Finding the Best Roof Rack Awnings For You

Outdoor adventures and your SUV (or maybe even your family van) are perfect matches to beat the busy life in the city. Long drives, the wind, and the warmth of the sun are almost synonymous to relaxation. Even more so, when the destination is the bluest of waters and the sunniest of skies.

As much as we all love the sun and the warmth it brings (or the rain if we can’t stop it from falling), it nice to still savor the outdoors under a stable and secure shade. Where better can this shade be than beside your trusty wagon that serves as your temporary home away from home. A roof rack awning is all you need to enjoy your outdoor escapade.

With so much of these overhangs in the market, it could be a little challenging to pick the one that can truly work with your outdoor activities. Should you choose one made of canvass, cotton or, perhaps, a laminated vinyl? How do I know if they are wind or rain tolerant?

It surely is a dread to decide, but we’re here to help. And, we won’t tell you to pick this or choose that. Rather, we’ll examine each roof rack awning for you to find out what works for you.

Our Top 7 Best Roof Rack Car Awnings

  1. ARB 4×4 ARB4401A Awning
  2. Adventure Kings Premium 4wd Side Awning
  3. Tuff Stuff 6.5′ X 8′ Rooftop Awning
  4. Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Side Awning
  5. Yescom Car Side Awning Rooftop Pull Out Tent Shelter
  6. Smittybilt Tent Awning
  7. Homgrace Car Side Awning Tent Shelter

What to consider when choosing a roof rack awning

Size

The important factors in deciding on the right size of a roof rack awnings are the following: the length of your vehicle, the part that needs shading, and the size of the roof rack. Most SUVs get decked with 2.0-meter awnings while some trucks with 2.5. The activities you will do under the shade should be your deciding factor on the size too, whether it’s for cooking or plain relaxation.

Weight

As these are mostly used during an outdoor trip, they shouldn’t be too heavy to carry. Using it means having to set it up and put it down quite a few times. You wouldn’t want to break your back hauling it around. Not saying it should be as light as the weather. It should be light enough for you to bring but a little heavy to withstand wind and gust.

Material

Awnings vital function is to provide you shade for protection against sun damage, ultraviolet rays, and rain. Most fabrics used for awnings include man-made nylon and polyester, man-made fabric coatings, cotton and canvas, and some other fabrics.

Acrylics are more durable than cotton canvas. They also offer appealing design, and although they repel water, they are still not considered waterproof. Acrylics are best for humid locations. Nylon and polyester can do as fabrics for awnings too. They are light and cheaper than most fabrics. Plus, they are quick to dry. However, these are not good insulators, so you might be shading yourself from the sun but could still feel the heat. The man-made fabric is completely covered in coatings to intensify water and UV resistance. While cotton and canvass are traditionally used in tents and awnings for their insulation capabilities, they can be a little heavy and bulky. Remember factor number 2 – weight.

Attachment to your vehicle

First off, make sure that the size of the awning is just right to the vehicle. Then, you can decide on which part of the vehicle would you want it to be attached to. Some prefer its rear end, on the driver’s side, but most like it on the passenger’s because of the convenience of extending it while parked on the side of the road helps. Some awnings can only be supported by roof racks of the same manufacturer, so be wary of those. You are better off finding those that are universally attachable to roof racks.

Best Roof Rack Awnings

#1. ARB 4×4 ARB4401A Awning

ARB 4X4 ARB4401A Awning

ARB4401A is a poly-cotton ripstop material; thus, if it gets a little tear, it won’t just go on. The fabric is treated against mold and mildew. Plus, it also is fire retardant. Hinges, from where the telescoping legs are attached are flexible, so even without guy wire/rope, the awning will stand against strong winds. The front edge of the awning also has a grove which lets you attach an optional windbreaker lean-to on the side to be added. Aside from a windbreaker, this grove also allows you to connect fly or mosquito screen, a room with a floor, or a three side panel – anything that lets you feel comfortable outside.

It comes with its own waterproof safety bag that can be hung on most roof racks. The zipper system of this bag is sturdy enough to hold the insides safe against the wind as you go on long rides. Inside are two safety straps (Velcro) that secure it. Taking it up and putting it away doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes. This rugged but lightweight piece of awning gives you swift and hassle-free protection against any weather elements.

Specifications:

  • ARB4401A  measures at 2.0m (W) x 2.5 (L), 2.5m (W) x 2.5 (L) and 1.25m (W) x 2.1 (L)
  • Fabric is Lightweight PU and coated 300gsm poly/cotton canvas.
  • Item weighs 37 pounds.
ProsCons
Multiple accessories available such as windbreaks, awning rooms, mosquito nets, and floored rooms for more comfortAlthough it can be installed on almost any roof racks, you will still need mounting brackets which you will have to purchase separately or fabricate yourself
Quick release bungee cords for simplicityAwning maybe a little large for small cars
Height is adjustable with telescoping legs and flexible hingesNo stakes to lock guy rope
Sturdily made

#2. Adventure Kings Premium 4wd Side Awning

kings premium roof rack awning

If you need protection from rain and sun, this is the side awning you need. Adventure Kings Premium 4wd Side Awning is waterproof and has UPF (Ultra Violet Protecting Fabric) rating of 50+. That rating ultimately gives you protection from the sun. This side awning is very easy to set up, it can be done by one person in no more than a couple of minutes.

