The Lowdown on Camper Van Awnings - Part I (Fiamma)

It blocks the blazing sun in Mexico and Central America.

It provides cover from the pelting rain in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

It casts a shadow over the windows, no matter the locale, creating another layer of privacy.

A good awning is, in my mind, an essential purchase for your camper van before embarking on an extended road trip.

Before our 2007 journey, we spent considerable time researching the various van awning options out there for our 1987 VW Vanagon.

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We settled on the Fiamma model that is carried by Go Westy Campers in Los Osos, California.

Fiamma, which is an Italian company, manufacturers an 8 ft and 10 ft F45i awning that fit on VW and other similarly sized camper vans.

We originally had the 10 ft awning installed but found that it hung clumsily off the back of the van and compromised its sleek aesthetic. After mulling it over for a night, we returned to Go Westy in the morning and exchanged it for the 8 ft awning.

We were far happier with how the shorter model looked, although there were definitely times in Mexico and Central America when we we would have enjoyed greater coverage from the sun. There is a trade-off to be made.

(Go Westy has since added a few paragraphs to its website spelling out the advantages and disadvantages of the two sizes).

The Fiamma comes with a crank handle that is stored inside your van above the sliding door, and it takes no more than a minute to set up and strike down the awning. The legs can stand free on the ground or rest in two brackets that can be screwed into the sides of your van.

The only caution is that the awning will form a puddle in the middle when it rains unless you remember to tilt down the adjustable legs.

Installed, the 8 ft Fiamma van awning cost us $624. The slightly used 10 ft awning had cost $649, installed.

In upcoming entries, we will cover other awning options.