Let’s talk shade—sitting in it, not throwing it. You don’t have to live in the desert, as I do, to have a fine appreciation for the temperature differential between direct sun and shadowed coolness. Or consider precip: One time on Gooseberry Mesa, with temps in the 30s, a combination of snow and snotty rain fell from the sky and my buddy Sinuhe and I rigged a tarp between my Vanagon and his Discovery so we could stay dry. I think we all know that a little roofing can go a long way.
For years, I’ve considered buying and installing a semi-permanent awning. On the VW, that meant drilling into things I didn’t want to have holes. Now, with my GX470, I only have to attach an awning to my rack, and I still might do that someday, but for the moment I’m avoiding the high cost, decreased gas mileage, and increased wind noise.
Enter the MoonShade from Moon Fabrications. Conceived by San Francisco-based Matthew Pearson and first announced via Kickstarter in 2019, this portable awning is now in production and widely seen out in the world. MoonShade weighs just eight pounds, sets up in five minutes, and can be attached temporarily to any vehicle—or even a tree (which I have done). It measures nine by seven feet and has telescoping legs that lift it to eight feet. The cost? $325 with an extra $15 off if you create a Moon Fab account. You can find permanently attached awnings for that cheap, but they certainly won’t be as versatile as the MoonShade.
The awning comes in a carrying bag that measures about 28”x 6”x 6”. Inside are the supporting 13mm aluminum cross poles, two aluminum legs, reflective guylines, stakes, a strut pole for single connection points like the aforementioned tree, and roof attachment of your choice. The standard attachment uses two burly suction cups (think RAM mount style), which I found quite effective so long as you clean any dust or dirt off your roof first. If you want something truly bombproof, Moon Fab offers heavy duty magnets for $30, which I liked better (but be extra careful not to scratch your paint). There are connectors for Sprinter and Airstream Basecamp roofs, or you can get Nite Ize gear ties. In a pinch, you could use webbing or almost any other tying/connecting device.
MoonShade is made in a tent factory and not surprisingly assembles like most tents. The two tensioning poles slot into corner grommets and are threaded into place with plastic and metal carabiners. Pretty standard stuff, and it takes about a minute to snap them into place. Unlike with some tents, the tension isn’t so high that you struggle to get the clips locked onto the poles.
There are two approaches to putting the awning together. You can assemble the poles and then attach the awning to the roof or do it vice versa, connecting the awning when it’s an unstructured rectangle of fabric and then adding the poles. Either one works fine, but I prefer putting the awning on the roof then the poles, especially if it’s breezy.
Although I’ve never had a permanent awning, I’ve spent a lot of time under popups, shade houses, tarps, trees, umbrellas, and sombreros, and the MoonShade is as stable as the best of them and a heck of a lot more stable than a standalone shade structure. It covers a substantial area (9×7 is 63 square feet, right?) and if there’s a bit of wind you’re going to want to stake it down, but even that only takes another minute or two and makes it as secure as any other awning. (None of them are viable in a big windstorm.)
How about the quality of the shade? It’s superb. Moon Fab made the awning of 420D recycled ripstop polyester and lined it with a reflective coating, which helps bounce heat upward but also increases the amount of light underneath it, whether that’s ambient light or a lantern.
In short, I was thrilled with the ease of the setup, the performance, the cost, and the portability of the MoonShade. It’s compact and light enough to throw in any vehicle and easy enough to set up that you won’t miss the ease of a permanent awning. Indeed, I’ve been struggling to think of any negatives. Reviews on the Moon Fab site average 4.5 stars out of five. A few people complained about broken or missing parts, a shorter woman had a tough time getting it on her car, and one guy thought the guylines were too skinny. None of those reflect my experience with the MoonShade. My only complaint is I wish they’d developed it years ago.
BUY • $325