Awnings. Bridging the outdoors to the indoors. With limited interior space, creating a comfortable outdoor space is essential. When the humidity rises to 110%, or you’re boondocking in the Arizona heat, there’s no worse place to be than inside a parked camper dwelling on that awning you should have installed on your camper van.
Like most parts of a van conversion, there’s a hundred different ways to arrive at the same result. We didn’t think you’d want to see all hundred permutations, so we did some heavy lifting by examining the options and condensing them to avoid furthering one's van-build-brain, let’s call it VBB. Pronounced 'VIB', as in “I’m ‘VIB’d out, honey!”
Below you’ll find a list of awnings with helpful links containing best practices for installing and mounting them safely to your sprinter van.
The Thule HideAway best balance between cost and a relatively simple mounting process.
We love brands like Thule for their longevity, thoughtful design, and post-purchase support. This product boasts a 2 year warranty, but knowing them, you’d likely have success with a claim after that period.
“Roof Mount” (620001) which is a little more expensive, but mentions that it is built for Sprinter/Promaster vans. As of Feb/19, Thule mentions a Sprinter specific adapter in testing.
Besides the slight variation in length (7”) and potential adapter availability in the future, the difference in model numbers seems to be more marketing than anything.
Other things to note:
You cannot use the stock mounting hardware in either the direct mount/rack mount variation. You must buy the Thule Awning Adapter Kit.
To adapt the adapter (yikes), some use an aluminum plate to slide into the factory roof rails (1” wide, 3/16” thick), but may require further time consuming modification. In efforts of saving yourself some brain damage, you can buy premade Roof Rack inserts here (3 per bracket).
DIYvan sells an all-inclusive kit specifically made for mounting a Thule Hideaway to a sprinter van. Kudos to Hein for developing them!
You’ll need to modify the awning crank with a small grommet to prevent it from getting locked into the receptacle. No kudos for you, Thule.
And for the Transit and Promaster owners who are now thoroughly feeling left out:
When not admiring parisian landscapes, “Transitvango” puts together tidy build diaries, including a Ford Transit HideAway installation guide.
Fiamma awnings are the clear choice when it comes to ease of installation. They sell a number ofadapter kits specific to your van model and whether it comes with or without roof rails. But this added convenience comes with a price tag.
The basic awning comes with leg supports, or you can opt for the “eagle” legless version. We can see how the motor would appeal to some, but the thought of it failing while deployed is a big turn off for us.
Ines and Jan of Overlandys built a very detailedinstallation guide for the roof mounted F65s. Read on for some notes and considerations before you get started:
A slight hiccup with the previous F65 design is that the legs may be short on reaching the ground, so installingwall brackets is necessary. On the new F65s, they are optional.
Those with occupied roof rails, or prefer to save the roof space of other business should go with the Wall Mounted (F45) edition. You’ll need to be enterprising if going this route, as no bracket kits are available.
To leg, or not to leg? For an extra $500 you can opt for the non-motorizedF45 Eagle orF65 Eagle which don’t require vertical supports.
Want all the bells and whistles? Up the ante by $1000 andgo for the F65 eagle, electric wind detective system and self-supporting arms all included. Remember, all electric things require wiring to install, so keep that drill handy.
Fiamma sells a separate motor kit for future adaptation. See if you like the winch version, and modify later if needed.
For the Ford Transit and Promaster:
Antoine and Isabelle of Far Out Ride build a the guide of guides on the Fiamma F45S wall installation. It is so comprehensive, we’re surprised it doesn't also include instructions on how to perfect the Canadian J-stroke.
If affordability is your priority, this is THE option for you.
There are a couple downsides that accompany the savings you’ll get with theARB 2500. No hand crank system means it will take a decent amount of work to set it up and take down, and considering the height of a high roof sprinter, you’ll be getting quite the stretch as well.
How To Install An ARB 2500 To Your Sprinter Van
If you have an existing roof rack, the installation should be relatively easy with the included bracket kit. Check out thisvideo which gives you a good idea of the awnings’ mounting points, and how you might be able to fit it to what’s already on your roof.
On a 144 Sprinter, Roadman modified the mounting plates to his Roambuilt rack quite simply,detailed here.
No rack? You’re venturing into uncharted territory. One could use a combination of L-brackets, or perhaps the Thule adapter set, to modify the backplate of the ARB awning to the existing roof channel. But if you don’t have a channel... good luck. A tricky adaptation will ensue.
Some people search for value and efficient use of their dollars, and I suppose some just love spending it. Roll into the parking lot, hit a button, and slide that door open as your fancy awning extends out over you as you hold a proud, but serious pose. An arrival for a king. Priced for one, too. This rack will set you back $10,000 USD.
Many would argue on the value-for-money factor on this rack, but no one would argue it’s total dominance of the badass overland awning department.
How To Install RoamBuilt Shadowrack To Your Sprinter Van
Don’t spend all that money and then risk ruining your rack, or van. RoamBuilt has approved dealers and installers noted ontheir website.
Just released (March 2019), SureShade is going direct-to-consumer without the added price tag of the RoamBuilt system. We emailed them and got the following information directly from their sales department:
ATF-RV (electric) shade - made of high polish stainless steel, operates electrically with silent glide technology and extends 8 FT. Includes canvas color of choice.
You should budget for $5700-$7800. [Big range, we know. At this point, it sounds like they’re doing custom orders, so pricing will be determined on desired width.]
MTX-RV (manual) pull-out shade - made of high polish stainless steel with the look and feel of the ATF electric shade, but manual in operation, extending 6FT or 9FT. Includes canvas color of choice.
MTX2 (6FT) shade is $3400 + shipping
MTX3 (9FT) shade is $4200 + shipping
Prices do not include installation.
Have questions, or your own experience with installing an awning on a Sprinter, Transit or Promaster? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you found this information helpful in your build process, or think it could be to someone you know, feel free to share, or link to it on your own blog. Happy building!