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Installing a Thule Hideaway awning

Thule awning on a Sprinter van

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, family camper or live in your van full-time, awnings are an indispensable part of what makes a van a home. Functionally they practically double the square footage of your van and they provide great protection from the sun and rain. For many, cranking out the awning when you’ve arrived at your destination for the day is the final part of camp setup that says, “yeah, we are here, time to kick back and enjoy.” In this article we dive deep into installing a Thule Hideaway awning on our 2016 Sprinter van 4×4.

Selecting the right awning

So I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a shop nearby where I can just go and pick out a Thule Hideaway awning, put it in the back of the van and drive home. Like so many other things I bought for our conversion, I ordered the 10′ Thule Hideaway awning from Amazon.

I also bought the Thule rack mounts so that I could mount the awning on the OEM roof rails on our van. I had to make some brackets out of 1″ aluminum bar stock. These slid into the roof rail channels and then screwed into the Thule rack mounts.

Bracket made out of aluminum bar stock for OEM Sprinter van roof rails
Homemade brackets from Aluminum bar stock and stainless steel screws. These brackets slide into the OEM Sprinter van roof rails.
Testing the custom bracket onto the Thule rack mount.
Making sure everything fits once it is on the roof. Note the thin closed cell foam underneath the part that points toward the center of the roof to minimize scratching.

These brackets worked great and they didn’t take too much time to make. Although filing a square hole in the bar so the screws wouldn’t spin when tightening the nuts took a little elbow grease.

Learn from my mistake!

Once my awning came (delivery took a long time by the way, but I also scored the awning for $654) I was a little perplexed to see that it would not attach to the Thule mounts I installed. You see, I totally screwed up. I ordered the direct mount version of the awning instead of the rack mount. For some reason my thinking was, “I’m not mounting to a roof rack (like Yakima or Thule crossbars), I’m mounting to roof rails, so it needs to attach directly.” Well, this was wrong. There was a significant amount of frustration the morning the awning finally arrived and I realized my error.

When you buy the direct mount version it comes with small brackets that you attach to whatever you want the rack on, then the rack attaches to them. I was able to drill a couple of holes in my rack mount, attach the new brackets to those and then mount the awning. I’m glad there was a work around that wasn’t too terrible, but it wasn’t what I expected when the awning showed up!

Thule direct mount bracket on rack mount bracket
Here are the direct mount brackets, mounted to the rack mounts (what an earful)
Thule awning on a Sprinter van
Awning on our Sprinter van.

Despite the frustrations of ordering the wrong style awning, it turned out okay.

Are you considering installing a Thule Hideaway awning or possibly a more expensive Fiamma? What has been your experience. Leave a comment and let me know!

19 thoughts on “Installing a Thule Hideaway awning

  1. Where did you find it for this cheap?

    1. I kept an eye on Amazon and waited for it to go on sale there.

  2. I have a Custom T Track rack that I would like to mount this awning to. Can you provide any insight on which version of the hideaway I should get? I’m like you in thinking the direct mount might be the way to go, but I’m not sure.

    1. Hard to say without seeing pictures, but it sounds like the direct mount might be the way to go. Please don’t hold me to it though!

  3. FYI, If you plan on utilizing the Thule brackets show in the pictures above to bolt to OEM track system , you must purchase the Thule ” RACK MOUNT ” version of Hideaway awning.
    Thule part number is 4900010 = a 10’7″ RACK MOUNT awning.

  4. HAs this held up well over time? It has thee less attachment points than recommended.

    1. Yes, it has held up fine. However, I don’t think it is using less that recommended. I used all the recommended brackets./\

      1. Ah ok, great to hear. I saw in the photos that there are three more holes on the black mounting plate. I get that they are designed to go around a cross bar, and was worried there might be a lot of torque applied to the rail from wind. I appreciate the write up and the response, thank you.

  5. How far apart are the brackets, ie how long do I need my roof rail to be please?

    1. I think the distance between the brackets should be based on the size of the solar panels you get. Ideally, you’d get a roof rail that runs the whole length of the van.

      1. Thanks Ian, I meant how far apart are the brackets on the Thule Awning? My rails are 3m long.



        1. The brackets I used for the awning don’t have a fixed position. You can put them on the awning wherever you want. I hope this helps!

  6. Thanks for posting this. I’m wondering how difficult the awning is to open. Specifically here are some questions:
    * Can you open it with 1 person?
    * Would an average person (5′ 10″ need a ladder/step to reach the poles when opening?

    1. Hi Kevin, I can open/close it by myself, but it is easier to have someone walk with the awning and take same weight off while I’m turning the crank handle. I’m about 5′ 10″ as well and I don’t need a ladder.

  7. I have an older Dodge conversion van and I think I need the hideaway with the wall mount system. I was wondering if you could tell me how many inches high the brackets are? The ones that the awning goes onto. Thank you.

  8. Thule has the worst instruction ever printed. Absolutely no help and finding information on side mount. Good luck. Your on your own. And yes delivery time was ridiculous. I will never buy Thule again. I had terrible experience with the Thulie Quickfit tent that fits the awning.

  9. Hi, we are looking to use a similar method to install our thule awning and would like to know where you bought the direct mount brackets? Are you able to share the link?

  10. Thanks for the description and pictures! The points where I want to mount my rack mount brackets (black L-s) on the roof are given by other installations. If I use the rack mount awning, can screw on the mounting brackets anywhere along the length of the awning, or are there specific points which are already predrilled or re-enforced? Same for wall mount awning: can I have the wall mount brackets anywhere along the length of the awning? Of course, I will space them out somewhat regularly. Also, do you think it would work if I would simply buy large angle brackets, and then drill holes into them in order to mount them to a rack mount awning?

    1. It’s been a while since the install. I believe I drilled the wholes where I wanted the brackets.

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