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RV Slide-Out Toppers: Essential or Overhyped? Find Out Here!

What Are RV Slide-Out Toppers/Awnings?

If you’ve been to an RV dealer lately or seen some newer campers, 5th-wheels, or travel trailers, you’ve probably noticed that there are small awnings installed above each slide out.

These RV slide out awnings are called slide out toppers. They are there to protect the top of the slide out from debris and water.

Related RV Product: Reseal RV windows and trim with the highly rated Geocel Pro Flex RV Sealant (click to view on Amazon)

RV slide out toppers extend and retract with the slide-out. Which means they set themselves up and you don’t have to do anything extra.

An annual cleaning is about all the maintenance they need, unless you get caught in a windstorm, but I’ll about that later on.

If you want to install some slide out toppers on your own camper, you can get a kit like this (click to view on Amazon) or have an RV dealer do it for you.

But before you install anything, let’s talk about some pros and cons that come with RV slide-out toppers, and answer the question, “are RV slide-out toppers really necessary?”

Key Takeaways

  • Slide-out toppers offer protection from debris, water, and UV rays.
  • They’re not essential but can be beneficial depending on your camping style.
  • Consider your camping environment, budget, and RV layout before investing.
  • Proper maintenance is crucial for longevity and effectiveness.
  • Wind protection measures may be necessary in certain conditions.

RV with multiple slide out toppers sitting in a campground
Slide out toppers on both slides on a Class A Motorhome.

RV Slide Out Toppers Pros

Keep Slide-Out Roof Clean

If you often camp around trees, you probably know the pain of having to climb up on the roof of your RV before putting the slide outs in to check if anything is in the way and to clean them off.

RV slide-out awnings are a shield from debris and automatically clean themselves off when being retracted.

It will save you time and also help with safety since you won’t have to climb onto the roof of your RV or trailer.

See Also: Best RV Awning Cleaners That Actually Work Reviewed

Protects From Rain & Light Snow

RV slide out toppers are like little umbrellas for each slide-out.

Even though slide outs are made to be weatherproof and are normally fine in rainy conditions, the topper can help keep everything dry which brings us to our next pro.

Keeps Inside Of RV Dry When Bringing In A Wet Slide-Out

Packing up camp and leaving during rain is a common practice for all RV campers. Sometimes you just need to leave. But putting in a wet slide-out will often get water inside your camper.

Slide awnings will collect most of the water and keep it outside when you retract it. If you live in a rainy climate, this is a huge pro.

Protects Against UV Rays

Slide out toppers not only keep the rain off, they also help protect all the seals and caulks on the roof of the slide from the damaging sun.

Keeping the seals and caulk in working condition is one of the most important parts of keeping an RV watertight and free from water damage.

If you live in your camper and have the slides popped out 24-7 a topper is a fantastic way to keep everything nice longer.

See our post on how to fix a leaky slide here.

Helps Keep The Camper Cool

While the topper is protecting the slide roof from UV rays, it’s also absorbing the heat from the sun.

Because the sun will hit the awning fabric instead of the roof, the heat will not be transferred into the RV as easily, which will keep it much cooler during the day.

This is more true for white slide out toppers when compared to black ones. White fabric reflects the sun and black fabric attracts it.

If you are trying to decide between black and white RV slide awning fabric, I recommend the white or lighter colored fabrics.

See Also: How To Easily Replace An RV AC With A Fan, Vent, or Skylight

rv awning extended on a travel trailer with no RV slide-out toppers
RV awnings and RV slide-out toppers require similar care and wind percautions.

RV Slide-Out Toppers Cons

Not Wind Proof

The wind is probably the biggest threat to any kind of RV awning and slide out toppers are no exception.

I’ve seen tons of ripped toppers while traveling through the southwest. It may be warm in Arizona and California during the winter months, but it’s also very windy.

If you are a boondocker like us and you spend a lot of time camping out in the wild where it can get gusty, slide out toppers may not be the best option for you.

