Friday, March 27, 2009

Attaching an Awning to a Maggiolina

Attaching an awning to a Maggiolina isn't difficult, but it is a little confusing. I'm pretty particular in my equipment, it has to be simple, light and work well or it gets left at home. The Maggiolina is a super tent when it really gets nasty and cold, only trouble, sometimes you want to go out in the nastiness and come back in. Here is where an awning comes in handy. I like to have an awning that will not only attach to the tent but is stand alone.

The standard Maggiolina awning works well but I wanted something larger, yeah, really large so I talked to our friends at Mountain Safety Research. Their Outfitter Wing is huge and fits well with a little adapting. Their new Vista Wing is smaller and may be even better. Here is what it looks like sitting flat. A couple things to note about the shape. First, there are no flat edges, they are all curved. What this does is it allows you to tighten up the whole edge so the awning can handle winds very well without flapping. The other thing to note is one side is relatively straight. This is the side that goes next to the tent . At each point is a pocket, so you can run a ridgepole from pocket to pocket. I add a couple grommets along the edge to tie up the ridgepole. More about this later.

Let me show you how the Outfitter Wing looks when set up on a Maggiolina. The awning is huge so you have lots of protected space under, the sides can go to the ground so it will act as a simple side tent if needed. I build a ridgepole that is adjustable in length. The Outfitter Wing is so large that the relatively straight side is longer than the Maggiolina. If you want the ridgepole to sit under the driprail, then you can then shorten it, hence the need for the extra grommets and lines to tie to the ridgepole. This picture shows the ridgepole tucked in under the driprail so you have a nice watertight seal between the tent and awning. When it gets really nasty, it is wise to have the awning tied up to the vehicle as well as to the tent. The tent to awning connection is strong but the awning is so large conditions can overwhelm the connection.

Here are some details on how the connection works. This is an old retrofit we used to do on the old Maggiolinas and will work on new ones too. We make up two long loops out of 1/8 inch braided rope with two small plates attached so you can loop aroung the ridgepole, more on this later. If you look closely at the picture of the Maggiolina, you can see a the loops in place halfway between the doorway and the front and back.

This cutaway drawing shows how the loops are fitted. You can see one of the secrets why the Maggiolina works so well. The fabric isn't attached to the roof directly but is attached to an inner flange. This is why the tent is so well sealed when closed. The loops fit between the fabric and the flange. There is a piece of soft aluminum that the fabric is wrapped around for reinforcement and then riveted to the flange. You need to bend this open slightly and slide the plate through the opening.

Here is a detail showing placement of the loop and plate. Sitting inside the doorway, you reach up and over toward the front and back of the tent. Slide and flip the fabric above the joint down. This will allow you to see the opening and be able to slide one of the plates through the opening to the outside.

I like to put a toggle at the end, the type that are used for cinching up the opening in packs and parkas. REI always has a few in stock. This makes it really simple to tighten up the loops. Put the ridgepole through the loops, tighten the loops using the toggles, that simple. If you are using the awning as sun protection, keep the loops a little loose and have the ridgepole go from pocket to pocket, for maximimum size. If the wind picks up or you want protection from rain then shorten the ridgepole so it will tuck in under the roof's lip. This also allows you to give the awning added support, the straight side is now longer than the ridgepole. Attach lines to the ends and tie to the tent or rack for more protection from the wind.

This same concept can be used to attach other awning systems or side tents to the Maggiolina. One thing to keep in mind, even though the Maggiolina is really strong, awning have a lot of sail area, it is a good idea to take down the awning in high winds.