Kampa Cross Air Review – A Flexible and Lightweight Driveaway Awning
We get to grips with the Kampa Cross Air Driveaway Awning and find much to be impressed by…..
Why we like the Kampa Cross Air: Modular; Lightweight; Flexible; Quality Materials
On a gorgeous Spring weekend this year we were lucky enough to get our hands on the latest version of the Kampa Dometic Cross Air Driveaway Awning as well as its optional sleeping pod annexe. Together they make a very useable living space extension in conjunction with smallish campervans such as the VW California or Mercedes Marco Polo.
Sadly due to the Covid-19 lockdown we were not able to test the equipment at a bona fide campsite – however, we were still determined to fully scrutinize the performance in order to deliver a fair and thorough assessment. As such, we camped out in the garden for two (fairly frosty) nights in late February. I’m sure this will tell you that our dedication to the cause is immense! 🙂
Please note that we pride ourselves on our reviews being 100% independent – we have not been paid or influenced by Kampa Dometic at all in providing this evaluation of the Cross Air awning and sleeping pod.
Kampa Cross Air - Unpacking, Dimensions and Materials
It’s not often that all three of the Camping Secrets family – i.e. Ali (Mum and Chief Engineer), Loz (10 yr old Apprentice Project Manager) and Marc (me – Dad, Photographer and General Dogsbody) – get to work together on a full product review, but the sun was beating down and we were itching to spend some time outside for the unboxing and set-up of the Kampa Cross Air.
Because we had received both the driveaway awning itself and an additional sleeping pod extension annexe, we had two boxes to unpack.
The larger of the two boxes contained the awning (in a nice drawstring carry bag), a detachable groundsheet, a double-action (inflate/deflate) hand pump having a decent gauge, tent pegs, a repair kit and (poor) instructions.
The smaller box was similar and contained the optional annexe – this is a separate inflatable outer pod which zips neatly into one of the faces of the square-based awning. The box contained the annexe, an inner sleeping chamber, another carry case and instructions for zipping it in (pretty self explanatory in reality). In total
The Kampa Cross Air uses fabrics and materials which feel more substantial than the cheapest awnings on the market. The outer fabric is 68 denier which is highly weather resistant (in fact Kampa call it their ‘Weathershield’ technical fabric). As such, the whole packed awning (excluding the annexe) weighs a healthy 16kg which is perfectly liftable by a single person.
However it should be understood that thick material for an awning does not necessarily make it a better product – we rate our Outdoor Revolution Cayman Air highly partly because of its low weight and resultant small packing size.
That being said, the Cross Air packs down to a very respectable 76 x 35 x 35 cm which is actually smaller than the Cayman Air for the same size awning. When inflated, it measures a square 3m x 3m in ground area and with a maximum height of 240cm – I could barely reach the roof with my arms outstretched!
All driveaway awnings require some form of tunnel connection between the door of the campervan and the awning itself. With the Kampa, this is a secluded area measuring about 1m wide and about 2.1m tall. The awning is for ‘small campervans only’ – in practice this means between about 1.8 – 2.1m.
Connection of the awning to the van can be achieved via the following standard methods:
- Throw over guylines (useful if your van doesn’t have a gutter rail for an awning). Simply throw the guys over your van and secure in the ground on the other side.
- Velcro roof-bar tabs. Allows connection of your awning to a roof rack on your camper.
- Via a driveaway kit. This is a simple two-sided strip which is slightly longer than the campervan door width. It has a double duct which allows a bead on the awning to be drawn through and secured. This is our preferred method of securing awnings, but is unfortunately an extra expense.
It’s worth noting that the tunnel of the awning does contain a zipped door for gaining easy access to your van without having to walk through the awning living space itself. For vans with the vehicle door on the left hand curbside facing forward, the tunnel door is adjacent to the boot of your van. On our Marco Polo which has the van door on the right side, the tunnel door is at the front of the camper.
Watch our (Lighthearted) Unboxing and Setup Video
Inflation of the Cross Air was not quite as intuitive as we have come to expect from other awnings, mainly due to the valve system.
Unrolling and laying out the awning was intuitive and fairly easy to identify the tunnel section and front for orientation purposes.
The trouble started with the pump hose and specifically how to connect it to the valves on each of the two airbeams used on the Cross Air.
The pump hose arrives with two removeable attachments on the end (presumably so it can be used for other inflatable products), and finding the correct one for the awning valve and keeping it fixed in the valve while pumping was not straightforward.
That being said, once you work out how to attach the hose then pumping up the two airbeams was very quick – a matter of a couple of minutes.
The square layout of the Cross Air is great. Standing with the tunnel section behind you, the main windowed door of the awning is directly in front of you. To your left and right are side panels having windows with a very good proportion of excellent visibility transparent plastic. Each window comes with its own set of blinds/curtains which can be rolled up and toggled away in the daytime.
The layout of the Kampa Cross Air is very practical and ‘modular’ in design. What I mean by this is that all four ‘faces’ of the dome shape can be fully unzipped and removed to create a Gazebo-like structure – perfect for sunny days.
