Which RV Awning Fabric Is Right for Your Rig?

Guest post by Darla Preston

Our awning (and an additional tarp) was a lifesaver for the Trekers
when we were dry-camping in the Badlands of South Dakota in July! (Photo credit: Ari Adler)

With spring only a few months away, RVers are daydreaming about hitting the road and soaking up welcoming sun rays. Will their awnings be ready?

RVers often combat the heat of summer RVing with air conditioning or the shaded relief from RV awnings. The enjoyment of spending a hot day underneath the awning sipping a cold beverage is an experience RVers fantasize about.

The warmer weather offers a reprieve from the dreary days of winter. But blistering heat and overbearing sun rays can lessen the appeal of an otherwise ideal vacation. 

Having a sturdy, well-cared-for canopy is essential in maintaining the shade-filled benefits your awning provides. It also helps to select the type of RV awning fabric that is right for your unique situation. Whether you’re looking to replace just the canopy or you’re buying a new awning altogether, here are a few tips to help you select the one that will best serve your needs:

Understand the Difference Between Acrylic and Vinyl Awning Fabric 

The two main types of RV awning fabric are acrylic and vinyl. The care each one will need, as well as the benefits of each one, varies slightly. So, it helps to break down the major differences before you make your choice. 

This old-school awning (and attached VW campervan) are on display
The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan. (Photo credit: Ari Adler)

Vinyl fabric is a durable option that tends to be fairly affordable. It’s made out of plastic material and is waterproof. It may be a good option if you plan to spend the majority of your RV time in areas prone to heavy moisture. Vinyl awnings are a bit heavier than acrylic canopies. While they still serve as a shaded oasis from intense summer heat and sun rays, they are less effective than acrylic awnings at keeping you cool. Additionally, they are mildew-resistant but not mildew proof. They will need to be closely monitored for mildew growth, especially in humid climates. 

Acrylic fabric is a bit more on the costly side. But because it’s made from woven fibers, the color and design are less likely to fade when exposed to the sun. Acrylic awnings are lighter than vinyl options, and the woven material is highly breathable. This provides better relief from the heat. Though they are water-resistant, they aren’t waterproof, so it’s important to avoid leaving them exposed to excessive rain in order to avoid any leak-throughs or pooling on the fabric. Because of their breathability, they are less likely to develop mold or mildew. It’s still advised never to roll them up when they’re still wet if possible. 

Awning Care Requirements

The care requirements are fairly similar between the two, as they both share the same basic steps:

  • Hosing down after every trip and then allowing your awning to air dry before rolling it back up will reduce stains and mold/mildew buildup. It will also reduce how often you need to deep clean your awning. 
  • Use lukewarm water instead of hot. And always use mild everyday dish soap or a specialized awning cleanser that is compatible with your fabric type. Avoid harsh cleansers or detergents.  
  • Gently brush over your awning with your soap and water solution, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then rinse. 
  • Air dry and roll up. 

The only difference to keep in mind is that it’s fine to use a stiff bristle brush with your acrylic fabric, but use a soft one with vinyl. 

Most RVers only deep clean their awnings about once per year. But you may need to do so more often if your awning gets excessively dirty. It’s best to keep an eye out for mold/mildew formation regardless of your fabric type, but remember that it will appear more often on vinyl. 

Measure Correctly for Replacement Canopies

We don’t use our awning a lot, but when heavy sun or light rain call for it, we enjoy having the option. (Photo credit: Ari Adler)

If your canopy fabric is torn, stained, faded, or it has begun to sag or develop excessive mildew growth, you may decide to replace the fabric if it’s not necessary to replace the entire awning itself. 

Before placing your order, make sure you have measured correctly. A simple mistake on this part could lead to receiving a product that doesn’t fit. Many companies will not offer refunds on awning fabric since they are custom-made.

Instead of measuring the length of your actual fabric, measure the distance between the center of your awning arms. The actual replacement fabric will be a bit shorter, but if you measure only the fabric, your canopy will not fit your awning. 

Do Your Research and Maintenance

Hopefully, this information helps you make an informed decision of which RV awning fabric type is the best for your budget and your lifestyle. If you do your research and commit to best maintenance practices, you should have no issue selecting the perfect canopy to keep you cool and comfortable for countless adventures to come. 

Darla Preston is a traveler whose home base is in the beautiful state of Colorado. She is happily married to her lifelong travel buddy, and she loves trading travel tips with fellow RVers who thrive on adventure. 

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