There are two tricks to camping more often: comfort and speed. Knowing that You can cook and hang out in a sheltered area so you can camp in less specific conditions. If you’re able to set up a protected area quickly – even in the dark – you can arrive late at camp or set up a pop-up base camp during a pit stop. Step into awning 270. Add one of these to your car or truck and I guarantee your next camping trip will be a lot easier.
Vehicle-mounted awnings have several significant advantages over their free-standing counterparts. They are quicker to set up, have more stability and resistance to strong winds, and do not take up any space in your vehicle.
Unfortunately, vehicle-mounted awnings also have some disadvantages. They are usually expensive and heavy, and add weight in the worst part of your truck. Unless you have a fancy roof rack, assembling it can be tricky. They can cause wind noise as well as rattling and squeaking. And they are exposed to the weather. So if your awning isn’t done well, it wears out terribly quickly.
In other words, finding the right one is really important. When I set out to build a Ford Ranger for our honeymoon to South Baja and back last year, a dream awning was at the top of my must-haves list. It took me a while to find one that was almost perfect and I learned a lot in the process.
Compared to a straight awning that simply unfolds into a rectangle that covers one side or the rear of your vehicle, a 270 inch awning wraps around the side and the rear of your vehicle, provided continuous coverage. Two hundred and seventy degrees might not sound like a huge step up 180 degrees, but when you have such a large area of uniform coverage from the sun and rain you have a lot more room to unpack, cook, and hang out. Think of this as your own portable camping cabana.
Creating a structure like this that also folds flat enough to carry on the side of your vehicle gets complicated very quickly. There are multiple arms and hinges, a ton of fabric, rods, guylines, a storage pocket, and a zipper. In other words, there are several possible sources of error.
And that was the problem I ran into with the first 270cm awning, a Rhino-Rack Batwing Compact awning ($ 688). One reason the product is cheaper is because of the non-free-standing design. The awning requires vertical poles to support each horizontal arm. The poles are adjusted in length by an internal cam for rotating for tightening. Screw clockwise to loosen, slide the outer bar over the inner bar to find the correct height, and turn counterclockwise to tighten. But when I first set up the Rhino rack in the driveway, that mechanism was broken. I had to remove the entire rod assembly from the awning, disassemble it, reassemble the cam, and reassemble the rod. The entire process took 20 minutes and it was pretty much sworn. With a little practice, I have reduced this time to ten minutes. Better but still pretty annoying as the thing broke every time I put the awning up.
On my first camping trip with the Rhino rack, I discovered another problem. If my tires splashed mud into the awning’s zipper, it would jam and require an explosion with a hose to clean it out before the zipper would work again. I’ve never been so happy with the 10 gallon water tank and extra long hose I carry in my truck as I was on that first night after dark in the pouring rain. I might get soaked to the bone in the process, then had to dismantle, repair, and reassemble a support pole and stake out guylines, but half an hour later I had a nice, dry place to hang out.
30 minutes is not fast. And pulling out tools in the dark is not convenient. For my next attempt at putting an awning on my truck, I made a list of wishes: something that wouldn’t fall apart, was quick and easy to set up and put away, and at least didn’t need support legs in very mild conditions.
A recommendation from a friend led me to the Eezi-Awn Bat 270. At 1,300 US dollars, it is considerably more expensive than the Rhino-Rack, but it also comes from a South African brand that stands for high-quality overland equipment. It met all of my criteria and got a bonus: at just 46 pounds, it’s the lightest awning out there.
Instead of cheap steel tubing, the Bat 270 uses aluminum boxes for arms and legs that weigh much less. And while the awning can stand alone in mild weather, there are bars hidden in the arms that you can use to support the awning if necessary. The rods have external buttons for length adjustment and hold the awning down rather than up, as enormous fabric structures act like sails in the wind. Where other awnings rely on guylines, with the Bat 270 you simply have to drive stakes through holes in the pole feet. Once unplugged, the Bat 270 remains stable in all wind conditions where you want to be outside. Use legs instead of guylines, as with the Rhino rack. shortens time, increases strength and reduces flutter in strong winds.
Mounting the Bat 270 to my GoFastCampers platform was easy thanks to the screw channels that run the entire length of the awning’s support plate. After a few practice runs, I was able to reduce my set-up time to under a minute. Packing probably takes half as long and is so easy and intuitive that I quickly learned to do it in the dark without the help of a spotlight.
And that’s all it takes to get a three-quarter circle of coverage that extends six feet ten inches from my truck in each direction it covers. It’s hard to articulate how beautiful a room is; Now I’m afraid of the idea of camping in my car without my truck.
But the Eezi-Awn awning isn’t perfect. In heavy rain, water collects in each waterproof panel until it reaches a tipping point and falls out in a large splash. You can avoid this by pressing down on the fabric every few minutes, but that will only get you smaller splatters and more of it. Other 270 awnings, like the AluCab shade awning ($ 1,500) avoid this by using clever fabric distributors that couple the fabric to prevent it from clumping together.
(Photo: Wes Siler)
Installing a 270 awning can be tricky if you don’t already have the lightest, most modular truck camper in the world. Heavier constructions may require support for the hinges on the back of the awning. This means you will need an aftermarket roof rack like the one made by Frontrunner, ARB, and others. Lightweight awnings like the Bat 270 are Much easier as it only requires two vertical mounting surfaces on the side of your roof. If you have standard roof rails, you can drill holes in your cross rails and screw on an ARB universal awning bracket. If you have generic loading poles, like those from Yakima or Thule, you might be able to attach awning mounts that are sold by these brands. Whichever awning you choose, make sure you determine the mounting requirements in advance and that your vehicle can meet them.
You should also consider which side of the vehicle the awning will be mounted on and order the appropriate configuration for that side. Since we drive on the right side of the road in the US, an awning on the passenger side will open to traffic if you are run over on the side of the road. It also transmits less wind noise to the driver. I went with an awning on the driver’s side for the simple reason that my rear swing – and the cute little camp table that a friend and I made for it – opens up to the passenger’s side.
Are you looking for a way to quickly remove and reinstall your awning so that you don’t have to deal with the noise during daily driving? The RacksBrax HD Hitch Snap Awning Bracket ($ 149) sits between the awning and vehicle mount so you can easily raise and lower your awning.
Main photo: Equipt