Nick Carver Photography Blog

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Camping Essentials: ARB Awning Enclosed Room

Camping Essentials: ARB Awning Enclosed Room
View on YouTube to see full HD

In a recent blog post I showed you the ARB 2000 Awning - a fantastic addition to any 4x4 for some quick and easy shelter on the trail (read that post here). In this post I want to show you an accessory for the ARB line of awnings called the Enclosed Room (or the ARB Awning Room with Floor), which is essentially a tent that attaches directly to the awning.

ARB 2000 Awning and ARB Enclosed Room

The room shown here is for the ARB 2000 Awning, which means it measures about 6.5-foot wide. At full extension out from the truck, the awning is about 8-foot long, but with the protruding wheel wells on my 4Runner, the enclosed room offers about 7 feet of usable space on the long dimension. So I'm looking at a total footprint of about 46 square feet. Not too shabby.

This size room can really come in handy at camp. The most obvious use for it is a kitchen. That's one of the main reasons I got this room, because nothing drives me more insane than bugs getting in my frying pan when I'm trying to make fajitas. The large dual windows provide great ventilation and the walls provide all-important wind blocking for your stove.

But hey, who says you can't sleep in your kitchen?

That's right, the ARB Awning Room with Floor isn't designed to be a tent, but that's what I used it for on my most recent trip. It fits my cot and cooking station perfectly, so I can sleep and cook in a single bug-free space. I can see why ARB wouldn't explicitly state this as its purpose, though. I can imagine if you were in a very heavy rain or snow storm, the enclosed room may not be up to the task of keeping you dry and wind-blocked all night. I don't doubt the water-repellency of it or even the sturdiness of the materials, but I believe the perfectly vertical walls may cause too much wind-resistance for the awning to handle. There's a reason tents typically have a pitched roof to them, and for this setup you'd need to drop the far end of the awning quite a bit to create a sufficient slope for runoff. Definitely possible, but just not made exactly for that purpose. This thing is far from aerodynamic. But a light to moderate rain with manageable wind...should be no problem.

The room attaches to the awning with ease. The grooved channels at either end of the extended awning hold the room secure while the robust plastic clips keep it stable with the awning support poles. What takes the longest time in setting up this room is staking it down. There are many stake-down points, which is great for stability, but if you have hard ground like in the Mojave Desert, make sure you bring a mallet with you. You'll be doing a lot of hammering.

In terms of usability, I like the cubic shape of the enclosed room. The traditional dome-shape of most tents can make moving around in it a pain, especially when you're 6'2" like me. But the straight walls and flat ceiling make it more like a bedroom than a tent.

Inside the room are some convenient features. Two vents reside at the top of the truck-side wall that can be opened with velcro, and towards the floor are two small zip-open slots where you can feed in a power cord or propane hose. But possibly the most useful feature is a large zip-open door on the truck-side wall that can be opened and rolled up for quick access to the truck's door. Makes getting supplies in and out of the vehicle a breeze.

I also really appreciate just how big the two mesh windows are. The views from inside are stunning with the rain flaps rolled up and there is plenty of air flow to keep the room unstuffy in the daytime.

ARB Awning Enclosed Room with Floor

My only complaint so far with the enclosed room is that the material used for the floor is thinner than I'd like. I'm sure it's plenty tough to withstand sand and grass, but the rocky terrain of my local deserts may wear it out sooner than later. That's one reason I recommend picking up a tarp at your local hardware store to lay down as a footing underneath your enclosed room. Thinner materials like these are nice because they make the whole package lightweight and compact for easier packing, but in this case I'd take a little more weight and bulk for a tougher floor pan.

If you're a lone-wolf photographer like me and you're looking for a convenient one-man tent/kitchen for your photo adventures, the ARB Enclosed Room may be the right choice for you. It certainly beats sleeping in the back of your truck (you deserve better than that).

Helpful Links:
ARB Awning Room with Floor
- ARB 2000 Awning
- ARB 1250 Awning
- ARB 2500 Awning

This blog post and video were not sponsored or endorsed by ARB 4x4 Accessories or any other company.

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

Camping Essentials: ARB 2000 Awning

Camping Essentials: ARB Awning
View on YouTube to see full HD

I love camping. Aside from the solitude, quiet, and photo ops it affords, I also just love the gear. A good, reliable product that makes the adventure more comfortable, easier, or safer is worth its weight in gold. Because if I'm honest, camping can be a huge pain in the ass. Setting up camp, tearing it down...trying to cook with bugs all around...the heat, the cold... There's a reason most people would rather stay in a hotel.

As a resident of Southern California, I do much of my camping in the local deserts. My proximity to them has fostered a deep fondness for the arid landscape. And when you're out in the desert, your biggest enemy is the sun and the heat. That's why some good, quick shade is a must for desert traveling.

Enter the ARB Awning.

ARB 2000 Awning Review

This style of awning is a camping essential in the world of overland expeditions (4x4 camping). It attaches to the roof of your 4x4 and sets up quick for when you need shelter from the elements. As a landscape photographer, I find it invaluable at camp or when I'm stopping for photos along the journey.

Aside from shade, this awning would be invaluable in the rain. One of my favorite things in the world is to sit out and listen to a rainstorm. Get me out to the desert in a steady rain and I'm in hog heaven. Throw in some scattered thunderstorms and I might never leave. In the past I've always been stuck in my driver's seat to view it through my windshield, but with this awning, in just a few minutes I can have a shelter set up that will not only allow me to soak in the desert sounds while staying dry, but I can even take pictures from underneath it.

