#1 RV Manufacturers in China. WhatsApp: +8615015572152. Email: tom@ecocampor.com

Ecocampor’s Guide to RV Awnings

When I first started RVing, I wished someone had told me how invaluable a good awning is. I knew that they were handy for staying dry in the rain and cool in the heat, but I never considered them too terribly important in the grand scheme of things.

Then I drove into the desert.


Table of Contents

In August 2016, I spent a month soloing through Utah’s great National Parks without any sort of substantial shade. That month was epic, amazing, utterly fantastic, and brutally hot. Never again will I underestimate the power of an RV awning.

Here at Ecocampor we’ve put together this guide so you can learn the ins and outs of RV awnings before you go off and purchase one of your own.

What is an RV Awning?

RVs aside, an awning is an exterior overhang that acts to shade and protect certain areas of a building. They are typically installed over windows and doors but can be found over balconies as well.

On buildings, awnings are constructed with all sorts of materials. Wood, steel, metal, and asphalt roof shingles are common building materials for awnings that need to not only be waterproof but also strong and storm-resistant.

Lightweight and inexpensive awnings are made of thick vinyl sheeting or rigid plastic. These types of awnings are most often installed on storefronts in large cities and metropolitan areas.

RV Awning

RV Awnings

Camper awnings are just like awnings on buildings, barring one difference, whereas buildings awnings are solid and unmoving, the vast majority of RV awnings are made to roll in and out similar to a projector screen. This feature allows RV owners to deploy their awning whilst parked and camping, and then roll it up for transit.

RV awnings are almost always made of durable, flexible materials that can withstand being rolled in and out many times while retaining their waterproof qualities.

Types of RV Awnings

Most camper awnings have the same general shape and structure, but there are a few exceptions to the normal design. Drive around any RV park in America, and you are likely to see these types of awnings in action.


A winch awning is the classic RV awning that can be rolled in and out via an internal winch system. While most winch awnings are manually operated, automatic RV awnings can be purchased for an additional cost.

Manual awnings are deployed utilizing a long pole that has a small hook on one end. The hook is threaded through a loop on the main body of the awning and spun around to engage the winch. The spinning action reels in the awning fabric until it is fully encased and locked in into the awning body. The pole can then be stored in the RV until it is needed again.

Automatic RV awnings do not need a pole to be deployed, and instead rely on a remote and electrical power supplied by the RV’s battery bank. The awning draws from the 12V DC system to power the inner mechanics of the winch. The RV owner can press a button on the remote and the awning will extend out to its full length, after which the user simply has to insert two support poles to support the weight of the extended unit.

While most people are able to operate a manual winch awning with relative ease, folks with mobility issues or low strength might struggle to turn the winch. In those cases, an automatic awning is the way to go.

Pros of a winch awning:

  • Streamlined and aerodynamic, winch awnings are made for life on the road. They travel easily and will have low impact on gross RV weight, drivability, and fuel mileage.
  • Affordable and easy to purchase on most budgets.
  • Due to how common they are, there is an abundance of RV technicians with the experience and knowledge necessary to repair winch awnings.

Cons of a winch awning:

  • Susceptible to damage from high winds, heavy snowfall, and extreme storm conditions.
  • Automatic awnings can be tricky and expensive to repair.
winch awning

Fixed Awnings

A fixed awning is a semi-permanent structure that can be installed on the exterior of an RV to provide shade and protection from the elements for a long duration. Fixed awnings are primarily designed for motorhomes that will be parked in one location for the entirety of a winter or summer season, or in some cases, full time.

Snowbirds and retirees will often purchase a fixed awning for their rig and hire a handyman to assist with installation. Many are made to detach from the camper when the owner is ready to move to a new location. Steel, lightweight aluminum and vinyl are very common materials for fixed awnings to be constructed from.

Pros of a fixed awning:

  • Sturdy and resistant to the effects of extreme weather.
  • Inflexible covering won’t shake and flap in heavy wind.
  • Provide reliable protection against falling limbs and other debris

Cons of a fixed awning:

  • Cannot drive with a fixed awning. Must be uninstalled to move the rig.
  • Once installed, cannot be set up and taken down at the whim of the owner. Should be considered a permanent awning for the duration of a visit.
  • Likely to be more expensive to purchase and install than an average RV awning.

