Many campers and trailers have awnings, but not always. That’s because, even though they’re a nice feature, awnings aren’t mandatory. Some camper owners even prefer to omit them altogether.
Awnings do have their benefits. They’re wonderful for sun protection on hot summer days, even though I still advise you to wear sunscreen. If you’re camping during a light rain, you can still sit outside and drink a warm mug of tea or cocoa under the cover of your awning.
In this article, I am going to discuss all things pop up camper awnings. First, I’ll dive into the considerations to make as you choose an awning for your trailer. Next, I’ll tell you everything you need to do to get your awning set up. Finally, I’ll end this article with some tips and tricks for awning maintenance and troubleshooting.
5 Types of Pop Up Camper Awnings
In the world of awnings, there are many options. Some will be remarkably cheap while others may cost you a little more money. To understand why that is, I`m going to first cover the types of awnings you might come across as well as materials.
First, there’s the awning type to talk about. You get far more versatility when it comes to the type of awning if you have a larger vehicle like an RV. We’ll go over all the types out there, but do keep in mind that some of them may not be applicable to your smaller camper.
1. Patio Awnings
Ideal for bigger trailers, patio awnings provide more privacy. They come with plenty of extra material as well as ties for securing the awning anywhere. You can create a makeshift room and put a toilet in there or even use the space for changing clothes. You’d probably get a patio awning offered to you if you bought a larger pop up camper.
2. Automated Retractable Awnings
Next, we have automated retractable awnings. These are more high-end, in that they include a button that can be used to open or close the awning at will. If you want to spend the extra, extra money, you can even get an automated retractable awning with a wind sensor. You can then retract your awning before it gets ruined from inclement weather.
3. Roller Awnings
As the name suggests, roller awnings work by moving on a roller system. The awning typically sits wrapped up around itself. It’s also stored up and out of sight in RVs and some pop up campers (depends on the size). The awning’s mechanical system comes into play when you want to unfurl the awning. This same system can also pull the awning back into a rolled-up, stored-away position.
4. Slideout Awnings
Slideout awnings are somewhat like roller awnings but with several differences. For one, they are typically kept somewhere underneath the RV or trailer’s roof. While they may have a mechanical system that unfurls them, it’s just as common for you to have to do the job yourself.
5. Fixed Awnings
Finally, there are fixed awnings. The smallest awning type, they’re designed to go over doors or windows. Due to their simplicity and size, you can probably install a few fixed awnings in even smaller pop up campers.
Once you’ve chosen an awning type that will work for your camper, you then have to think about the material. Vinyl and acrylic are the two most common choices.
Vinyl awnings are adept at keeping mildew at bay, but that doesn’t mean mildew can’t grow at all. It’s just less likely to. Unfortunately, if you’re not dealing with mildew, then you could have a nasty case of dust and/or dirt coating the awning.
Also, you have to be careful about the temperatures in which you use your vinyl awning. If it’s too hot and humid, then mildew and mold are more likely to develop.
If vinyl isn’t your thing, you can always get an acrylic awning. These are known for their fast-drying qualities. They’re not totally waterproof, so it is important you let them sit out and dry before rolling an acrylic awning back up.
That said, compared to vinyl awnings, you can use an acrylic awning out in light rain. Their water-repelling woven cloth can handle a little drizzle without soaking through. That woven cloth also allows air to move, which could lessen your chances of having mildew and mold grow on your awning.
How To Install Pop Up Camper Awning
Now that you’ve bought the perfect awning for your pop up camper, it’s time to set it all up. Here are the steps you should follow to do so.
- Make sure your new awning will fit. You should ideally do this before making a purchase. Measure the space where the old awning was or where you’d want a new awning to go.
- Unfurl your awning to the point where it’s one foot long. Now, find your end caps, which should have holes. Secure the holes with cotter pins. This will keep the awning from rolling up, which you need at this point.
- Find your inner awning shaft and begin moving it. The goal is to get all the holes in perfect alignment. Once you do that, move your cotter pins back in place. It’s okay to bend them a little. They won’t break unless you’re too rough. Doing this effectively secures the awning but allows it to unfurl if desired.
- Next, you’re going to need to find your awning’s attachment plate. This is typically located behind the arm, which you’ll have to bypass. You may need needle-nose locking pliers to pull on your attachment plate. It’s best to have two people on the job since you need to use the pliers on the attachment plates from both sides. The goal is to take off the arm of the awning, which you can only do once the attachment plate is moved out of place.
- Now, move onto the awning’s rafters. They should have lag bolts. With a wrench, loosen each bolt.
- You’ll also have to disconnect the fabric attached to the rail of the awning. This connects via rivets or screws. If it’s rivets, you’ll need a drill to remove them. If it’s screws, use a screwdriver.
- Now you can take the awning off completely. [box type=”warning”] Don’t do this alone, as the awning can be deceptively heavy.[/box] Next, move the arms, fabric, and tube as far from the pop up camper as you can. The fabric material of the awning should fully unfurl.
