It’s no secret that we have an aversion to RV awnings. As a matter of fact we no longer opt for one when ordering a truck camper. It’s not that we don’t like the shade when we camp—we do—we just don’t think the standard RV awning is a practical accessory for hard-side truck campers. Some are surprised by this stance, but this opinion is based upon years of practical experience.
Why the aversion to the RV awning? Two things—the way that the awning is mounted and the awning’s height. The typical RV awning is heavy and bulky when stored and can protrude a good 6 inches from the side of the camper. These protruding surfaces create outriggers that can snag on rocks and trees when driving off-road that can cause damage to not only the camper, but to the awning itself. Not only that, but compared to a motorhome or fifth wheel, the truck camper awning is located much higher from the ground as a result of the camper being mounted on the truck. This results in an additional awning height of 4 to 6 feet, depending on the truck and the camper’s design. This additional height not only reduces the amount of shade that the awning can provide, but it also makes it prone to catching heavy winds that can rip and/or carry the awning away.
Of course, the mounting height issue isn’t a problem on a pop-up camper. The lower profile of the pop-up makes it much more suitable for awning use, which is why so many pop-up owners opt for one. Being lower, it provides a lot more shade and is much easier to setup and take down.
When it comes to hard-side truck campers, we think the portable tarp is a much more practical alternative. The mounting surface is less intrusive and bulky, mounts much closer to the ground, and weighs a lot less than the traditional RV awning. Because set-up is accomplished by hand, the only real negative going with a tarp is the time it takes to set one up (and take down). Like most things, there are trade-offs. What it really comes down to is what is important to you.
Several companies make portable tarps with the Moon Shade, the Caravan Evoshade, and the Dragon Fly Tarp Haku being the most popular with overlanders. Of these, we found the Dragon Fly Tarp Haku particularly interesting due to its quality and simplicity. We also like the family-owned company’s business model based upon personalized service and customer satisfaction so much that we have decided to give the Haku a try.
Based in Arco, Idaho, Dragon Fly Tarps was founded in 2003, when Matt Nelson saw the need for a tarp that was more versatile and offered better quality than the cheap imports. At first, each tarp was created in his basement, but he soon outgrew that location and another one downtown as people began to take notice and place orders. Dragon Fly Tarps is now located in a large commercial space on Arco’s main street where they serve the growing van scene and overlanding market with different options that attach to SUVs, Vans, and truck campers.
All tarps are manufactured in-house using imported fabric and materials. “We offer a unique design that is wind resistant and water proof and adaptable to all types of vehicles,” Nelson said. “We have gone back to the basics and build everything in house. We have taken the high-tech out of our design and provide what we think is a great product that just about anyone can handle.”
The Haku is shipped in two pieces—a large box, which contains two storage bags with everything needed to set-up the Haku—the tarp, four stakes, four heavy-duty straps, and two collapsible poles—and a long shipping tube which houses the sail track that is made of aluminum. The length of the track depends on your custom order (ours is 8 feet 4 inches long). Everything is of a high quality including the three storage bags. The bags are small enough to store almost anywhere, great for truck campers and vans that have little room for storage.
Installation and setup of the Haku is so easy that a caveman can do it. The track or rail is mounted using a combination of VHB tape and short wood screws. A little bit of silcone on the screws helps keep the installation water tight. Setup of the Haku is almost as easy. Simply slide the edge of the tarp into the track, stake the four tie-down straps using the included stakes, then insert the poles to prop the tarp up. The total set-up time is about 15 minutes though the first time you do it takes a bit longer as you learn the ropes. What’s neat about the Haku is that setup is versatile, meaning it can be configured different ways for rain shedding and better privacy.
Nelson tells us that the tarp is strong enough to withstand 45 mph winds, though 30 mph is the official number provided by the company. Unlike similar tarps, the Dragon Fly Tarp is water resistant, a bonus for those who live and camp in wet climates. While the cost for the Dragon Fly Tarp Haku is steep at $749.00, don’t let the price stop you. This product is assembled in the USA by hand and is a quality product in all respects (even the straps and stakes are heavy duty). Like we always say, you get what you pay for—buy once, cry once. If you want something cheaper, by an import or make your own.
As for the two reasons NOT to have an RV Awning that we mentioned earlier, both are solved with a tarp like the Dragon Fly Haku. First, the Haku’s 8-foot 4-inch mounting track sticks out no more than 1/2-inch from the side of the camper. As a matter of fact, the window frames, door tabs, and jack mounts protrude further. Two, the height of the track is about 6 feet 7 inches with the camper mounted on the truck. This height not only makes it easy to reach for setup and take down, but more importantly, it provides plenty of shade by being much closer to the ground.
We are anxious to evaluate and review the Dragon Fly Tarp Haku this summer. Look for a complete review of the Dragon Fly Tarp Haku in the Fall. If you can’t wait that long, the company is offering a special, one-time discount of 5 percent on all orders placed in May 2023. Use the code “TCA5SHP” when placing your order.