Awning "shoot out"

Our van had a Carefree awning installed on it - the “standard” awning installed on the EVC by Winnebago - and frankly, it sucked. It was a terrible thing to try and use - difficult to get the awning out of the case, heavy, even harder to get back IN the case. We dreaded using it.

We finally splurged on a Fiamma awning, as well as a ShadyBoy awning for the fridge side of the van (driver’s side) - see my earlier posts here, here, and here on the installation of these awnings. Our goal was to get an awning that was easy to use, as well as an awning that would shade the fridge side of the van and expand the living space (so we could chase the shade, depending on the time of day).

The main difference between these awnings is that the Carefree and the Shady Boy are “manual” awnings - there is a case that mounts to the van that the awning is stored in and connected to - you need to take the awning out of the case and extend it to it’s full length, extend the legs, etc. The Fiamma awning is a “crank out” awning - you just turn a crank and the awning extends out of the case, then you lower the legs.

After using these awnings just about every day for a month, I have some observations and opinions about each awning.

SHORT VERSION: Buy a 10 foot Fiamma. (that’s a period)

LONG VERSION: If you have existing Carefree brackets, or wish maximum shade, get a 10 foot Fiamma. If you have a “standard” EuroVan (the EVC is 1.5 feet longer than the “standard” EuroVan), or have no awning brackets on the van and want an awning with less “presence”, get an 8 foot Fiamma. If you have an existing Carefree awning, most likely your brackets are mounted too far apart to install the 8 foot Fiamma.

Pros and Cons of each awning:

Carefree Pros:

  • Cheap (it probably came with your van)
  • It says “EuroVan” on it (if you are into that kind of thing)

Carefree Cons:

  • Awning must be rolled out to full extension to use
  • Awning legs must have solid surface to rest on (cannot connect to van)
  • Difficult to get out of case
  • Difficult to get into case
  • Easier with 2 people to setup (almost required)
  • May ruin your marriage

ShadyBoy Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact and light case
  • Cleverly designed (if you like that kind of thing)
  • Optional highly reflective fabric creates a very cool area under the awning
  • Easy 1 person install
  • People will ask you questions about it every time you set it up (might meet some nice people!)

ShadyBoy Cons:

  • Flimsy fabric
  • Fussy setup - if you like tents, with all their poles and such, then you will LOVE the ShadyBoy
  • Can only be used in a fully extended position
  • Awning legs must have solid surface to rest on (cannot connect to van)
  • Fairly sensitive to wind
  • People will ask you questions about it every time you set it up (might meet some real bozos!)

Fiamma Pros:

  • Easy setup (turn crank, drop legs, done)
  • Rugged
  • Huge
  • Can be used without extending to full length
  • Legs can mount to van (for added strength in wind, etc)
  • Easy takedown
  • 1 person operation

Fiamma Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Huge

Further notes:

Carefree: Nothing more to say, I am done talking about it - glad it is off the van.

ShadyBoy: I really wanted to like this awning, I really did - it is a really neat “piece of kit”, cleverly designed, compact, lightweight. It really is fussy to set up though, and pretty flimsy. Here is how a setup goes (you can also Google for a YouTube video on this):

  1. Open case (2 snaps)
  2. Remove poles (2 snaps)
  3. Find place to put poles (glad I added a rack to my StowAway2 rear cargo box)
  4. Unfurl fabric (hope it’s not windy!)
  5. Layout all the poles, trying to remember which one goes where (or label them, as I have seen others do)
  6. Insert poles into fabric without tearing fabric (is it still windy?)
  7. Install string line from awning to van and tighten
  8. Install poles to ground
  9. Tighten string again
  10. Now where did the little bags that the poles came in go to? (was it windy?)
  11. Have a cold one - you deserve it!

We ended up rarely using this awning - again, too much hassle - not like the Carefree, but not nearly as easy as the Fiamma

Fiamma: This thing is HUGE! I mean GINORMOUS! You should see the size of the shipping tube - you need a Sawzall to cut the darn thing up. One person can mount this, if you don’t mind seeing stars as you struggle with it (glad the son-in-law came by during mounting attempt round 2…) - did I mention it was HUGE? Once you have it on your van though, it is dreamy - turn crank, drop legs, done - really, that’s it. Mount the legs onto your van, clip in the center rafter (which you can velcro right inside your van for storage), and the darn thing can handle some serious wind. Did I mention it is HUGE? If you like shade, get one - you won’t be sorry!

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