An RV slide topper is now recommended by all RV owners. When I got my first RV, they were not coming as standard. But it seems that all modern RVs now come with at least one slide topper. But why should you even care about these slide toppers yourself?
Also known as slide-out awnings, slide toppers can be easily installed or replaced. When I was looking for RV slide out awning reviews, there were a few interesting suggestions. However, the Lippert RV Solera Awning was my first choice. When it first arrived in its cardboard tube, I wasn’t sure the task ahead would be easy for me. However, installing it only took a couple of hours without help from professionals as the directions it came with were clear.
Available in sizes from 5.5 to 16 feet, the awning looks impressive once installed. It comes with black fabric and black hardware which gives it a modern edge. It works well for contrast with the white RV. The way it works is easy to understand. It is permanently attached to the sliding unit and it extends or retracts together with the slide out. The mounting hardware was included in the pack, with the exception of the awning rail. At first, I wasn’t even sure that I made the right choice with the purchase. But my first trip outdoors with heavy rain made me see the real value in protecting the seals of the slideout.
What to Look for in an RV Slide Topper?
For those seeking to get their first RV slide topper, a few basic characteristics should be on the checklist. They include the anti-billowing mechanism and the materials. Once you know what to look for, the choice becomes much easier.
So while not all slide toppers are the same, I wasn’t sure how the slide topper would actually work while traveling. I’ve seen multiple RV owners trying different improvisations but at the end of the day, they were only improvisations. One of the features I like the most about the Solera slide topper is that it comes with an anti-billow device. The device prevents the opening of the slider while driving, making it a small but crucial safety piece.
Along the lines of safety and protection, the weather shield of the slide topper is crucially important. There are many ways in which your topper can actually be damaged in time. Changing weather conditions, rain, the sun’s UV lights, and leaves can damage the fabric of the topper.
In many cases, you might only be thinking about this while traveling but in reality, the weather shield is great for your stationary RV as well. Since you might even leave the RV outdoors under rain, snow or UV lights, the shield can protect the fabric and make it last longer. In the end, this is about saving money you would potentially spend down the line for a replacement slide topper fabric.
There are various sizes to consider. For example, the Solera slide topper comes with sizes from 5.5 to 16 feet. But how do you even determine the size you need for your own RV? People are often confused about the measurement from flange to flange or box measurements plus the recommended extra inches. Your first need to measure the slide-out box width. Then you add the 2-1/2in extra width to determine the size of the awning fabric you need. It is often recommended to check the sizing of a slide topper as the same product is most likely available in various sizes.
Ease of Installation
Installing the RV slide stopper should not be too complicated. Good directions are often recommended for most products. So makes sure you ask for the user’s manual which should come with the product. The entire process should take up to two hours if you decide to install it yourself without asking a professional.
For the first step, you will need to install the awning rail. You will then need to prepare the fabric for installation. In order to do this, you can place it next to the slide box on two chairs to prevent damage to the fabric. You will then mark the mounting brackets position and the hole locations. Using a drill, you can pre-drill the holes for the mounting brackets.
You can then proceed to install the left end of the roller tube, as shown in the instructions manual. For the next step, you will need to un-roll up to 10 inches of fabric, at the same level as the rail. Standing on a chair can be a good way to do this. You can then proceed to guide the slide topper fabric into the awning rail, ensuring you keep it level to avoid any damages. After this step, you will calk the pre-drilled holes and the back of the supporting bracket. Before placing the right end of the roller tube, you can also install the anti-billowing mechanism if your slide topper comes with such a feature.
The materials of the slide topper are the first to show damage in time. While other problems can arise, such as rusted screws or lose end roller tubes, the fabric needs to be protected. The best way to ensure it does a great job is simply by purchasing a solution which is made for durability. It is here that you need to choose a solution which is easy to clean. The good news about the Solera fabric is that its black monochrome design makes it less prone to signs of dirt than all white alternatives. Reflective characteristics can also prove crucial, especially when the slide topper is opened in direct sunlight.
There is an ongoing discussion on the best slide topper color to consider. Most products are available on black or white and they represent great pluses from each perspective. For example, the black slide topper is easier to maintain. It will not be as prone to signs of dirt as its alternatives. On the other hand, it draws heat during the summer. It is here that a white topper is recommended for its reflective qualities which limit the heat drawn from sunlight. But the compromise is often with maintenance as you will need to clean it more often.
