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Enjoyment of the whispering winds, the zephyrs, the airstreams of the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin areas of the United States in a recreational vehicle.

Owners Guide


Article published in the June 2017 SNU newsletter

Awnings are an essential element on most RV's. They provide shade, create an outdoor living area, and a structure for hanging lights and decorations. We have used the awning to provide a protected place to sit and enjoy our coffee during snow squalls at several rallies. Awnings have also provided a sheltered place for dinner during rain showers.

In regards to Airstreams, all newer models come with a curbside awning that comes out six to eight feet for both shade and shelter. Starting in 2016, Airstream even offered automatic awnings on some models. Some folks put full awnings on both sides of the RV but most only install roadside and other window awnings that come out a couple of feet to just provide shade. You can have the shade awning over just the window area or you can run it along the entire side. If your refrigerator is on the roadside, extending the awning along the length of the Airstream provides shade for the refrigerator area as well as the windows and helps the refrigeration during hot days. The roadside awning can make a big difference in the comfort level inside your Airstream, especially in the summer. Since it is about a third the width of the roadside awning, it is less subject to wind and can be left open when other awnings should be rolled up.

Standard commercial awnings are not the only option. People have come up with all sorts of unique ideas for covering the windows and creating shade. In 1998 at the WBCCI International rally in Boise Idaho, I resorted to using beach towels clamped to the roadside and front windows. It might have made our Airstream look more like trailer trash but it was so hot, the added shade made inside the trailer much more tolerable. At least we didn’t get kicked out of the rally. In 2006, when we replaced the curbside awning we added an awning to the roadside. That was one of the best additions to our Airstream that we have made. In 2014 Randy experimented with a much more refined version of beach towels to shade his front window. It worked fine but in order to be really useful he needs rethink his method of attaching the shade to the window. One option was demonstrated on a friends 1974 Sovereign. The custom made window shades are attached with suction cups.

As well as being put to good use, awnings have been the topic of discussion at SNU rallies. Brainstorming ideas have included figuring out a way to have a cover that would go over the entire Airstream like a portable garage. We have also discussed the idea of a curbside awning that could be easily rolled out and secured at varying widths. That way you could use it similar to the roadside awning or fully extend it for a shaded outdoor living area. Then there is the idea for longer Airstreams to make the curbside awning a two part awning rather than one long awning. That again, provides a variety of options depending on need or preference. There are always discussions about how to make setting out the awning easier, especially when it is a one person task.

Some things to keep in mind regarding awnings.

- As a precaution it is best not to leave your curbside awning out if you leave your Airstream for any length of time. Wind gusts can come up unexpectedly and wreak havoc with awnings. Rolling up your awning at night is also a good idea for the same reason.
- It is always beneficial to leave one corner of your awning lowered. Any rain or condensation will more likely run off rather than pooling in the awning fabric.
- If at all possible, never roll your awning up when it is wet. If you have to roll it up wet, unroll it as soon as possible so that it can dry out. If you aren’t going to use your Airstream for a while, or have it stored for the winter, it is a good idea to roll out the awning at least once to air it out and make sure it is dry.
- When getting ready to roll your awning up, be sure it is cleaned of dust and anything else that might have fallen on it. Even the smallest piece of debris can rub and possibly create a weak spot or tear in the fabric.
- Let your awning roll up slowly and evenly by hanging onto the tether and let the tether roll up at an angle so it doesn’t create a bulge by being rolled up in one place.
- On the full width awnings, check the struts on each end to make sure they don’t overlap (this is a common way to break off the hook at the end of the strut) and then let the awning snap shut for the last few inches.
- Be sure to secure your rolled up awning with then hold downs at each end and the hook and latch a few feet in from the end. You should put checking this detail as a part of your pre-departure checklist.
- Regular cleaning extends the life of your awning. Know the fabric used for your awning and use cleaning products that are appropriate for that specific fabric.

Photo galleries of awning installations and various awning styles

For more information about awnings check these resources.

Zephyrs web blog has a post on securing your awning while traveling

Zip Dee is a major supplier or RV Awnings including those installed on Airstreams,

There are lots of resources for information on awning repair and maintenance on the internet. Here are links to a few of these resources.

Please let us know what you think of these links and pass along any suggestions or other links that might be of use to those investigating this site-

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