It should be noted that the panel zip only surrounds three quarters of each panel – the remaining quarter (the side closest to the ground) is ‘velcro’d to a storm flap connecting all four legs of the ‘gazebo’ together. Usually I’m not a big fan of velcro in tents (I prefer zips), but it works well in this situation, and at least the velcro runs the full width of the panel, unlike on the Cayman Air.
The ground sheet for the Cross Air can be fully removed from the awning, and this is lovely when in ‘gazebo-mode’. It’s a really pleasant sensation to feel grass underfoot, and I feel this feature sets the Kampa product apart from many other awnings.
It’s worth mentioning that even if you keep all the panels fitted in place, you can still allow alot of fresh air into the Cross Air by partially unzipping the window section of each panel whilst leaving the canvas ‘wall’ below. This means that pets or kids are kept safely inside but you can let maximum air in. Excellent thinking!
The main door to the awning is equally excellent, combining dual blinds and an insect net. If you wish to keep the entrance open, you can either unzip the door panel completely (as described above) or roll it up to one side and cinch it out of the way using some built-in loops and toggles. It works well, but be sure to tightly roll it up or it looks a bit unsightly.
The front entrance has a rain canopy above it which is a great feature. This is put in place by sliding a fibre glass bendy rod (supplied) through a duct in the canvas. It really helps streamline the look of the Cross Air as well providing shelter. We like!
In terms of securing the awning to the ground, Kampa have supplied four heavy duty plastic pegs and a large number of standard stainless steel tent pegs. These work well enough on grass, but it would have been nice to see a selection of proper rock pegs in the pack to enable the awning to be secured on hard pitches. However, these will need to be bought separately if that is the kind of camp site you find yourself at.
Kampa Cross Air Travel Pod - a really useful additional annexe
The travel pod sleeping annexe for the Cross Air is probably worth a separate review on its own, but it really turns the awning into a perfect hybrid of tent and campervan living space.
The annexe is like a mini airbeam awning on its own. It still requires the use of the pump in order to to inflate because it uses an airbeam hoop structure which holds the pod up.
Packed size is 54 x 24 x 24cm and weight is 4.6kg. It is therefore not much extra space in your campervan and is easy to manage.
When inflated, the pod simply zips into the space left by one of the main awning side panels being removed. After this, the whole annexe can be pegged out.
On the inside, you clip a separate inner tent section into the annexe. This is a really high quality section and I was impressed by the soft materials used by Kampa here.
Whether you could fit two adults comfortably in the space is up for debate, but it is perfect for a couple of kids who want some adventure time away from their parents. And then of course you can always fit another pod on the opposite side of the awning.
In Use and Overall Impressions
My daughter and I slept for two nights in the sleeping pod of the Cross Air. These were cold nights with frost on the ground and so we kept a small fan heater on through the night. With decent self inflating mattresses and three-season sleeping bags, we stayed warm throughout although it must be said that the Cross Air is not really designed for those sort of temperatures. It is definitely more of a spring/summer awning.
I was impressed with the materials and equipment on offer in the Cross Air. It is reasonably hefty in terms of weight but is not too bulky, straddling the line well between usability and unwieldiness. During a rain shower, it was clear that the outer layer is well waterproofed and the front canopy worked well to provide shelter – I can see this being a useful area to store boots etc.
I think the modular functionality with all four panels of the awning being removeable is an inspired design choice. It works exceptionally well and means you can transform the good-sized living area into an outdoor sun shade with full ventilation at the drop of a hat. In addition, I liked the fact that the large windows could also be unzipped to let in air. One thing I would say though is that the ‘glass’ of the windows on our Cross Air were quite creased – I would hope with time that these creases would drop out, but it is something to monitor.
Space in the awning is excellent, and suits a family of 3 or 4 really well. If you have a bigger family then you’re probably going to need a bigger space like the new Vango Galli Air 3.
Connection of the tunnel to your campervan is easy as shown in the photo below with a Mercedes Marco Polo.
Kampa Dometic Cross Air Driveaway Awning - Conclusions
The Kampa Cross Air awning is a great ‘in-between’ option for those who don’t want to pack and carry a 30kg monster awning like the Vango Galli, but still need something a little more substantial than the cheapest options on the market whilst maintaining packability and decent waterproof materials.
It looks good visually and aside from a few niggles with the pump hose not locking into the airbeam valve securely, worked flawlessly. I was a little concerned with the creased windows, but was assured that they would drop out with time, and to be honest even after 3 days it seemed like they were reducing in magnitude.
Overall, we highly recommend the Cross Air for 2-3 season camping adventures. For winter camping, you may want thicker fabric.
The Kampa Cross Air is an excellent 'middle ground' awning which is an excellent option for around the £500 mark. Quality of materials is towards the upper end of what can be achieved and we loved the modular side panel flexibility. With the option of sleeping pods and a gazebo layout, there really isn't anything the Cross Air Can't do. Highly recommended!