Silnylon vehicle awning ideas for a lightweight compact flexible design


Expedition Leader
That totally fits in, it's the elemental basis of what I'm doing. I'm just adding a bunch of extras and some flexibility, while trying to keep it relatively simple, cheap and compact.

I'll have to add some pics of the cheap blue tarp I added grommets to. I added a few additional grommets in a pattern about 18" inboard from the edges so I could set the poles a bit inboard and have the edges hang down that distance to add some shade against low sun while keeping the ceiling height underneath the tarp.

I suppose another set of optional add-ons could be a couple wall panels. Suspend them from the pole tops and fold the bottom half up you have afternoon sun shade, flop them all the way down and have privacy or wind block. Put two on the sides of a corner for more privacy or wind block. Add three and make a room adjacent to the vehicle or encompassing the back.
By sizing the tarps appropriately and adding grommets on 2' intervals, various pieces can be readily 'sewn' together on the their edges. either with individual ties or lacing cordage thru the edge as I described earlier.

Another tarp tip from my home renovation / painting years - I've been marking my tarps with a black sharpie at their corners. A small angle diagram describing that corner, with a dimension size of each side annotated on each leg of that angle. Mark all four corners. I can look at any corner of a folded tarp and know its dimensions and get it laid out the way I want quicker.
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Expedition Leader
Got my 5yds of Safety Orange ripstop today, in a soft pack USPS envelope. Nice and fast and exactly as ordered. Got some custom radios console fabrication work to wrap up, before moving on the awnings / tarps.

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Expedition Leader
I little bit of work done on this orange layer. As mentioned previously, it's going to be an underlayer / obverse for the vehicle shade panel and serve as a highly visible 'marker panel' in case of trouble in the great western deserts. It's 5' W x 14' 1-1/2" L. The length is predicated on my plan to put grommets on 2' centers along the long edge, for tying together with the large trapezoidal side awnings. This orange layer will serve as the flap underlying the grommets in the top layer, as detailed earlier. In essence, the top layer will be the same dimension with the same stitching arrangement, then both will be sandwiched together with a single stitch around the whole perimeter, inboard of the grommets.

My large rolling work / router table serves well for sewing large fabric panels. Better than the dining table. Had to de-bur the chewed up edges of the rolling table to cut down snagging.

Did some digging around online / in YouTube looking for tips on how to more readily handle such large fabric, best info I found spoke of fan-folding the fabric to keep it manageable.

On the plus side my stitching is getting better. Seem to do better when I go at a faster pace, but stuff can go wrong faster that way as well.

A closeup of the folded and twice-stitched edge, stitching spaced to the grommets fit between. Both panels will be sewn together before the grommet installation process on the top layer.

In practice this large rectangle will be tied / fastened to the rear corners of my luggage rack and tied to the forward corners of the hood (and eventual full brush guard). I'll be adding 1" webbing straps to the corners as both reinforcement and attachment points. That's in addition to corner grommets.

I left this central roof piece as the original 5' / 60" width as it closely matches my intended use and it was just easier to do. 1-3/4" on both edges was folded over to form its perimeter. So the starting length was 14'5". Simply bought 5yds and the remaining 1'x'5' section will make plenty of stuff sacks for the awnings.

It will be a few more weeks before I get the rest of the material and make any more progress on this idea. Flipping a coin about silnylon, can't seem to find basic khaki or tan in that, but can find it in regular 1.1oz ripstop nylon. Drought aside, I've got very few rainfall issues to deal with anyway. Undecided and in no rush.
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Expedition Leader
I used a strip of flat cardboard cut to the width I wanted and folded the fabric over it and hit it with a dry iron on a nylon setting, enough of a crease to keep things aligned as I took the fabric up and guided it thru the machine. Quicker than measuring and marking the fabric.

I've done felled seams on a couple other small projects, but since this central tarp(s) edges are going to be sandwiched together and get another seam, I left the frayed edge / selvedge of the fabric loose, it's going to be trapped on the inside between the layers.

I used a felled sort of edge fold in that complicated double edge in the gray samples earlier and will do so again when I do the other single-layer panels.

The tape, pinning etc I'm looking to forego. This three-panel set, four really, is about 152 linear feet around their edges. The less I have to do, the less effort and money into it the better,


Your creased edge with an iron trick is awesome. That makes a ton of sense in eliminating steps and extra costs. Ideally zippers would be the best way to attach modular panels together but that would add up to a bunch of $ in a hurry, especially a weather tight kind. I also like the built in stuff sack you have going on, it really makes the whole system more user friendly and simple.