- It’s time to take the cotter pins out. These should be in the end holes where you left them. There will be springs beneath the pins that must be unwound.[box type=”warning”] Take your time with this to avoid getting injured by the springs as they do have torsion at this point.[/box] Also, another reason to go slow is that you need to count as you turn the springs. You’ll know why later.
- Take apart your torsion assembly but keep track of where your cam handle is as you do so. It’s important to get it back in its prior spot later.
- The tube of your awning should be fully out and open at this point. The awning itself should also be completely unfurled. If it isn’t yet, take care of that now.
- Finally, you can get to work setting up your new awning. Yes, it was a lot of work and effort to get here, but you did it. You now want to attach the awning to the tube, going very slowly. Moving too fast could tear your brand new awning!
- At the end of the tubing, wrap the cords around the tube for extra security.
- Now put the torsion assembly back to where it was. A wrench will help you with the rivets.
- Grab your spring from the end holes. Roll it back it precisely where it was with your locking pliers. Remember, you should have kept track of this earlier. Otherwise, your spring won’t get enough torsion.
- Put the pin and the arm of the awning back where they were.
- Continue reassembling, working in reverse. After that, you’re done!
Pop Up Camper Awning Maintenance and Troubleshooting
Uninstalling your old awning and putting up a new one certainly isn’t the easiest job in the world. That’s why this section is especially pertinent. In it, I’ll tell you some common issues that afflict awnings as well as how to troubleshoot these.
Rips and Tears
There are many reasons your awning might rip or tear. Perhaps you let it sit out in windy or otherwise inclement weather. You might have gone too fast when installing the new awning and didn’t realize there was a tear until it was too late. If the end of your awning showed loose strings, you may have ignored these until the fabric gave way.
The smaller your rip or tear, the luckier you are. It’s very easy to fix small damage like this. To determine the size of the tear, grab your measuring tape or a measuring stick. You want a tear that’s three feet or smaller. That’s classified as a small rip.
You have two options for fixing your awning at this point. The first of these is sewing it up. You might want to contact the manufacturer to order a swatch of canvas that’s identical to your current awning. You can also shop around for the fabric. Then, trim it down to size and sew it in place.
You can also buy an awning repair kit like this RV Awning Repair Tape one on Amazon. For less than $30, you get everything you need in this kit to patch up your awning without sewing. Instead, you use tape. You’d gather the fabric around the hole or tear, pull it close together so the tear is blocked, and then tape over it. The tape is meant to be a permanent solution.
I also recommend that, in the future, if you see any loose strings, you cut them immediately. That’s how tears and rips can start.
Holes and Gashes
If you happened to ignore a small tear or didn’t notice that rip until it became huge, then you might have significant damage to your awning. They are classified as holes or gashes if they are bigger than three inches.
You should still measure the hole or gash to get a feel for how big it is. Then you have several options. You can try stitching it up like you would for a rip or tear. You can also use a repair kit like the one we linked you to above.
If you have a significantly large hole or gash, though, you might have to think about getting a new camper awning altogether. This is rather unfortunate for sure, but sometimes it’s what you have to do. That’s why our biggest tip is to always check your awning for rips and tears. If you see them, don’t wait to repair them. They will almost certainly get worse.
Mildew and Mold
I talked a bit about mildew and mold earlier in this article. Vinyl and acrylic are both decently good at combatting mold and mildew, but almost no material is completely mold-proof. That means you’re going to have to be diligent about preventing the growth of mold and mildew yourself.
The best way to do that?
Never roll up your awning when it’s wet.
It doesn’t matter if it rained or if you hosed it down, if the awning is even a little wet, you must let it air dry. Unfurl it completely and let it sit out for a few hours. Once the whole awning feels bone dry, you can roll it back up again.
Yes, this sounds like a major pain in the butt, we know. It is necessary, though. Mold and mildew love moist environments, and few environments are moister than a rolled-up, damp awning.
What if you already have mold and/or mildew growing on your awning? Not to worry. You can always invest in an awning cleaner such as this B.E.S.T Awning Cleaner (available on Amazon). It’s super simple to use. You apply the product via the spray nozzle where you see mold or mildew on your awning. Let it sit and then clean it off with a hose. That’s it! The mold and/or mildew should be gone. If not, you can always reapply the product.
[box] If you want an awning for your popup camper, you’ve made a great choice. Awnings can keep you dry in rainy weather as well as prevent the sun from frying you in the intense summer sunlight. Most awnings for RVs, trailers, and campers are made of vinyl or acrylic. While both materials have their benefits, neither is completely waterproof nor mold and mildew-proof. That means you’ll have to take special care of your awning to keep it free of mildew and mold. The best way to do that is to keep the awning as dry as possible.Installing your own awning is a two-person, maybe even a three-person job. Once you get the old awning off, just go in reverse, doing everything you did before. To keep your awning looking great, always trim loose strings. If you have small holes or rips in the awning, address them immediately. They will grow bigger. At that point, you might have to get a new awning altogether.[/box]