Adding a patio awning can increase your coach’s comfort zone.
By Jim Brightly, F358406
For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone buying a new motorhome would not also order a patio awning for it. An awning nearly doubles the usable living area with a minimal cost in money, space, and weight.
During a warm spring rain, you can sit beneath it and sip coffee while communing with nature and staying dry at the same time. In the dry heat of the Southwest, with a bit of a breeze, temperatures up to the high 90s can be enjoyed under its shade. And in areas where winged “skeeters” want to drill for blood, include the option of a screened-in patio and you can add many more hours of outdoor enjoyment to your RVing lifestyle.
Awnings have been used around mobile camps since before Studebakers and Conestogas carried our forefathers and foremothers across the prairies. A simple square of canvas with some eyeholes and poles and ropes shaded the pioneers at the cook fires, sluiced off the rain from sudden thundershowers, or protected their gear during the odd dust storm.
These primitive canvas squares have evolved into today’s sophisticated RV awnings, which are offered in power (electric) and manual models. Carefree of Colorado, C444 (an FMCA commercial member), has been and continues to be a major contributor in that evolution. The company offers an extensive line of patio, door, slideout, and window awnings, plus related equipment.
For example, Carefree has introduced the 12-volt-DC Travel’r patio awning, which incorporates push-button operation with support strength and maximum head clearance. The 12-volt Travel’r, which is ready to provide shade in less than 20 seconds after setup, according to company literature, can be purchased as part of a new awning, or existing patio awnings can be upgraded. It uses a worm-gear motor to ensure that the awning will not get caught by a gust of wind and billow during travel.
The 12-volt Travel’r is available in two models, flat-pitch and steep-pitch. The flat-pitch model is ideal for motorhomes, and, if upgrading, for patio awnings mounted over slideout rooms. This model also has Carefree’s exclusive Rain-Dump feature, which automatically releases pooled water. The steep-pitch model is best for taller motorhomes, where a steep pitch can provide maximum shade.
Rather than discussing recently introduced models, however, the true focus of this article is to show motorhomers how easy it is to mount “” or have mounted “” a new manual awning. To find a Carefree of Colorado dealer near you, visit www.carefreeofcolorado.com, click on “Dealer Search,” and follow the directions. Or call (303) 469-3324.
Initially, we were going to install a 12-volt-powered Carefree Eclipse patio awning, which offers push-button convenience with the strength and reliability of conventional awnings. The control switch mounts inside the RV, near the door, so you can watch the awning as it extends and retracts (an optional wireless remote is also available). In addition, an on-off power switch prevents accidental operation. The 12-volt worm-gear motor holds the awning securely to the coach for travel.
The Eclipse also features an instant pitch adjustment with six settings that can provide more shade if desired or facilitate rain runoff. In addition, the rain-dump element releases water when the canopy is set on a flat-pitch setting. Other highlights include an automatic self-leveling retraction system, making it unnecessary to level the awning before rolling it up; a truss that strengthens and supports the awning to help it withstand light winds; and a Direct Response option that in heavier winds will cause the Eclipse to retract before it can be damaged. The truss support also ensures secure partial extension performance and reportedly offers the highest head clearance of any vertical-arm awning on the market.
Despite the Eclipse awning’s many attractive features, the 25-foot motorhome we were using for the installation could not accommodate it. This is because the space between the side door and the passenger’s window was too narrow for the Eclipse’s support arm. A minimum of 4-1/2 inches is needed for the support, and this coach only had 3-1/2 inches of available room. Therefore, we picked the traditional Fiesta manual awning in a color that matched an accent color on the coach. For those of you who enjoy crunching numbers while sipping coffee and munching toast beneath your awning, a powered awning, should your coach have the necessary space, will run about $600 more than a manual model “” using an 18-foot awning as an example. However, you’ll find that the ease of use, convenience, and resale value will more than outweigh the additional charge.
The Fiesta is made of double-wrapped, multi-layer vinyl that is said to hold its looks and color well, and to be long-lasting. It has a remote lock and storage locks that work together to ensure that the awning will not become unlocked when the coach is under way. The no-wand remote lock provides easy operation without the risk of scratching your coach or pinning your fingers to the sidewall. The support arms’ mounting brackets are heavy-duty, solid, and will match the trim on most motorhomes. The support arms themselves can be removed from the brackets and secured to the ground in a vertical fashion if you wish to park an open Jeep, golf cart, or larger toy under the awning during inclement weather, or if you’re going to be camped in one spot for some time and want the supports to be easier to negotiate around.
While many people would think that spring would be the best time of the year for a new awning, fall and winter are fine times for installing a new awning or replacing the fabric on an existing one. Then you’ll be ready to hit the road come March or April. Remember, you can install a Fiesta if you’re a reasonably experienced home mechanic and if a friend is available “” it’s a two-person job once the fabric is secured in the upper awning rail (three people are needed for that operation).
Carefree of Colorado
Carefree of Colorado manufactures products for the RV, marine, and residential industries. The company employs more than 300 people and is headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, where it operates a 140,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. Carefree’s awnings, accessories, and other items are marketed worldwide through a network of dealers and RV manufacturers.
The company was established in the early 1970s by RV enthusiast Gene Upton, who introduced the first truly automatic roll-up awning for recreation vehicles. An instant success, his invention became the most popular awning in the industry at the time. In 1974 Mr. Upton sold the company to the Scott Fetzer Co. of Westlake, Ohio, which was in turn acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1986. Carefree is an American-based and American-owned company.
Carefree of Colorado
2145 W. Sixth Ave.
Broomfield, CO 80020
Seven Styles of Shade
Carefree of Colorado offers a full complement of RV awnings “” from patio awnings to slideout covers to door and window awnings. Its patio awnings are available in both power-operated and manually operated styles and can be designed to match, contrast, or accent your coach’s color scheme. The following list includes patio awnings only. Contact Carefree for specifics on prices, colors, and fabrics.
Eclipse “” Said to be the only adjustable-pitch 12-volt-DC electric awning, the Eclipse includes six settings per arm to adjust for sun protection and rain runoff (also includes an automatic rain dump feature).
Fiesta “” The Fiesta is a double-wrapped, multi-layer vinyl awning that has storage locks that work together to ensure that the awning will not become unlocked during your travels. Its support arms can be removed from their lower brackets and secured to the ground in a vertical situation if you’re going to be camped in one spot for some time and wish the supports to be easier to negotiate around.
Mirage “” You might say the Mirage is Carefree’s top-of-the-line powered patio awning. Its features include easy-to-use controls; a motion detection system (automatically rolls up the awning if the ambient breezes become too brisk); lateral arm support (no lower supports to negotiate); and tough, long-lasting acrylic fabrics.
One-Touch “” The One-Touch is said to combine push-button ease with smooth, reliable operation. It is available with short or universal support arms; vinyl, PolyWeave, or acrylic fabrics; and custom color arm channels.
Simplicity Plus “” The Simplicity Plus provides great shade but a few less features. It’s manually operated and has a single-track slider on the inside of its arm channel to greatly reduce binding during deployment or roll-up.
Spirit FX “” Included in its many features are tie-down straps; a roller light; an aluminum utility slot roller; and hangers for wind chimes, flower baskets, etc. Spirit FX can be ordered in standard vinyl fabric, PolyWeave vinyl, or acrylic fabrics.
Travel’r “” Available in two models, flat pitch and steep pitch, the 12-volt Travel’r reportedly can be ready to provide shade in less than 20 seconds. It uses a worm-gear motor to ensure that the awning will not get caught by a gust of wind and billow during travel.