One of the most useful and treasured items we have on board is the awning and enclosure. This system allows us to manage temperature, shade, privacy and our belongings and even the dogs. All of this offers flexibility to meet the needs of a particular setting. This system also doubles our living space!
The awning we selected is a Fiamma 45s and cost us about $1,000. We selected this one because it is the most reasonably sized unit that can be cranked out easily. There is a longer one that will fit a Vanagon, but this worked for us. It operates so simply that one person can deploy it. The mounting brackets attach firmly to the rain gutter, with no drilling needed. We purchased ours through AT Overland http://store.adventuretrailers.com/categories/AWNINGS/FIAMMA-/ and they assisted with installation.
In addition to serving as a terrific sun and rain protection, the awning case provides a niche to insert the rolled up plastic mat. The mat fits snugly between the Fiamma case and the high top. We secure it there with two adjustable Velcro straps. http://www.homedepot.com/p/VELCRO-brand-3-ft-x-2-in-Velstrap-Straps-2-Pack-90440ACS/202261929?N=5yc1vZc280 To make it easier to roll up the rug, we roll it around a piece of PVC pipe. When the rug is out, the pipe sits behind the awning case, against the van top and helps prevent drips during a rainstorm. The rug is slightly larger than the room/awning area and sticks out just beyond the walls.
The canvas walls of the room enclosure were made by Butte Canyon Canvas Company in Prescott, Arizona. The owner is Jeff Meredith firstname.lastname@example.org We were able to select the color of fabric and placement of doors and windows. He kept the vehicle, with the awning deployed for a few days. When we picked it up we were amazed. His workmanship is the highest. The materials (fabric, zippers, hook and loop, webbing straps) are all good quality items that function smoothly and easily.
The front wall of the room slides into a groove in the awning case. The two side walls have rod-pockets for metal poles, which fit into the awning case and a mounting point. The side walls zip to the front wall, sealing the unit on three sides. The walls attach to the side of the van using super-strong magnets, which hook through grommets. For those with nice paint, this might be an issue. For us, not!
All of it can be assembled and disassembled in about 15 minutes. Once it is up, the room provides complete privacy with the windows and doors closed. With the windows and doors open the breeze blows through and light comes in. Often we choose to not use all the panels, and configure it to offer a privacy wall or a windbreak instead.
The walls of the enclosure extend to the floor and then have two flaps at the bottom. One flap (about 3 inches) is designed to go to the outside and be nailed into the ground with tent stakes. The other flap (about 12 inches) goes to the inside and offers a waterproof lip all the way around the room. We set heavy things on that flap to help hold it down (we have not staked it yet) if the wind is blowing. We add a ratcheting bar to help support the weight of the walls, but that is not required. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Keeper-Ratcheting-Cargo-Bar-05059/100570347
All of the walls are made of a water resistant canvas that does not become saturated and dries off very quickly after rain- and it has seen some major rain! CAUTION- during a rainstorm the awning must be tilted to drain and the rain must be pushed off regularly. Fiamma suggests not using the awning in rain or wind. The windows are covered in a plastic screen material. The zippers are heavy duty plastic. The enclosure came with a storage bag, but we have chosen to fold it small and store it in a dry bag in the box on the back bumper. (see bumper post elsewhere on this blog) The room is in the gray bag.
I should mention that Fiamma offers a room enclosure for sale that works with their various sized awnings. However, when we were ready to make our purchase, the size we needed was out of stock. We were not able to wait and we loved the idea of designing our own door and window pattern. Please know that nothing in this review speaks to the quality of the Fiamma wall set, or compares the two in any way.
The only concern we have had with this set up is that we have grown to trust it as a secure “room” on our house. But it does not seal the space UNDER the van. Mango can slip away unseen, by going right under the van. But we keep her on a long tie-out so she can’t go far when she does this trick. Otherwise we find that this enclosure adds a feeling of security for our belongings and a huge amount of privacy to our camping experience.
If you have any questions or want photos of any specific parts of the awning or room, please let me know. Thanks for reading.
As always with advice from this and any other blog; do not attempt this at home, all work must be done by licensed professionals, do not ride without a helmet, do not pass go without collecting $200 dollars and please wash your hands after going to the bathroom.