Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Awning

One of the options we did not get when we bought the camper was an awning. The manufactured awnings were nice but too expensive for our budget. We are used to using a tarp when camping and my thought was to adapt a tarp we already had to serve as an awning.

My first attempt at an awning last summer was simple but not effective. I had resolved to come up with a better solution.  In addition, camping in  Minnesota in the summer requires protection from bugs for camping comfort. Depending on the season, no-see-ums, mosquitoes, gnats, deer flies, horse flies, yellow jackets can take a lot of pleasure out of being outdoors. We are not fans of chemical repellents, although they can be necessary.

So the idea became to make an awning and screen room to attach to the camper.

I did not need to reinvent the awning- I just copied what was already out there. The first step was to create a framework to hold the tarp and support the insect screen.

I installed some awning track on the wall of the camper.

I used marine bimini top hardware to attach some poles made out of electrical conduit to the camper and to each other to make the framework. The nylon bimini pole ends fit perfectly into the conduit. The conduit is cheap and easy to work with.

The hardware is easy to connect and disconnect.

I bought some adjustable tent poles for the corners from Cabela's which worked perfectly. They have a pin on the end that fits through the fittings on the conduit. I attached a rope to stake out the framework.

We had to thread some awning cord into the hem of the tarp to slide into the awning track. We added some webbing and velcro ties to the tarp to reinforce it and attach it to the pole structure. A grommet at the corners of the webbing allows the pole to poke through. Webbing loops added to the tarp on the truck side support the bug enclosure. We also added loops at the corners for additional guy lines if needed in the wind.
After lots of sewing by Kathy, the tarp was turned into an awning. The awning is approximately 8x10 feet.

We had originally planned to sew the screen room too. Looking online for ideas, we found a screen enclosure made for a gazebo at Lowe's that was nearly the perfect size (10x10 feet) and cost barely more than the raw netting. We had to add some velcro ties in spots to hang it from the poles, but for the most part, it was ok as it came out of the box. It is four-sided so it makes a complete enclosure with zippers on each side. We undo the zippers on two sides to let the sides overlap to take up the extra dimension and make an easy entrance without needing to work the zippers.

We are pleased with the result. It is easy to set up and take down.

The awning can be used alone for shade. The screen enclosure can be added whenever it is needed.

There is room inside to set up the kitchen, two chairs and include the dog with room to spare. The total cost was less than $150, most of which was the cost of the screen enclosure.

The tarp and screen enclosure stuff into 3 small stuff sacks that fit in the passenger side bench storage. The poles ride on the roof rack while we travel.

Here's another shot showing the awning with a center pole that we added to get more headroom.

We are happy with how it all turned out. We don't use the awning and screen room on every trip but when it is raining (or sunny with no shade) or the bugs are bad it is a welcome addition to our setup.


  1. Very clever. I especially like the use of conduit as it is light and strong and easy to cut.

  2. Great information, Thanks for sharing!!! 😎