You know how it is. You’ve found the site ok, got checked in, sorted your pitch, got the van set up, the kettle on or the bottle opened. Time to relax? No, because you know the next job on the list.
In the short time that we’ve been caravanning – 18 months give or take – there seems to be one thing on which caravanners almost universally agree. The single worst aspect of caravanning is putting up that awning. I remember our early attempts all to clearly. We had embarked on a three month trip around Britain – the idea being that if all went well, we would go off in to Europe for a year or so. Our first stop was Cardiff and it rained pretty much everyday, so there was no opportunity to try out our new awning which hadn’t even been out of the box. In Pembrokeshire however, the awning saw daylight for the first time and having got it threaded through the rail we started to sort out the poles only to realise that we’d got the damn thing on inside out!
Having corrected this we then discovered that the supplied plastic pegs were about as much use as a chocolate teapot. I was somewhat relieved when we decided to pack it all away.
Eventually a couple of weeks later we did finally get the awning up and whilst the extra space was no doubt useful I still questioned whether it was worth all the effort and grief. We were on site for a week but for a weekend away I wouldn’t want to waste valuable time with it.
Fast forward to this year and the first inflatable awnings came on the market, promising much quicker er, erections. Having seen how easy one went up at Twittercamp in July we decided to take the plunge and eventually purchased a Kampa Rally Air 390 from Johns Cross Camping.
It comes as one large package – remember the air poles are integral to the awning and whilst it is lighter overall you still have the whole weight of the awning in one bag.
To erect, the awning is threaded through the rail in the usual way. Four pegs are put in – one at each corner – and then the awning is inflated using the supplied pump. Inflating takes only a few minutes – advice is given on required pressure in the literature – and then you finish pegging out making any adjustments as necessary.
Now I wont pretend it went smoothly the first time – we ended up deflating it and starting again. But there is no doubt that it is much quicker and easier to put up. All the air poles have isolating valves in case a repair is required using the supplied puncture kit. Taking it down was easy too – un-peg then let the air out, remove from rail and fold. And yes it went back in the bag easily!
There is still quite a premium at the moment and I am concerned that they may not be as forgiving as traditional awnings on un-level pitches. Alloy poles to improve the seal where the caravan meets the awning are available as an extra but I feel should be included given the price. We’ve mocked up a couple from some spares but will order the proper poles at some point. Storm straps are available as an extra too, but the awning stands pretty firm as is. Metal pegs are supplied but may not be up to the hardest of hard standings, an given the high quality finish of the awning overall, some better peg were expected.
There is no doubt in my mind though, that inflatable awnings will grow in popularity – and hopefully as they do, the price will drop too.