DIY Custom Van Canopy Awning System:
Mike is an inventor of things – an orchestrator of “betterness.” So when a need arises, he thinks outside the box and creates a way to meet that need. Such a need arose while camping at a music festival a few years back. Mike needed an awning to stay out of the weather and blazing sun. He went over the various options available on the market and quickly deduced that he wanted to “build a better mouse trap.” He’d seen E-Z UPs blow away in the wind. He’d seen pull-down awning systems that you could barely stand under or even open the van door. He’d seen just about every canopy fill with water and become a nuisance when you need it most… in bad weather. He just hadn’t seen the awning system he had in his head. So he made one.
Items you’ll need in order to build the custom van awning shown in this video:
- Weather Guard Ladders All-Purpose Van Rack 216-3 (Home Depot)– this is the “van ladder rack” and the foundation of the custom canopy system you see in the video above.
- ShelterLogic Canopy System (Northern Tool) – We used the pipes and fittings from this product to customize the canopy system you see in the video above. Since we made our custom canopy larger (and therefore had to buy a larger tarp), you could use the tarp that comes with this product for side winds or a million other uses.
- ShelterLogic 25-Pk. of Bungee Fasteners (Northern Tool) – You might need extra bungee fasteners.
- PVC pipe and Fittings – cut to the sizes you need for the height and size canopy you want to make.
- Tarp – We used a 15ft. x 15ft. white tarp to make the custom canopy system you see in the video above.
- A Compact, Collapsible/Telescoping Ladder (Camping World) – This is the one we use and love; it’s perfect for vans and RVs.
- Power Hook Awning Tensioner (Camping World) – this helps secure the poles to the ground and works great in high winds.
- Coiled Awning Stake (Camping World) – You’ll need 2 or 3 of these to use with the above awning tensioner.
Here’s a little ditty about how this goes but watch the video for the whole scoop!
***Be sure to click the play button to watch the video or watch it on YouTube here!!!
Since his newly converted Chevy campervan used to be a work vehicle, there was already a ladder rack installed. Now, some people in the vanner community might frown upon such a “monstrosity” but Mike loves its usefulness; its practicality. For this love of usefulness and practicality, Mike is known as the “Practical Vanner.” His is not the show van with tricked out interior – nope, his is the practical, useful van … complete with a ladder rack. It’s what we like to call “stealth.”
From that lovely ladder rack, Mike decided to custom design and build an incredible canopy awning system that connects to it.
He’d previously acquired a tent-style canopy where you could park your whole vehicle underneath it. That was cool but it had its own host of issues… The van barely fit underneath and forget about carrying the ladder rack or kayak on top of the van. He could barely open the side doors due to the middle pole; there wasn’t enough room on the sides for “camping” activities; it was still susceptible to winds; and the rain run-off landed a little too close to the vehicle – all the places you need to walk. Clearly not the ideal canopy for a camper van.
So, Mike being Mike, he devised a way to utilize that canopy and “plus it.” He purchased PVC pipe and plumbing fittings and set to work to create a way to attach the canopy to the ladder rack, raise it up, make it cover the entire van AND go at least 10 feet off the passenger side… plenty of room for “camping” activities. In raising the canopy up from the ladder rack with PVC pipe, there was now room for the kayak (or any other equipment) traveling on top of the van… and the Fan-Tastic Fan could still be opened, and even better still, it could be opened in a torrential downpour! Perfect!
Mike’s canopy system provides shade over the entire van, allows us to carry the outdoor gear we love, keeps us (and our stuff) dry, and allows us to use the Fan-Tastic Fan and open windows even when it’s raining. We even make new friends during storms because guess where everyone huddles in bad weather? ;)-
Speaking of bad weather, this canopy is so strong, it withstood tornado-force winds from a tornado that came within 2 miles while at a music festival in Arkansas. After the storm passed through the area, the entire festival grounds were a sea of broken and tattered canopies and awnings. Mike’s was one of the only canopies still standing… and not just “standing,” it didn’t have a rip or tear to be found.
Because Mike has received so many requests for more information on this canopy, and because he loves the usefulness and functionality of it, he wants to share with you all the details on how to make one yourself!
So watch the video above (or on YouTube) and go out and make one for your van. Feel free to ask questions or make comments in the form below (or on YouTube). And please share your custom canopy photos with us when you get yours done!
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This DIY video and post are for informational purposes only. Backroadsvanner.com provides no warranty or guaranty and cannot be held liable for issues resulting from the implementation of the information provided.
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Hi Friends...We’re Mike & Shannan … two free spirits who like to think and play “outside the box.” We love to travel (in our van) and explore the world, meander through National Parks on treasure hunts for wildlife, venture down back roads to unknown places, camp out in the wilderness under the stars, and visit friends and family along the way.
We're on a journey of travel and discovery, even house sitting in amazing places, and working remotely with our solar / mobile office set-up. We are advocates of visiting America's greatest treasures... OUR NATIONAL PARKS. We'd love to share our stories from the road, and our photos and findings along the way. Stay tuned to this site for updates as we go! Thanks for reading and we hope you'll follow along with us on our journey. And... don't forget to check out our YouTube channel for DIY videos on converting your Cargo Van to a Camper Van, too!
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