They say home is where you put down stakes — but for some, it’s where you put the rig in park. Certain upgrades to adventure vehicles, like car and truck awnings, can make your life on the road more secure, stylish, and shaded. Awnings mount to a variety of roof basket racks or flat platform racks, and with a few expanded poles, offer up a cool place out of the sun, or even an après hangout after a day on the ski hill.
To help jump-start your search and get you on the road, we’ve saddled up our rigs with the best of them to help find the perfect awning solution — whether you’re an overlander, or just need a little extra shade during soccer practice. Because everyone likes to get outside differently, and drives different vehicles, we’ve included awnings of all different stripes, including simple canopies to full 270-degree mobile room additions.
We didn’t just set them up and stare at them, either. We’ve been testing awnings for close to 3 years now, and have traveled across the country in our trucks and vans — some of us full-time — and always ended a long day on the road with a nice shelter to sit under. We broke out the tool kit and mounted these awnings to multiple different rack systems to get a feel for how they secure to different rigs, and we investigated their ability to repel sun, wind, and yes, even snow.
In the end, we’ve put these awnings through the wringer, and each keeps unfurling day after day. Scroll down to check out our choice of awnings for every kind of situation and vehicle, and if this is your first awning rodeo, consult our comprehensive buyer’s guide and FAQ sections for the low down.
Editor’s Note: We updated our Car and Truck Awnings guide on November 15, 2023, to include our new favorite best budget awning, the Kelty Backroads Shelter, as well as additional information on different types of awnings, and our testing process.
The Best Vehicle Awnings of 2024
- Best Overall Vehicle Awning: Front Runner Easy-Out 2.5M Awning
- Best Budget Vehicle Awning: Kelty Backroads Shelter
- Best 270 Awning for Full-Size Vehicles: iKamper ExoShell 270 Awning
- Best Compact 270 Awning: Rhino-Rack Compact Batwing
- Best Awning Equipped for Day and Night Use: ARB 8.2′ Touring Awning With LED Light
- Easiest Setup Vehicle Awning: Thule OutLand Box Awning
- Most Portable Vehicle Awning: Moon Fabrications MoonShade
- Deployed dimensions 8'2" wide, extends out 6'11" from vehicle
- Shade area 56 sq. ft.
- Weight 29 lbs., 12.8 oz.
- Max height 94.5 in.
- Canopy materials 400D Oxford/polyester ripstop with PU-coated water repellant
- Mounting Universal T-slot-compatible L-bracket hardware
- Lightweight, durable, and easy-to-use telescoping poles
- Securable in windy conditions
- Heavy-duty storage bag for added protection
- Setup requires two people
- Best mounted to Front Runner roof rack
- Deployed dimensions 7' wide, extends out ~8'
- Shade area ~56 sq. ft.
- Weight 11 lbs., 9 oz.
- Max height Up to 108"
- Canopy materials 68D polyester
- Mounting Universal strap system
- Amenable to many different vehicles
- Built-in drop-down doors add privacy and weather protection
- Universal strap system is simple, and works on pretty much any vehicle
- Fiberglass poles feel cheap, can leave splinters
- Set-up isn't the fastest, and it helps to have a partner
- Deployed dimensions 16'4" wide, extends out 12'9"
- Shade area 121 sq. ft.
- Weight 66 lbs. (75 lbs. with mounts)
- Max height 90"
- Canopy materials 45D ripstop polycotton with a DWR coating
- Mounting iKamper-specific mounting brackets
- Impressive 121 sq. ft. covered area
- Strong freestanding design
- Hardshell aluminum mounting case
- Burly adjustable legs
- Not light
- Not inexpensive
- Requires a substantial roof rack for mounting
- Deployed dimensions 13' wide, extends out 13'
- Shade area 68.9 sq. ft.
- Weight 39 lbs., 6 oz.
- Max height 91"
- Canopy materials Ripstop polycotton canvas
- Mounting T-slot roof bar compatible brackets
- 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
- Bulky and heavy compared to other options
- Engineered plastic swing hinge mechanism
- Deployed dimensions 8'2" wide, extends out 8'2"
- Shade area 67.2 sq. ft.
- Weight 44 lbs.
