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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!

5 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.

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