Vehicle with ARB Awning on mountainside
(Photo/ARB)

The Best Car and Truck Awnings of 2021

The best car and truck awnings offer pop-up shade and go-to shelter when inclement weather arises.

There are certain upgrades to adventure vehicles, like car and truck awnings, which can make your life on the road secure, stylish, and shaded. Awnings mount to a variety of roof basket racks or flat platform racks. Many awnings boast useful features and are made from heavy-duty, mold-resistant materials. Others showcase integrated LED lighting and other amenities.

The best car and truck awnings are sold in different sizes to fit different vehicles. A variety of narrower models will fit atop a car or small SUV. Wider vehicle awnings, on the other hand, can span the entire width of a van or wagon. Additionally, batwing-style awnings can give you up to 270 degrees of shelter.

Most vehicle awning includes adjustable poles. Taller setups allow for more air circulation, while angled panels allow for protection against rain, with gravity preventing puddles from forming on the top of the awning.

As with any other on-car accessory, your vehicle type and use case will help you determine the best awning for you. Below, we take a look at the best car and truck awnings to help you narrow down your options.

The Best Vehicle Awnings of 2021

Best Overall: Front Runner Easy-Out Awning

Front runner easy out awning

Not only is the Front Runner Easy-Out awning ($349) quick and easy to set up, but it also boasts about 6.5 feet of coverage widthwise.

The Easy-Out awning easily pairs with your Front Runner roof rack and extends about the same distance from your adventure rig for quick shelter when you need it. The awning is housed in a heavy-duty PVC-coated 650g nylon zippered cover and can mount to either side of a rack. It weighs 27.6 pounds and is made from water-repellent and UV-resistant materials.

This vehicle awning is best set up by two people and can provide shade in mere minutes. The two vertical twist-lock upright poles have spikes on the bottom for secure ground placement and can extend to nearly 8 feet in height.

For added stability in windy conditions, the awning includes reflective guy ropes with tent stakes. Although this awning doesn’t come with an integrated LED light strip, it’s available for purchase separately.

Specs:
  • Weight: 27.6 lb.
  • Dimensions: 82.7″ x 78.7″
  • Max height: 94.5″
Pros:
  • Lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use telescoping poles
  • Can be secured in windy conditions
  • Heavy-duty storage bag for added protection
Cons:
  • Two people required for setup
  • Best mounted to Front Runner roof rack

Check Price at OK4WD

Best 270 Awning: Rhino-Rack Compact Batwing Awning

Rhino-Rack compact batwing awning

If you’re looking for full coverage from a unique awning, Rhino-Rack has got you covered. Its compact batwing vehicle awning ($670) spans a massive 270 degrees around the right side of your vehicle.

This batwing awning not only includes 69 square feet of coverage, but it’s also stylish. Made from a durable ripstop material, this Rhino-Rack compact batwing awning is water-resistant. And it’s tested and rated to UPF 50+ to shield users from the sun’s harmful rays.

Made for either the right or the left side of your vehicle, this batwing awning is easy to set up with two people. Simply unzip its storage bag, fold out the arms, and peg down the ropes. You’ll have a shaded and secure basecamp set up in no time.

Unlike other vehicle awnings, the Rhino-Rack awning’s poles, ropes, and pegs stow in the main awning compartment rather than a separate pouch that could get lost. The Rhino-Rack compact batwing awning can be packed away fully extended or at a preset length for your vehicle.

Specs:
  • Weight: 39.5 lb.
  • Dimensions: 79″ x 79″
  • Max height: 91″
Pros:
  • Water- and mold-resistant material
  • Poles, ropes, and pegs all store inside the main compartment
  • Legs fold out and can be preset to the desired length
Cons:
  • Best for small to medium vehicles or short-wheelbase 4WDs
  • Bulky and heavy compared to other options

Check Price at Amazon

Equipped for Day and Night Use: ARB Touring Awning With LED Light Strip

ARB Touring Awning

ARB offers a retractable aluminum-encased awning ($337-423) with an LED light strip for those who want a hard-sided vehicle awning alternative that spans the entire length of their vehicle.

The ARB Touring Awning measures over 8 feet in both directions. Check your vehicle’s length to make sure this awning isn’t too long for it.