- Max height 83"
- Canopy materials Ripstop polycotton canvas
- Mounting Sold separately. Compatible with simple L-brackets, as well as more robust ARB brackets
- Lightweight and durable PVC storage bag
- 1,200-lumen LED light strip included
- Compatible with ARB accessories for additional functionality
- Requires two people to set up
- Too large for most small cars
- No included mounting brackets
- Deployed dimensions 6'2" wide, extends out 8'
- Shade area 49.6 sq. ft.
- Weight 26 lb.
- Max height 75.6"
- Canopy materials High-strength polyester
- Mounting Locking adapter kit for Thule and aftermarket bars
- Push-button operation allows for a single-person setup
- Locking legs make pole adjustments easy
- Durable and lightweight aluminum case
- No additional tie-downs or attachment points for guy ropes
- Deployed dimensions 7' wide, extends out 9'
- Shade area 63 sq. ft.
- Weight 8 lbs.
- Max height 96"
- Canopy materials 420D ripstop polyester
- Mounting Suction cup anchors
- Quick setup time
- A clever pull cord system enables single-person setup
- Adaptable to multiple vehicles and for use as a standalone canopy
- Overall weight and stowed dimensions make it tremendously portable
- Optional magnetic anchors intended for use in light winds 5 mph or less
- Seams are not taped or sealed
Vehicle Awning Comparison Chart
|Front Runner Easy-Out 2.5M Awning
|8’2″ wide, extends out 6’11” from vehicle
|56 sq. ft.
|29 lbs., 12.8 oz.
|Kelty Backroads Shelter
|7′ wide, extends out ~8′
|~56 sq. ft.
|11 lbs., 9 oz.
|iKamper ExoShell 270 Awning
|16’4″ wide, extends out 12’9″
|121 sq. ft.
|Rhino-Rack Batwing Compact Awning
|13′ wide, extends out 13′
|68.9 sq. ft.
|39 lbs., 6 oz.
|ARB 8.2′ Touring Awning With LED Light
|8’2″ wide, extends out 8’2″
|67.2 sq. ft.
|Thule OutLand Box Awning
|6’2″ wide, extends out 8′
|49.6 sq. ft.
|Moon Fabrications MoonShade
|7′ wide, extends out 9′
|63 sq. ft.
How We Tested Car and Truck Awnings
Let it be known: the crew at GearJunkie love their adventure rigs. And more than that, we enjoy getting out in our homes away from home — loading up the pickups and vans and rallying out into the hinterlands for a weekend (or entire season) of outdoor living. Let it also be known that while we can thru-hike, dirtbag, and grub it up with the best of them, we are creatures of comfort when it comes to overlanding, and enjoy the almost primeval joy that added shade can provide.
That’s why we’re serious about our vehicle awnings — and testing them. We’ve been at this for close to 3 years now, testing awnings on our rigs and challenging them with whatever Mother Nature can toss our way. This includes everything from casual use to setting them up and leaving them out in wind and snow storms to see how they fare. We’ve got certified overlanding and van-life freaks on the roll, and while we may not always agree on the best way to get outside, we’ve found few can resist the siren call of a minute (or 30) in the shade.
Our interest is also in longevity, as you’ll likely be driving your adventure rig for a while, and will want your awning to follow suit. While your camping tent gets lovingly stuffed away in your gear closet for another day, roof-top awnings sit out the worst of it atop your vehicle, and we wanted to ensure that we didn’t have any short-lived fixtures in the mix. Rest assured: we installed these awnings, enjoyed them, and then enjoyed them some more for entire seasons of use.
And as sure as we’ve got to keep rolling on, as new vehicle awnings hit the market, we’ll be sourcing and testing them on our rigs — keeping our selection sharp and our suggestions fine-tuned.
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 and 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.
Awning Types: Pull-Out Awnings Vs. 180º Vs. 270º
Adventure-mobile-mounted awnings typically come in three different flavors: direct pull-out awnings, 180º coverage awnings, and large-and-in-charge 270º options. The total shaded area is the main difference here, but there are a few important structural features to keep in mind for each as well.
Exactly what the doctor ordered for quick and easy coverage. Pull-out awnings are the most simple, and earliest design to hit the scene, and are still the most popular today. Easy to install, erect, and put away, pull-out awnings spring directly from their storage bag or case mounted on your vehicle, typically unfurling the canopy material to do so. Then, support arms or struts are lengthened to tension the canopy material and give it some structure. Finally, expandable legs drop down from the end of the canopy and are adjusted to fit the height you’re after.
