Erecting a caravan awning can be a real ordeal. There’s a reason that it’s often known as “divorce in a bag”! A two-person job, it requires composure, persistence and a whole lot of patience. Intricately threading the piping can be especially expletive-inducing, but fear not! Help is at hand. Inflatable air awnings can take some of the difficulty out of the process. We spoke to The Insurance Emporium’s David Bird, who starred alongside his mother Gwyneth on BBC Two’s Caravanner of the Year 2016, to get his take on this alternative approach.
So, David, inflatable air awnings; what do you see as the main benefits of these over the more traditional ones?
“They’re sold on being easier to put up because there’s no tension or poles as you would have in a traditional framed awning [pictured, left]. They’re supposed to be good in wind*, they’re a one-person operation really. You don’t need someone holding the frame with you. And there’s no poles to fall over and hit the caravan. So from a safety point of view, they are supposedly better.”
We’ve spoken about the benefits of air awnings, but what about the disadvantages?
“Some people think air awnings might not be as good as they thought because they are quite heavy to put up. You’re not just putting the canvas around, you’re putting the framework around too, which is still plastic and there’s pipework that needs to be sent around. And also levelling them; if your pitch isn’t flat you can’t get the tension right because one side might be lower down. Getting them to look right isn’t always as easy as a conventional awning.”
Can you see air awnings becoming the norm?
“From talking to a leading manufacturer that I know, they’ve produced an air awning this year because of public demand, not because they necessarily think it’s any good or any better than a conventional awning, but at the moment that’s what the public is looking for. You’re still going to have to feed it through, into the awning channel. That can be awkward because you may need two people – one to feed it into the rail and one to pull it round. So that’s still going to happen with an air awning. Mum and I don’t argue when we’re putting our awning [pictured, left] up, because we don’t talk generally! We’ve been using the same sort of awning for 40 years so we know how to put our awning up, and as you saw on the programme, I can get it up quite nicely!”
Awnings rarely come cheap. If you’re to invest in a new awning, or if you’ve already done so, you might want to ensure that it’s covered should an unexpected issue arise. The Insurance Emporium offer 100% Loss, Theft or Accidental Damage across all four levels of cover. You could even get a discount of up to 45% on touring caravan policies, potentially preventing your adventure from having unexpected twists and turns.
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*Loss of or damage to an awning caused by weather conditions is excluded from cover.