Understanding the Difference between Sunscreens, Awnings and Annexes

Understanding the Difference between Sunscreens, Awnings and Annexes

Caravan awnings and annexes help you spend more time in the fresh air during your camping holidays, while also retaining some basic shelter from the elements. But when you set about buying one of these caravan add-ons, the sheer variety out there can make things rather confusing. You are likely to come across terms like ‘sunscreens’, ‘privacy screens’, ‘annexes’ and ‘awnings’. What exactly do they mean, and how do you decide which product fits your requirements best?

Let’s look at each of these independently.


Awnings shade the area just outside your caravan, helping you create a patio of sorts right by your home-on-wheels. Awnings come in various sizes, shapes and materials, giving you tons of options to choose from. You can go for a full awning that creates a large, well-covered space almost equivalent to the size of your caravan, or a smaller porch awning that covers the space right outside your caravan’s door. An even more minimal option is the canopy awning that’s basically just a horizontal fabric surface extending outwards from your caravan’s entrance. Caravan awnings can be pre-fitted to the body of your caravan and unfurled or rolled out once you’re parked and ready. Full coverage awning typically need to be additionally secured to the ground by means of pegs for stability. Awnings also differ in their opening and closing mechanisms, roll-out and wind-out awnings being the two main categories on the market today.


Sunscreens are special fabric surfaces that can be appended to the existing awning of your caravan or camper, with the specific purpose of providing additional protection from harsh sunlight. Sunscreens can also be added to the front of your rig, providing shade to windows or openings that are facing direct sunlight. The utility of a caravan sunscreen isn’t just limited to sun protection, though. They are widely used as ‘privacy screens’, creating a visual barrier between the area under your awning, and the rest of the caravan park you’re camping in. As such, sunscreens come in handy if your rig has a partial coverage awning (such as the ‘canopy’ variety), helping you retain some privacy while simultaneously shielding you from the hot sun.


Annexes are elaborate shading systems that act as additional ‘rooms’ outside caravans or motorhomes. They are composites of shade walls and fabric or vinyl roofing systems, all composed of their own metal or plastic structural systems. Unlike awnings and sunscreens which are mostly standardized (though available in multiple fabrics, sizes and unfolding mechanisms), annexes are often custom built for a particular caravan, camper or RV. They can also be purchased as freestanding units that can be set up right next to your caravan, thus effectively functioning as an extension to its interior space. A popular version of the freestanding annexe is the European annexe, which works as an independent, sealed tent that you can place anywhere in the vicinity of your caravan or motorhome. Annexes come in handy when you want to set up an alfresco kitchen or reading area, or when you wish to sleep in the open, without dealing with harsh winds, bugs or rain. They are also very convenient if you own a compact campervan or pop-top, but would still like a spacious awning-like space to spend time in.

What kind of shaded outdoor space do you require? One that you can step out into for short lengths of time, or a more ‘permanent’ setup within which you can move your cooking, dining and sleeping functions? Or do you just need to add some coverage to your existing awning? These questions will form the basis of your choice of caravan awning, annex or sunscreen.

DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.

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