Thursday, November 30, 2023


Are slide awnings a necessity or a waste of money?

We’re not sure what to do. Our first RV had them. We’ve had three RVs since, all without them. I’m talking about slide awnings or slide-out toppers. No matter what you call them, people have very definitive opinions concerning these covers.

Why now?

We’ve had our current fifth-wheel RV for two years so you might be wondering why this topic is just coming up. Here’s what happened: We were in Florida last year (2021) parked under a mahogany tree. (FYI, the fruit of a mahogany tree is a very large, rock-hard nut. Sometimes when a mahogany tree’s nut falls from the tree, the shell cracks and breaks upon impact.) Well, when we arrived home from Florida we traveled to Iowa. Upon opening the slides, you guessed it, broken mahogany seed pod pieces slid out. We’re not sure how we were able to successfully retract the slide and then extend it again without incident. But it certainly made us stop and think about awnings for our slide-outs.

What do other RVers say about slide awnings?

As with many things RV-related, there are as many opinions as there are RVers. Here are some pros and cons we’ve heard:

Pros for slide awnings

  • They protect gaskets and seals from damage.
  • Protect top of slide when leaves, nuts, seeds, etc., fall on the RV.
  • Protects from snow and ice.
  • Adds protection from rain.
  • Saves time and energy (you need not climb onto roof to clear slide top).
  • Keeps RV cooler by shading slide-out from sun.
  • Flies and other insects won’t get inside RV.
  • Eliminates debris from getting into slide top gaskets, binding up slide when retracted/extended.
  • Extends the life of the slide-out.
  • Provides a more “finished look” to the RV.

Cons for slide awnings

  • The shade flaps in the wind and makes a lot of noise inside.
  • A strong wind can pull the awning off—just another unnecessary cost.
  • Snow can stretch the awning fabric and it won’t look or retract as well.
  • A cordless leaf blower will clear the slider top for much less money and potential hassle.
  • Installation introduces more holes that have potential to leak.
  • Not all RVs are constructed with necessary structure to support them.

What do the “professionals” say?

One experienced salesperson told Hubby, “Save your money. An awning isn’t going to do anything to protect your slide-out.” Other salespeople strongly endorse the functionality, durability, and looks of the slide covers.

“If the awning wind noise causes you trouble, you can always bring in the slide. Or, put a beach ball under the awning to stop the flapping noise.” What? If we bring in our slide, we have difficulty moving around inside our rig. And wouldn’t a beach ball crammed between the slide top and the awning stretch the fabric?

“Take it from me,” another RV dealer advised. “Awnings eventually rip, rot, and ruin. You’ll be just fine without them.” Another employee from the same dealership happily boasted that the must-have awning slide covers came “standard from the factory.”

Still another salesperson passing by overheard our conversation and advised, “It all depends on where you camp. If you’re boondocking in the desert, it’s one thing. If you’re set up under trees in the forest, that’s totally different.” Hmmm … I’m still contemplating that advice. He walked off before I could ask, “What if we want to do both?”

Do you see why we’re confused on the slide-out awning question? What do you think?


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Jim Johnson (@guest_236360)
6 months ago

Old article linked into the current Tips newsletter… but I’ll add something to it.

In Europe I noticed the predominance of rigid slide toppers vs fabric awning slide toppers. The rigid toppers are hinged above the slide and secured against the exterior of the slide when retracted. As the slide is extended the rigid topper simply tips up on the unhinged edge to form a roof much as awning does for North American units. As I understand it, the European design is more durable and unlike an awning, doesn’t flap.

Neal Davis (@guest_167300)
1 year ago

Our first RV has them and our second (currently on order) will have them. I cannot imagine not having them to provide a layer of protection for the seals and catch debris that fall from overhead trees. Seems it should be easier to clear the slide topper of debris than the top of the slide.

One downside we experienced in very early spring last year was they froze and would not retract properly. So, we waited an hour past our planned departure before leaving. By then the sun coupled with the slightly higher temperature thawed them enough to roll up as designed.

Kenneth Fuller (@guest_166859)
1 year ago
  • One con listed can also be turned into a pro for slide awnings. “The shade flaps in the wind and makes a lot of noise inside.” This turns into a pro for me because in the middle of the night when woken by it, it usually lets me know it’s time to retract my awning!
BILLY Bob Thronton (@guest_166800)
1 year ago

Cleaning method upon retraction. Pack an appropriately long handled broom (soft bristle) or a nice step stool with good stabilty, and while darling wife is tapping the retraction switch, sweep the debris off that is trying to wind itself inside the spool. After a few attempts, you and your darling wife will work together like a well oiled machine on this task.

Joe G (@guest_168843)
1 year ago

The directions for my slide say to run it in and out without stopping. While your method is cute, I would say most should not try it.