Boasting a clamshell design, the awning uses three heavy-duty, UV-protected, marine-grade shock cord loops (bungees), and a flip-up lid. No zipper found here. This ARB awning system also has anodized aluminum poles with nylon cuff joints and metal cam locks and comes with a pouch for pegs and reflective guy ropes.

Additionally, the ARB Touring awning is made from 300GSM PU-coated poly cotton ripstop canvas and weighs a hair under 40 pounds. Once you install the included LED lighting strip, you can light up your camp at night — giving you shade, style, and light.

Specs:
  • Weight: 39.9 lb.
  • Dimensions: 98.4″ x 98.4″
  • Max height: 82.6″
Pros:
  • Lightweight and durable aluminum case
  • 1,200-lumen LED light strip included
  • Compatible with ARB accessories for additional functionality
Cons:
  • Requires two people to set up
  • Too large for most small cars
  • Aluminum poles require care when staking

Check Price at Amazon

Easiest Setup: Thule Outland Awning

Thule Outland Awning

Want shelter or shade in an instant? The Thule Outland Awning ($650) is another alternative to soft awning covers.

The 6.2-foot Outland vehicle awning, which is also available in 7.5- and 8.2-foot sizes, is made from durable and lightweight aluminum. And it’s a great choice for quick shade or shelter when unfavorable weather settles in. Whereas most manufacturers choose tan as an awning color, Thule offers a gray hue.

The Outland awning is made with high-strength polyester fabric and features a push-button operation that allows for easy one-person operation.

This vehicle awning also offers a unique Quick Lock system that adjusts the legs to the desired height as opposed to having to twist and lock the poles. The Thule Outland awning includes a locking adapter kit that mounts to Thule or various aftermarket roof racks.

Specs:
  • Weight: 26 lb.
  • Dimensions: 74.4″ x 74.4″
  • Max height: 75.6″
Pros:
  • Push-button operation allows for single-person setup
  • Locking legs make pole adjustments easy
  • Durable and lightweight aluminum case
Cons:
  • No additional tiedowns or attachment points for guy ropes

Check Price at Amazon

Best Budget: Yescom Car Side Vehicle Awning

Yescom awning

The Yescom vehicle awning ($170) is a good budget-conscious choice when looking for quick-setup shelters. It weighs 20.8 pounds and is made from 420D oxford fabric with 2,000mm PU coating.

This specific vehicle awning has UVP 50+ protection and is water-resistant. The telescoping poles feature a twist-and-lock design to rapidly extend and collapse as needed.

This vehicle awning’s shade coverage is about 6.5 feet wide by about 8 feet deep when measured away from the vehicle. A wider option at 7.5 feet ($185) is also available.

The Yescom vehicle awning provides a no-frills, simple setup for your adventure rig.

Specs:
  • Weight: 20.8 lb.
  • Dimensions: 98.6″ x 78.7″
  • Max height: 85″
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Lightweight
Cons:
  • Best used in calm conditions
  • Soft-sided storage bag is not airtight, which may allow water and dirt to get inside

Check Price at Amazon

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Car or Truck Awning

Vehicle awnings are a great way to quickly set up shade and shelter. From budget-conscious, entry-level awnings to premium ones that include lighting or other features, vehicle awnings are an easy way to make your basecamp or summer picnic more enjoyable.

They set up in minutes, keep you dry during inclement weather, and can provide years of service if kept clean and stowed dry.

Compatibility

When choosing the best car and truck awnings, first make sure the awning will be compatible both with your vehicle and your mounting system. Some awnings will fit small cars and CUVs. Others are larger and will fit the length of SUVs, trucks, and vans. Take note of the product dimensions.

Also, consider how you plan to mount the awning. Most awnings will be compatible with a wide range of factory crossbars or aftermarket roof racks or baskets.

Some awnings may require additional hardware for the install or are best used with a certain type of roof rack. Again, make sure the awning will work with your existing setup or whatever roof mounting system you plan to purchase.

Size & Height

Car and truck awnings come in a wide variety of sizes. Most awnings will be square or rectangular, though some have a batwing design that provides coverage on both the side and rear of your vehicle for 270 degrees of shade.