Are RV Slide Toppers Worth It?
All this hassle seems to be a lot of work. I had the same thoughts when actually looking for my first slide topper. But apart from keeping your slide out boxes in good shape, a slide topper is actually a good practice which can teach you more about how to take care of your RV.
One of the biggest advantages of a slide topper is that it keeps all elements such as leaves, snow, and water off your slide-out box. It reduces possible maintenance costs in the future as a result. Water damage can be one of the biggest issues when it comes to slide-out RV boxes and the slide topper solves this problem.
Another major advantage of the slide topper is that it protects the seals of the slide-out box. Water can be a major enemy in this area and many RV owners who spent too much on the maintenance of the slide-out boxes know the issue too well.
Another important benefit to a slide topper is that it requires no action once installed. There are no buttons to click and no materials to pull. Whenever you extend the slide-out box, the slide topper extends automatically with it.
So if your RV doesn’t come with a slide topper, it might be worth investing in such a solution if you want to avoid spending more money in the end on maintenance. While there are other maintenance costs you can control for your RV, this is one of the most expensive ones. It is due to the fact that a slide topper is much cheaper to purchase and install than it is to replace the seals of the slide-out or water damage to the floor.
How Hard is It to Install a Slide Topper on an RV?
Installing a slide topper on an RV is not complicated and it only takes about two hours as seen above. However, it is important to take all the precautions you need before installing it yourself. The first precaution you need to take is to simply disconnect the battery or the power source of any electrical devices which might be near to the slide topper’s installation position. You also need to wear protective gear such as safety goggles. At the same time, if the slide topper is too heavy for you to hold and install at the same time, it can be indicated to have a friend give you a helping hand. This will ensure you are fully capable to focus on the quality of the installation without the risk of accidents.
How to Measure for an RV Slide Topper?
The side of most slide-out boxes is where you find flanges. They protect your RV from debris going inside when the slide it open. You will need to correctly measure the distance flange to flange. The correct measure for the slide topper includes a few extra inches on each side of the slide topper. The extended length of the slide-out box is important as well. In many cases, it is just under 48 inches. These measurements are easy to make. A standard measuring tape is all you need.
How to Replace RV Slide Topper Awning Fabric?
Replacing the slide topper fabric is not complicated either. You can do this yourself with a small ladder and a measuring tape. You will need the measuring tape to get the exact size of the slide topper which is crucial when it comes to making the right purchase. Once on the ladder, you will need to measure the distance between the left and cap and the right end cup of the slide topper. You will then measure the distance from the outside wall of the slide-out box to the outside wall of the RV. This gives you a clear size with length and width so that you can order the right size slide topper fabric.
Tips for Maintaining Your RV Slide Toppers
To have a sharp looking slide topper, you need to ensure its fabric is clean. When the fabric is made from vinyl, you can use a soft brush and warm water with soap to clean it from time to time. For acrylic fabrics, you can use a stiff brush and warm water with soap.
Natural soap goes a long way. Even if it is more expensive than detergent, it will not damage the fabrics in time. Another good tip to consider is to simply allow the fabric to dry out naturally, similarly to how you leave it dry after a rainy day. Using heat to dry the fabric could damage it immediately.
What is an RV Slide Topper Anyway?
An RV slide topper protects the slide-out or slide-outs of your RV. They keep water and leaves out of the RV and the protect the seals of the slide out from water or UV damage. They do not have an immediate benefit but rather a long-term benefit as they can save you money for maintenance when you do not use a topper to protect the slide-out.
The best RV slide topper or the best motorhome awning is often a simple solution which can be truly effective for maintenance purposes. Available in different sizes and different colors, it is installed permanently and directly on your RV. It requires minimum maintenance with cleaning but in return, it protects the slide-outs of the RV.
I often found that if you were to purchase accessories for your RV, it’s worth investing in quality solutions. It is why the best RV slide toppers are the ones which are durable and which will not need replacing in the near future. They also need to be easy to install as this can be an indication on the level of research the manufacturer has put into the final product.