Small motorhomes have a lot of benefits in comparison to larger rigs, but they don’t come entirely without drawbacks. Of the potential issues that you’re likely to bump up against in a smaller rig, the biggest (no pun intended) is the overall lack of interior space. This can be an issue when packing, since you have less space for gear than you get in bigger motorhomes, but the lack of square footage can also be felt once you reach your destination—especially if the weather doesn’t agree. So what can you do to minimize this issue and get the most out of your small rig? Add a room with either a fixed or drive away awning.
What Are Drive Away Awnings?
If you have kids, and your kids like to invite their friends along when you go camping, then you’re probably no stranger to the age-old solution of booting the stragglers out into tents. And while that works just fine for sleeping accommodations during the warmer months, tents don’t really provide livable space during the day. Most of them are too small to really stand up in, or fit more than a couple of people, which is an issue that drive away awnings (and other add-a-room solutions) don’t suffer from.
Next Level Tent Camping
A drive away awning is essentially a big tent that has an opening along one side and a hood that can be attached to a vehicle, so they’re a little different from the traditional drop arm awnings that you often see on RVs. Some drive away awnings are designed for passenger cars or SUVs, others fit camper vans, and some are big enough to be attached to small class C or class A rigs. When selecting a drive away awning, it’s important to find one that’s designed for the type of vehicle you want to use it with. If you have a camper van, and you try to use one that’s designed for SUVs, you’ll probably find it difficult (or impossible) to attach without letting bugs in.
The “drive away” part of “drive away awning” comes into play when you want to use your motorhome to go somewhere. All you have to do is remove the hood from your vehicle, secure it so that it covers up the open side of the drive away awning, and you’re left with a free-standing structure that people can continue to use while you’re seeing the sights, hitting a nearby fishing hole, making a grocery run, or whatever else you need to do.
Drive Away Awning Availability
While drive away awnings are popular in the UK, they’re also starting to draw interest in the US and elsewhere. In the US, you may find them marketed specifically as “SUV tents,” “motorhome tents,” and other similar names. Regardless of the name, the idea is the same: adding a free-standing room to your motorhome that you can leave behind if need be.
Awning Rooms and Screens
If you can’t find a drive away awning that fits, and you already have a fixed awning on your rig, then you might want to consider just going with an add-a-room solution that makes use of your pre-existing awning. These products consist of screens or solid panels that attach to your awning and hang down to the ground. Screen rooms essentially provide a bug-free environment under your awning without impeding your view, which is great if you’re trying to enjoy a sunset without getting eaten to death by mosquitos. You can also sleep in screen rooms, since they provide protection from insects and are under cover of your awning, but they lack any real privacy or protection from the rain.
Some awning rooms include solid panels that provide protection from the elements, and others allow you to swap out solid panels, screened panels, door sections, and even “windows” that include both solid and screened elements. Since these awning rooms offer both privacy and an area that will remain dry even if it rains, they’re great for sleeping or storing items that you don’t want to get wet.
Benefits of Drive Away Awnings vs. Awning Rooms
While all add-a-room solutions address the same problem (a lack of space inside small motorhomes), drive away awnings have one major thing going for them that other products just don’t have. Unlike drive away awnings, awning rooms can’t be used if the motorhome isn’t there. Since both screen rooms and awning rooms rely on the awning to hold them up (and provide a roof), you have to disassemble the room every time you want to drive your rig.