That being said, it tends to be less windy in town RV parks and the wind may not be an issue if you mostly stay in large campgrounds and RV parks or areas with lots of trees that stop the wind.

They Flap In The Wind

Keeping with the wind theme, another downside to RV slide out awnings is they flap and make noise when it gets breezy. It can be really loud, especially at night.

This problem can be helped by tightening the topper or putting something underneath to create tension, but it’s something to think about.

The wind is already annoying enough when it shakes the trailer, adding some loud flapping noises can make trying to enjoy nature even harder.

Water Can Puddle On Top

A properly installed slide out topper is tight and angled to help water roll off.

But, even if your topper was installed correctly, it may loosen with age and slump in the middle.

This increases risk for wind tears, creates more flapping noises, and also causes water to puddle in the center when it rains.

While collecting water may not be a big threat, it can cause tears in the fabric. If left for long periods of time, it will definitely cause mold growth and damage the awning.

They Make It Hard To Clean The Slide-Out Roof

Even though the slide outs are protected from a lot of debris, some dirt and grim can still blow underneath the topper and make the roof dirty.

It can be a little difficult to clean off anything underneath the topper and it may have to be disconnected to clean properly.

Awnings get moldy underneath easily as well, so you may need to clean under the topper every couple of years.

See Also: Best RV Surge Protector & EMS For 30 Amp & 50 Amp

Are RV Slide-Out Toppers Really Necessary?

RV slide-outs are made to be out in the elements. They are watertight when properly cared for and they are supposed to handle lots of rain and sun.

So are RV slide out toppers necessary? No.

Are they a nice RV accessory that may be helpful for certain kinds of campers? Yes.

Should you get RV slide-out toppers for your RV?

I think it totally depends on where you camp and how often.

If you are a summer camper who mostly goes to campgrounds in heavily wooded areas with lots of trees around, a slide out topper is going to be really helpful.

Pine needles can collect after just a few days and they can be a pain to clean off.

See Also: How To Set Up At An RV Park Or Campground For Dummies

RV park campers and snowbirds may also find slide-out toppers useful in keeping their RV cooler and cleaner.

If you mostly stay in town, the wind shouldn’t be as much of an issue.

For boondockers who camp in large open areas where the wind blows 90% of the time, a slide out topper may not be the best choice.

In desert areas where most people spend the winter months, you shouldn’t have to worry about things collecting on the slide out because there’s not that much out there.

The wind can change direction and get very gusty out there. If you have toppers, be ready to retract the slide-out when things get wild.

If you need to clean off your RV slide outs a lot, a popular tool among full-time RVers is a battery powered leaf blower (click to view on Amazon).

slide out topper on a class a motorhome rv camper
Larger RVs like Class A motorhomes and 5th-wheels have slide out toppers.

Things To Consider Before Getting An RV Slide-Out Topper

RV Floor Plan

Every camper with a slide out topper is probably going to run into windy weather a few times. When the wind gusts get above 30 mph, put in the slide-outs to protect the toppers.

If your RV has a floor plan that will make being inside your RV with the slide in impossible, don’t get an RV slide-out topper.

Cost

Slide out toppers are a premium RV accessory and even the replacement fabric for them isn’t very budget friendly.

It can be worth it if you have to clean off your RV or trailer slides every time you want to pack up or if you have your slides open and exposed to the sun most of the year but for the average weekender, it might not be worth it.

RV dealers are always ready to install slide out toppers, but you can also do it yourself if you’re handy and know your way around the outside of a camper.

Slide-Out Size

Larger slide outs mean more awning fabric is needed to cover the whole thing.

It can also be difficult to maintain the proper tension on extra deep slide outs. Not keeping the right tension causes water to puddle and can increase wind noise and damage.

Awnings for small and shallow closet slides might be more useful than one for a super large super slide that will take a lot of material to cover.

