Mini Day Trip and Beta testing the new awning v1.0

Paul and Aileen’s house is “nearing” completion so we thought we would take a run out there on Saturday morning and take a look. I went to work for a couple of hours so by the time we got going it was 11am and this was a big mistake as the traffic through Stung Meanchay was just horrid. On a good run Paul’s house is 20 minutes away from Phnom Penh. With traffic – an hour. At any rate we soon arrived around midday and first order of the day was to set up my new side awning and see how it went. It had been completed a couple of weeks earlier but the chance to test had not arisen.

The awning that I built

The story behind the awning for those of you who are interested is this ; It’s damn hot here in Cambodia and you cannot always be guaranteed of a shady spot when you go day tripping so I wanted to get a side awning for the LandCruiser. Professionally made ones run into the hundreds of dollars and at any rate are not available here so I had to use my nouse. My dad is an Engineer and Lateral Thinker Extraordinaire and I spent my boyhood growing up watching him work out tricky little design issues whilst madly licking away at his mustache, scratching his head and playing ” fit the round peg in the square hole” with every problem that arose. I am proud to say , whilst no engineer, I have picked this trait up from him and I love nothing more than tinkering and sorting things out.

  • First step was to get the tarp. My neighbors are in the business of tarps ( gotta LOVE Cambodia ! ) and I had a 2.4m x 2.5 m heavy duty plastic tarp customized with a heat welded sleeve at one end for insertion of a pole to be used for fixing it to the roof rack. Also eyelets all around. Cost ; $40
  • Next was poles and ropes. I came very close to ordering all these off the internet as Caravan and RV retailers sell a myriad of collapsible poles in different configurations and ropes with tension toggles. In the end I decided why spend a bunch of money and wait weeks for them to arrive ( if they arrive  at all ! ) when I could do it here. So I went to a steel shop and bought a 6m length of stainless steel and had it cut it into 3×1.90metre lengths. This gave me two poles and a spare. I then bought some hex-headed bolts that fitted head first into the 22mm pipe perfectly and took these to a welding shop where an old chap welded them up for me to create spigots . I also had to sheer the thread off them with an angle grinder so they would fit nicely through the eyelets of the tarp . Total cost of poles and welding ; $12.
  • Pegs are obviously important and again, I was thinking about ordering online before I yet again decided “bugger that” and went to a local resource. A visit to mate Bryan down in Takmeo to pick up our weekly lamb chops also yielded 4 heavy duty pegs. You see- Bryan is a steelmaker par excellence 😉 . Cost ; $0
  • Ropes ; 12m at a total cost of $4.

No fancy tensioners - just some scout knots.

  • Fittings ; I spent quite a few hours ( and beers) pondering just how most effectively to fix the rolled up awning to the rack of the LandCruiser. Just about licked my mustache off actually. I did not want to get all technical and be drilling holes and mounting brackets etc but I did want to be able to leave  the awning on permanently as I knew this was going to be very a handy addition to the truck. After considering Velcro straps and heavy duty zip ties and all manner of fasteners , in a moment of clarity I finally solved the riddle. Dog collars !! Yes – dog collars. 3 of these strong little buggers with plastic clips affix the awning to the rack by way utilising of the bamboo spine I slid into the welded sleeve. I then use some smaller ones around the awning when it is wrapped up. And the piece’d’resistance -theft is rampant here in Cambodia so I had to think carefully about security. I have used my high tension wire bike lock I bought in Australia some 12 years ago to lock the whole thing to my rack ! Total Cost of fittings ; $3

Fixed to car with three small but bloody strong dog collars.Also see bamboo pole inside heat welded seam..

Locked up ( hopefully )

  •  As mentioned above, I have used two bamboo poles to create spines at both ends of the awning . The pole at the car / rack edge is slid into the welded seam but the one at the front edge is simply zip tied to the pole using the eyelets. A final one  can be run perpendicular from the mid point of the front edge to the car to create a ridge pole if needed in rain etc. The bamboo spine at the front edge of the awning has had holes drilled in either end so the pole spigots can fit thorough them.I like the fact the design incorporates a bit of local material. Cost ; $2

Custom stainless poles with hex head spigots into a bamboo ridge pole.

With Paul’s help I had the awning up in about 1 minute flat. It worked absolutely flawlessly throwing out a nice big square of shade right next to the car and as a first pass, I think I nailed the design. It is really only going to be used for day trips and picnics etc so I think it will suit perfectly. Erection is a simple process thus;

  • Undo the bike lock
  • Undo the small dog collars at either end of the “roll” that are simply holding it nicely together but do not have any fixing role to the car.
  • Undo two heavier duty dog collar that are actually holding the fold out part of the awning roll to the rack and unroll the awning being careful to take control of the stainless steel poles that are wrapped up inside the bundle as it unfurls.
  • Poles into bamboo at front edge
  • Ropes out and pegged.
  • Voila.

Putting it back up proves a bit more of a challenge and right now it is a two person job to roll it back up neatly for sure. I think an improvement is going to be heat welding a forward sleeve as well and having a steel pole permanently in place. This will allow the tarp to roll up evenly as right now the not perfectly straight bamboo pole means it can roll a bit wonky. It will also mean hopefully one person can control the rolling process.

Here it is all rolled up and affixed to rack

It proved a big winner with the family and once the bamboo picnic mat was down and the little $2 stools were out they plonked themselves down and enjoyed the cooling shade it provided. Paul’s lawn is coming along nicely so the spot was perfect for it and the butane grill was fired up in not time and hot dogs were soon flowing.The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming in the river which has risen considerably with the rains since our last visit, riding scooters through rice paddies to the incredible stares of the locals ( with Karma chasing behind ) and finally a late arvo bonfire under spectacular crimson skies.

House progression

Camped out for the day

Local steel "truck"

Mugs on motos = trouble.

Angus and his nanny swinging under the mango tree...

Pink skies at night......

Here it is again....

Christened !

Stay tuned for my next project – The Chuck Box !

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