New Kampa Rally Air Review
Friday, 9 November 2012 | Admin
Kampa Rally Air 260 & 390 Review
New inflatable awnings from Kampa
Sceptical about inflatable awnings, www.a2zcamping.co.uk thought it only proper to review the all new Kampa Rally Air with an open mind and an air pump.
On a quiet Sunday morning somewhere in Warwickshire, OK the Outdoor Trade Show at Stoneleigh Park, Kampa introduced us to the all new Kampa Rally Air Caravan Porch Awning, new addition to the already well established Kampa Rally range of lightweight porch awnings.
This revolutionary inflatable awning which has no heavy metal frame or poles, has no need for special equipment or camping skills, just an air pump and a suitable pitch site, oh and a caravan would be useful too!
At first glance the Kampa Rally Air looks like a traditional Rally porch awning, elegant and eye catching. But there's something you can't quite put your finger on.
Sure the awning is a Kampa Rally shape and has the characteristic profile of the now well respected Kampa Rally Range; good headroom height, bright clear windows with the new Rally Club window shape that have radius corners and a neutral colour scheme.
But where are the external poles? Then it hits you right between the eyes, there are no poles. The new Rally Air uses a revolutionary 'AirFrame' system, which as the name suggests is an inflatable integrated pole system which provides the awning with both structure and support. Now I know what you’re thinking, but the AirFrame is inconspicuous, thoughtfully designed and robust. When I say robust, I mean really robust, once inflated the awning is incredibly strong, deceptively so.
The rigidity of the product is something you have to see to believe. Lateral movement is minimal when either wind or force is applied - much more so than a pole system. This has been made possible by the modular internal AirFrame. Above each window section is an AirBeam support sandwiched between the vertical uprights. Pressure laterally is absorbed and spread across the awning forcing the air pressure to increase in the horizontal beam. Clever indeed. You would expect the AirFrame to be big and cumbersome to live with, but the internal space isn't compromised by the frame at all.
A closer look reveals more detail
At the base of the awning on the inside is a unique internal corner system which keeps the uprights in the correct position and stabilises the front, sides and base. Stitched directly to the outer flysheet, the corner holds everything together in the perfect position.
Other notable features include internal curtains, rear bumper pads and an increase 5000mm hydrostatic head.
The awning is very easy to set up; slide the cord onto your caravan awning rail and peg out the bottom rear of the awning. Each front section upright has its own inflation point, although the awning can be inflated from any one of them. Here's the cool bit; insert the pump into one of the socket and start pumping, or for the less energetic use the optional electric pump. In less than 60 seconds the awning is fully inflated and ready to peg out, it's really that easy, even manually inflating the awning is that quick.
There's no magic pump or compressed air system as the Rally Air needs only 10-12 PSI recommended although the inner tubes have been tested beyond 25 PSI, much higher pressures than you could achieve with a manual hand pump. Testing to these pressures is important as air pressure increases with temperature. You want to know the awning will hold its shape in the warm sunshine right?
It's difficult to see how you could over inflate this awning as the tubes are double sealed in their own sleeve, which would increase the resistance and therefore the air pressure. Like an inner tube in a tyre - it's relatively easy to over inflate a tube out of the tyre, but much harder when the tubes in the tyre.
Naturally we had to try this out ourselves, so up for the challenge we set about deflating the Rally Air. Simple process, just open any of the front valves and within seconds the awning is deflated, for those a little more impatient, open more than one valve, but to be honest, by the time you've opened the second valve the awning is nearly deflated anyway. That's another bonus of the interconnecting AirFrame. One valve would probably be enough, but Kampa have added the convenience of a valve on each upright.
Push pull hand pump at the ready and 3, 2, 1, Go! Now I'm no athlete, but in less than 40 seconds the awning was inflated and stable. OK I was a little short of breath but certainly not a full workout, and no more exhausting than climbing a couple of flights of stairs. Proud of my achievement I was sure the awning would need more air, but a quick test squeeze of the upright confirmed the awning was ready to peg out. Wow, how good am I.
The guy lines are stitched to heavy duty pegging point about two thirds the way up on the front uprights and again at the very bottom. Kampa call this their Quickpitch guying system. The guy lines look very much like webbing used on storm strap kits, made from high visibility webbing, very strong and a massive improvement on the normal guy lines used on most awnings. Pegging out is just like a normal Kampa Rally Awning, with the option of a Storm Tie Down kit made possible as the storm buckles are sewn directly onto the awnings 'frame' with heavy duty fittings high on the far left and far right side panels.
Pros and Cons
There is little to doubt the quality of these awnings; well manufactured, with careful attention to detail and thoughtful design features much as you would expect from a company fast becoming synonymous with quality products.
Whilst there is very little to criticise with the Kampa Rally Air Awnings, I do have a niggle or two. Firstly, because of the clever internal sewn in mudwall system which acts both to maintain a structured shape and reduce draughts, this creates a step across both side doors. Not a massive problem but worth noting. That said, I spent a long time walking in, out and around these awnings and it caused me no problems, in fact I had to refer back to my notes to remember the step issue at all.
My only other concern are the rear uprights, or lack of them. As with all current Kampa Rally's the rear of the awning which sits up against the caravan have sewn in 'bumper pads' which run vertically and help form a nice draught proof seal between the awning and the van. Rear upright poles are an optional extra, but why these were not made part of the inflatable system I do not know. More importantly will inflatable rear uprights be available as an option (they are not currently listed as an optional extra) or are we to use the traditional steel upright poles. This would be a shame, having to pack 'ye olde' metal poles with your shiny new inflatable awning, as a vast majority of campers prefer to use rear upright to improve their camping experience.
Whilst on the subject of optional extras Kampa will be supplying several add ons, including:
Easytread Carpet, Storm tie down kit, Rear upright poles and Two stage electric pump.
Replacement Airframe parts will also be available and Kampa have indicated that unlike any other Kampa Rally awning, the Airframe will be included in the Kampa warranty! As with any warranty there will be conditions but this inclusion will allay many fears with regards to this emerging technology. As the Airframe is modular, replacing a section would be as easy as replacing a pole section.
One things for sure, these awnings pack away nicely and have the obvious advantage of being lightweight and easy to store. The Kampa Rally Air 260 weighs in at a miserly 13.5kgs whilst the Kampa Rally Air 390 is around 18.5kgs. By comparison the Air 390 is nearly 10kg lighter than its metal framed brother, whilst offering the same footprint. Both awnings come complete with their own compression storage bag and both are designed to fit an awning rail height of 235 - 250cm
Revolution or Gimmick
Kampa have suggested a retail price of £715 for the Kampa Rally Air 260 and £858 for the 390 model although you would expect to pay around £550 and £675 respectively as retailers offer promotions on these new models. Expect initial demand to be high and retailers to become short of stock as the 2014 summer season draws closer.