Awnings for Mini Day Vans like VW Caddy and Transit Connect Vans
4 CommentsSaturday, 7 June 2014 | Admin
Smaller day vans are by far and away the fastest growing sector we have seen here at www.a2zcamping.co.uk. Many of our customers old and new have asked us for details on awnings suitable for the smaller vehicles more commonly used by tradesmen but becoming a popular option for dog show enthusiast, fishermen, sporting weekends and festival goers. Smaller vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Fiat Diablo, Volkswagen Caddy, Nissan NV200 and Citreon Berlingo have seen a huge increase in self builds and van conversions ideally suited to day van and touring adventures.
These exciting new uses often need additional storage or sleeping space to make full use of there many advantages and this is where standard awning design can fall down. Driveaway and free standing awnings are very often designed for vehicles with a taller roof line than those smaller vans listed above. Traditionally day vans or campervan as they are often know, are based around VW Transporters, VW T4, VW T5, Ford Transit, Vauxhall Vivaro and even Mazda Bongos with heights around the 200-220cm range. This height allows for easy fitting of the tunnel section used to connect the awning to the vehicle.
Commonly a drive-away freestanding awning is pitched very close (within 100cm) of the vehicle and a short tunnel section comprising of a roof section and two sides, connect the awning to the side or even back of the host van. The tunnel is sewn directly to the awning but can just as easily be rolled away when the awning is used as a stand alone tent or when the vehicle is driven off site. A zipped closed rear entrance secures the awning when vehicle access is not required or at night when an enclosed sleeping space is required. Almost every drive away freestanding awning incorporates the same method of attaching the awning to the vehicle using the tunnel method.
Drive away tunnels usually use a range of connecting options to either form a hard seal or soft seal to your van. By far the easiest and most common method is with attached Guylines. Every tunnel has at least two lines which are simply thrown over the top of the vehicle and then pegged out on the opposite sites, effectively pulling the awning into the vehicle forming the seal (soft seal). Other methods include steel bars which can be clamped to roof rails or roof bars and finally there's the awning rail beading which can be slid into a fixed awning rail which is incorporated onto the van itself. Using an awning rail does restrict the drive away function of the awning (unless a drive away kit is used) but will form an almost perfect seal to your chosen vehicle (hard seal). Smaller vans do not usually have either the space or roof line to accommodate an awning rail so we will concentrate on the roof bar and Guylines method only for these van types.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a Nissan NV200, so this is the van size we have used for this small sample test. With a vehicle located we choose three awnings to 'experiment' with; Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi XL, Kampa Travel Pod Xpress and the massive Kampa Travel Pod Maxi. With no preconception on what would work and what would be a disaster our mission was simple: which awnings would work best and what were the restrictions or problems.
First up was the Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi XL, a low cost simple no frills awning which is very popular with VW campervan owners who need extra storage space or a place to change clothes, a separate toilet facility or a shelter during warm summer evenings. The Outhouse Handi XL was erected as normal on the side of our Nissan NV200 with the supplied Guylines thrown over the top of the van and pegged out on the opposite side. Because of the short van length, the front guy line came across the front part of the vehicle pegging out just down by the front offside wheel. Although not an immediate problem, I would have to use a non friction sleeve over the Guylines to avoid any friction damage to the paintwork on this area of the van. On a windy site the constant rubbing of this Guylines on the van would concern me, so a simple protective sleeve could solve this. No big surprise that the awning fitted very well, with the tunnel offering a good seal with the van although there was a little too much material at the top. We used a strong camping clip inside the tunnel roof to improve the fit and take up a little of the slack material - no drama. The tunnel allows for good access to the side sliding door of the van with easy opening and closing. I could see this being an ideal awning for sports users, walkers, dog show enthusiasts, horse shows and events etc. offering brilliant extra storage, shelter from rain or even a fantastic shady area to sit when the weather permits.
The Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi XL has a neat compact footprint with a separate groundsheet which is simple and quick to erect. It offers a sturdy structure with good access but lacks the frills, like windows and side entrance doors, but it is an entry level product which works perfectly for what it has been designed for. At a push you could easily add a pop up inner tent and sleep in the awning for short trips although unless you really don't mind roughing it, longer stays could become a little uncomfortable. For me the Outhouse Handi XL is a practical and cost effective way to add privacy, shelter and extra space at a reasonably low cost. It ticks a number of important boxes and fits well to the smaller van range - what's not to like?
