Test: Outback Tracks Roll Out Awning Anchor Kit
In my travelling life, I have had three mishaps involving awnings. The first occurred when I attempted to pull up my 4WD and caravan on a side street in Coffs Harbour. I misjudged the height and position of a particularly bulky tree branch on a nature strip, and as I pulled alongside the kerb, the leading edge of the closed awning caught the branch and the forward motion of the vehicle ensured the awning was torn clean off the caravan.
The second occurred on my 4WD’s awning. I had set it up with my swag underneath for the night, before getting distracted. I forget to immediately peg the awning down. A gust came through and flipped the awning straight over my 4WD.
The third occurred when I mistakingly believed the awning of my caravan was sufficiently pegged to withstand a mild to medium gust of wind. It wasn’t, but fortunately the damage that ensued was minimal.
All of this is to say, awnings are potentially fragile components that don’t fare well when not properly anchored. Imagine my enthusiasm when the opportunity came to test the Roll Out Awning Anchor Kit by Outback Tracks. Would this product finally break my awning curse?
The kit gives you a few options on how you can set-up and secure your awning (both legs attacked, both legs free-standing, or one of each). It comes with everything you’ll need to anchor your RV’s awning firmly to the ground. It includes two anchor plates, which help to secure the vertical legs of the awning when detached from the van; two high-vis tie-down straps; six specially designed screw-in pegs; a 19mm socket and drill adaptor; four ‘winged collars’; two ‘hook collars’; four special hooks that allow you to hang clothes or anything else from the awning barrel; a couple of retaining clips; and two rubber ‘safety springs’ instead of the metal springs you might find on the end of some tie-down straps or guy ropes.
I found installing the anchor kit very easy. During my first use, the wind was particularly strong – I wouldn’t have ordinarily set-up an awning in that weather, so it was perfect for this test.
With the awning rolled out and detached, I had to get some friends to hold the legs vertically; otherwise, the awning would’ve flipped right over the caravan, such was the wind that day. First, I fitted the anchor plates. These fit over the steel cross-pins that attach the base of each leg to each clasp on the van itself.
Outback Tracks designed the special ‘Ground Dog screw in pegs’. They taper, and this helps each Ground Dog screw in peg to bite firmly into the soil. It was just a matter of fitting one winged collar to each Ground Dog screw in peg, fitting the supplied socket to my portable drill, and screwing each Ground Dog screw in peg through the two holes in each anchor plate.
With both anchor plates fitted to the legs, firmly attached to the ground by the Ground Dog screw in pegs and winged collars, my friends let go and the awning felt rock-solid. The strong gusts of wind only made the canvas flap about – the legs didn’t move an inch. Brilliant!
Turning my attention to the tie-down straps, I removed the anchor plates from the awning legs, and fitted the legs back inside the clasps on the van. This is an awning position many vanners, myself included, opt for as a quick and easy set-up. However, the awning remains quite vulnerable to high winds in this position.
The supplied high-vis straps simply loop around both ends of the awning barrel, with the other end anchored to the ground by a Ground Dog screw in peg with a hook collar, via one of the unique rubber safety springs. Again, my drill had no difficulty putting the Ground Dog screw in peg into the earth. Should the ground be particularly hard, you could pre-drill using a 12mm masonry drill bit (not supplied). I noticed that the safety springs developed immediate tension, too.
If you’ve ever caught your toe on a regular steel spring at the end of a guy rope or tie-town, you’ll love these rubber springs. Each strap comes with a cam buckle, which gave me no difficulty, and you can neaten off any excess in the strap at the cam buckle by using the retaining clips provided.
As expected, the awning felt good and solid when secured by Outback Tracks’ anchoring solution. By this stage, the wind was as strong as ever but the awning wasn’t going anywhere. For additional security from the wind, there’s no reason you couldn’t also use the tie-down straps with the awning legs detached from the van and secured by the anchor plates.
But what if your portable drill’s battery doesn’t have enough juice, or you left it at home? That’s why Outback Tracks made the 19mm hex head of each Ground Dog screw in peg the same size as the hexagonal knob on your quick-drop corner stabilisers – you can simply use the winder that came with your van to screw in the Ground Dogs screw in pegs. This is a great idea.
EXTRAS FROM OUTBACK TRACKS
For those times when the soil is too muddy for the Ground Dogs screw in pegs to properly bite, Outback Tracks separately sells the much larger ‘Big Dogs screw in pegs’, which have a much more aggressive thread and an inbuilt hook for securing the safety spring when using the tie-down straps. Basically, if you can’t anchor your awning with these, then no standard tent peg in the world would work in that soil, either. They also work well in loose gravel conditions.
The company also separately offers ‘Ground Puppies screw in pegs’, a shorter version of the Ground Dogs screw in pegs, which are designed to anchor your awning mat in position. What’s more, they come with a cute rubber cover complete with paw print to prevent you from accidentally stubbing your toe.
At $149.95, the G2 Roll Out Awning Anchor Kit by Outback Tracks is fairly cheap peace of mind, and I couldn’t argue with the results – the awning was indeed secure in a strong wind. The threads of the Ground Dog screw in pegs are designed to lock into the soil in a way that a batten screw or coach bolt never will. And I can confidently say that this product has become part of my permanent travel kit.