The poles it came with are anodized aluminum alloy, making it resistive to corrosion. The four knuckles on each corner are cast aluminum alloy. Tag it along on your trips hanging onto the roof rack by a weather-proof, heavy duty PVC case with thick zippers.

Adventure Kings Premium side awning is functional and sturdy and although it doesn’t have as many functions as most high-end awnings do, it is still top quality.

Specifications:

  • Adventure Kings Premium measures at 2.0m (W) x 2.5 (L), 2.5m (W) x 2.5 (L) and 2.5m (W) x 3 (L).
  • Fabric is GSM Ripstop polyester.
ProsCons
2X L brackets have universal fitment to a lot of roof racksFabric shows aging and fades after a few uses
Has adjustable telescoping poles that make it suitable for various vehiclesWeak stitching of the thick zippers on the PVC case
Quick to put up and to put awayNo stakes to lock guy rope

#3. Tuff Stuff 6.5′ X 8′ Rooftop Awning

Tuff Stuff 6.5 X 8' Rooftop Awning

Ultimate comfort and ease are what Tuff Stuff promises to provide. First off, this roof rack awning is convenient because it comes with mounting hardware and brackets. There is no need to DIY or buy an extra kit to install it. The PVC bag and the zippers that you store it with are thick and sturdy. Unlike most awnings that use Velcro to secure the fabric when put away, Tuff Stuff uses plastic clips.

This awning makes a lot of room for standing, chairs, or camp table. And, while enjoying your time under it, you won’t have to worry as the material it was made of, 180G cotton/polyester ripstop, is coated with polyurethane for maximum rain and sun protection. On the front edge of the awning is a grove where you can extend some extra shade or add a windbreaker.

Specifications:

  • Tuff Stuff, as its name suggests, measures at 78 x 6 x 6 inches.
  • Built from 180G cotton / polyester ripstop with a polyurethane coating.
  • Fabric and telescoping legs total to 26 lbs.
ProsCons
Plastic clips hold awning more securely than VelcroTuff Stuff hasonly 2 straps holding the fabric; could cause flapping when there’s too much wind.
No need for additional hardware
Fits almost any roof racks
Larger shaded area

#4. Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Side Awning

Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Side Awning

A must-have for your outdoor adventures, Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Side Awning provides you with protection against UV or rain. Whether it is camping, picnic, or a lazy day at the beach, the shaded area it offers is enough for your party to relax under.

This package comes with everything you need to install it; poles, ropes, pegs, fitting kit, and mounting bracket. It fits all Rhino crossbars and can also work with Thule and Yakima with additional adapters, that is. It is mold, rust, and water resistant, thanks to 210D R/S water resistant canvas. The awning has a zipper attachment point that is built-in in the event you decide on extending it for a few more feet of shade.

Specifications:

  • Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Side Awning measures about 104 x 6 x 4 inches.
  • Built from Rip-Stop Polycotton Canvas.
  • Fabric and telescoping legs weigh about 10.00 kg.
  • Can be mounted either on the left or right side.
ProsCons
Enough tensioning tabs support the awning to help against water retention or runoffThe zipper is poorly sewn; thus, the stitches pop up when against strong winds
Corners of the awnings have protective
patches to guard against easy wear and tear
Not complicated to set up and pack down

#5. Yescom Car Side Awning Rooftop Pull Out Tent Shelter

Yescom 4.6x6.6' Car Side Awning Rooftop Pull Out Tent Shelter

Looking for a retractable roof rack awning? Yescom does that for you. Built with 420D oxford fabric with 2000mm PU coating, Yescom Car Side Awning Rooftop Pull Out Tent Shelter is a great option. It promises 30 square ft of shade against sun, rain, and wind. Not too hard to do that, as it doesn’t just come with PU coating. It is also rated UV50+ protection and water resistance.

Suitable for all types of terrains and different kinds of outdoor activities, you won’t have a hard time bringing it along as it comes with waterproof carry bag with PVC coating. The rust-resistant telescoping poles are designed with twist lock for easy extend and collapse. Installation hardware is included as well as pegs and guy ropes to help it on tough and windy days.

Specifications:

  • Yescom Car Side Awning measures about 78 3/4″ x 98 7/16″ (200x250cm).
  • Built from Aluminum Alloy and 420D Oxford Fabric with 2000mm PU coating.
  • Fabric and telescoping legs weigh about 9.9 kg.
  • Adjustable Height: 59″ to 85″ (150cm to 216cm)
ProsCons
Can be easily retracted to save spaceAwning material is a little thin
Stainless-steel
Not complicated to set up and pack down

#6. Smittybilt Tent Awning

Smittybilt Tent Awning

Need an interesting addition to your arsenal of camping gear? Smittybilt Tent Awning could be just what you need. This is one of the cheapest awnings that doesn’t compromise the quality. First off, the carrying bag is well made and weather-proof. Inside of it is enough Velcro to safely tuck the awning and the poles in. As soon as you let out the telescoping poles and pull out the awning, just tuck them with Velcro straps on the horizontal bars. Guy ropes are there for better support too, for holding against winds and rains.

