RVing 101: How to Set up and Take Down an Airstream RV Awning

One of the most remarkable features of Airstream RV camping is the retractable onboard awning. Airstream RV awnings feature durable, vibrant fabrics and corrosion-resistant materials, providing years of worry-free protection from the sun and passing showers. The key to your awning’s longevity is properly setting it up at the campsite and taking it down before leaving.

Proper Airstream RV awning set up

A vintage Shasta Trailer RV camper awning seen at the Flying Flag RV Resort in Buellton, California
A vintage RV camper awning | Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Airstream equips its RVs with at least one electrically powered or manual awning on the camper’s curbside. The curbside features the RV’s entry door and is where you’ll set up camp. Your Airstream RV may feature multiple awnings with similar controls.

Powered Airstream RV awning set up

Airstream says its “International, Globetrotter, and Classic models” feature powered RV awnings. The Airstream Classic’s RV awning operation requires you to push and hold the two tilt buttons to unlock it. After it’s unlocked, pressing the extend button deploys the awning unless it lags and stops. If the awning stops, push retract and extend again to finish deploying the awning. 

The International and Globetrotter models feature different awning controls than the Classic. They do not require holding the tilt buttons to unlock and deploy and stow using buttons labeled “Open” and “Close.” Airstream does not mention the same stalling issue as with the Classic’s awning but notes that the awning arms may frequently stop and start independently to keep time with each other.

Once fully deployed, all three RV models can tilt their awnings to one side, allowing light rain to run off in your chosen direction or for additional shade. In the event of power interruption or failure, Airstream provides tools in the supplied “Goodie Box” and detailed instructions via Airstream Support to get your awning back on track.

Manual Airstream RV awning set up

Manual Airstream RV awning deployment requires more steps than their powered offerings: 

  • First, you’ll use the supplied “awning wand” to unlock the travel latch and unscrew the hold-down mechanism on each end. 
  • Next, you’ll use the wand to pull the awning strap straight down until you can reach it with your hand. 
  • Place the wand out of the way and fully extend the awning by pulling the strap toward you. 
  • Fold the strap and temporarily place it between the awning and the roller on the underneath side to prevent the awning from retracting.
  • Move the rafter arms from their stowed location to the roller tube on each side and pull the rafter arm end away from the trailer to lock them in place. 
  • Loosen the thumbscrew on the awning arm and raise the awning to the desired height by hand before retightening the thumbscrew to hold it in place. Do this on each end, lifting one end higher to induce desired tilt. 
  • Roll up and stow the strap in the provided loop now or before raising the awning to full height if that is easier. 

How to take down an Airstream awning

Properly stow your RV awning before travel or during weather events. Airstream advises keeping weather conditions in mind as their awnings cannot withstand high winds, heavy rain, or snow accumulation while deployed. 

Powered Airstream RV awning takedown requires a simple button push, but you should visually inspect the awning to ensure it is secure against the camper. Again, manual Airstream RV awning takedown requires more steps: 

  • Manually lower the awning arms
  • Stow the rafter arms
  • Hold the strap to ensure the awning rolls up evenly
  • Reengage the travel latch
  • Tighten the hold-down mechanism on each end using the “awing wand”

Proper deployment, retraction, and care of your Airstream RV awning ensure years of welcoming shade at your campsite. 

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