What is Better – Shower Awnings vs Ensuite Tents?


Have you got a shower awning attached to your 4WD?

You might be better off with an ensuite tent!

In this post I will look at some of the pros and cons of shower awnings vs ensuite tents, diving into my own experience with the two and what I liked about each one.

I hope to shine a light on key differences between shower awnings vs ensuite tents, not to tell people what to use as everyone’s situation is different, but to help those that haven’t tried both to make a more educated decision.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I got rid of my shower awning as part of my 4WD build and instead purchased an ensuite tent. So my leanings in the post will probably reflect this but all it means is that an ensuite tent was more suited to my needs, not that shower awnings are bad.

I have laid out here all the reasons I think one is better or worse than the other, but if you think of something I have overlooked then feel free to leave a comment so it can be added to the shower awnings vs ensuite tents debate.

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What is the difference between a shower awning and an ensuite tent?

Before I get into the shower awnings vs ensuite tents debate I’ll very briefly explain what they are.

A shower awning is permanently mounted to your car or canopy’s roof rack system. It is the same as an ensuite tent in a lot of ways, but it is fixed to the side of the car.

An ensuite tent is more like, you guessed it, a tent. What I mean by that is that you set it up when needed and pack it up afterwards, it goes inside the car and can be moved around with more ease

What is the same between a shower awning and an ensuite tent?


Both ensuite tents and shower awnings will provide privacy for showering or using your portable toilet in camp. I use the Thetford Porta Potti 365 (Amazon / Tentworld eBay link) in camp as some site require you to be fully self sufficient.

Both shower awnings and ensuite tents will generally provide an array of pockets, shower hose routing clips, mesh windows, toilet roll holders, towel holders and splash guards to protect your change of clothes or towel from getting wet.

So they’re very similar, but also there are some key differences which need to be explained, so that you can buy the right thing for your needs.

There are also different qualities of products, different price points and they both come in a variety of sizes. Most commonly these will be either singles or doubles, but some larger models are available as well.

This post will be linking to some example shower awnings and ensuite tents, all will be in the $140-170 range and all have approximately the same weight of about 6kgs.

Ensuite tents can be set up away from the car and left in place.

Shower Awnings vs Ensuite Tents


Shower awnings vs ensuite tents is a matter of preference and preferred travel style. It all comes down to what you value and prioritise higher than the other. The reason both exist on the market is because there is no real winner in the shower awnings vs ensuite tents debate, just different horses for different courses.

However in saying that, I think there is an option that is better than the other in most instances, which I will discuss down in the smmary.

Before we get to that, let’s have a quick look at some key points in the shower awnings vs ensuite tents discussion so that you can buy once and buy right.

Shower Awnings


I will start with a brief rundown of the shower awnings you might come across here in Australia.

I am not going to list every brand on the market, nor will I go through double sized awnings. The 4WD accessory market has exploded the past few years and it’s impossible to cover every option available.

I will link a few options below, these are some of the more common models you might want to look at that are readily available and all come in at roughly the $150 mark. Sometimes slightly higher or lower depending on sales.

These are the entry level shower awnings with a good low competitive price.

The Dune, XTM and Kings shower awnings are easily found in store which increases their market saturation because they’re easy to get through Anaconda, BCF or 4WD supacentre stores respectively.

I originally purchased the Dune shower awning from Anaconda as a nicely featured shower awning without breaking the bank or adding too much weight to the car.

It had a slightly longer set up than the others but to me looked like better quality and more featured. However never pay full price for this, get it around the $150 mark as a member.

On top of that are brands such as Darche (Tentworld eBay), Bushwakka (Outback Equipment), Campboss (Outback Equipment) and plenty of others which offer shower awnings of around double the price.

Personally, I’d start with a lower cost option especially if you’re unsure of what you want.

What Are the Shower Awning Advantages?


There are advantages to getting a shower awning over an ensuite tent. Here are the main ones that spring to mind for me when I am thinking about shower awnings vs ensuite tents.

Quick setup

One of the best things about these shower awnings is the quick setup time. Some of them as low as 10 seconds to set up (claimed).

As they are fixed to the car permanently, they use the advantage of having the prefixed height and gravity to be able to deploy in seconds. Of course some take longer than others and it all depends on whether you attach the roof or floor mats and other things, but either way it’s impressive.

See the below video for an example of how simple the setup process can be. However do note how simple the awning itself is as well with only 7 seconds of work (simple is not always bad though).

Never forget

As it’s attached to the car, you won’t ever forget to pack it. It would suck to go on a long trip, only to get to your destination and realise you didn’t pack the ensuite tent! But this won’t happen with a shower awning unless you unbolt it in between trips.

Wind resistance

As the shower awning is bolted to the roof rack, it isn’t going to get blown over by a strong wind.

The wind could be very strong and you don’t risk losing the shower awning, however it can be damaged in strong winds and possibly flip into your car but this is not something that is likely to happen.

All shower awnings will have pockets for toiletries, but they differ in quality and number.



Now that we’ve listed some of the better things, here are some of the let downs for the shower awnings


Blocks doors

The biggest negative for me with shower awnings is that they will always be blocking something (unless mounted along the back of a canopy with no rear door).

