Friday, September 11, 2015

Casting Shadows - A Tale of Two Canopies

In a previous blog, I shared how we added a side tent to provide a private place to change clothes, etc. In this post, I thought I would talk about canopies. Most RVs come with canopies attached to their sides that roll out and provide shade as they climb in/out of their motor home. Teardrop trailers really don't have this as an option and while these little trailers do often get access to more shaded tent sites, many teardroppers like myself bring along a canopy for some extra shade. 

However, canopies do more than provide a little extra shade, they also provide some place dry during wet weather, protection from debris or bugs falling from trees and often a central gathering spot to hang out. Like many teardroppers, we place our canopy over the galley area to provide cover when we are cooking, eating or cleaning up.

There are many different canopy solutions out there and often much debate around what is the best canopy for a teardrop trailer. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a canopy.

Top Material - Most use a rip stop nylon or polyester. These materials are typically measured in weight and can range from 50 Denier to 300 Denier or more. The higher the number, the more durable the material but also the more it will add to the weight. They are typically UV coated and some are water resistant but not always so be sure to check.

Frame Material - This can be anything from fiberglass shockcorded poles, to aluminum to steel. As you might imagine, the more durable the material, the more weight and bulk so there is a trade off to be considered. 

Coverage Area - Coverage area is typically measured at the foot of each pole. A 10' x 10' base will cover 100 sq. feet in a straight leg design where a slant leg design will typically be less.  This is because it might measure 10' at the base of the leg but at the top it might only be 9' depending on the slant of the leg.

Open vs. Closed Design - Most canopies/shelters are open design. Open shelters can provide better visibility but less privacy. Shelters with walls provide better protection from the sun/elements and privacy but might restrict the view.

Ease of Setup - The larger the shelter, the more challenging it can be to set up. Large, heavy shelters might require 2 people where simple ones pop up quickly and easily. 

Size/Weight - If you have limited space in your tow vehicle, canopies that pack away into smaller size and less weight can provide a real advantage. However, they may also be more susceptible to harsh elements.  

I know many that favor the REI Alcove because it is inexpensive (MSRP $109 at posting), sets up quickly/easily and is light weight. It has a floor space of 10' x 10' and is supposed to provide 100 sq. foot of coverage. It uses a light weight poly material but they do not mention the fabric weight on their site. Another popular shelter among teardroppers is the Paha Que Cottonwood (MSRP $285 at posting), they offer this in 10' x 10' or 12' x 12' options. It is a 150 Denier poly material for the top and you can get it with optional side walls as well. 

In my opinion, there is no "best" canopy on the market because it all comes down to wants/needs and preference. Some people may have a small tow vehicle and need something small that will not take up much space. Others may want something lightweight, while others may want more heavy duty and durable.
Paha Que 10x10
REI Alcove

We were fortunate as our trailer came with a really nice Eureka Northern Breeze (MSRP $449 at posting) Canopy/Screen Room like the one shown below. This is a 12' x 12' Screen tent made from 150 Denier poly material that is UV and water resistant. It is very light in weight but sturdy with 1" aluminum shockcorded poles. It has full walls (50 Denier) that zip closed to provide extra protection during cold/wet weather and provide added privacy. If camping in nicer weather, the walls can be unzipped and extended out to provide an even larger shaded area while also providing a screened room so you can enjoy a bug free meal. While it is very light, it is also quite sturdy, standing up to weather and windy conditions quite well. It does take a little time to set up as you need to stake down the corners and add guy lines to help provide that stability during windy conditions. However, once you have done it a few times, it starts to set up fairly quickly and easily.

Eureka Northern Breeze
One thing to note about owning a teardrop is that you cannot be shy as they attract a lot of attention at campgrounds. It is common for people to stop by and ask to check them out. An added benefit of the Norther Breeze is the extra privacy it provides as it deters people from coming up asking for a tour of your teardrop. The drawback of this one is that it is a little more time consuming to set up but even that is really not bad. We really like this canopy as it does hold up to the elements quite well. This is our go to canopy when we know we are going to be camping in cooler/wet weather.

Quick Shade Summit 170
While we really like the Northern Breeze, we also wanted something a little more open, something for fair weather camping. For that we picked up the Quick Shade Summit 170 (MSRP $249 at posting). It is a 10' x 10' straight leg canopy but it is much heavier than the Northern Breeze. The top material is a 300 Denier poly material with a vented roof design. The legs are heavy duty, powder coated steel with a straight leg style design to maximize coverage area. The vented top let's wind pass through without trying to carry it off like an umbrella while also allowing heat to vent out the top. It has 1/2 walls that can be adjusted to 3 different positions (fully extended, approx. 45 degrees or all the way down) to block the morning/afternoon sun or provided larger shaded area. Since it is heavy and have a vented roof, it takes a pretty strong wind to pick it up so it withstands windy conditions quite well. I have had it out and set up with winds reaching about 25Mph and it held up fine.  I did stake down the legs and added guy lines to make sure it would not go anywhere. This canopy does set up quite quickly with telescoping poles and quick snap lock buttons. The biggest drawback to this canopy is that it is easiest to set up when you have 2 people. I have done it myself, but it was a bit of a pain to do. It is also fairly heavy and bulky compared to other canopies. However, this is still my favorite canopy despite some of the challenges. It provides great coverage and visibility while holding up to wind fairly well. 

There are many, many different canopies out there that offer different features at different price points. Some work great in wet/cold weather, others are more appropriate for fair weather camping. It's just comes down to what your needs are and how much budget you might have for your canopy. We have found that we almost always set up a canopy, which one just depends on the weather on where we are camping. 

So, what is your canopy solution? What do you like about it and what are the drawbacks?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Sitting in the shade until next time,
Jay T.

Images used with approval from copyright holders