Overview of the 2015 Vango AirBeam Awning Range
Vango spent 12 years developing and testing their innovative inflatable AirBeam technology before introducing it to their tent range and then rolling it out a couple of years later in 2013 into their AirBeam vehicle awnings and thus revolutionising the drive-away awning market. So it’s fair to say that this ground-breaking awning range is truly tried and tested.
The Vango-Kela II – Inflatable AirBeam Awning is just one of the 2nd generation of AirBeam vehicle awnings that Vango are introducing for the 2015 camping season. The Kela and Sapera have plenty of updates and are now known as the AirAway Kela-II and Sapera-II (2). The range has also been extended to include the Idris (a budget version of the Kela) and a completely new luxury design with weather proof porch – The Vango Attar 380.
We first tested the new Kela II back in October 2014 in our SW London showroom, attaching it to our 79’ VW Bay Window and our Volkswagen T5 Kombi fitted with our low-profile C Channel awning rail. The dimensions, tunnel height, connection options and sleeping compartment configuration of the Kela II and Sapera II are all the same as the earlier 2013/14 versions, so we had no problem connecting the Kela to either Transporter.
AirBeam Kela II – New Features for 2015
Additional Awning Tunnel Doors
The first obvious 2015 upgrades are the additional doors on each side of the awning tunnel which we think work really well as it saves walking through the awning (and stepping over two entrance thresholds) every time you need to get something from the bus… usually a beer from the fridge or another bottle of van rouge!
This convenient feature will not only save time, it will also save a lot of unnecessary spillages, wear and tear, etc… and is an even more important update if you have dogs or kids with muddy paws trying to walk through the awning every 10mins!
The two additional entrance doors will also offer much needed air circulation in the van and awning on hot summer days.
AirSpeed Valve System
Another main feature of the 2015 Airbeams is Vango’s new AirSpeed valve system. Each valve is now located on the outside of the AirBeam with a weatherproof rain cover which eliminates any fiddling with zips at ground level and possible twisting of the valves on the AirBeam. The new valve has also been repositioned at a convenient 86cm above ground level.
The AirSpeed valve is also easy and even quicker to operate. The clever valve locking cap means no more screwing or unscrewing of the valve body and no chance of cross-threading, just a simple half turn to open and close… a quick twist will deflate the AirBeam in seconds.
Tension Band System – TBS II
Vango developed these patented TBS stabilising straps quite a few years back and once again, this clever system has been tried and tested on their tents over many seasons. The webbing straps are attached halfway up the inside of the AirBeams and stowed in a side pocket and can be engaged by just connecting into the top central clip. When connected, these cleverly design straps form a strong ridge shape that keep the AirBeams stable in extreme weather conditions.
We have only ever felt the need to use this unique system a couple times in the past when very strong gusty winds were blowing in from the side… the strap only took a few seconds to connect and performed well, keeping the awning firm and stable. On the downside, in dim light, it is easy to forget the straps are there and walk into them!
The new Kela II now has the TBS II system fitted on both AirBeams as opposed to just the front which offers increased stability.
Vango weather test all their tents including all four models of the Airbeam drive-away awning at an independent wind and rain test centre to ensure they can withstand extreme weather conditions.
Other New Features
It seems Vango have also spent a lot of time working on some of the smaller details to further improve this innovative awning range. The Excalibur grey colour is complimented with a 50cm high black band running along the bottom edge with a white reflective strip where the two colours meet. The orange guylines have been replaced by grey guylines with reflective stitching running through them, which combined will make the awning more hi-vis with less trips.
The yellow plastic T profile pegs have been upgraded to steel rock pegs which perform much better in harder ground… although we do recommend using a peg-pull with these – because it’s so much easier to bang them in deeper without breaking or bending, they can sometimes be slightly harder to remove (never use the webbing D ring to pull pegs out as it WILL break under the strain).
Overall Vango have built on this tried and tested AirBeam technology and combined with some excellent updates, have taken the second generation of AirAway inflatable awnings to the next level by making the new AirAway AirBeam awnings even easier and quicker to inflate.
We have had so much use from our original 2013 AirAway Kela including many VW festivals, Glastonbury, general camping weekends etc… without any problems and it’s still looking really good. Although the price tag is slightly higher than last year, Vango seemed to have listened to customer feedback and retained the best parts of this tried and tested awning range while adding some great new features – we still think these rapid pitch AirAway awnings remain the best drive away for VW Transporters!
