Investing in a quality overland awning is a game-changer.
You’ll be able to pull off on the side of the trail pretty much anywhere you like, pop out your overland awning, and beat the summer heat – or the wind and weather – with a simple, straightforward, and easy to deploy “base camp” that’s ready to get back on the road ASAP.
The trick, however, is finding the right overland awning in the first place.
Sifting through all the different choices can feel like a bit of an uphill battle. But that’s why we have put together this detailed guide.
Below we highlight our five favorite overland awning options on the market today. You’ll also find a quick buyer’s guide that helps you zero in on the kinds of features and factors that make or break this kind of investment in overland gear.
How to Find the Best Overland Awnings
Before we cover our five favorite overland awnings, we first want to cover the things that separate the truly great awning options from the rest of the pack.
When you are getting ready to invest in this kind of overland gear (overland gear that can add a lot to your adventures or make them more miserable), these are the types of things you want to be thinking about most.
Fit and Finish
Straight out of the gate, the fit and finish of the overland awning you are purchasing is a huge piece of the puzzle.
For starters, your awning is obviously going to need to fit on your vehicle and not take up so much space that you are forced to choose between your awning and other critical pieces of gear.
Luckily, the majority of options worth owning today are relatively compact when packed away while still able to cover quite a bit of space when you unfurl them and attach them to your vehicle.
Invest in awnings with quality materials (like we mentioned in just a moment), and you won’t have to worry about the overall fit or finish of your new gear, either.
Protection from the Wind and Weather
Getting protection from the wind and weather has to be one of the top priorities of your new overland awning set up.
The best options are going to provide a lot of extra protection against the elements, helping you stay prepared for pretty much anything and everything you come across on your overland adventure.
Options with dome-shaped, slanted, or angled roofing systems will be much better suited to overland kits than those built with a more traditional shape. Awnings with extra tie-downs, extra straps, and extra states that allow them to be secured more effectively are better investments, too.
Protection from the Sun
Protection from the sun is also hugely important, particularly if you are going to be overlanding during the summer when temperatures are high and UV damage at its greatest.
The last thing anyone wants to worry about when overlanding is getting a sunburn or sun poisoning because they didn’t protect themselves well from the sun and the heat.
Some of the top overland awning choices on the market today include UV protection “baked” right into the material itself. Reflective materials, UV blocking sealant, and coatings, and other technical options that help you beat the heat and the sun are well worth having a closer look at.
Ease of Installation
Nobody wants to have to worry about fighting their overland awning when they are getting ready to set up on the side of the trail or at a base camp.
The best awning choices are always going to be easy to deploy, easy to enjoy, and just as easy to pack away and transport again – or matter where your overland camp is established.
Top awning choices shouldn’t be difficult to install, shouldn’t require specialty tools, and should be able to be popped up and ready to go from storage in about 5 to 10 minutes (maximum).
Quality of Materials
Finally, since this is a piece of overland gear we are talking about here, you need to be sure that it is made of materials that are going to be able to withstand anything you’ll find off the beaten path.
Today’s modern technical fabrics are lighter weight, stronger, and more durable than ever before – even in the face of everything Mother Nature can throw at you when overlanding.
Just be sure that the awning you choose is made of top-notch materials.
You don’t want to spend a decent chunk of money on a quality awning only to find out that the material is thin or week and that you’ll have to replace your awning sooner rather than later, maybe even after only a handful of adventures.
The quality of the material and the craftsmanship really matters, but a good warranty (like a lifetime warranty) is a big bonus as well.
Our Five Favorite Overland Awnings
Now that we have covered what you’ll want to focus on when it’s time to buy overland awnings, it’s time to zero in on five of the very best choices you’ll be able to snap up today.
Smittybilt Trail Shade
Similar in nature to the other overland awnings we are highlighting in this breakdown, this particular setup is a little more compact and a little less flexible (but still a big hit with the overland community).
Attaching directly to your vehicle and then suspended by two independent poles, installation is a breeze. Both of these poles can be independently height adjusted so that you can pitch the awning one way or another or run it completely flat.
The whole awning measures 10 feet long and 6 feet wide and is made out of high-quality technical fabrics and synthetics that have been impregnated with water shedding chemicals and UV reflective materials.
You won’t have to worry about water seeping through, you won’t have to worry about the wind blowing through, and you won’t have to worry about getting too hot in the shade or being sunburned by UV damage, either.
It’s tough to imagine there being a lighter-weight overland awning available than this one.
Small enough to pack away inside of a backpack, you won’t have to fight to find space on your overland vehicle for this key piece of gear. In fact, plenty of overland adventurers keep a couple of these kinds of awnings in their vehicles so that they can set up “tent cities” at base camp for extra protection.
The price tag on this unit is foolishly affordable. The brand reputation in the overland world is fantastic. The ability for this awning to be attached and deployed pretty much anywhere and everywhere makes it a big hit.
Some aren’t going to be crazy about the width of this awning (only 6 feet), but that shouldn’t be much of a problem for most, but to solve the problem, you can carry more than one.
ARB Shade Awning
Able to attach neatly to pretty much any overland vehicle imaginable (trucks, jeeps, even heavily modified Subarus), this overland awning setup is a dream to use and just about bulletproof.
A self-standing system that tracks back into a compact compartment, easily able to be installed on any roof rack system (but working particularly well with ARB roof racks, for obvious reasons), the whole unit is lightweight and super stable.