Snayte (@guest_166721)
1 year ago

One of my three trailers have had a slide topper. I really wish it was the current one.

Goldie (@guest_166520)
1 year ago

Slide out toppers are standard on our coach, not sure I would want one without them although, thinking about it, I don’t think I have seen them on Newell or Prevost coaches. At any rate, I suspect you might benefit with them. Seems to me that if you checked your slide tops before retracting, you would have noticed the walnuts. If that’s not part of your departure checklist, then slide toppers would probably serve you well.

Bob p (@guest_166351)
1 year ago

Luckily our small TT slide is just aft of the emergency exit of the bedroom where I setup the step ladder in case we should ever need it. Before stowing the ladder I climb up and look on top of the slide, anything there can easily be pushed off with the broom.

Steve (@guest_166325)
1 year ago

Have had 2 fifth wheels had toppers on both. The first one was 11 years old toppers were still decent. I did wash them and spray them with 303. Would not camp without them.

Ron H. (@guest_166273)
1 year ago

Our Itasca motorhome has slide toppers and they do their job very well. At my advanced age, I don’t want to climb up on the roof with a broom or leaf blower to clean the slides before departing an RV park, especially on a cold rainy morning.

John Koenig (@guest_166270)
1 year ago

Strictly a personal choice. I have slide toppers. A friend chose NOT to get them. We’re both happy.

BILLY Bob Thronton (@guest_166802)
1 year ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Slide toppers are superior during a torrential downpour, because water surface tention is increased dramatically when roof slope is minimal. That will increase the possibilty of water building up against the movable rubber seal, before exiting the end lip.

The second, more functional feature IMHO is the debris is much less likely to find its way into the interior, by hopping a ride on the slide roof.

Jeff Mattingly (@guest_166239)
1 year ago

So long as you’re comfortable going up and down the ladder, and actually do so, to clear leaves etc then save your money.

David Lange (@guest_166216)
1 year ago

Love my slides. Never had a problem with them pooling, flapping or otherwise. Replaced the fabric on each 2 years ago, before they could tear…but they were 18 years old. Wouldn’t be without them.

Mike Whelan (@guest_166182)
1 year ago

They have saved us many a problem with sticks, pine cones, other forest debris and even snow from ruining our seals. Every now and then we did pull in our sliders due to wind until we found that a simple rope over the top on the length of the topper could be tied off to stop the flapping and potential wind damage. Our current coach has black which absorbs some heat. When they go I will replace them with a reflective white to keep things cooler.

Rod B (@guest_166159)
1 year ago

I wouldn”t be without slide toppers. At 80 yr old I CAN still climb a ladder but can”t think of a reason to do so if I don”t have to

Tom Ewing (@guest_166121)
1 year ago

My last 5th wheel had toppers. NEVER again! 1. Dealer installation was poor. 2. They would act like parachutes, catching sudden gusts and trying to flip the slide into the coach. 3. Wind caught one and bent the mounts and tube over the slide trim preventing the retraction of the slide.

BILLY Bob Thronton (@guest_166803)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Ewing

How did your awning fair?

Tommy Molnar (@guest_166117)
1 year ago

I cobbed up a PVC pipe thingie that I toss over the slide cover. It has a rope through it that I run under the slide and tie the two ends together – loosely. Just enough to keep the topper from flapping. Works like a charm.

Gerald Harris (@guest_167267)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Sounds like this ideal will work for us. Could you be so kind as to send us a picture of how you accomplish this? Thanks

Tommy Molnar (@guest_167278)
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerald Harris

I’d love to Gerald, but I’m not sure how to do that. Not sure if you want your email address out here (but who is going to see it anyway?), or if RVTravel allows that.

RV Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerald Harris

Gerald, if you’ll give me permission, I’ll email your address to Tommy Molnar, who will then send you a picture. I have your email address so you don’t need to send it to me. Thanks. Have a great day. 😀 -Diane

Vincee (@guest_166105)
1 year ago

Count me as a must-have slide toppers RV’er.

Gary (@guest_166075)
1 year ago

We have had one rig without and one with. We wouldn’t be without them anymore. They keep the top of the slide out clean and almost dry. It just makes my life a bit easier. It’s too hard to get up and blow the slides off every time you want to move.

Ron Sifford (@guest_166046)
1 year ago

Pay now or pay later.

Stan W. (@guest_166008)
1 year ago

Another couple of cons, you don’t have access to the top seal of the slide for maintenance. And when snow melts and it freezes you have the possibilites of ice jamming the awning up or getting hit in the head when falls off while bringing slide in. And getting a shower, from pooling water, when the wife brings the slide in while you are un hooking something or putting something away in a near by storage bin. Been there had all the above happen to me.

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