Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal’s Gear 2021 issue.
Kinsmen Hardware is the quintessential example of American small business. Their story doesn’t begin with an angel investor, a flashy viral video, or funding from a multinational conglomerate, but with a need, and a craftsman who was willing to do something about it. That man was Matthew Simmons, a machinist’s son from South Carolina, and the product he worked long hours at two jobs to produce is the Rapid Deploy awning.
The awning is also classically American. It’s the muscle car of the group, built from US steel and canvas with a design that favors straightforward strength, speed, and simplicity over engineering finesse. The fabric isn’t an ultralight-aluminum-infused secret, but heavy-duty 314 GSM Sunbrella marine canvas intended for 24/7 exposure to the elements, ensuring a lifetime of resistance to UV rays, mold, and mildew. The powder-coated steel truss frame is masterfully welded and strong enough to support a grown man doing pull-ups. The vinyl-coated polyester cover has withstood tree branch strikes heavy enough to rip parts off a truck, and the YKK zippers laced with Mil-Spec paracord pulls still run smoothly after months of abuse. Stainless steel and brass hardware abound, with poly bushings in the main hinge and an industrial-grade stainless spring for the locking mechanism. Every piece of this awning is sourced and assembled in the USA, with the sole exception of the spring pin which comes from Italy—bellissimo.
At 70 pounds, the Kinsmen is easily the heaviest option I’ve tested, yet it is also the fastest. During evaluations, setup time averaged a lightning-fast 18.03 seconds, while the full setup was just 24.6 seconds. That’s less than half the time of its nearest competitor. Stowing the awning was equally impressive, bringing home a breakdown time of just 49 seconds. The secret is in the brilliant locking pin design. Simply unzip the bag, swing the awning around, and click—the industrial pin locks it open at a perfect 90-degree angle to the vehicle.
A few seconds here or there doesn’t equate to anything beyond bragging rights in camp, but the attention to detail on the Kinsmen, combined with its stability and strength, does. Unlike other awnings, I find myself deploying it multiple times per day on our trips. Coverage is ample at 167.9 square feet; I’ll throw it out for a lunch break, use it to shield the rain on a coffee stop, and open it to hang some lights for camp poker. If bad weather is forecast, the three pop-up arms prevent water from pooling and secure the tension strap to fight off the wind. Guyline webbing loops perfectly positioned on the fabric secure the awning and prevent flapping in high winds. There is even a spot for an aftermarket support pole in case you want to string a hammock up on the armature.
The Kinsmen is pricey, but its utility and ease of use justify the cost and set it apart. Had it arrived in time for our original 270-degree awning test (Summer 2019), it would have taken home the Editor’s Choice.
$2,150 | Kinsmenhardware.com