Enjoy The Beach
  |  First Published: August 2009

With spring well under way the beach is hard to resist for a crack at the fish or just the ambience of the sand, sun and surf.

Funny thing though, a lot of times we just don't seem to be able to coordinate the best of our activities with some decent shade in which to have a feed, fix up tackle or have bit of a break from the hard yakka of pulling in fish.

Enter the ARB awning.

The awning can be fixed to virtually any type of roof rack fitted to a 4WD or other similar high-profile vehicle. The value of the unit cannot be overstated, as it provides very effective shade and can be set up and out away in around 20 seconds. And it comes in several sizes, one of which has been designed to fit the rear of a 4WD to shade the tailgate area.

The concept of a side rear vehicle shade unit is not new but I believe the ARB package is slimmer, more compact, more user-friendly and stronger all round than others I have tested over the years. Once you have attached it to the side of your roof rack (there are ample attachments to cater for a wide range of racks) the slim sock holding the awning remains zipped closed and tucked up against the rack until it's required.

In this review we’ll look at the largest unit, which is 2.5m long and 2.1m wide. It is ideally suited to most 4WD vehicles.


To set up the shade awning, first unzip it from the sock and then unroll it outwards away from the car. There is an outer alloy channel to grab hold of to aid the set up.

As the awning extends you will see another alloy channel within the sock, and it's from within this channel that a pair of outward extending braces will pivot. Their role is simple: they effectively brace the unit on each side to keep it rigidly away from the vehicle. To do so they lock into a special fitting at the end of the awning's outer channel section (upon full extension) which also contains a couple of legs set up ready for use.

After the awning has been fully extended outwards, unclip the pair of legs from their place in the outer channel, ready to swing down onto the ground. A small spike section will set each leg in its chosen position.

Each of these legs remains locked into the same fitting as the end of the horizontal braces. This means that once the awning is extended, the strong bracing all round will keep it in perfect shape.

Once the horizontal brace is set into the outer fitting, allow each leg to extend down to a selected height. You can lock them into place by giving each a twist to activate a cam–lock device, which takes the place of the conventional finger screw we see on most tent poles. A stay rope on each corner, and peg, will maintain the shade's position in the event of windy weather.

To put the unit away after use, you just reverse the procedure. It's almost as quick as the set-up, hampered only by the need to roll the shade evenly onto the alloy channel on its outer edge. The zippered sock is a tight fit, but securing the awning is achievable so long as you roll it up evenly. I got it right on my second try, but I am admittedly fairly uncoordinated!

For around $356 the awning represents excellent value for money, as it’s a top quality item. There is nothing flimsy about it and it will remain right there, on the car, at all times out of the way but ready to use when required.


Recovery straps (snatch straps) are as much a part of beach driving as a small shovel and strong board to set a jack on.

You don’t use them? Well, one day you will see why I recommend them!

Recovery straps are very important for beach runs, even if they do tend to sit in the back of a 4WD year in, year out, without being used. Still, if and when a vehicle becomes really bogged that strap will to earn its keep.

The operation of a recovery strap is simple. It is constructed with sufficient stretch to slingshot a bogged vehicle out of trouble, in effect acting like a big rubber band. All you need is a hard pull from the front or back. Most times, unless a car is absolutely hopelessly bogged, the strap will do its job.

Of course, there are good recovery straps and not so good recovery straps. The ARB strap is purpose-designed with a carefully doubled up end to make it fit most tow hooks on today's vehicles. The strap is very strong and comes with a 4.75T shackle for the heaviest use possible.

The ARB strap retails for $98 and will provide a lot of peace of mind for beach anglers once it is tucked into a ready-use position in the vehicle.

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