Wednesday, 01 August 2018 10:55

Vango Idris II Low driveaway awning tested and reviewed

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 Van life is one of the major trends of recent years, offering mobility and shelter in one unit, but what difference does an add-on awning have? We tested Vango's Idris II Low to see just useful they really are - and we got a serious shock!

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.

idris ii low 2


  • Vango AirAway® Structure - Inflatable AirBeam® technology allows for pole free pitching and easy erection on your vehicle (double action pump included)
  • Sentinel Active 70 Fabric - 70D polyester fabric combines strength and lightweight materials to provide a compact, waterproof and durable fabric
  • Linked-in groundsheet - Easy to clean groundsheet that can be attached or detached from the living area
  • AirSpeed® Valve - Simple system with easy access positioning to inflate your AirBeams® with even less effort
  • Patented Vango TBS®II Tension Band System ensures awning performs in adverse conditions, especially in strong, changeable winds. When tensioned, the bands brace the pole at 3 points, and prevent sideways movement. Adjust TBS®II to remove slack. Do not over tension, as this may deform the poles. Can be stowed away in calm weather
  • Pre-attached 6mm Kador strip - The most common and easy to use connection system for awning attachment to vehicles
  • Touch fastener roof bar attachment tabs - Simply wrap around vehicle roof bars for quick and easy use
  • Pole & Clamp kit sleeve - Allows optional pole & clamp kit attachment, for vehicles without a kador rail yet obtain a gutter
  • Bracer beams included - Designed to fit in between the awnings main AirBeams® to enhance stability in high winds
  • Reflective webbing - Picks up torchlight so the pegging points are easily spotted in low light conditions
  • Large windows - Provide bright and airy environment
  • Diamond Clear windows - Maximise light and visibility
  • Door in connecting panel - Allows convenient access
  • Flat entry - Easy access for wheelchairs, prams and people with reduced mobility
  • King pole doors - Integrated eyelets allow optional king poles to prop open doors, creating a canopy
  • Roll away rear porch - Can be rolled away when not in use
  • Fully taped seams - All flysheet and groundsheet seams are factory taped which provides a watertight seal
  • Wide mouthed bag with compression straps - Allows your awning to be packed away and carried to and from the campsite easily
  • Optional bedroom inner - Optional extra available to purchase separately
  • Steel rock pegs and mallet included - Pegs are strong, durable and can be used on more challenging terrain
  • AirBeam® Pump Included - Double action pump that will rapidly inflate your AirAway® Awning which comes complete with a pressure dial
  • Cable entry point with tidies - Zipped entry point for power cable, with touch fastener tidies
  • Lantern Hanging Points - Conveniently positioned to attach your light(s)
  • Fire retardant fabrics - Meets European EN5912 safety standard
  • Fully wind and rain tested - Weather tested to the European standard EN5912 by certified test centre
  • 8m Straps included - Straps can be tensioned and rested over the vehicle, allowing the awning to attach to vehicles without kador rails
  • Toggled privacy curtains - Provides privacy when required, can be rolled away when not in use
  • Orange reflective guylines with tidies - High visibility lower half to prevent hazards and ensure stability in high winds
  • Line-Lok guyline runners - Lock securely, simple to release and high performance in all conditions
  • SkyTrack II® - A flexible hanging system which allows you to easily attach lighting, storage or our new SkyLiners. The SkyTrack system truly allows you to design your tent to suit your needs
  • Skylight Windows - Windows which run along the roof line of the awning to enhance light during the day and for star gazing at night.
  • Low level vents - Helps circulate air within the awning and reduces condensation
  • Over vehicle webbing straps - Can be tensioned and rested over the vehicle, allowing the awning to attach to vehicles without kador rails

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.

Caddy KMF 5

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.

Caddy KMF 6

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.

idris ii low

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.

Caddy KMF 10

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.

Caddy KMF 12

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.

Caddy KMF 14

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.

idris ii low 3

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.

Transparency Notice: Please note that MyOutdoors receives free products for review from brands and manufacturers, but we only accept products for review on condition of total independence and no guarantee of endorsement.