Slide-Out Awnings

This specific type of awning is unique to motorhomes or campers that have automatic slide-outs. Slide-out awnings are deployed whenever a camper’s slide-outs are engaged. They protect any edges, seams, and holes in a slide-out from rainfall and snow.

Slide-out awnings are relatively small and will not offer a person any shade or protection. Some slide-out awnings are automatic and will engage when the slide-out does, while others have to be manually deployed after the slide-out.

Patio Awnings

A patio awning refers to an awning that has a secondary attachment installed that creates an enclosed space with a roof, walls, a door, and sometimes screened windows. The walls and door are made of lightweight, waterproof fabric that doesn’t add too much additional weight to the cantilevered awning.

The purpose of a patio awning is to essentially create an additional room on the exterior of your RV. This can be nice on days where you want to be protected from the elements while still enjoying fresh air. Patio awning walls can protect from dust in windy desert storms and evening time bugs.

Some folks buy walls for their awning so they can enjoy the space outside of their RV while maintaining privacy.

Patio awnings are also referred to as enclosed awnings or sheltered awnings.

patio awnings

Awning Materials

Different types of RV awnings are made of different materials depending upon the make, model, and manufacturer. Fixed awnings can be made of a wide variety of materials, while winch awnings have to be made of thin, flexible material. In this section I’m going to focus on the two primary materials found in mobile winch awnings.

Acrylic Awnings

Acrylic is a common material for awnings due to its water-repelling properties and resistance to dirt and grime. While acrylic awnings do a good job shedding water from rain and snow, they are not entirely waterproof. If water pools on an acrylic awning long enough, the water can saturate the fabric and seep through.

Acrylic fabric is a synthetic material that is not found in the natural world. It is made from petroleum through a chemical process. While certain acrylic products can be harmful to human health, acrylic awnings are safe to use because you do not need to touch or directly contact them very often.

Acrylic awnings have been known to stretch over time due to the effects of wind. Once stretched, they have a tendency to whip around and snap in the wind. This deters some people from purchasing an awning made of acrylic.

Vinyl Awnings

Vinyl awnings are great because they are fully waterproof. Water and snow can pool on a vinyl awning sheet for long periods of time without risking moisture seeping through. Vinyl is a fairly UV resistant material and will not fade for many years, even when subjected to intense desert sun rays.

Vinyl awnings are known to need more frequent cleanings, as they seem to hold dirt and dust more than acrylic awnings. The less breathable material can also develop mold and mildew much quicker than acrylic. It is best to allow your vinyl awning to fully dry before closing it to prevent the growth of mold.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about RV awnings.

Are vinyl or acrylic awnings better?

Neither material is better than the other, it all depends upon your personal needs. Vinyl awnings are best in wet, rainy climates, while acrylic awnings tend to excel in deserts.

How long do RV awnings last?

Most RV awnings can be relied upon for the life of the RV. The exceptions to this are automatic awnings that might need electrical work, and awnings that have suffered damage from falling debris or a storm.

Final Thoughts

If you own a camper and are weighing the pros and cons of installing an awning, I would stop fretting about the decision and just go for it. Sure, it’s a bit of a financial investment, but the benefits to owning an awning far outweigh the overall cost and hassle of installation.

Once you have an awning you will be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Rain, snow, sleet, sun? No problem!

Happy camping!

About Author
About Author

Schuyler has been working and playing outdoors his entire adult life. As a ski-bum in his early 20’s, he began building campers in the beds of pickup trucks to pursue a life of freedom and adventure. After a decade of experience as an artist and carpenter in Washington State, he moved to Colorado to work as an RV technician, converting vans into luxury campers. Now he is traveling the world, using writing as a way to continue his passion for creativity and artistry.

Download Catalogue
Our Social Network

Share with your friends:

Popular on Ecocampor Right Now!
Download Catalogue