Although the marketplace has seen a few more manufacturers doing away with poles and introducing inflatable systems into their drive-away awnings over last season, we feel that the Vango AirBeam range is the most reliable as they have been using this technology for over a decade now. Also, out of all our suppliers, Vango’s customer service department is second to none, offering an excellent after-sales service… which is nice to know just in case you ever should have any problems.
Reviewed by the Funky Leisure Team – November 2014
…If you live anywhere near, or ever travel down to the South-East, call into our Twickenham showroom in SW London to see the Vango AirBeam Kela II connected to a VW T5 as well as lots of other VW campervan gear, awning rails, awning connection kits and other funky camping gear!
No doubt, you’ll already have the most obvious festival essentials like festival tickets, money, I.D. etc… safely stashed already. And regarding
festival clothes, like most other outdoor activities, it’s best to pack plenty of layers – t-shirts, hoodies, a beanie etc… as temperatures can still drop at night in the countryside, even in mid-summer. Also, take a spare hoodie and jeans just in case you do get caught in the rain or take a tumble in that festival mud.
1. Decent Quality Double Skin Tent – as well as space to sleep – check that you have enough room for all your bags and muddy boots.
2. Sleeping Bag and Roll Mat – make sure these have at least a 2-3 season rating as you don’t want to be kept awake all night because of the cold.
4. Poncho, Drybag & Waterproof Pouch – we all know what British summertime can offer up… especially when there’s a festival field full of tents.
5. Festival Wellies – it only takes a few minutes of rain for those rolling green festival fields to become thick mud.
6. Portable Phone Charger – a festival essential for staying in contact with friends, taking photos/video clips of your favourite bands and festival life.
7. Waterproof Phone Pouch – we’ve all seen, on more than one occasion, someone trying to reclaim their smartphone from mosh mud.
8. Head Torch – you’ll need all the help you can get finding your way through the maze of festival tents and locating your tent zip
9. Eyeshades & Earplugs – whether you end up next to the dance tent, fairground or 24 hour ravers – it’s nice to know you can completely tune out if you want.
10. Waterless Body Wash & Lightweight Towel – freshen up in the privacy of your own tent with an all over body wash – combined with a micro towel they take up minimal space.
Add-ons that can save you money and/or make your festival weekend a bit more comfortable:
Festival Trolley – if you have lots of festival kit and/or a heavy tent – a decent heavy-duty festival trolley should definitely be on your essential festival kit list.
Camping Chair – after a day of wandering from stage to stage and pulling a few shapes – it’s nice to park your butt down on something comfortable around a campfire.
TravelJohns – a pack or two of these unisex disposable urinals will save that you that early morning trip to the long drop loos.
Flagpole & Flag – mark your camping spot and make it easier to find your way back to your tent – telescopic flagpoles are available in 2.7m to 10m sizes and attach plenty of festival flags.
Whiz Freedom – enables women to pee standing up and not have to sit on a festival toilet seat – also allows use of the ‘She-Pee’ women only festival loos.
When it comes to camping at a festival, we have a ‘leave no trace’ attitude here at Funky Leisure and would always recommend that rather than buying the cheapest ‘disposable type’ festival tent with the intent on a sacrificial tent trashing and leaving it at the end of the festival – maybe spend a little bit extra on a decent festival tent that will last a few years. It will usually make your festival weekend dryer, more comfortable and obviously cheaper in the long run if your tent lasts you a few festival seasons.
Clearing up wrecked and unwanted festival tents not only has a negative environmental impact that can affect future licence applications for festival organisers it costs money which is obviously passed on to festival goers via the price of next year’s festival ticket.
It’s definitely not one size fits all when it comes to camping at a festival. Some festival goers prefer the minimalist approach travelling light with very basic kit packed into a tiny tent and buying food at stalls all weekend. Other festival goers prefer a larger tent with living area and all creature comforts, full size camping chairs, barbequing over a festival campfire with a monster 10m flagpole covered in festival flags to mark their spot. It depends on many factors… budget, transportation, amount of people per tent, carrying weight, comfort levels, type of festival etc…