Top Tips For Buying a Drive Away Awning For Your VW Campervan
When we first bought our VW Campervan we had romantic ideas of wild camping in remote locations and a drive away awning definitely didn’t feature in those images.
The reality is that the VW camper van (especially the short wheel base) is one of the smaller campervans and when adventuring in a campervan with kids with a van load of stuff, we needed the extra space that an awning afforded us. See here for more tips on campervanning with kids.
Weekend wild camping trips are still on the agenda (we’ll just have to remove some items from our campervan packing list!) but for longer trips like our summer trips camping in France, we bought a Vango Noosa Low awning.
When buying our VW campervan awning, there were lots of things that needed to be considered. This post will take you through everything you need to know about VW camper awnings.
It includes the benefits of a camper van awning, what to look for when choosing a van awning and tips on how to use a drive away awning.
See also our views on the Vango Noosa Low Awning and the Olpro Cocoon Breeze Air Awning at the end of the post.
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What is an awning?
Completely new to the world of driveaway awnings? A driveaway awning is essentially a tent that attaches to the side of your campervan (or motorhome).
You attach it when you are at the campsite and detach when you want to drive away to explore the area. It usually consists of a main living area and an attaching panel.
The benefits of a drive away awning
As we’ve already established, having the extra space of a tent or an awning is preferable for anything more than a weekend.
Whilst we have become quite good at packing for a family trip, there just isn’t enough space in the van for us all to sleep comfortably with all of our stuff in there too.
Some people prefer to have a standalone tent next to their camper van (we do sometimes use this one) but here are the main reasons most people choose a drive away awning over a freestanding tent:
- it seamlessly attaches to your van to form one big space which is essential in wet weather
- some campsites require you to pay extra for a freestanding tent
- they are more flexible as you can actually use them as a freestanding tent too
- you can let the kids sleep in the awning and still be able to see them if you are concerned about security
- you can leave the van door open at night in warm weather when the awning is attached
Drive away air awning vs awning with poles
Advantages of inflatable driveway awnings
- Easier to set up. One person can set up the blow up awnings but you usually need 2 people to set up a poled awning.
- The inflatable awnings handle bad (windy) weather better as they have a more flexible structure.
- They are usually in one part so there are less pieces to go missing.
Disadvantages of inflatable driveway awnings
- They are more expensive than the poled version.
- They are bulkier than the poled version and so take up more space in the van and are heavier.
- The inflatable beams can pop so you would need to have a puncture repair kit just in case.
Choose the right height awning for your vehicle
Campervans comes in different shapes and sizes with the VW camper van being on the lower side. Awnings come in all different shapes and sizes too but it is the height attachment that you need to be most aware about.
Awnings generally come in Low, Mid and Tall heights. You would need to look at the ‘Low’ awning size for your VW but you should double check this with the retailer before buying.
In terms of the size of the awning you need, that is a more personal matter. We were particularly concerned with the packable size of the awning so this played a big part in deciding which awning to get.
It’s hard to get an idea of the erected size of the awning looking online so we would recommend visiting a showroom where you can see awnings in place.
Can you sleep in a drive away awning?
If sleeping in the awning is something you think you will do a lot, you might want to consider looking at a sleeping apartment or one that comes with a sleeping apartment, otherwise you will be sleeping with all of the other stuff you are storing in it.
We did the occasional night in the awning when the van was too hot to sleep in so it didn’t bother us to have a few belongings around us. We use gorilla tubs to keep our stuff organised and these could also go outside under the porch of our awning along with the table and chairs.
We make sure to take our Thermarest ProLite self-inflating mattresses with us to use in the awning as they pack down into a tiny bag and are easy to store. (Or you can sometimes find them cheaper on Decathlon).
Tips on connecting your drive away awning
Reimo rail or straps?
Once you have decided on the driveaway awning you want, you need to consider how to attach it. There are a few options.
- Reimo rail
- Storm straps that go over the roof and are pegged in on the other side of the van (not ideal if you have a solar panel)
- Velcro straps to attach to your roof rack
We found the simplest way was to have a Reimo awning rail fitted to our van. It is barely noticeable (in part due to the colour of our van as you can see – or not see – below!) and very sleek.
Drive away awning kit
If you have a Reimo rail fitted, you will need to consider a drive away awning kit. This drive away awning connection kit essentially consists of a double edge kador strip (or awning beading) and figure of eight connector strips.
We bought the Vango drive Away Awning Kit which included a 3m kador strip and 3 x 1m figure of 8 attachments and comes in a handy carry bag.
How to attach a drive away awning
One edge of the kador strip feeds into the Reimo rail while the figure of 8 connector slides onto the other edge of the kador strip. The kador strip on the awning then slides through other side of the figure of 8 connector.
We found this video incredibly useful for explaining how to attach the awning.
Re-attaching the drive away awning
In case you didn’t watch the video to the end, one important tip to remember is to mark where the wheels are before you drive away. This way, when you return, you can line up the wheels which will make re-attaching the awning a lot quicker.
Which is the best VW camper awning?
Given all of the above and the number of awnings out there, it is a personal choice. We went for the Vango Noose Low Awning for our VW T6 for short stays and in good weather (see why below) and we use our Olpro Cocoon Breeze for longer trips and bad weather camping. See our Olpro Cocoon Breeze review for more information.
Here are some other popular alternatives that you can research.
Vango Galli III Low (airbeam)
Kampa Touring Air Classic (airbeam)
Outwell Revolution Cayman (poled)
Our thoughts on the Vango Noosa Low Awning
We decided to go for the Vango Noosa Low Awning for a number of reasons.
- Vango is a dependable name. It makes good quality and affordable awnings in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- It was our first awning and was much more affordable than the airbeam models
- It packed down to a reasonable size (L 75cm x W 28cm x H 28cm) and weighed 12.3kg
- It is easy to assemble for a poled awning (but it is still a 2 person job)
- It has a large porch area that stops rain entering when the main door is open and provides good shelter
- It has a clip in awning groundsheet which is easier to keep clean
- The awning windows have window blinds
- It has roof vents to help with ventilation
Anything else to consider?
You might want to consider the awning fabric if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the heat.
Have you considered using packing cubes ? They are amazing for van life and store neatly in the awning.
Consider an awning carpet to make it more cosy. Breathable ones work best, like the Kampa awning carpet or the Vango awning carpet.
Make sure to check out our campervan gift guide if you’re looking to get a gift for a campervan owner.