Expedition Leader
Thanks. That's what I'm after, Three small compact stuff sacks containing the sections and their cordage, a bundle of stakes, a bundle of poles, tucked in my storage drawer with the rest of the tools. I should be able to reach in and set up any piece in just a couple minutes. <10mins for the whole thing, depending on the configuration. Just label each bag with a pictogram, each awning corner with an angle / dimension notes, and be able to whip it on without any fumbling around. I'll post a pic tomorrow of the tarp notations I was mentioning earlier.


Expedition Leader
Thanks, I've got some Coyote Brown ripstop inbound right now, so I should have the orange-sided panel completed very soon. I'm going with ripstop to reduce the cost by a third. I chiefly need this for desert shade in my area, not protection from rain etc. And with enough slope angle the ripstop works pretty well in that regard as well.
Right now ripstopbytheroll has the 1.9oz ripstop in Coyote Brown on sale for $3.85 / yd, which is 26 cents per square foot. So that's what I'm going with. Was looking for a light tan or khaki, Coyote will do.


My thanks to boyfester for his topic on inexpensive tent poles using PVC.

I jumped right on that idea and whipped up three to start. My costs were about $11 / pole. Had some bits laying around. The wire link pins were $3+ ea. I posted some verbiage and pics in his topic, I'll repeat them here -


Should be plenty strong for any wind you want the awning fabric itself up in. Only area I'd be concerned about in the design is making the thru-holes for the pin at least an inch away from the ends of the tubing. And use Sched40 PVC.

I did something similar a couple years ago with PVC sleeved together for an easy-up HAM radio antenna. The mast was in short segments with couplers glued to each, with a ribbon antenna suspended inside the tubing. The bottom segment socketed into a larger pipe mounted in the bed of my pickup.

A 1" diia sched40 pipe just fits inside a 1.25" Sched40 pipe. That's plenty stout for any sort of awning pole. Especially if you size the upper / skinnier pipe so several inches remain inside the base pipe when the rig is at full extension. Unfortunately a 3/4" pipe of the same dimension does not fit in the 1" pipe. Suppose I'll have to go to the hardware store and look into other size pairings to find something smaller and lighter that fits well together.

The nice thing with the 1.25"/1" pairing is that there's enough room / play that a nice thin coat of paint can go on the smaller pole (too). A short bit of work to round over and smooth the mouth of the bigger pipe should prevent the paint from getting scraped off as the pole segments are manipulated. Likewise chamfering the pin hole openings in both pipes.

The painting poles are nice if you have them already for painting, but they're more expensive than standard tent awning poles. And about 7x more than what it will cost to create these PVC poles.

I'm going to get busy building some of these tomorrow, should be quick and easy.


Went ahead and banged out 3 poles in about 2-1/2hrs today. Essentially the same design but I used a coupler on the bottom end instead of a cap on the theory that it would work better on the sandy hardscrabble ground I'm usually around. No nice turf to sink a cap into. I likewise used a 1/4"x1-1/4" bolt thru the top cap as a pin for grommets and to tie stays to. I'll likely cover it with a piece of gas hose rather than plastidip. I also seated the upper pole fully into the lower before drilling the thru hole for the 'wire lock pin', so it can be pinned fully retracted. I then drilled a series of holes every 6" down the upper pole section for adjustable heights.

I used 4' pole segments both top and bottom. total overall length retracted is a little under 52", which will work great in my future drawer system, which will have 56" deep drawers. Max height extension is about 7'4"

Chopsaw, drill press and tablesaw to turn a chunk of 2x4 into a V-block to set the pipes on the drill press. Just hit the pipes with some satin Rustoleum Dark Taupe, which is quite similar to Coyote Brown / Full Dark Earth.

I'll be using these with my home-sewn awnings. Got more fabric inbound right now.


I also rounded the edges on the mouth of the base pieces, so the upper / inner pieces would move without getting scraped up (as much). Everything painted, still plenty of room to move freely and insert the pins.


I've already got a bunch of coyote brown paracord laying about, which I'll use for stays. But I also picked up some interesting high-visibility cordage, neon yellow with a reflective strip woven in. Stuff ought to be great at night in dim light.


