Our Super Trusty, Cheap, and Simple DIY Awning
Several of our friends have asked us for instructions for our DIY awning, so here you go! Sorry for the mediocre photos – we wanted to get this out to a few friends before hunting season so we’re working with what we had – please feel free to ask us if you have any questions.
A few years ago we made this awning on a whim and it has worked amazingly since. It’s 8 feet wide by 10 feet long, but you can use these plans to make whatever size you want.
The main idea behind it is that “guy lines”, AKA small ropes/cords that connect the awning to stakes on the ground, are tightened with adjustable guy line knots to make the awning very sturdy.
An obvious alternative is to buy an awning system for your vehicle, but those are often expensive and aren’t customizable. A lot of pre-made awnings expand out to cover the side of a vehicle which isn’t ideal if you want to have the dry area be behind your vehicle (like we do for our truck).
This awning is made from stuff you can get at any hardware store for about $40 to $50 depending on the size and quality of the tarp and other materials.
Things we like
- It sets up in just a few minutes
- It covers the back area of our truck so that we have a dry area when we exit the camper
- Set up properly, it’s super rugged. It has survived through several years and trips where we experienced heavy winds, rain, and snow
- It can be built to whatever size you want for your vehicle
- If something goes wrong and you ruin the tarp, it’s cheap to replace
- We often just un-clip it from the truck and leave it behind at camp for the day without worrying about it being stolen (because it’s cheap and we have too much faith in humanity).
- You can adjust the angle of the awning by increasing or decreasing the angle of the legs
- We roll the awning up and put it inside of our truck when we are traveling with it. It would be nice to have it be stored on the top of the truck.
- It takes time and energy to make, and it takes a little more time and energy to set up and take down than an electric awning or something like that.
- This awning doesn’t have walls – in the future we’d like to buy or make one that has at least one wall. And maybe a wood stove. And windows. And a bar. Why not?
*We chose to make an 8×10 foot awning so all of the parts correspond to that size.
We chose to use a white, 8×10 foot tarp in the heaviest duty they had at the local hardware store. It has held up very well.
4 galvanized pipes cut to 8 feet
The pipes that are labeled “1” and “2” are the legs. The pipe that’s labeled “3” connects the two legs with two elbows to form the rear cross-bar. The pipe labeled “4” runs across at the top to make the front cross-bar and connects the tarp to the truck.
I just grabbed the first two elbows that I saw at the hardware store. These ones have set screws but we don’t use them.
You’ll need about 60 feet to make the guy lines. We chose orange so that they would be highly visible. Learn to tie a “guy line” knot and use this knot to connect the corners of the awning to stakes on the ground. This knot basically slides up or down to tighten the loop around each stake. You can tie any knot you want, but guy line knots will make it so you don’t have to tie a knot every time you set it up – you just put the loop over the stake and slide the knot up to tighten the guy line. From each corner, you will want to run one guy line backwards (i.e. #2) and one guy line to the side (i.e. #1).
We used zip ties to attach the tarp grommets to the front and back cross bars.
2 clips or carbiners
We used some old rope (parachute cord would work fine) and a couple of clips from the hardware store to attach the front “cross-bar” to the roof rack on our truck. We also bought a couple of sleeves that slide onto the pipe to keep the rope from sliding – you could also just drill a hole in the pipe and run the rope through that. Or tie a knot that doesn’t slide. What you choose to use for clips will depend on how you plan on attaching the awning to your vehicle.
2 heavy-duty “nail” stakes
These two stakes get hammered into the ground at an angle and the bottoms of the two leg pipes slide over them.
4 tent stakes
We use these 4 stakes to attach the guy lines to the ground. Sorry, you can only see one stake in the photo above.
A Couple of Notes
- Make sure to set it up so that it drains water away from your vehicle – do this by lowering the angle of the legs.
- We have used this awning in all conditions, and we believe one of the reasons it has held up to heavy snow and high winds is the thicker (and more expensive) tarp material. Don’t go for the cheap, thin stuff.
- Here’s a photo of what it looks like rolled up and ready to go.