Take Shelter Wherever You Roam With Rhino Rack’s Batwing Awning

Whether you live in a 5,000-square-foot mansion or a 500-square-foot studio apartment, it’s hard to escape the feeling of confinement. Though they provide shelter, our artificial structures limit mind and body from straying too far from responsibility. And so we daydream of adventure – of breathing fresh air, taking in stunning vistas, and, above all, finding room to roam.

But the great outdoors introduce uncertainty, the nemesis of our manicured existence. For some, that sense of unknown is thrilling; for others, it’s damn near terrifying. Thankfully, there are ways to bring a bit of security wherever you travel. We’ve touched on great rooftop tent options that hold up against the elements while offering off-the-ground safety, but equally important to your home-on-the-road setup is an awning.

Hiding in your tent every time you want a reprieve from the sun, wind, or rain can get old quick, which is why retractable awnings have become popular among campers and overlanders. Collapsible into long narrow tubes that mount on side of a vehicle’s roof rack, awnings extend to provide protection overhead or, with wall extensions, to make a mobile shelter.

Following the success of its single-direction Sun Seeker awning, Rhino Rack introduced a new model that spans a full 270-degrees around your vehicle — significantly more coverage than traditional awnings — while retracting into the same slim form. To see whether the Batwing makes camping easier or more complicated, we mounted the awning to an 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser and headed out for a weekend in Joshua Tree, California.

To see whether the Batwing makes camping easier or more complicated, we mounted the awning to a Toyota Land Cruiser and headed out for a weekend.

Before ever unwrapping the Batwing from its black PVC cover, we note the large, high-quality zippers and thick shielding that we expect will hold up well to years of use. Unzipping the bag reveals four powder coated poles that are magnetically locked in place. Pulling the top pole from its position and walking it around the side of the vehicle releases each successive pole to eventually cover the entire side and rear of the car. Once fully extended, we wrap the strap around a fixed cleat on the opposite side of the roof rack and tighten the strap to make the awning taut.

Rhino Rack Batwing Awning
Miles Branman/The Manual

Though our awning is positioned on the driver’s side of the Land Cruiser, Rhino Rack also offers mounting on the passenger side if you prefer. Two types of included mounts work with any Rhino Rack or Thule roof rack, but Rhino Rack offers alternative mounting hardware work with just about any rack (including our Front Runner Slimline II).

To make the shelter stable, we pull four hidden poles from their clips and unscrew them to release leg extensions. To stabilize the structure, Batwing includes ropes and pegs that can be used in a few different ways and are stored right into the awning cover. The simplest setup method is to hammer two opposed pegs through each pole leg (following the molded pass-throughs), but a strong wind could still unsettle the base. For greater security, Rhino Rack includes ropes that clip into four points along the awning and are pulled tight with ground pegs. Choosing the more secure method means adding another couple minutes of setup, but even so, the whole process takes under 10 minutes by one person. With a bit of practice, we expect we can cut that time down even further.

For added protection, Batwing offers zip-in extensions that can either expand overhead coverage with a pair of included pole legs or be pulled vertical and secured with additional pegs and ropes to make a wall. Like the main structure, these extensions are brilliantly simple and are made up of the same UV50+ rated material endorsed by the Cancer Council. With our work done, our eight-member caravan can enjoy plenty of shade during lunch.

When it’s time to get the party moving again, the Batwing breaks down quickly and easily. In five minutes we’ve pulled and stored the pegs and ropes, retracted and secured the pegs, and folded the awning back into its cover. If the Batwing were more fussy or complex, we might be concerned that we’d hardly use it (we know plenty of overland friends who almost never use their awnings for that precise reason). But the ease of setup and tear down, plus the incredible coverage, means we can rely on the Batwing for all our upcoming adventures.

Some elements of nature will always be a little unsettling, but with tools like the Rhino Rack Batwing Awning, we can stop making excuses and start making plans to explore more.


The Trek Aerospace FK2 Is the Flying Go-Kart You Didn’t Know You Wanted

With the ability to take off vertically from a dead stop, it's like an ejector seat for daily life.

La Pointe Cabin is a Re-Imagining of the Traditional A-Frame

This tiny structure is so much more than a simple cabin in the woods.
Food & Drink

This $273,000 Louis Vuitton Trunk Doubles as a Bar Cart for Your Hennessy Collection

Because good liquor is the only thing separating us from the animals.

The Dopest Weed Gear to Get You High this 420

Take a major step up from your gas station starter-bowl.

Former Harley-Davidson Bigwig Returns with New Electric Motorcycle Company

The name of Erik Buell’s new endeavor is called Fuell. Get it?

Celebrate 3 Decades of Road-Tripping with VW’s California 30 Years Van

If you've dreamt of a cross-Europe road trip, this limited-edition VW camper van is the perfect chariot.

Why We Can Believe Aston Martin’s Rebirth Is Stage-Ready

With the passing its centenary, Aston Martin’s CEO Dr. Andy Palmer has initiated the second act in his vision of revitalization.

Beauer 3X Camping Trailer Expands From Pod to Palace in Just 20 Seconds

Towing one of these campers means no more cramping (cramped camping) in small trailers and no maneuvering massive gas-guzzling RVs.

What Kind of Motorcycle Should I Get? A Comprehensive Guide to Motorcycle Types

Been thinking about getting into motorcycling? One of the first questions you'll need to answer is what kind of motorcycle is right for you.

These Off-Road Tires Are an Overlander’s Best Friend

With plenty of tarmac, dirt, gravel, sand, and rock along the way, this will be a good simulation of traditional overland travel.

Get Up to Speed with Our Comprehensive Dictionary to Motorcycle Slang

Like any specialty, motorcycling has its own vocabulary. This ever-expanding cheat sheet will have you sounding like a seasoned rider in no time.

Road Trip! DriveShare is the Airbnb of Vintage, Exotic, and Collectible Cars

DriveShare’s goal is simple: connect owners of the world’s most sought-after cars with prospective non-owners who would very much like to drive said cars.

The HoverSurf Hoverbike Is a Real-Life, Star Wars-Esque Speeder Bike

If you've ever wanted to fly around your local park terrorizing neighborhood soccer moms, your time has come thanks to the Hoversurf Hoverbike.

This Camper Wants to Be Whatever Type of Travel Trailer You Need It to Be

SylvanSport's Vast is possibly the most versatile and configurable travel trailer ever.