Fishing out in the sun all day sucks. There's no doubt about it, laying down under the Texas summer sun will leave you feeling like a lobster after a few hours. Traditional awnings are great but they have their disadvantages due to their limited size and inability to adjust to the position of the sun. Thankfully there's a better and cheaper solution for anyone trying to find shade without resorting to a clumsy pop-up canopy.
The Slumberjack Roadhouse Tarp can be found online for around $110 dollars. This may seem high for what is admittedly a fancy tarp but when compared to most awnings, which start around $400, this is a great price point. $110 dollars gets you the large beige tarp, two 8ft poles, 8 steel stakes, reflective para-cord, and a storage bag to hold it all. The entire setup weights around 12 lbs and the poles collapse similar to your typical camping tent poles. When the tarp is packed into the storage bag it's packaged sized resembles a tent which makes it easy to store in your vehicle.
The holes where the tent poles have extra fabric surrounding a hole with a rivet embedded in the material. This design helps prevent any wear and tear from spreading into the fabric of the tarp from the repeated abuse of having that material stretched on the support pole. The stitching throughout the tarp seems durable and in a few key areas double stitching is used for reinforcement and support. The tarp/ fly material, which is compromised of polyester, is water resistant, provides excellent shade, lightweight, and most importantly durable.
Having two poles allows you a few options on how you want to setup the tarp which can vary on your current environment. On a day trip to the beach I opted to use the single pole setup connected on the front side of the tarp. The rear was secured to my roof rack with the sewed in straps and buckles. This method was easy to setup with only one person and took about 10 mins total including the time needed to tie down the tarp with the para-cord. These integrated buckles and straps are also designed to easily wrap around vehicles tires.
No matter which method you choose you will find the Roadhouse Tarp provides a huge amount of shade and shelter from the wind. If you adjust the poles and guidelines you can easily match the sun's position in the sky throughout the day. This ability to adjust and the long sides of the fabric make traditional awnings seem obsolete. Most awnings do have walls which zip up to the perimeter which can be purchased as an accessory but this Tarp can be pulled down and tied for privacy as needed.
The plastic para-cords came with these tiny black clips which attempt to be some sort of pinch point or tie off anchor for the guide lines. I couldn't figure out how these black clips were used and Google didn't turn up any helpful results. Instead, I opted to order some cheap carabiners from Amazon and used a slipnot at each end of the guide line. This allows me to clip in each end of the line and add tension in order to secure the tarp down on windy days. This $10 upgrade greatly reduces the time needed to setup the tarp. The carabiners aren't needed but they do allow you to detach the guide lines from the tarp which helps during the packing process. Packing the tarp back into the sack does take some time and practice. I can pack my camping tent and sleeping bag without any issues into their sacks but for some reason I always struggle getting the Roadhouse tarp back into it's packaging. My only complaint about this product is that they sack could be an inch larger which would make my life that much easier.
The Slumberjack Roadhouse Tarp is a great alternative to popup canopies which takes longer to setup. The large footprint of the fly allows you to drop the sides during the early morning and late evening when the sun is closer to the horizon. The versatility of being able to chose one or two poles is a welcomed added benefit. The amount of ways you can use this tarp are numerous which is a huge advantage over traditional awnings which only setup one way and one way only. If you're looking for shade this summer you can't go wrong with this product.