It sets up easily even with just one person and will provide you protection from any weather, may they be a downpour or sunny or windy day. It is a reliable option for an awning without spending so much.

Specifications:

  • Smittybilt Tent Awning has two sizes; for 6.5′ awning it measures at 6.5′ x 6.5′ while 8.2′ awning at 8.2′ x 6.5′.
  • Built with heavy-duty cover UV-stabilized cover, 600GSM, and the bag with 500D PVC with zipper.
  • Fabric and telescoping legs for 6.5′ awning weighs 9.2 kgs while 8.2′ Awning at 9.8 kgs.
ProsCons
Specifically built for off-road enthusiasts so expect a rugged but high-quality awningLegs are a little thin, so it could sometime feel flimsy in strong winds
Easy installation and can be fitted into most roof racks
Mounting it can be a little confusing
Package comes with L brackets, mounting bolts
and nuts, and a pair of U bolts

#7. Homgrace Car Side Awning Tent Shelter

Homgrace Car Side Awning Tent Shelter

This car side awning tent shelter may just be what you need for your adventure. Homgrace is strong enough to serve as your temporary refuge. They are about the same price as most of the awnings in the market and have a very simple design. But, that shouldn’t fool you of what it can do.

Store it in a high quality, waterproof carrying case and as light, as it is, you can bring it anywhere you go. You can install it on almost any vehicle rooftop rail to give you about 50 square ft of shade. No more worries about the scorching heat or getting drenched in the rain. This awning is made of high-quality fabric that can withstand heat and water.

Specifications:

  • Homgrace Car Side Awning Tent is measured up to 1.4 x 2 x 1.7 – 2.1 M
  • Built with 420D oxford fabric with 2000mm PU coating, UV50+ protection and water resistance.
  • Storage Size is 150 x 13 x 11 CM.
ProsCons
Telescoping aluminum poles make it stable and firm even in tough windsA little thick, considering its made with 420D oxford fabric
Perfect shelter for any kind of weather or environmentMounting it can be a little confusing
Space saving, as it can easily be retracted

Conclusion

Roof Rack Awnings are equally important to vehicles as they are to homes. They significantly improve your outdoor activities since they serve as your protection against outside elements. The only difference is that roof rack awnings are a little smaller and more portable. No matter the difference they have with the ones we have at home, they still hold the same purpose – to protect us against scorching heat, harmful UV rays, or heavy rains and strong winds.

Choosing the right awning must be carefully decided on as these are used mostly in the outdoors. You would want it to be sturdy and strong. A little flexible but, cannot be easily bent. Spacy but not large enough you can’t fit it in a bag.

Do you need to spend a lot on an awning? No. It shouldn’t break your budget. There are awnings that offer so much than most expensive brands do. From lightweight ones to full tent like awnings, they could be around $80 – $400. You only have to do the right research. Remember, these awnings have but one purpose – to protect you against sun, rain, and wind. If you think the cheapest can do that for you just the same as the most expensive can, which would you choose?

After deciding which awning to get, then you may as well consider getting accessories for a few more protection from the outside world – windbreaks, mosquito net, flooring mats, or even a tent extension. Again, review a lot of these products, especially that they mostly are compatible with their same brands.

Our Favorite Awning

The top pick has got to be ARB Awning. This brand is well known for their high-quality camping gears as well as 4wd trappings. It could be a little expensive than most but the quality is over all of a high standard. Aside from the strong points on how sturdy it is, the colors they accentuate it with – dark grey and black made it looked sharp and compact. Makes your vehicle look camper-ish.

FAQs For Roof Rack Awnings

✅ Should I get the straight or wing type awning?

A straight awning is the most common in roof rack awnings. As the name suggests, they are generally just a straight awning but can be extended with accessories. Wing style awnings or sometimes called 270 degrees awning lets you maintain coverage from the side of your vehicle to the rear end. There are also accessories available for this type just like straight awnings. This type, however, is best for adventurers who utilize the shade for cooking, games, and the likes.

✅ Are roof rack awnings permanently installed to a vehicle?

These roof rack awnings come with installation and fitting kit which you can use to install them when you need them or remove them if you don’t.

✅ Do roof rack awnings retract automatically?

Most roof rack awnings are manually rolled up and set down. It usually takes 1 to 2 persons to do the task. Although, some brands have come up with a retractable awning.

✅ Does the awning, when rolled up and not in use stay outside the vehicle as it travels or can it be folded and placed inside the vehicle?

Roof rack awnings come with, most often, PVC bags that are weather-proof. They are also installed to the roof rack so you won’t have to bother getting it squeezed inside the vehicle along with many other things you bring for camping.

And that’s it!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by with us, and be sure to check our car top storage article or our article on inflatable roof racks for more information on car gear.

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