Because these awnings are formed from only one panel, they often offer up the least amount of space, but this will be dependent on the width of the awning. Many pull-out awnings are offered in multiple different lengths, such as the 1.4m, 2m, and 2.5m Front Runner Easy-Out awnings, and the 4′, 6.5′, and 8′ ARB Touring Awnings. Be sure to measure the amount of roof rack space you have available before committing to an awning — many will have a minimum distance between the bars for structural integrity, and nothing looks worse than a huge boom hanging off the front of your rig.
180º awnings rely on a bit of a magic trick to cover one whole side of your vehicle in shade — and often look as if you glommed on two triangles to a rectangular pull-out awning. Because of their design, these awnings rely on an entirely different mounting system compared to traditional flat awnings, and have multiple support arms that pivot from the mounting plate. These aren’t often lightweight bars, either, and require burly hinges to counter-act the leverage placed on them.
Since they support themselves, however, some designs don’t need any legs at all, which can be very enjoyable when you don’t have to dodge them to enjoy the space. Most awnings will still equip the legs even if they don’t rely on them, as they can be key in shoring up the awning against the wind. Be mindful that stepping up to a 180º awning will require you to trade some weight around, as your awning will be heavier (sometimes up to 60 pounds), and your wallet will certainly be lighter. Some, like the ROAM Adventure Co. ARC 180 Awning, will require $1,399 to enjoy.
Now we’re talking. If you’re looking for the ultimate in coverage, you’ve come to the right place. 270º awnings take the idea of the 180º version to its natural conclusion, and wraps one whole side and the rear of your vehicle in coverage. Whereas 180º awnings will have hinges on both ends of their mounting plates, 270º awnings will often only expand from one end (except for some even larger coverage options, like the Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 270 Awning). This makes them directional, meaning they’ll be sold as a driver- or passenger-side ready build.
270º awnings can be excellent options for those who often need to access the back of their rig, say to cook dinner on a tailgate, or jump into their pickup sleeping platforms. The price you’ll pay for the luxury is certainly high, but for many who call their vehicles home (or their home away from home), they can be worth it.
Driver-Side or Passenger Mounting?
The age-old conundrum: what side should I mount my awning to? The first thing to understand is that while pull-out and 180º awnings can be mounted on either side, 270º awnings can only be mounted to the side they’re designed for — so it’s best to decide which side you fall on before purchasing.
Many in the overlanding sphere have their opinions on the subject, and most answers boil down to what side of the road you drive on. Drive on the right side of the road? An awning on the left side of your rig will open out into the shoulder should you pull off for a quick hang-out, rather than into the roadway. There are some other considerations that may also sway your decision:
- Many folks will often need to access their driver’s side door while setting up camp, and coverage over this can prompt many to rig their awnings over the driver’s side of the vehicle.
- If you have a rear door that swings open from one side or the other, such as on some Jeeps and Toyota FJs, you’ll likely want your awning to cover the side of your vehicle the door doesn’t swing from, for easy access.
Finally, remember that your new awning isn’t weightless, and will add some additional heft, and windage to one side of your rig. Some overlanders who really load up with kit will find their vehicles sagging on one side or the other, and may need to fine-tune their suspension to combat it.
Compatibility and Mounting
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 installation 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 vehicle. This is fine in most cases, but it takes up valuable in vehicle storage space and could be left at home easily.
Weather-Resistant Materials and Design
The best car and truck awnings are made with durable materials like 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 it up. If you plan on traveling solo, look for a car or truck awning that can be installed by a single person. Features like preset legs and push-button adjustments will help with easier setup and breakdown.
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.
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 Compact 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 of 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.
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.
The longevity of your awning will depend on usage and care. Quality fabric awnings are made of durable materials such as heavy-duty ripstop polyester or fade-resistant canvas. Regular inspections and cleanings of fabric awnings will extend the lifespan well beyond the warranty period and ensure that it keeps you shaded for many years.
We like the iKamper ExoShell 270 Awning if you’re looking for the best awning with 270-degree coverage. If you still want the coverage, but need a lighter footprint for a smaller vehicle, the Rhino-Rack Batwing Compact Awning is an excellent choice — only extending 6.5′ when mounted on the roofline.
The best car and truck awnings will range in price from around $200 to upward of $1,800. The cost will depend on the size and design of the awning, with larger awnings with more features costing more.