator to power the air conditioner.
A side benefit of an RV awning is that it is easier to work outside. Do you need to change a tire? Do you want to have the kids play outside? Both tasks are easier when you always have shade at your disposal.
The main benefit of awnings over tarps is that they’re permanently connected to the RV. There’s less set up. Furthermore, there is no chance you’ll accidentally leave them behind or lose them. You can choose the type of material used in the awning to maximize its performance in terms of weather-resistance or strength.
For example, you could choose an awning specifically for its ability to reflect sunlight away from the vehicle.
Extend your RV awning, and it shows that you are “home” in the RV, reducing the odds that your vehicle is targeted for theft. The side benefit of the awning is that it is attached to the RV. It can’t be stolen like a tarp.
Roll out a carpet or mat under the awning, and you’ve created a large, comfortable outdoor space like a front porch. This is a convenient place to relax, while it lets you pull your kids away from their devices and outside.
It also attracts visitors for socializing, and you can do so without bringing them into the rather cramped RV.
How Many Types of RV Awning Are There?
While awnings share a common purpose, there are actually a variety of RV awnings out there. We’ll outline the major types of RV awnings and the characteristics of each.
We’ll also explain the cases where the different types of RV awnings overlap.
01. Acrylic Awnings
An acrylic RV awning is made from acrylic fabric. They resist water but are not water-proof. However, they don’t fade in the sun, and they resist mildew. This is a big point in its favor when you are in a humid environment that will rot canvas and cotton.
Acrylic awnings might be coated with vinyl to make them waterproof. Acrylic fabric can last five to ten years.
You can find clear acrylic awnings and colored acrylic RV awnings. A side benefit of acrylic awnings is that it can include cotton-polyester fabric coated in acrylic. These awnings can come in a wide array of colors and styles, but it is more durable than a cloth awning.
Metal awnings are more durable, but they’re not commonly used on RVs due to their weight.
02. Vinyl Awnings
Vinyl awnings come in two types: coated and laminated. Laminated vinyl is the most common awning fabric. It is strong. It is water proof. It is durable, resisting cracks and rips on exposure to the wind. Coated vinyl is more durable and of higher quality.
As an added bonus, it is quite stain resistant. Sometimes a “vinyl” awning is really a cotton fabric coated with vinyl. The vinyl will help it resist high humidity.
However, they won’t last as long as solid vinyl awnings.
All vinyl fabrics are low maintenance. However, they aren’t as flexible as materials like canvas. This can result in tears if it is allowed to fly freely in the wind or is jerked hard. Vinyl awnings don’t come in as many colors as cotton and other materials, as well.
The vinyl on the awning also means it doesn’t breathe or let as much air in. On the flip side, vinyl is inherently fire retardant. That’s a major point in its favor if you want to barbecue or cook under the awning.
In theory, vinyl awnings can last up to ten years.
03. Fixed Awnings
A fixed awning is one mounted on a welded metal frame. The metal frame is, as the name implies, fixed in its location. It may be mounted over a doorway, patio or window. The frame may support a durable fabric or metal awning.
The benefits of fixed awnings include greater durability and strength. The permanent frame will withstand casual blows and remain in place in the face of high winds.
One downside is that you can’t change the awning’s style. If it is concave, domed or convex, you can’t change it. And any awning cover you make must fit that frame.
Very large awnings may require support brackets or legs, and this could affect the maneuverable width of your RV.
04. Slide Out Awnings
Slide out awnings are typically used to protect sensitive parts of the RV. The most popular type of slide out awning will slide out to protect your RV slide out. It may be called a slide topper awning. This type of awning will protect your slide seals from rain, sun and leaves.
This prevents water from seeping through that joint into the living area and extends the life of the seals. Some models have built-in wind deflectors to prevent the awning from billowing in the wind. This reduces the noise level and helps prevent damage from the jerks of the fabric.
Note that slide out awnings could cover your RV’s doorway or the side of the vehicle, as well.
05. Automatic RV Awnings
Automatic RV awnings are powered or electric. They’ll extend at the push of a button. This is in contract to manual awnings that need to be manually assembled or extended by turning a crank.
Note that all automatic RV awnings are retractable. Some models such as those that cover an RV extension may automatically extend along with the RV section.
The main point in their favor is convenience.
06. Patio Awnings
Patio awnings are awnings intended to create a sheltered “patio” on the side of the RV. These awnings tend to be on the passenger side of the RV or the same side of the vehicle as the main door to the living area.
Some people have patio awnings on both sides of the vehicle. These awnings may range from two or three feet long to shade windows to ten and twenty feet awnings that create as much sheltered living space as the inside of the RV.
However, patio awnings will always be far larger than window awnings.
07. Roller Awnings
A roller awning is a type of retractable awning. It typically rolls up the material in a roller in a manner similar to roller-based window blinds.
The difference in the case of RV awnings is size – the roller awning may span the entire length of the RV, though it may only be as wide as a single window.
08. Retractable Awnings
Retractable awnings are the opposite of fixed RV awnings. You can remove the poles and retract them, completely exposing the door or window. They may fold up or roll up for convenient storage.
