If you’re putting the finishing touches on your van conversion, you may be wondering whether the price of a camper van awning is worth it. Some of the best van awnings, like the Fiama 65 awning that I had on my first Sprinter Van, run up to $2,000! Personally, it seems like a hefty price to pay for shade, which is why I opted against one of these awnings as my newest van was being built out by Outside Van. I also didn’t want anything hanging off of the van that would affect my gas mileage or make it obvious that the van was, in fact, a camper.
Then, we spent an entire summer traveling in my current Sprinter Van without an awning, and I started to wonder if I made a mistake, especially when we were at music festivals or car camping with friends for a few days. However, I didn’t use the awning in my first van enough to justify the price, so I relied on bulky pop-up shade structures that took up precious room in our van garage. Or I’d strategically park the van so the afternoon sun was on the driver’s side, a trick I’m sure many awning-less van lifers out there know.
Then at Bearfoot Theory’s own Open Roads Fest last year, I was introduced to MoonShade, a new lightweight portable van awning with a budget-friendly price tag. The MoonShade seemed to solve all of the problems I had with other awnings, so I got my hands on one and tested it out on my last three camping trips.
I was pleased to find out that the MoonShade is easy to set up, takes up very little room in my van, and makes for a very comfortable, shady van patio.
Get the scoop on the MoonShade van awning in this review.
This post is sponsored by MoonShade. As always, all opinions and words are my own.
How to Set Up the MoonShade Van Awning
The MoonShade comes in a small zippered bag that is about the same size as a folded camp chair. I love how portable and small it is when packed away, weighing only 8 pounds. You know those accordion-style camp chairs? The packed Moonshade is about the same size (28″ x 6″), making it a no brainer to throw in your vehicle.
The first step is to attach the two corners of the awning to the van using the magnets. We like to clip the magnets to the built-in carabiners first and then attach the magnets to the van.
Attaching the front corner is easy because you can stand inside of the van and reach up above the passenger door. The back corner is a little trickier depending on how tall you are. Ryan is able to reach by standing on the tire, but a step stool would make this easier. Alternatively, you can get on your roof to attach the magnets if you have a ladder.
If you still can’t reach, check the FAQs on the MoonShade website where they share tips for using the included paracord to attach the magnets to out of reach spots.
Next, you slide the strong aluminum tension poles in, just like you would if you were setting up a tent. Each corner has a pocket that you insert the tent poles into and then you secure the poles using clips that run diagonally along the awning.
Note: We’ve since discovered that it’s easier to get the poles in if you do this step while the awning is still on the ground before you attach it to the van.
Once the tension poles are in, you lift the front of the awning up and slip the top of the tension poles into the corner grommets.
The support poles are adjustable up to 8 feet tall. This is a great feature because you can angle the MoonShade down if the sun is low in the sky. The adjustable poles also mean the MoonShade works for vehicles of different heights.
The final step is to anchor out the guylines so the MoonShade stays in place. Without the guylines, the wind can blow the awning off of the support poles, so this is an important step.
Once you get the hang of it, the MoonShade van awning only takes about 5 minutes to set up and put away. The storage bag is plenty big and doesn’t take any muscling to get the MoonShade to fit.
Versatility & Effectiveness
I mentioned that the support poles are adjustable in height, so while I’ve only tried it on my van, the MoonShade works on just about any vehicle. The MoonShade comes with a pole called the “strut pole” if the shade fabric is longer than your vehicle. This means if you sometimes camp in your van and other times a truck or SUV, the MoonShade can be transferred from one vehicle to another. As a bonus, you don’t need any kind of roof rack, and the MoonShade can be stored in your garage when you aren’t using it. In addition, the MoonShade can be attached to trees, fences, or other fixed mounting points.
The MoonShade measures 9’x7′, so it’s large enough to create a nice, shaded patio space. It also blocks the sun from shining directly in the van if you are working or hanging out inside.
One other feature I really like is that with the carabiners and webbing loops, you can easily attach string lights to create a nice ambiance at camp.
How Does the MoonShade Stand Up to the Wind and Rain?
One big problem with most van awnings is that they don’t really hold up to the wind. Even with really expensive van awnings, they advise pulling the awning in when it gets windy, otherwise there is potential for it to break.
With the MoonShade, I was wondering how it would hold up to the wind, especially since it’s only attached to the van with magnets and it’s so lightweight. Luckily some weather rolled in when we were testing the MoonShade out, so we got to see how it would fare.
I was impressed by how much wind the MoonShade could handle. We found it was able to withstand 40 mph gusts, but anything stronger than that and the magnets got pulled off of the van. The good news is that even if it does get pulled off, you don’t really have to worry about the MoonShade breaking like a regular van awning. With that said, if you know strong winds like that are coming, it might be better to put it away. Another nice feature is the magnets are designed so they don’t strip any paint off your vehicle.
We also got some rain on our most recent trip. The Moonshade is made of ripstop polyester water-resistant fabric that is designed to keep you dry in light rain. If you read the FAQs on their site, they explain that they don’t apply a chemical waterproof treatment because it reduces the life of the fabric and is also bad for the environment. That makes sense, but I was also wondering how it would perform. While the rain we encountered was short-lived, the MoonShade seemed to shed water easily and the shape means water can’t pool up on the top. I kept nice and dry while sitting underneath my van awning, and we were able to leave the van door open during the storm too!
Where to Buy the MoonShade
- Deployed Size: 9’x7′
- Packed Size: 28″x6″
- Includes stakes, guylines, and magnets
The MoonShade is available on the MoonFab.Co website. Use the code BEARFOOTTHEORY to get $35 off.
To learn more about van life, check out our free online course, The Van Life Roadmap where I walk you through the entire process of getting and building out a van and what it takes to live on the road.