MAKING the most of the last few weekends of summer is sure to be front and centre in the minds of many campers and campervaners as we approach the darker nights and damper days of autumn.
Ensuring that the final adventures of 2020 are as comfortable as possible has been ably assisted by the addition to our set up of the Vango Palm Air Low drive-away awning. Having enjoyed several trips away in our trusty Vango air tent over the past couple of years, we were confident that the palm air would be the perfect solution to the space issues we have every time we head out in our old Mazda Bongo. The palm air low is the perfect fit for smaller VW- or Bongo-sized vans with a fitting height of 180-210cm.
Like our tent, the palm air is incredibly quick to pitch. It attaches via either the 6mm kaydor connecting strip or, for older vans, there’s a sleeve to attach it using a pole and clamp kit. There are also straps for over-roof attachment, but as our Bongo has a pop-top this isn’t the best method for us. Simply attach the awning then inflate it using the pump provided, peg it out and you’re done.
We were impressed by how rigid the air beams are and how stable the awning felt, even with a wind that was more than powerful enough to blow the midges many miles away. Vango is a Scottish company – “Vango” is an anagram of “Govan”, where the business was founded – so its products are very well equipped to deal with everything and anything that the Scottish weather can throw at them.
The palm air low is a small awning (275cm long by 290cm wide), but it allows ample space to store some of your kit outside the small area inside the van and pop up a small table and a couple of chairs if the weather proves to be unkind. Standing 205cm tall, most people will be able to stand inside the awning without fear of bumping their heads.
The new Sentinel Active fabric is a 70-denier fabric, designed to keep the overall weight of the awning down at 11.20kg. But, with waterproofing that could take a hydrostatic head of 3,000mm, it stood up really well and kept us bone dry through several sharp showers and the odd rumble of thunder. The pack size is compact, so there’s still plenty of space in the van for the rest of your kit.
The large entrance door provides lots of light, as does the side window; both have curtains for privacy. I particularly like how the door, when rolled up, tucks up inside the fabric, leaving the awning looking really neat and tidy. The door can also be pulled out and elevated with poles (not included) to create a sheltered main entrance. I love the zip up doors on both sides of the connecting strip, which enable you to access your van without walking through the awning. We also found the area within the connecting strip a great place to store our boots, meaning you can just step out of the van and into them.
The connecting tunnel detaches easily from the van and rolls up to leave the awning standing neatly if you need to drive away and leave it onsite.
The toggle in and out groundsheet provides flexibility and allowed us to keep drafts out and store some of our kit, but if we had dogs or bikes with us, or wanted to use the awning purely for shelter then we could have removed it easily. Being able to remove the ground sheet also makes cleaning it so much easier.
The large zip bag makes packing away the awning really easy. Just use the pump to deflate, roll and pop in the bag.
All-in-all we found the palm air low to be a great piece of kit. If you’re looking for an awning to sleep in then I would recommend something larger, but if you want great value for money, sleep in your van and need extra space and a comfortable sheltered area to sit then this ticks all the boxes.
HIGH POINT: Ease of erection meant that not a cross word was spoken, even the first time we put the palm air up.
LOW POINT: The toggle in and out groundsheet is handy for cleaning, but it doesn’t stop creepy crawlies from entering your awning. This proved to be more of a problem for some in our party than others!
Vango Palm Air Low Awning (£399.99) is available from Outdoor World Direct.