It will either be blocking a canopy door or a car door. Meaning that if you want to leave it out to dry after showering it is a massive pain in the arse, reducing your amount of entry points into your ideal camp setup by one.

This for me was the main reason I got rid of mine and opted for the ensuite tent instead.


Wind resistance

You will be paying for the shower awning to a certain degree ever km that you travel with it on the car. The amount is not really calculable without great effort, but it does add wind resistance to the car which means a tiny increase in fuel consumption.


Car clearance

Not an issue if you have another awning, but if this is your only awning then it does mean your car sits higher, making it more annoying to get into garages etc.

Very rare case when someone won’t have another awning though already on the car before they get a shower awning.


Can’t drive anywhere

You can’t leave this setup at camp while you drive away, unless it’s attached to a jack-off canopy, but then that’s just more effort again if that was the whole reason for you removing the canpoy so that you could leave this setup but still explore the area.

My original choice was the Dune 4WD shower awning.

Ensuite Tents


Again I will give a brief look at what is the most common on the market here.

In order to keep the list short I am listing those ensuite tents at around the $140 mark that come with sturdy poles, roof tarps and are single sized.

There are ofcourse doubles available from all of these brands and more, expect to pay an extra $80 or so and for it to weigh rougly 2kg extra. Not too bad for the extra size but I myself just stuck with a single.

There are also  pop-up designs which are cheaper and more flimsy.

Brands like Coleman, OzTrail, Wanderer and Spinifex have selections for every different style of ensuite tent. As with the shower awnings though, there are 50+ choices here and I don’t have time to list them all.

The main ensuite tent brands that you will find in Australia are those that are found in stores like Snowy’s, Tentworld, BCF and Anaconda.

The most common models of decent quality single ensuite tents are:

There are also those from Darche, Joolca, Smarttek, CAOS and more. A quick Google search will show plenty of results.

I personally bought the Coleman Single Instant Up Ensuite Tent after being very impressed with what it was like after looking at it in store at Tentworld.

For such a low price the quality is fantastic and it has every feature I could possibly need, except one (I’d like to be able to zip off the floor for drying).

Here are some of the main advantages for ensuite tents.

A look at the Coleman Ensuite Instant Up range.

Change cars


You can share this with others, or swap between different cars with ease. Unlike an awning which is fixed to the car and requires another car to have suitable roof racks as well as a number of bolts to remove and change.

Weight & Fuel Savings

Not using it throughout the week? Remove it.

No point lugging around the weight.

It is also cheaper to drive around with this as it goes inside the car, there is no added wind resistance to the car itself when driving. This can add up over time.

Leave set up


Got a camp spot for multiple days? No worries, just leave this set up and pegged in.

You can drive off throughout the day, come back and your toilet/shower is still there ready to go. This more than negates the initial setup time in my eyes because you make that time back by leaving it set up.

The convenience is huge. Having the toilet ready to go in the morning, the shower ready in the evening. The longer you stay somewhere the more beneficial it becomes.



Separate to the above point about being able to change cars, you can also set this up away from your car. It isn’t attached to the car.

You can have a shower 3 metres away and not have water pooling at the door of your car or canopy. You can move it to flat ground even if you can’t park on flat ground, or you can put it up on a hill so the water drains.

The point is, you have freedom to erect this wherever you want and move it if you’re not happy without moving the whole car.

Splash guards help keep your personal items and towels dry in good ensuite tents.



Of course there are some cons to the ensuite tent, you can probably guess what they are already based on the pros of the shower awnings but I will list them here regardless.


Longer setup

It does take longer to set up. But this is actually not that big a difference when you compare apples to apples with a shower awning that needs pegging and a roof to be installed.

When compared to a quick roofless shower awning that you just want to pop out and have a quick rinse in though, there’s no competition. Shower awnings can ca done in 10 seconds in there most basic for, whereas my ensuite tent would take me about 1 minute (maybe a bit faster) in its most basic form.


Takes up room

It takes up packing space in the car, this is the biggest con for most people I think.


Can be missed

This has never happened to me, but in theory it could be forgotten when packing for a trip.

Ensuite tents can be set up with full access still available to the car.



As you can see there are pros and cons to both shower awnings and ensuite tents.

For me though, the ensuite tent has a lot more pros than cons and is the better choice for more people. I have had both and am definitely happy I got rid of the shower awning.

Another benefit that I have noticed is that the access to my roof rack, namely my Maxtrax Mk IIs (Amazon/eBay choice page) has got a lot better since I no longer need to awkwardly reach and lift over the shower awning.

Why I made the switch


When would I ever need to have a shower ready in 7 seconds?

As a matter of fact, I don’t even need a shower awning or an ensuite tent to shower in (as a guy) because I can simply wash in my underwear and it doesn’t bother me not being blocked from view.

I  much prefer being able to leave an ensuite tent set up for multiple days, having the toilet ready to go whenever it is needed, being able to drive away and leave it set up.

I  like being able to set it up away from the car, to be able to open every door of the car and canopy, not have puddles forming at the base of the car, to be able to move the entire thing at a whim.

Then at the end of the day it gets removed from the car for easy cleaning as needed.

To me it’s a clear win to the ensuite tent because the shower awning doesn’t solve any problems for me, it just creates more.

But what do you think? Do shower awnings work better for you and why?




Love B-town.

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