If you want to go RVing in Europe with kids, an awning is essential. Well, that’s my honest opinion 😉
Especially with little kids, we find our awning tent crucial for our location independent lifestyle. In Europe, the weather is unpredictable. It can be sunny in the morning, and pouring rain in the afternoon. And RVs in Europe are smaller than the ones in the US. With an awning, you increase your living space. No matter the weather, our kids have some space to play.
And we use the awning tent as our work place as well!
Setting up an awning might seem time-consuming, but this also depends on the type and size of your awning. So let’s get into more detail so you know what awning best suits your needs.
Awning with a cassette
Most motorhomes come with an awning attached to a cassette on the roof or wall. Some travel trailers have a cassette as well but it is more common for motor homes.
You roll it out (manually or motorized) and put it up on two legs. You might need a strap when it is windy, but on average you’ll have it set up in several minutes.
Want more privacy, better contain the warmth or protection from the rain? You can add panels to the side or the front.
You mount an awning tent by sliding it into the rail on your RV. As most motorhomes have a cassette, awning tents are mostly used with caravans (travel trailers).
Awning tents come in different sizes and generally, the bigger, the more expensive. Also, some are light and set up in 15 to 30 minutes, while others are firm and take more time to set up.
Choosing the right awning or tent
When you are comparing different awning and awning tents, ask yourself: do we…
- stay several weeks on one campsite or do we move around more?
- have the hands and energy to put up a big awning or do we want to set up camp as quickly as possible with little effort?
- go to a campsite with big pitches (e.g. more than 100 m2) or to smaller ones?
- have the space to take it folded with us or will this result in exceeding the maximum weight?
- have the budget for a big awning or can we only afford a little one? Keep in mind that you also need a larger ground cloth for a bigger awning.
If you stay for several weeks on one campsite, with big pitches, and you have lots of helping hands and energy, ánd you can afford the extra space, weight, and money? Then a large awning with panels or big awning tent is not a problem. Go for it! You will find it very convenient.
If you travel fast and move to another campsite once every few days, it is handier to have a smaller awning.
You can also go for the middle way and choose for a medium sized awning. That’s what we did.
Our awning tents
We have three different awnings. I know, this sounds ridiculous, and it kinda is, but let me explain:
When we bought our caravan second hand, it came with a very small and very big awning tent. We first took both with them on our travels. After a while, we knew what size suits our needs best and we bought a medium sized awning of 4 by 3 meters. It is spacious enough to easily host us four with table and chairs, some toys, and our small washing machine.
Now we only travel with this medium sized awning. Still in doubt about the size? Let me break the pros and cons down for you.
Big awning: pros and cons
Our big awning is three meters deep and around 8 meters wide (the length of our RV). We have no help putting it up and one of us needs to take care of our kids, so my husband ended up setting the whole thing up on his own. It took him around 5 hours 😮
Although we have soooo much more space with this awning, in hindsight, we only used a part of the awning. Practically, it had too much space.
Also, the awning is so big that most campsites don’t even have enough space for it. Plus, when folded, it’s still big and heavy. You need to have space for this when traveling.
One more disadvantage: the bigger the awning, the more you’ll pay.
Is a big awning tent then always superfluous? Not necessarily.
When you stay at one campsite for an extended period with big enough pitches, it is worth the effort to put it up, especially when you encounter rain and cold and/or have a large family. And if you have little children who go to bed early, you can enjoy your evening in the awning, while they sleep inside the RV without being disturbed much.
Advantage big awning:
Disadvantages big awning:
- Takes lot of time setting up
- Not every campsite has pitches big enough to host a caravan with big awning
- More expensive than a small awning
Small awning: pros and cons
The other awning that came with our caravan is very small: two meters deep and three meters wide. There is enough room for three people (chairs) and a 1,5 by 1-meter table. Now we are with four. The awning is, therefore, too small to sit comfortably in.
The biggest advantage of a small awning is that it’s relatively cheap. So if you’re on a tight budget, a small awning can be the perfect compromise.
Also, my husband can set it up (alone!) in approximately 20 minutes.
Advantages small awning:
- Relatively cheap
- Easy and fast to set up
- Not heavy and big when folded
Disadvantages small awning:
One more thing: do you want more space for storage (so not for people)? A kitchen tent might be the thing for you. A kitchen tent is a small rectangular tent. It is not attached to your vehicle so that you can put it everywhere on your pitch. Some are too small to sit in, but it is perfect for your outside kitchen or storage of stuff like toys, bikes and the like.
A kitchen tent is also relatively easy to set up. Since the thing is rectangular and not attached to anything, it will probably take you only ten minutes to put it up (after some practice).