The ever-present awning is certainly a part of the RV and travel experience. As somewhere to get out of the sun or rain, we were just as interested in the value of an awning as anyone, yet we also saw the value in having a separate shelter that would keep us out of the elements and insects. The question was finding the right combination of elements we sought that fit within the storage limitations of a smaller unit like ours.
As you are probably aware, what you find searching the Internet is largely a factor of the search terms you use. I was searching for travel van awnings and found fewer results that were made for a van, more that were made for an RV. What I did end up finding was a link to an item that was popular in the UK and Australia, but seemed largely unknown in North America.
This particular item was made by a company called Kampa, and it was marketed as a drive-away awning. Drive-away awning doesn’t really describe this free-standing tent that connects to your boogie van, but it is a clever marketing description. Originally I thought it would be too expensive to order from the UK so I searched for a North American distributor … no luck. If we were going to purchase within NA we had the option of seeking a standard awning that would fit our van and buying a separate stand-alone tent that might cover a picnic table, but not one that combined these two elements. We did find some that hung off a standard awning to form a loose, hanging shelter.
The feature of the Kampa awning we really liked was that it attached to smaller vans like ours via fabric tunnel. This size of vehicle is far more common in Europe for camping than North America. The Kampa unit also fit the common campground requirement to mark your site with a tent.
We bought the Kampa Travel Pod Mini on sale at Campingworld.co.uk for just under $400. This unit has a height limit to the van it connects to but fit ours perfectly. Campingworld was very responsive, and once ordered, our drive-away arrived within a week. Shortly after purchase I decided to buy the optional magnetic strip for $70 that allows you to connect the tunnel to the top of your boogie van. There are also 3x guy-lines on the magnetic strip so you can attach additional guy-lines to this piece. The tunnel also has guy-lines.
It’s not a perfect fit for the boogie van in that we cannot open our barn doors fully inside the tunnel, but it works well enough for a comfortable entry/exit or to pull out our food totes. it might work better with a sliding door on a similar van.
Key features include:
– stand-alone unit marks your camp site and holds your PLUZ space
– connects to your boogie van with an additional tunnel of fabric that keeps the rain at bay
– came with removable inner two-person sleeping berth
– tall enough to stand up
– room to cook and sit reasonably comfortably for four adults
– can peg securely to the ground
– packs down to a medium-sized dufflebag for easy storage
– removable floor, quite useful when rainwater is running under your shelter to keep the mud at bay
– has privacy covers over clear windows that can be raised/lowered as desired
– great place to dry clothes, store kit, or sponge bath
While not truly a modification to the boogie van itself, we feel this type of awning is a worthy addition to your boogie van experience. It provides the features of (and can be used as) a separate shelter whilst giving a connected bonus room or cooking shelter as required. If you keep the doors zipped up it really keeps out the bugs. It packs up small and is quick to setup or tear down – we can get the thing up in about 15 minutes working together. It gets a lot of attention in the camp site.
Some of the camp sites we’ve been to have very hard ground and make it difficult to pound tent pegs into. To make it easier to connect the tunnel guy-lines I added 3 hooks to the running boards of our boogie van. This is 3 less opportunities to bend a tent peg and curse up a storm. It only cost a few dollars for the parts and it was very easy to drill holes in the aluminum. I used lock washers on both sides of the install, and the nuts with plastic inserts to deter them from coming loose on the road.
Drive-Away Awning Links:
Key words: awning, mods, boogie van mods, drive-away awning, stand alone, stand alone shelter.