Tough Side Awning Review
At Tough Toys we know all sorts of 4x4 owners. No matter what people want to do with their off road vehicle they come to us for the parts to make it possible; whether it's fitting some work lights to help with fence repair in the dark or turning a 4x4 into a long range expedition machine we have the accessories you need to do it. That's taught us a lot about what people are looking for when it comes to accessories. One of the things we've learned is that sometimes what people really want just isn't available. Where we can we try to sort that by developing our own products to meet the demand, and one of the things we've done that with is awnings.
Awnings are great. If you go anywhere in a 4x4 you need to have at least one, because you're guaranteed to get plenty of use out of it. Your truck seems big enough when you're driving, but try doing anything else in it and you'll find it gets cramped quick enough. Vehicles also tend to pick up on what the weather's doing unless you run the heating or air con. If it's too hot outside, ten minutes after you turn the engine off it'll be too hot inside too. Too cold outside? Then it isn't going to be fun sitting in an unheated metal box. What an awning gives you is a basic shelter that you can build on to get all the protection you need.
What is a 4x4 Awning?
A 4x4 awning is a pretty simple bit of kit. It's basically a sheet that fixes to your vehicle at one end. The other end gets supported by poles. It couldn't be easier, and what it gives you is a sheltered patch of ground next to your truck. That shelter will keep the rain off you if it's not too windy or let you get out of the sun but still enjoy a cooling breeze. With an awning fitted to your vehicle you have a place where you can work, eat, sleep or just relax.
So, if you're looking for some space to do stuff in without being exposed to the elements, what's the most important thing you need? Easy; that would be enough space to do stuff in. You'd think that would be obvious, but it turns out not to be. When we were putting the Tough Toys range together we looked everywhere for a big awning that would give the large covered area our customers wanted. We didn't find it. Some came close, of course. We checked out the largest offerings from ARB, Roo and Ironman, and all of them do a side awning that's 2 metres wide and 2.5 metres long. That gives room for a couple of you to sit in the shade, but if you start adding anything else - a cooler, or anything you're trying to work on - it starts getting a bit tight under there.
Tough Toys Awnings
What we did was come up with a simple solution: We just had our own side awning made, and we asked them to make it a bit bigger. The result is the standard 2 metre width, but it stretches out a whole 3 metres from the side of your 4x4. That gives you the extra space you need to relax in comfort.
Seeing as we'd just come up with a new type of side awning we figured we might as well do something at the back of the car, too. Obviously space is a bit more limited back here, but we used the same basic design to come up with a 1.4x2 metre awning that's perfect for sheltering your back door or tailgate. It's the perfect solution if you like cooking out the back of the wagon. It's also a great place to sleep, giving you easy access to all your gear.
While we were sorting out some nice big awnings we decided to make sure every other detail was right, too. Starting with the attachment system, we made sure our awnings can be easily fitted to your rails or roof bars. Not only do they fit easily, they're very secure.
Next we looked at strength. The outback is a tough place and gear needs to be sturdy to survive out there. Our awnings are built for whatever the weather throws at you. Lightweight but strong aluminium poles form the frame, holding up the outer end and keeping the canopy stretched out. If there's a wind you can use the supplied guy liens and pegs for extra stability, keeping everything nice and tight.
Most awnings are made from nylon or polyester, usually with a waterproof coating that helps it resist sunlight a bit better. These are fine for keeping the rain off, but the sun will eventually destroy even UV-resistant synthetic fabrics and they're not as tough as they could be anyway. We decided to go for heavy duty, waterproof ripstop canvas instead. Never mind a bit of rain; our awnings will shrug off a falling drop bear or two.
Finally we decided to give you the maximum flexibility to set up your camp the way you want. At the end of the day an awning is a roof, and what's the perfect thing to add to a roof if you're camping overnight? Walls, of course. When you've got a support frame ready fitted to your car and a tough canvas roof on it to keep those drop bears away, it's easy to hang some walls to give you a fully enclosed space. We took a look at how people use their awnings and came up with two wall options. Our big side awning is a place to sit and chill out with a couple of friends and a couple of stubbies, so you want a good view of the outdoors. On the other hand you don't want flies. Sadly Australia has some very persistent flies, and we figured an awning with corks hanging from the edge wouldn't work that well. Instead, go for our side-mounted mozzie net. Attaching easily to our side awning, this protects the full 3x2 metre space from insects but still lets you enjoy the fresh air and great outdoors. For our rear awning we did something a bit different; with our rear tent set you can turn this into a fully enclosed space, ideal for sleeping or keeping warm on a cold day. With side windows and doors front and rear you can let in as much or as little fresh air as you like. Meanwhile you get loads of headroom, a tough PVC floor and walls made from the same quality canvas as the awning.
A quick search round the internet will show you plenty of awnings. What it'll also show you is just what we found - none of what's available is big enough or tough enough for the perfect camp. Until now, of course. With our Tough awnings, tent and nets your trusty 4x4 is all ready to become the front room of your home away from home.