Naturally we thought this would also work well on the rear of the vehicle, so this was our next test. The Nissan NV200 like the VW Caddy and many other small van types often have a split 60:40 back door access. So predictably we knew there could be a problem but nevertheless we attached the Outdoor Revolution Outhouse Handi XL to the rear. This was not as simple as it sounds as the awning tunnel connection now needed some additional clamp clips to take up the extra roof slack. Without the clips the tunnel would just flap around all night! Not good. With the clips in place the awning sat neatly on the rear of the vehicle with good guyline support down the side of the van itself. The doors still presented an issue which meant that opening and closing the rear doors would cause the top of the door to catch the inside of the tunnel. A solution for sunny days would be to reverse the van into the awning with the doors inside the living area. This does offer a nice shady living area or additional shelter but would not be suitable for overnight accommodation.
Next up was the super quick Kampa Travel Pod Xpress; a wicked pop up type awning with a superb design and useful footprint. The Kampa Travel Pod Xpress has a large 6.25m2 living area measuring 190 x 190cm with a full clip-in groundsheet.
The Pod Xpress realy does just pop up - add a couple of internal fibreglass poles (supplied) and the awning is erected. The tunnel fitted perfectly to the side of the Nissan NV200 with good access to the side door and plenty of fitting options including a pole and clamp system if you have roof rails or roof bars. Again we simply pegged the awning out with guylines over the top of the vehicle allowing for a really quick setup and simple drive away function. The Kampa Travel Pod Xpress has a fully zipped rear access panel so that the awning can be closed and secured when used as a drive away awning or at night to seal the living area. The tunnel material also has a couple of clever adjustable straps which means you can take up any material slack for high or lower roof lines. With the elasticated tunnel secured, the awning still allows access to the side door with a slight restriction to the vehicles passenger access door.
We simply loved the ease of use, look and functionality of the Kampa Travel Pod Xpress on the smaller vans. And with so many features included in a low priced instant type awning, this product is hard to beat should you be looking for a low cost solution to provide additional storage or living space for your day van. The Kampa Travel Pod Xpress has full internal blinds, roll back door access on either side and large bright windows throughout.
Last up for this test was the large Kampa Travel Pod Maxi. With an impressive 510cm x 300cm footprint, the Pod Maxi really is an impressive looking awning. But would it be suitable for small format vans like the Nissan NV200? Cleverly Kampa have made the tunnel section a shade under 3m wide. This makes it a simple fit for the side of VW Transporters, Volkswagen T4, T25 and T5 van types.
But how would this fair on the smaller vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Fiat Diablo, Volkswagen Caddy, Nissan NV200 and Citreon Berlingo. Well the Nissan NV200 sat almost perfectly into this tunnel section allowing for full access to the passenger side door and sliding side door without any restrictions. The tunnel sat neatly and securely on top of the van roof forming a good weather seal and allowing for good pegging out. The Front of the tunnel section did make for the front guyline to pitch over the front window of the van and, like the first awning we tested would need an anti friction sleeve over the guyline to stop any paintwork damage. I was certainly impressed with both the fit and the weather seal of this awning. Yes this is an over sized product for most casual users, but to be honest this awning would be a brilliant addition for serious touring campers. The Kampa Travel Pod Maxi offers a large footprint living area with ample features and comes complete with a clip in bedroom which makes the perfect place to get you head down.
The Kampa Maxi has a fully sewn in groundsheet and is erected using fibreglass poles which makes for quick and easy setup. The bedroom can be removed in a few seconds so the whole awning can be used for entertaining if required. I really like the idea of having a small format day van with a super sized awning on the side. A great place to sleep, entertain or dine without compromise and ideal for longer holidays, fishing trips or weekend sporting events. Very hard to imagine that this product would fit but I'm glad we tried as we sold a few of these awning whilst conducting our tests, one to a Citreon Berlingo owner looking for a sleeping annexe for his day van - how lucky was that?
Please let me know if you have found this article useful or if you have any further questions. We hope to be testing out a few more awnings on the Nissan NV200 over the coming months - so if you have a specific request please drop us a line. Enjoy!