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Kit review: Vango AirAway awning for campervans

Written by Fiona

May 03 2014

Fern the Campervan is the perfect size for the G-Force and I for a weekend break. There is a back seat that folds down to a double bed and still plenty of room for stowing our kit and moving about. But what happens when we want to go away for longer or with Little Miss and a friend?

Of course, someone has already thought of this. Vango has brought out a tent that acts like a campervan extension. You attach the tent awning to the side door opening and suddenly you have another living and sleeping area.

Amazingly, these tents also have inflatable poles. Known as AirBeam poles, you simply inflate a tube (where you would normally see a pole) and this helps to form the structure and rigidity of the tent. (These AirBeam poles sounded a bit suspicious to me but having now seen them in action I am really impressed.)

Vango Kela awning tent

Vango Kela awning tent

The label on the Kela awning tent said it would take just three minutes to erect. The first time the G-Force and I attempted this it took us three minutes just to read the instructions and a further 30 to 40 minutes to get the tent up but now we know how it goes I expect it would take us much less time.

Vango Sapera awning tent

Vango Sapera awning tent

There are two tents that would suit a campervan or motorhome, the compact Kela and the more generous Sapera. They each come in two sizes, Standard, which fits vehicles up to 2.4m in height, and Tall for vehicles that are between 2.4 metres and 2.9 metres.  All four models are constructed using high quality 150 denier Protex fabric, which is waterproof, durable and breathable.

There are a variety of systems for attaching the AirAway awnings to your van. Choose from the Kador rail, webbing straps, velcro tabs or pole and clamps. We went for a mixture of the systems because we do not have a roof rack. Basically there is a pole that sits on the edge of the door side of the van and a securing system that goes over the van and into the ground on the other side. It felt pretty secure.

In addition, the tent has Vango’s patented TBS ®II Tension Band System to ensure they stay up even in very windy weather. These detachable bands brace the awning pole, which prevents side movement.

Another advantage of the awnings is that they can stand up on their own so you can still drive the campervan away for the day without having to take the tent down.

The tent pack comes with al the bits and pieces you’ll need for erecting it, including the double action pump, a pressure gauge and pressure release valve.

Other Vango awning features include:

  • Lights out inner bedrooms
  • A fully sewn in ground sheet
  • Diamond clear windows for better visibility
  • A range of footprints and carpets are available for extra ease and comfort.

My thoughts on the Vango campervan awning tent

The prices are £450 to £600 and I can see this might put off a few potential buyers but with Vango you get what you pay for. This tent is a good quality item and would offer many, many years of service, in my opinion.

First attempt at putting up the Vango campervan tent extension

First attempt at putting up the Vango campervan tent extension

An alternative for creating more space in a campervan is to have a far-more-expensive pop up roof installed with an extra two-person bed up top or a hammock style bed placed across the front seats for a child. You could also simply buy a separate tent for any extra passengers for sleeping at night.

But for a well-thought-out campervan extension that provides extra living and sleeping space for around £500 I really like the Vango awning tents.

photo 1 (7)

The Kela Standard (the one I am testing) offers enough space for an extra couple of adults or kids, plus I liked that you could remove the inner bedroom area if you simply wanted more living space.

If the G-Force and I were away for a few days or a week and were staying at a campsite with friends I can see that the tent would provide the ideal gathering space for meals and chat (when the weather isn’t good enough to sit out).

photo 2 (9)

Once we had worked out how to put up the tent and how to pump up the poles it wasn’t too difficult to erect. The Airbeam poles are amazingly stiff and robust and do create a really sturdy structure (surprisingly so).

We did spend quite a bit of time deciding which system to use to attach to the van (we don’t have a roof rack and we didn’t want to damage the paintwork) but once we had settled on our choice it was fairly straightforward. There has been a lot of thought put into this part of the tent and I feel confident that my precious van would be unharmed.

photo 4 (3)

The extra guy lines and the chunky plastic pegs make the tent feel solid and I would be confident of this tent coping on a blustery Scottish day!

In general, putting up the tent is straightforward, and I would hope to reduce the time it takes by at least two thirds next time. We’ll see!

Just one other thing: Why is it always so difficult to get the disassembled tent back into the bag? I struggled for around 15 minutes to achieve this and in the end I have had to stow the pump separately because I couldn’t fit it back in the bag.

I doubt we would bother with this tent for a one-night sleepover, unless we had Little Miss and a pal with us. It’s quite a lot of work for one night but I would imagine that most people who buy the awning will be thinking of using it for longer family holidays.

It’s really good to have a feeling that the tent and campervan are one bigger sleeping and living area. It feels like our house did when we added an extension.

After my initial thoughts that £450 for a tent extension is a lot of money I now think it’s a great spend. It adds lots more versatility to Fern the Campervan and the quality is excellent.

See Vango for more info.

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