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Let in Light, have Shade, keep the View, and beat the Heat in your RV

| Updated Apr 8, 2014

Our friends have a Class A motorhome. Not just any Class A, but an Airstream Classic – the Silver Bullet style. Airstream has made silver bullet trailers forever, but the motorhomes were a short-lived venture. We wouldn’t trade our Roadtrek for one – Class B’s are the way to go for us. But we couldn’t help but admire the views and the nice breeze through those big windows as we boondocked with them for a week on Assateague Island in Maryland. They had awnings on both sides that shaded the windows from the heat and framed the view nicely.  It was like sitting on a veranda with a nice cool breeze and great views.

Simon Enjoying the View
Simon enjoying the view

We had a harder time controlling heat inside our camper.  We found we had to put Reflectix in our windows to keep the sun from heating up the interior– hot too for comfort.  Then it was too dark inside, and we were missing the the wild ponies roaming through the campground.  We wanted to enjoy the outside even when we were inside!

Simon in particular wanted it comfortable – he is a civilized, sophisticated, domesticated Poodle.  He believes in comfort and likes his views.  Yes, he also likes a good romp on the dog-friendly beach at Assateague, but he is not as young as he used to be and roughing it is against his nature.


Staying Cool on Assateaque
Silvershade Mesh Tarps add shade but allow breezes

We have the Fiame awning which shades our passenger side and we have some silvershade mesh tarps to add more shade below the awning. Although the Silvershade mesh lets the breezes through it is rather hard to see through.  We have also tried a black mesh (dark colors let you see through) awning drop which is better for viewing but is not so good at allowing breezes through.  Worse, it is awkward and time consuming to install. But all this did nothing to ease the heat on the driver’s side windows and the rear window. We especially hated covering the rear window that faced a great view of the dunes and our kites) but the hot, glaring sun would force us to block the sun.  The outside front windshield cover — from the previous owner– is made from a vinyl mesh and you can see out during the day. Those outside can see in at night if lights are on.  It does a good job of letting in some light but not much heat in the front of the camper.  When it is not heat blocking enough we can still add the Reflectix.

Rear Awning with Poles 2
Simple Rear Window Awning

We don’t often spend a lot of time parked in one spot, but we found ourselves longing for some awnings to shade the windows. Big RVs had awnings permanently attached, but we didn’t want that.  We first experimented with the rear window.  We found some Awning Track at and also the Keder Awning Rope that slides into the track.   We used tiny stainless screws and automotive trim cement to fasten the track to the fiberglass roof.

The awning rope has a fabric flange to sew to your awning.  A trip to our local Joann's Fabric store provided a couple of Sunbrella outdoor fabric that would look good.  We couldn't make up our mind, so we chose two patterns and made a double sided awning.  We added couple of grommets at the corners and some bungee cords to hold the awning away from the camper using the cargo box handles for attachment points.  We later bought a replacement tent pole set from Dick's Sporting Goods and made short poles to hold the awning up a bit higher.  Since the awning takes very little space, we leave it in the Stowaway Cargo Box when not deployed  It takes about two minutes to install by sliding the awning into the track.

Side Awning
Side awning

We were so pleased with our rear window awning that we decided to make a window awning for the driver's side to shade windows and the exterior fridge area.  Parking with the fridge wall in hot sun limits the cooling capability of a gas absorption fridge even with a Snyder Kit.  This awning was made with three sections of the awning rope, so it folds easily.  We made a pocket for a long fiberglass pole along the front edge to prevent sagging.  We first used  adjustable steel tent poles (also from Dick's ), but later replaced them with Texsport fiberglass poles like the short ones used on the rear awning.  They  break down in sections with an elastic cord through the middle.  We take this awning along only if we will stay in sunny places for several days. Awnings combined with the Fantastic Fan and opening only shaded windows has done a good job of keeping our camper cooler on most sunny days without loosing light or views from inside.  Of course if it is really hot, we can resort to Reflectix and if necessary fire up the Onan and turn on the air conditioner.  But life is a lot more peaceful if the fan and awnings are sufficient!


Mike Wendland

Published on 2014-04-08

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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