Field Tested: Batwing Awning

Expletives flowed freely as another gust of wind throttled the canvas, throwing a support leg into the back of my head while I tried to wrestle the awning’s unwieldy form into submission. The now bird’s nest of guylines, stakes, and metal poles of death had me surrounded, and the prospects of surviving the ordeal looked grim. Sadly, I was only halfway through the setup of this canvas monstrosity, and I already wanted to burn it to the ground. It lacked any sort of support structure, the “legs” were non-adjustable sharp metal poles, and it was nearly impossible to set up alone. I eventually gave up and sat frustrated and exhausted in the Arizona sun. It made me appreciate the simplicity of the Batwing awning mounted to my own truck even more, and as I sat sweating in the heat, I yearned for its heavenly shade.

When the first 270-degree awnings were released, many of us got all starry-eyed and envisioned how they’d change our camping game. Protection from sun or rain could now be extended around the side and rear of the vehicle, expanding the living space significantly, and providing access to key cargo areas during all conditions. Unfortunately, this expansive coverage came at a cost. Upon their release, almost all of the 270 awnings cost upwards of $1,300 USD, and although more affordable options eventually appeared, they lacked the easy setup and quality of the more expensive units—at least until Rhino-Rack unveiled their new Batwing. At a retail price of just $699 USD, it is definitely a value proposition but touts many of the same features shared by its more expensive counterparts. To see if it was as good as we all hoped, I decided to mount one up on our Ford Excursion and put it to the test of full-time living for several months. Here’s what we found out.

What We Liked

The biggest limitation of the last awning sold by Rhino-Rack and produced by Oz-Tent was easily the support poles. They needed to be stored independently inside the vehicle, and once set up they usually slipped out of their mounts unless firmly staked down with guylines. The result was an awning that needed to be staked down all the time, a nightmare in the desert. Fortunately, the Batwing changes all of that by switching to sturdier poles that are permanently attached and stored inside the bag.

Setup is an absolute breeze. You simply unzip the bag, walk the awning around the back of the vehicle, and attach the tensioning buckle to your roof rack. Then, drop the legs, and you are done. The entire process takes less than a minute if stakes aren’t required.

If conditions are less than favorable, you can use the stakes without being forced to use guylines. The feet on the poles have slots for you to cross stakes through, securing them to the ground without adding the troublesome cables for you to run into at night. Of course, Rhino-Rack still includes a full array of hi-vis orange lines for times when things get crazy, but we haven’t found them to be necessary.

Once the awning was fully deployed, there were even more changes we loved. For example, the switch from dark green fabric, which tended to absorb and radiate heat, to a lighter tan alternative. This small alteration made a big difference in keeping us cool, and the 210D ripstop fabric carries an independently evaluated UV50+ rating, so you can feel confident that you’re getting real protection from the sun. It is also water and mold resistant, which is a huge deal when you use the awning to escape rain as much as we do. In the photo above, we were hit by a surprise sleet storm, and shortly after were inundated by other people taking cover without an awning. We then stored it away wet for three weeks in hot conditions without opening it to dry. During the course of these 21 days, temperatures often reached the mid-1990s, but upon rolling the awning out, there wasn’t a spot of mold.

Storing the Batwing was as easy as deploying it thanks to legs which can be adjusted and stowed in a single motion, and a cover that fits loosely enough to allow for some slop. We also loved that they secured the ends of the poles with magnets instead of plastic clips, eliminating the problem of mounts that become brittle and snap in the cold.

What We Didn’t Like

I’ll be honest, I tried pretty hard to come up with a complaint  about the Batwing, but it’s really quite good, possibly the best 270 awning out there for the money. The only issue I found was more of an annoyance than a problem. That is the location of the storage bag for stakes and guylines. They tuck neatly inside the awning bag on top of everything else, but they must be removed before opening the Batwing, and put away after you stow it. Otherwise, they fold up and out of the way on top of the fabric, so when a wind crops up, you’ll need to break down the whole awning and stow it just to reach the bag of stakes. It seems easy enough to remember, but I’ve certainly forgotten it a few times when in a hurry to set up camp.

The Bottom Line

I’ve used my fair share of 270 awnings over the past few years, and I have no hesitation in saying that the Batwing is one of my favorites. Sure, it can’t freestand like the Eezi-Awn Manta or the Alu-Cab Shadow, but at half the price I’m fine with that. It looks great, works like a charm, and doesn’t break the bank. What more could you ask for?

