Adding an awning somehow feels counter-intuitive to vanlife; you're adding a static extension when the beauty of a campervan is the mobility it gives you. Of course a drive-away awning is an attempt to get the best of both worlds; camping and mobility, but is it actually worth the hassle of setting up and taking down? Two months of testing left us no doubt about the answer to that question - it's more than worth the effort and has the ability to transform the way you use your van.
What the manufacturers say:
Surfing, hiking, sailing, cycling, kayaking or simply just relaxing, let the Idris II be part of your adventure. The Idris II freestanding drive away awning offers a combination of convenience and space; providing a sizeable extension for living, sleeping or storage, in a lightweight package. The front of the awning has a flat entry groundsheet which provides easy access for wheelchairs, prams or people with reduced mobility, with the option to king pole the doors out to create a canopy from the rain or sun. You may want to consider buying optional bedroom inners to use your awning as a spare bedroom, ideal for large families or groups of friends. The Idris II AirAway® Awning, in its easy to pack oversized carry bag, is a great choice for campervan and motorhome owners.
Vango Idris II Low driveaway awning reviewed:
You hear the phrase "game-changer" constantly in the outdoor industry, and the reality is the product rarely lives up to the tag, but with the Vango Idris II Low and from a personal perspective it truly is a game changer.
I came to the review with a poor opinion of airbeam technology based on experiences with an early airbeam tent and a poor pump, and serious questions about how much difference an awning makes. By the end of it's first couple of weeks use I had to hold myself back from the most glowing review we've probably ever published. Quite simply no single product has even made such a change in my outdoor experience, and I still feel that way after more than 2 months.
For a small or micro campervan owner/user the ability to be able to stand up and walk around is a luxury. To be able to do so in less than 20 minutes after parking and set it up single-handed, and then drive away at will, is the stuff of dreams. But that's been my experience from day 1 with the Idris II Low.
There's a lot of awnings on the market as motorhomes and campervans become increasingly popular but the small van, home conversion, market is a bit more niche. For this reason we were very specific in asking for the Low version when calling in the product for review - Vango even phoned to double check that the low would fit. Being based in a home converted VW Caddy Maxi the Low version was essential and still pushed the Idris II to its limits when it came to width. Lacking any form of direct attachment we were relying on the included sling attachments to secure the awning to the vehicle and we have to admit it was a close call in terms of the length of the vehicle compared to the awning width.
If you've got a slightly taller or longer van and have roof bars or a Kador attachment the Idris II Low set-up couldn't be easier. If you're in a small van the limiting factors are roof height and vehicle length but even then the much improved Vango AirBeam technology and pump make all the difference. Without a Kador strip or roof bars you simply attach the included sling straps to the awning and launch them over the roof of your van to land on the other side. Pull them tight to the roof and peg out and the awning is secured in moments. Once secured the erection process is the same irrespective of how the awning's attached.
At 3.70m long and 3.1m wide it's far from the biggest awning on the market but the adjustable height, between 1.8 and 2.1m, makes it ideal for smaller vans. The 3.7m x 3.1m overall size is further divided into two distinct "zones"; the main living area with groundsheet coverage is 3.1 x 2.35m with a 3.1 x 1.35m "transition zone" between the van's side door and the living area.
In practice what this division into two zones gives you is an area where you can take off and store wet clothing before entering either the living area or the inside of your van. Accessible via a zipped door it makes a superb transition area that keeps the essential areas clean, dry and free from dirt. This area also allows the essential transition in height between the van roof and the full height of the living area.
The main living area has it's own zipped entrance from the outside as well as via the van and the transition area and windows on the end and side walls.
The living area has more than enough room to host a family, including chairs and table, and with Vango's Tension Band System it an eask job to tension the awning before installing the detatchable groundsheet. Once installed the awning becomes a refuge from sun and rain and a game-changing addition. To be able to exit the side door of a van and instantly have the space to stand up and walk around makes an immeasurable difference to vanlife. Eating can move from inside to effectively outside, the large windows substantially increase the amount of light reaching the inside of the van (with the van door open) and with limited space inside a camper the transition zone is a revelation with the height for clothing to hang and drip dry onto bare ground.
At £550 the Idris II Low is a major investment, but compared to a similar sized airbeam tent it's competitively priced. With a street price of £470 it's a lot of awning space for the price compared with the alternatives. Add in the fact that essentially you're adding both a van extension AND a tent and it's a no-brainer. In the space of a couple of months it's totally changed the way we use the van, more than doubling the floor space and providing new levels of flexibility. The ability to unpeg the roof slings and drive away, leaving the awning in situ, means you get the dual benefits of a static pitch to return to while freeing up your van for use during the day.
If there's a downside, and it's a minor one, it's in dropping the awning and packing away. The sealing system used in the air beams makes deflating them is straight forward, but even with an oversized bag to pack everything away you need to really work on getting all the air out of the beams before packing. If packed away wet it's a big chunk of fabric to dry out at home but you do have the advantage of the groundsheet being separate - which makes it easier to manoeuvre the drying flysheet.
The pump has been totally overhauled since the early versions with a very effective locking mechanism to hold the hose in place and a pressure gauge that's easily visible while inflating the beams and no longer features a needle that swings wildly with each stroke of the pump. On it's first use, without consulting the set-up instructions, it took less than 20 minutes to set-up single handed - it's that intuitive. Successive uses have dropped this time to a tad over 10 minutes and a similar time to deflate and pack away. You could waste that much time simply manoeuvring things within the confines of a van! Stored under the fold-out van bed the Vango Idris II Low adds a whole new dimension to vanlife; just carry it anyway and use it when time and location allow.
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