While CleverShade is a lesser-known brand in this product space, they manufactured their first 270° awning in 1993, held the original patent for this style of an awning and have been manufacturing their awnings in Australia for 30 years.
Most of my reviews result when I’m keen to try a particular product. My enthusiasm for the CleverShade Awning was, first and foremost, due to its weight. At 16kg, it’s only slightly more than half the weight of my previous freestanding awning, which weighed 28kg, but it also required heavy mounts, which pushed the total weight into the low 30s.
My focus on reducing weight comes from the learnings as we have built the Adventure Curated Trip Planner app, which includes a weight feature that shows if you are over your GVM and, if relevant, GTM and GCM based on your packing lists. Staying within engineering limits is critical to safety and reliability (not breaking components on rough tracks). While packing less stuff and lighter gear certainly helps, what has become clear to me is how large a difference the weight of your 4×4 accessories also makes, with every kilogram adding up.
The CleverShade Awning offers an opportunity to save ~16kg (including mount weight) over many awnings on the market. While saving overall weight is essential, trimming weight from the roof rack is critical, given the marked increase in the probability of tipping over when your vehicle is top-heavy.
If you plan on mounting a rooftop tent, awning, shower tent, driving lights, solar and recovery boards all up high, I think it’s worth adding up this total weight and then exploring the options to reduce it.
For this CleverShade review, I fitted the awning for our summer trip to Tassie. Its first stretch of highway was across the Nullarbor from Perth, and its streamlined shape was noticeably quieter than the models I’ve used.
Setting up the CleverShade is a simple process. First, you unhook the front attachment, pivot the entire 90° to the vehicle, and then remove the cover and retaining clip that holds the awning fabric tightly wrapped in storage.
Next up, the marine grade front hook clips to the front anchor by the passenger door, and after first extending the mount, the second clip hooks at the rear of your 4×4 on the driver’s side. In terms of setting up, it’s the most effortless awning I have tested to date.
It’s almost as easy to pack away too. The strap makes the canvas easy to roll, tight and secure, and the bag slides straight on without headaches or zips.
CleverShade offers a variety of models, and this is the middle size of their ultralight 270° range. It offers 10.5m² and measures 2.5m long when stowed. This is an excellent balance of weight, ease of setup and strength in the wind – the bigger the awning, the worse they perform in these three areas.
The CleverShade Awning has a square cut which I particularly like. It has an extra arm than many designs, meaning the awning comes out squarely at each end, giving more protection down the passenger side and across the rear.
Although I’m yet to test this awning in strong winds, an awning’s biggest test, I can make some observations at this stage. First up, it’s rated to 40kph from CleverShade. However, in my experience (yes, I have had to repair an awning or two), it isn’t the steady winds that do the damage but the gusts. Due to the rear mounting of the CleverShade Awning, there is a gap along the passenger side. While this gap may let a little rain in from particular angles, I also think it will let a lot of wind through in a gust and take the pressure off the structure.
The awning fabric is a European solution-dyed acrylic with a 99% UV rating. Due to its longevity, this fabric is often used in the marine industry for yacht biminis. The framework is powder-coated aluminium, and all fittings are stainless steel.
One person can remove the CleverShade Awning by loosening the bolt and sliding it out of the rear mount. That said, I doubt I will remove it because it is light, quiet, and sits low enough for me to get into many car parks.
While it’s only early days using this awning, based on my first big trip, I’m impressed. It’s easy to use and allows us to enjoy the benefits of a freestanding awning at a fraction of the usual weight.