Specifications

Dimensions

Length 98.43 inches

Width 98.43 inches

Height 90.55 inches

Product Weight

47.4 pounds

Features

  • Provides 270 degrees of Shade covering 11 square meters/118 square feet
  • Awning Material (210D P/OX W/R PU2000mm):
    • Lightweight
    • Ripstop
    • Water and mold resistant
    • Independently tested UV50+ rating
    • Endorsed by Cancer Council*
  • Pegs and guyropes kept inside the awning in an enclosed pocket

  • Awning Legs:
    • Fold out from the awning arms for easy access and no need for separate leg/peg/rope bag
    • Adjustable and lightweight
    • Can be packed away fully extended or at a pre-set length for your vehicle
    • Molded foot for putting pegs in at the base of legs
  • Rhino-Rack branded pickup point included to tie off the awning to your roof racks
  • More space in the bag for easy storage and the bag can be replaced if it gets damaged
  • Large Rhino-Rack branded zipper tabs for easy use
  • Stylish black bag made of heavy-duty 580gsm PVC
  • Rare earth magnet locking feature to secure awning arms (neodymium)
  • Includes:
    • 10 Pegs
    • Peg bag
    • 8 ropes (4 with hooks)
    • Tie-down point and strap
    • 2 multi-fit brackets and hardware
    • 2 spare hinge knuckles
  • Designed for quick, easy setup and pack down
  • Rust-resistant black powder coated poles and frame
  • Double stitched Velcro for added durability
  • Additional tie-down points on the awning and guyropes provided for windy conditions
  • Bright orange-colored guyropes for visibility
  • Plastic hinges for flexibility and longevity
  • Compatible with old 270-degree awning accessories
  • Frame of the awning features channel for mounting lightweight accessories such as the Rhino-Rack shovel holder
  • Front plastic molding provides impact protection when driving off-road
  • Mounting brackets compatible with all Pioneer systems, designed to allow for installation at different heights
  • Includes 2 spare hinge moldings
  • Fits all Rhino-Rack and Thule roof racks with specific fitting kits
  • Available in left (33100) and right-hand (33200) models

To learn more about the Batwing Awning, check out the Rhino Rack website here. 

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.

9 Comments

  • Spencer Lybyer

    August 13th, 2018 at 6:51 am

    I’ve had this awning for about a month and have used in only a few times. The first time deploying it I broke the replaceable plastic hinges as it was slightly windy. Obviously frustrating, but replacing them with the provided hinges took only a few minutes. They are also available online so it’s easy to order more.

    One other issue is that the storage bag is not waterproof, so it lets in water when it rains. As you can see in the photos above, the opening on the hinge end has large openings. I’m going to try to circumvent this issue by somehow affixing a Friday bag and a bungee to that end of the awning.

    Overall it’s great with a few minor issues. Very much worth the price.

    Reply
    • Chris Cordes

      August 13th, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      Wow that’s crazy! I haven’t managed to break any hinges on this or the former model, but I’ve heard people have. Glad you like it though, I love ours.

      Reply
  • Mike Tyler

    August 13th, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Great write up Chris! Saw your Excursion at OEW and was stoked to see some support for the Ford guys like me. I have a 99 Expedition and I have been looking into 270s and want to make sure I am getting a good value for what I am needing.
    Your article pretty much made my mind up! Thx again
    Mike Tyler
    Adventure Expeditions
    Utah

    Reply
  • Jorge Gonzalez

    August 14th, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    We bought this awning both for its lighter weight than other alternatives, its price, and because it is a 270º awning that could cover all the way around to the back of our Troopy allowing us to have the rear doors swung open even during rain. Regretfully however, it doesn’t actually open up to 270º but more like…265º as there is a fairly wide gap between the body of truck and where the awning wraps around. Some have suggested moving the awning forward, but as I said, the awning only open to 265º meaning that no matter where I move it, the back of the awning does not wrap parallel to the rear of the truck. This is a topic I have discussed at length with Rhino Rack and have been assured it’s a problem they know about and are looking to correct in a future iteration of the awning. Other than that issue (which in my view is fairly significant since I wouldn’t have bought the awning in the first place if it didn’t provide full cover behind the Troopy) the awning is fairly easy to set up and provides great shade…plus the price is pretty rad too.

    Reply
    • Chris Cordes

      August 16th, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Sorry to hear that! Most 270 awning I have used don’t wrap fully to the vehicle because they could rub or smash against it damaging the truck, the rack itself usually gets in the way as well. I had never thought about this problem because my rear hatch has a portion that opens up covering the hole. For people with ambulance doors only though, I could see that being an issue!

      Reply
  • Rodger McM

    August 15th, 2018 at 3:59 am

    Chris,
    Enjoyed the write up and am impressed by the price as well as the described ease of deployment/stowing. The elimination of ground guys is more that huge! As you described, set up in sandy areas like Pizmo beach Ca. or Grand Haven Mi. With their loose sandy camping areas makes this vital!

    Quick question; when your excursion rear gate is up, do you wrap under it, around it, or over it?

    Thanks

    Rod M.

    Reply
  • Brandon Andrews

    November 1st, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Chris- I see in one of the photos you have a roof box/tent too? How well does the batwing play with the roof box as it swings around the back? I am worried that my Skybox 12 will extend too far back for the awning to swing under it? Thoughts? Or extra photos of how low the batwing hangs in the back/connection points.

    Reply

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