Selecting The Perfect Awning

Selecting The Perfect Awning

Once you have selected the available correct size awnings, how do you compare them? Manufacturers use different terminology to describe their awnings often making it difficult to compare.

Choosing an awning for any recreational vehicle can actually be quite complex, as there are multiple points to consider, however, following research with customers, Perfect Awnings has simplified the comparison process by identifying all the key factors that customers like to use to determine which awning best meets their needs.

Prior to listing any new products, we review all the specifications and available documentation for the awnings that we wish to supply and ensure our product descriptions list as much information as is available about the awning and where ever possible a standardised specification for each of the key factors.

A description of the key factors and any standardised specifications are detailed below:

A-Measurement - The A-Measurement is key and made up of twice the height plus length of the caravan roof and the awning has to be the correct measurement else it wont fit or may not be properly secured.

Depth - The depth of the awning will need to be specified and defines how big an area you want the awning to cover. All awnings are available in multiple A Measurement sizes and some awnings are available in more than one depth size.

Price - Awnings are available in a wide range of costs dependent on size, material, quality, accessories etc etc, but the reality is everyone has a budget and the Feature Selector allows you to easily see what features are available in the price range you are wishing to spend.

Frame Assembly Type - Do you want a traditional steel pole type, lightweight construction or the latest air inflatable.

Steel - This is the best option if you are planning to leave your awning up for a lengthy period of time, in varying weather conditions. For example, if your tourer is sited for a whole season on the same pitch. Weight isn’t usually a consideration when you’re only transporting your awning to and from a park at the start and end of a season.

Aluminium and Glass-fibre - Both are lighter-weight options, suitable for touring, when the total weight of your awning may be an important consideration in relation to the payload of your caravan. When it comes to building the awning, both aluminium and glass-fibre frames are easier to handle, because each pole is lighter in weight than steel.

Air - The invention of air technology in awning construction has revolutionised the market and has provided buyers with a new type of awning that are speedy and easy to construct. The air awnings use a system of pipework, which you inflate using a pump. It’s easy and very quick.

Frame pole sizes - Pole diameters are specified and provide an indication of the strength of the poles, which is important as they will often have to withstand significant pressure from wind movement.

Intended use - When buying an awning you need to know that it is designed to be used when you want to use it.  As defined in the latest specifications (ISO 8936:2017) awnings are now specified as follows:

Lightweight Awning - Awnings suitable for repeated pitching which are characterised by ease of use and lightness and with a total weight of less than 2.75 kg/m2 of the base area.

Touring use – (Type T) - Touring awnings are suitable for repeated pitching at any time of the year, but not in winter snow.

These above two categories cover the majority of awnings available in the UK.

Residential use (Type R) - Awnings suitable for continual use over extended periods and capable of handling a light snow load. These are suitable for seasonal pitching such as used by campsite staff.

Winter use (Type W) - These are suitable for all year round use and are able to take a specified roof loading such as might be experienced with heavy snow.

If touring will be the main use the awning needs to be easy to put up and take down, without being too heavy. However if you want to leave it up on a seasonal pitch, or perhaps use it in winter, then something more substantial would be better suited.

It should also be noted that ISO 8936:2017 doesn’t apply to cassette awnings such as Thule awnings. 

Rain Resistance - The rain resistance (or waterproof rating) of awnings is measured in millimetres of water (mmH20). This rating relates to the pressure at which water is able to press through fabric. The standard waterproofing test involves applying water pressure behind a fabric sample until 3 drops of water are able to pass through the fabric. For example, a 3000 mmH20 rating means the fabric can sustain 3000 mm (3m) of water on top of the fabric before it will leak.

This rating will usually be abbreviated to PU 3000mm, where PU stands for polyurethane, as coating a fabric in polyurethane is the most common way to make a fabric waterproof.

Roof and Wall Materials - Awning fabrics vary from lightweight, thin polyester to top-quality dyed acrylic. They vary enormously in weight, look and feel. Fabric choice depends on how you will use the awning.
Frequent users should consider investing in a better more expensive awning, which, typically will look more taut and rigid than lighter weight fabrics and will be built to last.

Occasional users may struggle to justify such major expenditure. Lightweight polyester however has some advantages. It’s quick to dry after rain and light in weight to handle when you're constructing and packing it away, which can be a significant advantage if touring.

Awning material is normally specified in Denier (D), which is weight per unit length. Therefore the lower the denier number the finer the material, the higher the denier, the coarser the material. As an example 300D Polyester would be considered a heavy duty fabric.

Weight - This can be a key factor dependent on how close the caravans weight is to its Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM). The weight of an awning can be impacted by size, material and even waterproof rating as rain resistance is increased normally by applying multiple waterproofing coatings. Therefore it may be necessary to trade off some of the above factors in order to reach the optimum balance.

Colour - Often key to ensure the awning and caravan or motorhome colours match or contrast in an aesthetically pleasing way.

The above is not intended to be an exhaustive list and many buying decisions will be influenced by other factors such as what types of zip are in use, how much ventilation or windows are available. Does the awning have blinds and a host of other optional extras.

The benefit of first determining which of the above key factors you require, is that allows you to initially focus on the "must have" features to narrow down the available range before considering the optional extras which will ultimately help make the final decision.