On an RV, this means you can retract the RV and maximize your fuel efficiency by minimizing the drag. And you don’t have shade if you don’t want it, either.
If you’re dealing with window awnings, the awning may collapse down against the window to maximize privacy and shade.
09. Manual Awnings
Manual awnings are retractable awnings retracted by means of a crank, rollers and other manual means. This requires more work on your part than an automatic awnings, but they are cheaper, too.
Others appreciate them because you don’t have to wire it up or keep it supplied with batteries.
10. Fiberglass Awnings
Fiberglass awnings are more commonly used on permanent buildings than RVs. They’re prone to cracking on impact or exposure to temperature extremes.
However, you may find fiberglass pipes used to hold roller awnings in place, since they are both light and strong.
Things to Consider before Buying the Perfect RV Awning
What makes an RV awning perfect? The real answer is that it is perfect for your needs and your RV. We’ll share the things you need to consider before buying an RV awning so that it is perfect for you.
The best fabric for your RV is perfect for the environment you’re traveling in and your own preferences. For example, cotton and canvas rot in hot, humid environments. Laminating them with vinyl and other plastics extend their life, but it doesn’t do as well as pure plastic RV awnings in these situations.
In windy environments, plastic tarps flex and bend, wearing out quickly.
02. How easy to install
The ease of installation matters just once if you’re installing an automatic awning. The automatic awning that rolls out when the RV extends or at the push of a button when you’ve parked the vehicle to create a shaded area eliminates any subsequent work.
If you have to manually extend the awning, then the ease by which you unroll it or crank it matters more than how hard it was to mount on the side of the vehicle.
03. RVs measurements
Let’s be honest about the fact that a 20 foot awning isn’t going to fit a 10 foot travel trailer. A 10 foot awning may work if you want shade for a small work space. For example, it may be sufficient if you only want to shade the living area around the front door of your trailer or shade over your grill and storage area.
However, a 10 foot awning may feel small when you have to choose whether to shade the front door or your grill.
If the goal is to shade the picture window at the back of the RV or the vehicle extension, then the awning measurements need to equal or be slightly larger than the area you are shading. In this regard, the awning’s measurements need to equal or slightly exceed the area it protects.
However, an awning intended to protect the entire side of the RV should be equal to the length of the RV. Anything longer makes it harder to mount, and it throws off everything from storing to driving the RV.
For example, a 22 foot awning on a 20 foot RV means it can’t be stored in a 21 foot long garage. And an awning that’s narrower than a window both looks bad from the inside and the outside.
04. Travel needs
The best awning for your application is one that meets your travel needs. For example, an awning that makes it hard to store the RV or travel trailer is a hassle. We’ve already mentioned how an awning that extends past the end of the RV or increases its length is a hindrance.
In these cases, you may want a removable awning that can be packed away instead of remaining permanently fixed to the RV structure. An awning that collapses along with the RV extension makes the RV easier to fit in tight lanes and parking spaces, too.
If you drive long distances, lighting awnings that cost a little more may be worth it, too, in the improved fuel efficiency.
In this case, we’re talking about the size of the awning, not the size of your RV. For example, a 20 foot long RV could have be paired with an awning anywhere from 2 feet to 20 feet wide.
The question is your intention. If you just want to provide shade for the RV, you only need an awning a couple of feet wide. It could be one to three feet wide. If the goal is to have shaded living space near the RV, then you want an awning eight to twenty feet wide. Then you have to balance the cost relative to the benefit.
For example, extendable awnings twice as long may cost more than twice as much if support bars are required.
You should do a cost-benefit analysis for any RV awning. However, the benefits are based on what you value most. For example, it may be worth a little more to buy an extendible RV awning that came with the RV instead of paying for one you have to install.
Convenience then offsets the higher cost. Buying one that is plug and play with the RV’s electrical system and control board is another labor saver. If you’re setting up tarps and tents when you park the RV, then a manual RV awning that requires little extra work to extend is worth it.
There’s less hardware to cart around than the system you’re already using.
Appearance is a factor when you’re buying an RV, since it is as visible as the outside of the RV. In fact, it may be noticed before the vehicle itself. This is why you want to pick an awning that looks good out of the box. However, the ideal awning will be used for years. If the awning is made of cheap materials, it will fall apart in a matter of months and look bad.
Another factor to consider is how the material fits with the look of the camper or RV. Off white generally works well with a white or cream RV. However, a white awning clashes with a dark RV. A pure white tarp will also appear aged or unmaintained if you don’t clean it often, since it will show dirt, dust, pollen and debris.
Be careful with patterned awnings. You run the risk of it clashing with the RV’s paint job. Brightly colored awnings also tend to fade quickly, though this is less of a problem with vinyl awnings.
You don’t want awnings that look aged after a single summer in the sun.
08. Other Factors
If you’re cooking on a grill under the awning, the smoke will rise and discolor the awning. You either want an awning so dark it doesn’t show or one you can clean or wash to remove the smoke residue. The same is true if you smoke cigarettes under the awning.
The benefit of cloth awnings is that they can generally be tossed in a clothes washer. Vinyl awnings can often be rinsed with a water hose to the same effect.