When it comes to soaking in the sun, there seems to be two types of people. There are those who can’t get enough of it and others that blister just at the thought. We typically sit somewhere in the middle. We love being outdoors but don’t see the need to perfect any sort of ideal tan. In fact, we’ll take a nice cool shade anywhere we can get it.
Oftentimes on the trail or in remote camping spots, shade is a pretty rare commodity. This means if you want any relief from the sun, you’ll need to haul your own shade with you. While toting an E-Z Up to your kid’s ball game isn’t much of a hassle, trying to squeeze that along with a weekends worth of trail supplies in the back of your rig can be a bit challenging. Thankfully, we found a pretty easy and inexpensive option.
Smittybilt calls it the Trail Shade. It’s essentially a universal awning that can attach to just about anything, but works best wrapped around a vertically mounted spare tire. We picked up one a while back to try out on our ’08 Toyota Tacoma. Since it’s equipped with a swing-out tire carrier, we were able to toss it on our 35-inch spare without any issue. So, how does it all work? Read on to find out.
The key to the Trail Shade’s universal design rests with the three included straps. These are crafted to loop around up to a 37-inch-tall tire and lock down similar to a normal tie-down. Be sure to keep the canopy latching buckles located near the top of the tire. We also found there to be a bit of excess strap, so we used zip ties to keep the extra in place.
Once you have the straps secured to the tire, you can unroll the canopy. It simply buckles to the three provided straps.
The next step is to unfold the two poles and insert each one into the eyelets located in the rear corners of the canopy. Once you have the legs vertical, you can use the included tethers and stakes to make sure the canopy stays upright. This step is helpful with another person, but you can do it on your own once you get the hang of it.
The canopy is 10 feet long, which is enough to fit two adults and some gear underneath comfortably. It’s a very lightweight tent material, which has proven to be very durable so far.
One nice feature is the provided carrying bag, which allowed us to store everything in a neat, compact way. We found that it can also be latched to the spare tire, making it one less thing you have to haul inside of the vehicle.
Real World Testing
Wind is the biggest enemy of any awning. For anyone who has ever chased their tent or umbrella down the beach, you’ll understand the frustrations of setting up camp without any wind breaks. When using the Trail Shade on a more open plane, you have to be mindful of wind direction because it can get a little unruly. For tailgating and setting up in the woods, it works great. Overall, we dig the compact design and low price ($59.99 at time of print) and especially like having an easy way to gain a little shade without hauling anything overly heavy or cumbersome.