Monday, October 15, 2012

Vehicle Awnings...

Awning mounted on a LR90
Overland travel is all about living out of your vehicle and being outside... This works very well in a warm climate but not really recommended for an Asia Overland adventure where the cold weather penetrates tents.  Keeping out of the elements is also critical, hence the need for a side awning mounted on your vehicle.

My 1991 Defender was fitted with a free standing Hannibal awning (as per the photo on the right). This awning was fantastic as it allowed me to open and close it in a matter of minutes. It kept us sheltered in the heat of the Mali summer although it did have a major tendency to fill with water in tropical rain conditions as experienced in Nigeria.
Collecting water from the awning
Living in Australia has similar conditions to Africa - hot summer weather with the East coast suffering from huge tropical rainfalls.  The need for a side awning on a vehicle is important - protection from the elements.

In my previous post, I mentioned the dilemma I was in... good quality, made locally, was being outsold by 'Made in China' expedition equipment.  I liked the equipment Hannibal and  Polaris Innovations made, however, my need for a side awning did not justify the price tag.  I don't have a year long expedition planned - I have the need for an awning for a few days a year.  This fact pushed me to the very disposable $120 awning.  The quality mimics the price, as you will see below, but the price means that I can buy four awnings for a single locally made one.  However, if I was equipping for an extended overland expedition, I would not hesitate in buying an awning that would stand up to daily use in extreme weather conditions.

My 1996 Land Rover Discovery 300tdi is fitted with a 3/4 caged roofrack.  Mounting the awning required fitting of the L-Brackets and then using the 10mm bolts to secure the awning to the bracket.  It took me about 30min to fit the awning.  The awning weights about 9kg.

 The quality of the Tigerz11 awning is clearly aimed at the very budget aware spender...
 The canvas used is very thin as you can see from the shadow of the clasp and the aluminium is flimsy.

 Finally, the awning is up.  It does require two people to set it up otherwise it tends to flop about the place. The unit I fitted to the Discovery is a 2m x 2m.
 The branding of the awning... Three vendors were selling the same 'Made in China' awning with a price tag ranging from $120 to $280. The branding was the only difference.

I have related my thoughts to a few friends - quality vs price and the dilemma it brings.  Sadly, my purchase simple reflects the mainstream as indicated by the length of time it took me to complete my transaction (i.e. the queue).  I would, however, encourage all overlanders preparing for an extended trip to buy quality as equipment takes a hammering during overland travel and you do need it to last (unlike my awning above!)