Lobbing onto the market last year, we went and bought an ARB Awning and Light Kit, fitted it to one of our rigs and tested it out in the bush.
Words by Ian Bellert: A poor man buys twice. Never is that statement more relevant than in today’s 4×4 accessory market. There is a plethora of cheap goods on hundreds of online sites claiming to give great value.
Now value is a term this author defines as ‘post-purchase happiness’. Sure, much of that happiness comes down to how long the product lasts. But a more determining factor is, does the product perform in its functionary manner when you really need it to. As in when the ‘sh&t’ goes down… Awnings are a classic in this regard. The cheap ones work. For a bit (I speak from experience). See, I was the poor man who bought twice.
On looking for a replacement awning for the side of my HiLux, a product in the July ARB Gear Up and Get Out promotion caught my eye. The price was discounted, happy days, but it was the inbuilt LED light won me over. Having used an array of camp lights, this feature ticked a lot of boxes for me. To the discount. This awning was reduced from $337.60 (814406 ARB Awning With Light 2000 x 2500, Includes Light Installed) to $299. But you do need to add a fit kit.
Tell me about the awning
The ARB awning measures 2 x 2.5m which is ample for most applications. There was also a 2.5 x 2.5 but I reckoned it looked too big for the Hilux and would probably end up creating a bit of wind noise. Using my own money (see, not all writers get given stuff for free) purchased from ARB Thornleigh and heading in-store and being able to see and compare both sizes up close and personal, allowed me to make the right choice for my needs. Browsing online is nice, but nothing beats checking something out in the shop.
The inbuilt LED light is a great idea and is integrated perfectly in the awning. It sits mid-ship and runs all the way across the awning. The light has two colour options, white and orange. Orange attracts less bugs and mozzies – science says so.
And if you want to get a bit of a disco vibe going you can run both light colours at the same time, but be warned it’ll draw more power. The light output is ample for camping (the LED strip light provides up to 1200 lumens). And being able to adjust the intensity of the light is a great feature, sorry, I hadn’t mentioned it was dimmable. Set on its lowest level, it can be on all night as a comfort-light for swag-a-muffins and makes midnight toilet runs a lot safer. The light is sewn in and folds up easily when you put the awning away.
The quality of the awning material is excellent. It’s PU coated 300gsm poly/cotton rip stop canvas, and keeps the rainwater beading away nicely, with nary a drop coming through. The first use of the awning was a three-day camp where it rained or drizzled consistently throughout.
Other little niceties are the four Velcro straps holding the awning onto the horizontal poles. They are thick, chunky and just work. The poles are solid and the twist-lock mechanism works well. The vertical poles have a spike on the bottom which holds them firmly in the ground. It’s recommended to attach the guy ropes. I haven’t had to but if the awning was pegged to the ground I reckon it’d take a beating. The plastic hinges all have a quality feel about them. Vinyl patches on the end of the awning will protect it from any abrasions when folded up.
Is it hard to set up the awning?
No. It’s an easy one-person set up. Once the awning is pegged out, the light socket screws into the power cord. There’s no way any water can ingress if it’s done up properly. The controller is near the power supply and is simple to use. Turn it on, scroll through the colour selector for white, orange or combined and then adjust the intensity to suit. Being LED it draws bugger all from your power supply.
Can I install the awning myself?
Yes. Attaching the awning to your vehicle is easy. Two brackets (purchased separately), four bolts and its on. Mine is attached to a set of Rhino Rack roof racks. The bag for the awning is thick vinyl and the zips are good quality. A neat touch is that the zip heads are able to be tucked in a little pouch at either end protecting them from dust and grime. Once it is packed up, the awning is quite slim on the vehicle. Wind noise is barely discernible in transit. Though the Hilux is pretty noisey with BFG Mud Terrains whirring on the blacktop.
So what do we think?
I’m a fan. The last awning I purchased cost me around $120 and I only got a few weekends use out of it. Stuck on the side of my HiLux it just couldn’t handle the elements. So, while the ARB awning is priced at more than double the cheapie I’d originally bought, getting it on-sale took some of the sting out, and after having used it out in the bush across a soggy weekend I reckon it’s a ripper. It’s easy to install at home on the driveway, will keep the rain off, feels sturdy, draws little power and because the light is overhead you’ll be able to see what you’re doing so much easier than having lanterns around the place.
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