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Expedition Leader
Got my coyote brown ripstop for my center shade panel today, but I'm currently sidetracked sewing a replacement backyard hammock. Should have the two-sided center panel done in 4-5 days.

I'm intending to put a full brush/grill guard on my Sub eventually, intending to put fastening points on the front corners akin to where tree-branch deflector wire would mount. In the meantime I'm looking for ideas for some sort of tie-down point that can project forward of the front corners of the hood, attached to the radiator support structure. Or even concealed pieces that can be pivoted out when needed.


Expedition Leader
so I got busy in my garage sweatshop today and got my central two-sided panel completed.
I failed to take a pick of my ironing / creasing trick. I used a piece of non-corrugated cardboard 1-5/8" wide and ~14" long as a guide and a spring clamp to pin a corner of the fabric to my work table. I folded the fabric over the cardboard guide and creased it with the iron, moving the guide ahead of the iron in sections. NOT ironing ON the guide, but trailing it. I just used it as a quick way to gauge the fold.
Once all four edges had the fold-over crease, I fed the sheet thru the sewing machine, putting a simple seam at 1/4" inward from the outer edge / crease, setting that edge.
Part of that process, I accordion-folded the fabric to make it more manageable. Even with a 4'x7' table, it's a bit awkward working a 5'x14' piece of fabric.

Because this item was made by sandwiching two pieces of fabric together, I chose not to put a second seam on inner edge of the folded fabric of this second sheet as I did with the first orange layer, as both sheets would be getting sewn together in the same seam location. I could have done it anyway, a double seam, double strength. (shrug)
I then layered the edge-finished sheets together and then fed them thru the machine with a seam line about 1-1/4" in from the outer edge.

I used a piece of low-tack tape as an extended feed alignment guide on the machine.

Once the two sheets were bound together, I measured off and marked the spots for my grommets, which I've spaced every 2'. This will give me a lot of flexibility / variation in how the awnings are strung up, or connected to each other. As well as allowing various amounts of overhanging eaves for shade against low sun without having to lower the tentpoles and thus the ceiling height. On the 5' ends, I ran grommets at each corner and 2' and 4' inward from each corner. The result is a pair of grommets about 8" apart at each end and near the middle.
Still using the same crappy Harbor Freight brass grommets. They are too thin and too brittle, mostly their cores tore and folded rather than rolled as they ought, so it's even more important that my awning edge design includes a fabric flap under the grommets.

You can also see the corner markings I put on my tarps. A line sketch showing the angle of the corner and the length of the adjacent edges.

Next I'm working up some sort of front fender edge limb riser cable attachment bracket. That's where I'll make the front tie-off for this vehicle shade panel. In the future when I have my brush / grill guard, the attachments points will be on it.

I've poked around a bit and the mounting location should be easy and I'll likely make the brackets out of thin plate aluminum. They'll stick up between the fender and hood forward near the headlight at the fender attachment bolt. Real simple place for such a bracket. I'm doodling various styles, trying to make them strong and low profile and angled a bit so they can't interfere with the hood and look nice enough if I leave them mounted all the time.
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Expedition Leader
There's about a 5/32 gap between my hood and fenders, so I have to find some plate metal that's thick enough to be sturdy without impeding the hood.

Here's the location, the stock fender mounting bolt is pretty much where it needs to be.

The bracket will stick up like a shark fin. Not sure about the shape yet, but an uneven triangle would work well, with the top rounded to match the 1/2" dia thru-hole. I'll likely put a rubber or nylon bulkhead grommet in that hole. The protruding portion of the bracket will also be bent outward away from the hood at a slight angle, to preclude any chance of the hood striking it during closing.

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Expedition Leader
Did some 'Cardboard Aided Design' this afternoon for the 'Limb Riser' / Tie-Down brackets.

Here's a pic with my prototype in place (where's Waldo?)

Here's the piece in place, using the bolt that ties the fender and radiator core support together.

And with the hood closed

I'm thinking painted to match the vehicle (any vehicle), they aren't really noticeable unless you look right at them.

Here's the template for the piece, bend at the lines. GMT800 series 2000-2006, but the concept should work on any vehicle with a similar fender / hood arrangement, with adjustments in the design.

eta something screwy with the template image, it ought to print at 2.5" wide (1:1 size) but it's humungous instead

Now I just need to find some suitable plate metal.
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