The idea of a car-attached awning is great: a portable structure with a (marketed) quick setup and (again, marketed) easy attachment to a range of vehicles. In a perfect world, you have shelter attached to a fixed object (your car), which typically folds down into a bag you can stash away until you’re at your next campsite. It’s an ideal way for campers, tailgaters and beachgoers to have shelter without needing a complete external structure.
Of the various options on the market, Moon’s MoonShade is one of the higher-end options, promising 9 feet by 7 feet of shaded coverage in a tight, 8-pound footprint that assembles in a matter of minutes for around $350. A quick glimpse of their site shows applications on a range of vehicles in a seemingly endless array of environments.
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As someone on the go in various environments, this seemed like a great option for hot, sunny days at the beach and respite for snowy mountain treks. (The operative word is “seemed,” as you’ll find out.)
I tried to write a MoonShade review but ultimately failed for the reasons outlined below. In this writer’s opinion, the Moon Shade isn’t worth it.
The MoonShade follows a typical, tent-style design with interlocking poles stretching across the footprint, anchored by included plastic suction points.
If you’re considering purchasing one: You’ll need to add $45 to the purchase price for magnet anchors. The included plastic suction cups are weak, floppy and don’t “anchor” anything. They pop off during assembly and create more frustration than they’re worth. Even with the help of a second person during setup, they don’t work.
The magnet anchors are better but don’t seem to stay put. Moon claims the MoonShade will “attach to almost any sturdy structure,” but that doesn’t seem to include a vehicle the size of my Mazda CX-5. Even with the added tension pole for connecting lengths under 7 feet, there’s not enough flexibility to get the structure up and stable. The magnets pop off much like the plastic anchors, which doesn’t work.
Setting Up the MoonShade
For a $350 structure, I’d expect better performance against the wind. I found myself constantly battling to get the MoonShade awning up. When I did have some success, I found the shade would pop up under a light breeze (even with anchoring at the guylines) and ultimately float up, taking everything with it. This could potentially cause the poles to scratch your vehicle. This didn’t happen to me, but other MoonShade reviews have reported it, so if your rig has a custom paint job, this is something to keep in mind.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a structure like this to stand temporarily unassisted on a concrete or asphalt surface while you tie it down (think stadium parking lot), so realistically you’d need a third person to handle tie-downs for the MoonShade to potentially work.
The Verdict: Should You Buy the MoonShade Portable Vehicle Awning?
You’ll probably guess I can’t recommend this product if you’ve read this far in my MoonShade review. It’s a great idea in theory, but for the everyday small SUV, it simply doesn’t work. It’s also quite pricey for what it is and the materials used, and you could probably find a less design-forward option at potentially half the price. You can tell it does a good job of reflecting shade once it’s up, but it’s just too annoying to get to that point.
I’m sure Sprinter owners and overland folks could get this to work with more frame length on their vehicles, but I’m too frustrated with the overall setup to try on another vehicle.
What Are Some MoonShade Alternatives?
After this experience, I’m hesitant to try another vehicle-dedicated awning, but there are some options.
1. Yakima SlimShady
The nice thing about Yakima’s awning is that it connects to a system that supports various attachments. If you have skis, kayaks etc. and need one system plus an awning, this is a viable (if expensive) option.
2. Kelty Waypoint Car Tarp
Probably the most affordable of the awning options. You’re not securing this into anything other than soft ground unless there are several other stationary objects within close proximity. For camping, this is potentially the best of the bunch.
3. Coleman Instant Canopy
After the debacle with the MoonShade, this writer will probably go with ol’ reliable here and bring a few extra ties to secure it to a wall or something, where appropriate.
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