The 9 Best Car Awnings for Camping & Overlanding

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To awning or not to awning—that is the big overlanding and car camping question.

With an ever-growing range of styles and functions paired with a steady increase in interest in slow travel and overlanding, it’s no wonder car awnings are one of the most talked-about topics in the motor-obsessed outdoor community right now. But what are they, and why would someone even consider buying one? Well, hold onto your butts, because we’re about to deep dive into the world of car awnings and fill you in on everything you need to know before buying one.

What is a car awning?

Car awnings, car side awnings, and car sunshades are all awnings. Made for your car. Or truck. Or Airstream. Or any vehicle, really. Pretty straightforward, right?

Not exactly. Since these awnings need to be installed securely (read: permanently), you’ll have to have a roof rack (or cross bars, a rooftop tent, or something similar) to install the awning’s backing plate onto. Car awnings are rarely drilled directly onto your 4×4 or trailer. (Phew!)

Car Awning Features

While car awnings vary in size, most people purchase a square footage that runs from above their front driver or passenger side door to the rear of the vehicle. Rear awnings and awnings with side walls that create shade shelters are also an option. It all simply comes down to personal preference.

Besides the obvious perk of a car awning providing UV sun protection, other not-so-apparent perks include protection against the rain, especially when it’s time to cook, and a bit more privacy.

Car awnings vary in price—going from a couple of hundred dollars up to a couple of thousand dollars—as well as in weight. Weight is important to keep in mind if you’re trying to keep your adventure rig as light as possible.

So, when it comes down to it, do you really need a car awning?

In my overlanding experience, which is pretty vast, considering I spend each summer overlanding and car camping across Mongolia, I’ve come to decide that awnings are worth the investment. But it has to be the right awning for you. Otherwise, I understand where the great awning debate begins (and ends). Here are a few other things to consider when researching and buying a car awning.

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