Caravan awnings: Keeping your van cool

By: Tony Allsop, Photography by: Denyse Allsop

Camping at the beach is one of life’s little luxuries but creating shade is vital.

As Denyse and I live in north Queensland, a lot of our caravanning is done in the heat. And, like most travellers, we love staying beachside. Naturally, we look for shade and try to keep our van cool.

We had our roll-out awning fitted to the van, not the pop-top roof. This means that the hot air from under the awning does not enter the van through the vent in the vinyl top.

Denyse also made a shadecloth awning wall to slide into the awning roller. She stitched a slightly thicker rope into the bottom edge of the wall. This edge slides into the sail track we fitted to the offside of the caravan for those times we need shade on that side. By simply up-ending the side wall, it is usable on either side and we can have the shade we need without the need to carry two walls.

Extra protection

About eight years ago, we painted the roof with an insulating product called Therma Shield (from Australian Paints). This has been excellent and, in our original tests, we showed that it lowered the temperature inside the van by about six degrees. After eight years, the paint is still holding tight and working effectively.

While it’s not a shade item, we always use a C Gear floor mat under the awning, because sand left on top of the mat just drops down through it, but no sand rises up through it. This matting makes life much more comfortable at the beach.


Clean your awning regularly with a mild detergent. Using a product containing bleach will shorten the life of the stitching. Make sure you clean off any fruit and bird/bat droppings right away, as these bake onto the vinyl after a time, making them very hard to remove, and some are corrosive.

We have our awning serviced each year when we have the van serviced. The sliding arms need to be lubricated, the spring tension checked and they ensure it is all working as it should. We protect the arms from stone chips and mud with commercially available covers while travelling. Our previous awning lasted almost 12 years before we replaced it, and we feel that regular care and maintenance greatly prolonged its life.

Rub a wax stick over the stitching on the awning where it slides into the sail track to prevent rain water dripping through the stitch holes. We spray a protective coating (such as Armor All or a vinyl reviver) on the part of the awning left exposed when it is rolled up, to protect it from the sun. We have seen several awnings that have delaminated due to sun damage.

Experienced vanners tie down their awning, as sudden gusts of wind can destroy it. Paint the tops of the tent pegs white so they can be seen easily and invest in a peg puller.

Drop one end slightly to allow rain water to run off. Large amounts of water can cause the whole awning to collapse, and smaller amounts stretch the vinyl and cause flapping. Flapping is the enemy of the stitching on the awning. Use anti-flappers regularly and roof rafters on larger awnings. Constant flapping can cause cracking along the stitching on the valance: we tie the ends of ours to the guy ropes to prevent this.

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The full feature appeared in Caravan World #535, March 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!