Friday, 4 November 2011

Awning - Yawning

It still amazes me that on a certain Eriba based internet forum the subject heading ‘Awnings’ has attracted the fifth highest number of posts. 
Can you believe it, fifth place?
And I suspect quite a few awning posts have berthed themselves in some of the other sections over the years, so in reality the subject may actually have crept up into fourth place.
Never has so much been hot air been expended on so much hot air.
Now I have to declare an interest here and you may have detected a slight hint already, but awnings don’t interest me, in fact I find the whole subject a bore.
It’s true however that generally if Eriba owners at a rally aren’t erecting or demolishing an awning, then they’re standing round in a circle with a glass in hand talking about ………… awnings. I’m not sure what it is about them that involves and attracts so much discussion but I have to accept the will of the people here and acknowledge that I’m in the minority.
Types of awning
In a way we do have an awning, although to be truthful it’s technically a sun canopy (Omnistor 2000), which retracts into a cassette box that’s secured to the awning rail and looks like the wind-out awnings fitted to motorhomes and campers. We’ve even acquired sidewalls to clip in place but we’ve not used them so far. 
A peaceful scene with two beardies en couchant (almost), the knitting bee in full operation and Poppy showing off her Omnistor 2000 drag-out awning.
I’m not sure I’d recommend the Omnistor overall as its pull-out mechanism can be a bit fierce and make it a handful if you’re erecting or dismantling it on your own. However with two people it’s much easier to manage.
The varieties of awnings available to an Eriba owner are seemingly endless. There are full awnings and porch awnings, curved awnings and bow awnings, cheap awnings and mega-expensive ones. The best advice I can give you if you absolutely must have one is log onto, type ‘awning’ into the search box and settle down for several nights reading.
Awning useage
As to the uses that are made of awnings there seems to be three distinctly different camps of opinion.
One regards them as a place to store gear that would otherwise clutter up the van.
The second consider them to be places to live in, cook in, sleep in and generally entertain visitor and friends in, almost ignoring the van alongside, except as somewhere to bung anything that clutters the awning.
The third treat them as an airlock, drying room and pets boudoir and are probably somewhere in the middle between the other two extremes.
As we’ve already considered Eriba aren’t the biggest caravans and using an awning does give you an opportunity for additional enclosed space if that’s what you feel you need. Although as one dealer said to me they often find that people with small Eribas come to them to buy an awning to gain space and shortly afterwards return and buy a bigger Eriba because the awning hasn’t satisfied their requirement. 
Travels with an awning
Carrying an awning/sunshade around fixed to your awning rail is probably the neatest and easiest way to indulge, however if you decide to add sides and a front then you start to gain clutter and need the space inside your van or car to store it. If you decide to go the whole hog and opt for a full awning then you’re most likely into a pair of quite substantial bags containing the frame, clips, pegs etc and the canvas roof and wall bits. Not only are these quite large, they can also be quite heavy and weight distribution and securing the load need to be considered seriously, especially if you’re going to travel with the awning in the Eriba. A lot of awnings come with a choice between glass fibre poles and steel poles. There is a trade-off here. Glass fibre is lighter but more flexible and potentially not so strong in nasty weather, whereas steel is more rigid and will stand up to terrible storms but weighs a lot more. So as in many things you pays your money etc.     
Purchasing your awning
Two of the main brands you’ll hear of with regard to Eribas are the French Soplaire range and the UK-made NR range for Eribas that are sold exclusively by Automotive Leisure. Both are made to fit Eribas and this is important as the awning rail is much lower on an Eriba than on a standard (white box) caravan. The Soplaires have a reputation for sturdiness but require study and practice to erect quickly and effectively. The AL/NR has the advantage of being able to act as a stand-alone ‘tent’ which is ‘zipped’ to the awning rail once built. 
A NR made awning exclusively supplied by Automotive Leisure of Poole
Used awnings of all shapes and sizes are often posted on the For Sale board of and Ebay can be a useful source of supply as well.
Divorce rate
Before venturing into awning use it might be as well to think about your relationships and maybe reserve a session at Marriage Guidance for just after you return from your first trip. This might seem odd advice for a book about caravans, but believe me although it doesn’t feature in the official list of reasons for divorce I suspect initial awning erection must figure somewhere. So just consider whether your relationship with your nearest and dearest are up to it before going further with awning purchase.
Erecting an awning with its myriad poles, clips and pieces of cloth, all of which can be used in at least two, if not more, different ways tests the ingenuity, spacial awareness, determination and temper of even the most angelic and placid of caravanners and Eriba owners are not immune. Getting it all wrong after a lot of physical fixing and dragging can lead to total apoplexy and your poor partner is probably the only nearby person to whom you can make your feelings known. Drop kicking the dog also helps but is not recommended on legal grounds.
Not all the relationship effects of an awning are negative however as it can provide an excellent place for a partner afflicted with the results of a surfeit beer and/or curry to spend the night without upsetting the delicate olfactory senses of their other half.   
Spectator sport
One of the favourite occupations on any campsite is to sit inside your van with tea and biscuits (or cake if you’re that way inclined) and watch new arrivals moving their van into place, getting it set up and watching the erection of the awning. With any luck it’ll be raining cats and dogs, with a Force 10 gale blowing. With even more luck it’ll be a newbie with an untried awning and erection instructions in French that are turned to papier-mâché by the downpour. Hours of entertainment can follow which makes the pitch fee seem totally worthwhile.   
Awning Men   
There are probably more, but we’ve come across three interesting sub-species in our awning observations on camp-sites throughout the country.
The first is Tap-Tap Man
We first detected him at a site on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall. He was invisible but setting up his awning a hundred yards or so away from us late one lunchtime. And early afternoon. And mid-afternoon, and teatime and early evening and on and on. You get the picture. He started banging in tent pegs at about 1pm and was still at it at about 8 in the evening. We couldn’t figure out whether he was pitched on very, very hard ground and just wouldn’t give up or whether he had a very, very lightweight hammer/mallet or had fallen out with his Mrs and just kept on peg banging so he wouldn’t have to go inside and face her. If I listen hard I can still hear his insistent ‘tap tap’, tap tap’, ‘tap tappy’ in my head.
The second is Bunker Man
Every early morning as I was dragged to the dog exercise area I’d spot him with the top half of the front of his awning rolled down. His pitch was on a strategically sited knoll from where he commanded a panoramic view across the tops of the assembled vans towards the soft, green hillside beyond. He’d spend from cock crow ‘til evening light sat inside looking out over this vista for all the world as if he was in a pill-box waiting for an invading enemy to cross the ridge line. All he needed was a tin hat, a cigar and a pair of binoculars. I can’t recall whether his towcar was a Jeep and I still wonder if his surname was ‘Patten’? 
The third is Sporty Man
He turned up and proceeded to fill his awning with clothing rails straight out of the rag trade. He then started hanging an inordinate number of wet suits from the rails, plus lots of flippers and bits of underwater swimming gear and for all I know his lovely little spaniel was hung up there as well. The awning resembled an Aladdins cave of scubaism (if that’s a word). Whether any of it actually got wet we never did find out.


  1. There are probably more, but we’ve come across three interesting sub-species in our awning observations on camp-sites throughout the country.

    Patio blinds

    1. This is worrying news and something that might possibly be of interest to the UN. If they're breeding AND evolving think what they might turn into?

  2. Very entertaining! Made me smile before I delve into the world of awning acquisition...

  3. They have closed down. Fairly typical of my luck.