When looking at awning size, consider how much shade/shelter you would like with your setup. A simple square awning might do the trick if you just need a spot for two folding chairs in the shade. If you’re trying to fit the whole family or sleep system under the awning, you might prefer a 270 awning.

In terms of height, most awnings have telescoping or adjustable legs that will allow you to raise or lower the outer edge of the awning. Take into account the height of your vehicle and how much headspace you want under the awning. Then look for an awning with the clearance to match.

Weight & Storage

Most awnings will weigh in the range of 20 to 40 pounds. Assuming you’re keeping your awning permanently mounted, the weight shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, you may need a second set of hands to help with the install.

A more important factor to consider is the type of storage the awning comes equipped with. The two main types are hard-sided or soft-sided cases.

Hard-sided cases tend to be made of aluminum. They offer added protection and weatherproofing for your awning when stored. Soft-sided cases may not be as weatherproof and may be noisier on the road than hard-sided cases.

Additionally, take note of where you’ll store the awning’s accessories (poles, guy ropes, and stakes). Some awnings will store these items in the main case, while others might require you to store a separate bag in your car. This is fine in most cases, as long as you remember to pack it.

hard sided arb case on top of vehicle
(Photo/ARB)

Weather-Resistant Materials and Design

The best car and truck awnings are made with some sort of durable material like a heavy-duty ripstop polyester fabric or canvas. Also, look for awnings that have additional waterproofing or water-repellent finishes as well as some sort of UV protection.

Additionally, if you want to use your awning in breezy conditions, look for an awning that has additional guy ropes and stakes so you can secure the awning in the wind. If you know the weather is going to turn foul, take your awning down ahead of the storm.

Ease of Setup

Depending on the size and style of your awning, it may require two people to set up. If you plan on traveling solo, look for a car or truck awning that can be set up by a single person. Features like preset legs and push-button adjustments will help with easier setup and breakdown.

Optional Add-Ons

Some brands offer add-ons to further customize your car or truck awning. If you want options like LED lights, windbreaks, bug screens, quick-release brackets, or even an awning room with a floor (which essentially turns your awning into a tent), check out what kind of accessories the brand offers before making your purchase.

ARB awning set up on beach
(Photo/ARB)

FAQ

What Is the Best Type of Awning?

The best type of car or truck awning for you will depend on how you plan to use it, as well as what type of vehicle and roof rack you have. If you have a large family or tend to travel with a group of friends, a larger awning like the Rhino-Rack batwing awning will provide enough space and shade for everyone.

For couples or those who like to travel solo, a simple side awning might do the trick. No matter what style awning you decide on, make sure the dimensions are compatible with your vehicle. Also, ensure that the awning can be installed with either your aftermarket roof rack or factory crossbars.

Are Roof Rack Awnings Worth It?

If you frequently car camp, road trip, tailgate, or otherwise spend a lot of time hanging out around your car or truck, a roof rack awning is a great way to add shelter and shade to your setup. Most awnings are quick and easy to set up and break down, making them easier to use than a canopy or other shade shelters.

Because they mount to the roof of your vehicle, they take up less valuable interior cargo space. With a wide range of prices on the market, you should be able to find one that fits your budget.

Which 270 Awning Is Best?

We like the Rhino-Rack compact batwing awning if you’re looking for the best awning with 270-degree coverage.

How Much Does a Car Awning Cost?

The best car and truck awnings will range in price from around $200 to upward of $800. The cost will depend on the size and design of the awning, with larger awnings with more features costing more.


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Mercedes Lilienthal
By

Mercedes Lilienthal is an Oregon-based award-winning journalist and photographer who creates unique content involving vehicular-based adventure travel and the gear used to make it happen. She and her husband own three right-hand-drive turbo-diesel 4x4 Mitsubishis: a 1994 Delica Space Gear and two Gen 2 short-wheelbase Pajeros. As a full-time freelancer, her work includes writing, editing, various PR/marketing services, as well as photography. Follow Mercedes' adventures on Facebook (@crankshaftculture and @mercedeslilienthal), Instagram (@crankshaftculture and @mercedes_lilienthal), and Twitter (@writerwithgrit).