Overall I'm very impressed with the quality of this ARB 2000 Awning. I'm actually surprised it's not a more expensive item. The tarp is heavy duty, waterproof, and UV protected...it would take a lot to damage this thing. The support poles are lightweight aluminum that lock with a simple twist to the proper height/length. I was very pleased to see just how stable this awning is once set up. With how lightweight the poles are, I wasn't expecting it to be super strong, but I think it could hold up to some tough weather. With the legs staked down and the guy wires attached, it feels incredibly rigid.

Set up is a piece of cake. ARB claims it can be set up in 30 seconds. With 2 people I actually believe that figure, but doing it solo is a little trickier and will take a few minutes. I've only ever set it up solo, which can be a bit awkward and unwieldy to do, but it's not too difficult. I imagine the 8-foot version (the ARB 2500 Awning) would be nearly impossible to set up solo for many people. The 4-foot version (the ARB 1250 Awning) would be a breeze. Each awning model extends away from the truck about 8-feet.

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

When the awning is rolled up, there is really no "wiggle room" to cause rattling. It's held in tight with 2 velcro straps in an impressively small package. The rolled up awning stays protected under a strong nylon reinforced PVC bag closed with thick zippers. The protective bag is actually one of the most impressive aspects of this ARB awning. You can tell they didn't cut corners here at all. It's going to experience more punishment from the elements than any other part of this awning, so they made sure it was heavy-duty and built to last. I drove around in the rain quite a bit at highway speeds and not a drop of water got past the protective bag.

ARB also makes some awesome accessories for the awning like a mosquito net, a sidewall, and an enclosed room. I have the enclosed room to serve as a kitchen and/or tent which I'll be showing to you in a future blog post and video.

ARB 2000 Awning and ARB Enclosed Room

So if you have a truck or SUV and you like to get out into the elements with it, check out the ARB awning. Camping essentials like this make the journey so much more enjoyable. And with the way it's built, I'm sure it'll last for years to come.

Helpful Links:
- ARB 2000 Awning
- ARB 1250 Awning
- ARB 2500 Awning
- Rhino Rack 31103 Awning Mounts

This blog post and video were not sponsored or endorsed by ARB 4x4 Accessories or any other company.

Gear Review: The Slim UV Filter

I’m a fan of UV filters for DSLR cameras (here’s why). With a high-quality UV filter, you can get some peace of mind from a small investment without any penalty. High-end UV filters won’t degrade image quality regardless of what the Flickr forums tell you and they will protect the front of your expensive lens from sea spray, dirt, scratches, and even some serious falls.

I’ve also written about what I think is the best UV filter on the market (read that article here). So then what’s left? You know I’m for ‘em and you know what brand I like...

Well there’s one sneaky little option when it comes to purchasing a UV filter that you should know about: the slim UV filter.

The only difference between a slim UV filter and standard UV filter is that the slim version has no front thread on it. See, regular screw-in type photography filters have a male thread on the back that allows you to attach it to your lens (duh) and they usually have a female thread on the front of the filter that allows you to attach another filter on top of it, and another one on top of that, and another and another...

Gear Review: Slim UV Filter
Standard UV Filters have a front filter thread like this

The slim UV filter, on the other hand, typically does not have a front thread. You can’t attach a filter on top of a slim UV filter. They are basically flat on the front - the outer ring is flush with the glass.

The idea is that with ultra wide-angle lenses, there’s a risk of vignetting from a standard UV filter. Vignetting is when the corners of your photo are darkened because the filter sticks out in front of the lens too far. It’s like looking through a tunnel. So someone came up with the bright idea of slicing off that front filter thread to reduce vignetting. It’s a smart idea. And hey, it’s not like anyone was using that front filter thread anyway...

So some say that for wide angle lenses, you need a slim UV filter otherwise you’ll get vignetting. Well, not exactly. A standard UV on even the widest angle lens might create vignetting, it might not. Depends how they engineered the lens. For instance, I have a Canon 16-35mm lens on a full-frame camera, which is the widest angle available second only to fisheye. My standard B&W 77mm UV filter (not slim) creates no vignetting even at 16mm. Take a look:

Standard UV at 16mm
Even at 16mm, a standard UV gives me no vignetting

But maybe your wide angle lens does get vignetting with a standard UV filter. If that’s the case, you really have just 2 choices: either use a slim UV filter or don’t use one at all. Just remember that this filter is going to be on your lens all the time. So if you use a slim UV filter, your lens will no longer have a front filter thread available. And here’s the thing about having no front filter thread: you can’t use any other filters (goodbye polarizer and split ND filters) and you can no longer use a lens cap.

Sure, you could remove the UV anytime you want to use a polarizer or split ND, but that kind of defeats the whole point of having a UV filter to protect your lens. I’m betting that if there’s any time you’ll drop your camera, it’ll be when you’re trying to unscrew a UV and replace it with a polarizer. And sure, slim UV filters come with a replacement lens cap that slips over the top like a glove, but it’s going to pop off your lens much more often than a standard pinch cap.

So before you buy a slim UV filter, weigh the pros and cons of having no front filter thread in exchange for no vignetting. But most importantly, see if a standard UV filter is even going to create the vignetting you’re worried about.

And by the way, if you’re interested in learning more about filters for digital photography - a subject I’m very passionate about - check out my Filters for Nature Photography online course.