Manufactured to withstand everything that the Australian outback can conjure up, overland adventurers around the world will be able to rely on this awning to beat the heat, create some shade, and protect their base camp from unexpected weather issues as well.
The awning legs fold out from the actual canopy itself and are made out of anodized materials that telescope to various heights. You’ll be able to configure the pitch and the overall height of your awning with ease.
The actual awning itself is made out of a PU coated polyester and cotton blend canvas that is unbelievably lightweight but crazy durable. 100% waterproof, the material also has top-notch UV protection with a 50+ UVP rating.
Overland adventurers using this awning are going to love the fact that it is set up in about 30 seconds and neatly packs away in about that, too. Mounting it wherever you like on your overland vehicle shouldn’t be much trouble either, allowing you to change the mounting position in the field as base camp factors dictate.
Combine all of that with the nearly endless ARB accessory options you can use to fully fleshed out this awning (screen rooms, tents, windbreakers, awning floors, etc.), and this is a bit of a no-brainer for those looking for something really special.
Thule OverCast Awning
This lightweight awning weighs only 22 lbs and is perfect for campsites and roadside fishing because it is fast and straightforward to put up and take down.
The OverCast awning is an excellent accessory to a rooftop tent and is perfect for camping. It is a fantastic addition to any outdoor experience; it helps you to enjoy the great outdoors while being safe from the elements.
The awning comes with two different types of mounting hardware to accommodate a variety of crossbar systems. T-track mounting hardware is included, which can be used with the Wingbar and Aeroblade side and other roof racks with a track on end.
Alternatively, an around-the-bar mounting hardware package, which suits bars with a width of up to 3.5 inches and a depth of between 0.7″ and 1.4″, is also included.
The OverCast comes with locking covers locked over the mounting hardware, making it impossible for those without the key to remove it from your roof rack.
Thanks to the included guy wires, the awning stays steady in the wind. Two height-adjustable poles are also included with the awning, and their maximum height is 6 feet.
The downside of the OverCast could be its plastic parts, which can break without proper care and during usage in severe conditions.
Thule is committed to delivering high-quality goods that have been thoroughly inspected. The 2-year manufacturer’s warranty covers material and quality defects.
Rhino Rack Awning
The SunSeeker is a proven design that has been around for a while now, acting as the template for a lot of other companies looking to make overland and adventure style awnings, too. Providing plenty of coverage and shade when you’re off the beaten path (as much as 55.38 square feet of shade, to be exact), this is a must-have for folks that want basecamp to be a little more comfortable.
Quality materials have been a hallmark of the Rhino Rack company for some time. This awning system is made from a wind and weather-resistant canvas material (210D) that’s also been impregnated with UV protectant too.
This means you’ll get full waterproofing from this canopy/awning system, but you’ll also enjoy UV protection of 50+ UVP.
Capable of essentially snapping onto pretty much any modern roof rack system (Rhino Rack, THULE, Yakima, etc.), installation is a two-man job, but it goes fast.
Deploying the canopy takes maybe a few seconds, though – getting it setup and locked into position with the telescoping legs is a breeze. Takedown and stowaway is just as fast, letting you get basecamp cleared up in a hurry.
All in all, it’s not hard to understand why people are so crazy over this piece of overland gear. It’s well designed, rugged, and highly adaptable – everything you want when you’re overlanding.
Overland Vehicle Systems Awning
Those looking for an overland awning that just one person can quickly deploy without headache or hassle will want to zero in on the OVS Nomadic 270 LT.
Strong, stable, and perhaps the most flexible of all the different overland awnings out there, this piece of hardware takes a totally new approach to outdoor awning design.
While it looks just like any other system on the market today when mounted to your vehicle, the way this awning can be spread out and configured makes it totally unique.
Sure, you could pull this awning right out of the storage system and prop it up with the two telescoping poles (including) for a basic awning with 53 square feet of shade. But you could also open up the internal frame of the awning to get 80 square feet of coverage, 88 square feet of coverage, or up to 129 square feet of coverage – all from the same compact system.
This goes far beyond what you’ll get from most other choices, which is why serious adventurers choose this awning more than maybe anything else out there. If flexibility and total camp coverage is important, this is the way to go for sure.
Combine all of that with top-tier materials (including fully waterproofed 600D poly-cotton rip-stop canvas blends), and a multitude of accessories to boost the usability of this awning right out of the box and you’re looking at something special here.
The warranty on this hardware is first-rate as well, but it’s the customer service and support you’ll get from OVS that impresses so many. These people don’t just sell world-class gear – they use it themselves, understand how it works, and always have the best interests of their fellow adventurers at heart.
At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong with any of the five overland awning choices we highlighted above.
Each and every one of them are well-made, intelligently engineered, and very smartly designed specifically with overland adventures in mind.
Most of them are pretty affordable, and even the ones that are a little bit on the more expensive side of things are designed to be “buy at once for life” kind of products – with warranties to backup your investment, too.
None of these products are cheaply made, flimsy, or prone to collapsing when you need them most.
These are awnings that you can reliably keep on board your overland vehicle no matter what kind of adventure you have in front of you. They are going to transform base camp into a much more comfortable space, providing the kind of shelter and shade few other products can.
Stick to the options above (and the buying guide provided earlier), and you’ll never have to worry about investing your hard-earned money into the wrong overland awnings ever again.