See Also: Best RV Awning Fabric Replacement (Electric or Manual)

Ways To Protect an RV Slide-Out Topper From The Wind

Put Something Underneath

The fastest way to help keep the flapping noise to a minimum and help keep RV slide-out toppers from being shredded is putting something between the slide out roof and the awning.

One of the simplest and most popular ways to do this is with an inflatable beach ball (click to view on Amazon).

It seems too simple to work, but for some, just a little extra tension in medium winds is all it takes to stop the flapping.

A nicer, more custom option is to cut triangles out of foam that matches the roof and the awning slope perfectly to add the right amount of tension.

Note that the beach balls and foam pieces can fly away in the right amount of wind. I only suggest this method for medium amounts of wind and rain.

Strap It Down

One of the safer ways to protect a slide out topper from high winds is to strap it down like you would a standard RV awning.

You can use the Camco Awning Anchor Kit (click to view on Amazon) to strap down the awning so it’s sitting tightly against the roof of the slide.

This method usually works pretty well, but there’s always a risk for the anchors to come loose, and it may stretch out the awning fabric a little faster than normal.

The straps can also eat into the fabric as the wind moves it around. You can put a pool noodle in between or even a PVC pipe to help stop any cutting from friction.

RV Slide-Out Toppers FAQs

How long do RV slide-out toppers typically last?

With proper care and maintenance, RV slide-out toppers can last 5-10 years.

However, factors like frequency of use, exposure to harsh weather, and quality of the material can affect their lifespan.

Do slide-out toppers work in snow?

Slide-out toppers can handle light snow, but heavy accumulation should be removed to prevent damage.

They’re not designed to bear significant weight, so it’s important to clear off any snow buildup.

This can usually be done by retracting the slide-out so the snow falls off, then put it out again.

Can slide-out toppers be replaced without replacing the entire mechanism?

Yes, in most cases, the fabric of the slide out topper can be replaced without replacing the entire mechanism.

This can be a more cost-effective option if the hardware is still in good condition.

You can also replace the awning fabric on regular RV awnings as well.

Read more about replacing RV awning fabric in this post here.

Are there any alternatives to slide out toppers?

Yes, some alternatives include replacing the slide out roof with a better rubber roof (click to view on Amazon) or even a classic tarp can do the job in a pinch.

However, these may not offer all the benefits of a dedicated slide out topper.

How often should I clean my slide out toppers?

It’s recommended to clean your slide out toppers at least once a year. Do it more frequently if you camp in areas with a lot of risk for debris or pollen.

Regular cleaning helps prevent mold and mildew growth and extends the life of the topper.

Can I use my RV slide-outs in rainy weather without toppers?

Yes, RV slide outs are designed to be weather-resistant even without toppers.

However, toppers provide an extra layer of protection against water intrusion and can make retracting wet slides easier and cleaner.

Will slide out toppers interfere with my RV’s clearance or height?

Slide out toppers add minimal height to your RV, typically less than an inch when retracted.

However, it’s always a good idea to measure and account for this small increase, especially if you frequently encounter low clearance areas.

Can I use my awning or slide out topper in windy conditions?

It’s generally not recommended to keep awnings or slide out toppers extended in windy conditions.

Most manufacturers suggest retracting them when wind speeds exceed 20-25 mph to prevent damage.

Always check the guidelines for wind tolerance from the manufacturer of your RV slide-out toppers.

Related Posts

Leaky RV Slide-Out? How To Find & Fix Leaks In RV Slide-Outs – This article goes over the common causes of leaks in RV slide-outs, how to detect them, and step-by-step instructions for fixing and maintaining a watertight seal.

RV Owners Beware: Are Slide-Out Supports a Must Have? – This piece explores the necessity and potential drawbacks of using slide-out supports. It covers the risks of using supports, such as improper sealing and potential damage.

Best RV Awning Fabric Replacement (Electric or Manual) – This article reviews the best options for replacing RV awning fabric and includes recommendations based on different camping styles and needs.

Easy To Use RV Awning Cleaners That Remove & Prevent Mold – This guide is a handy resource for maintaining RV awnings. It provides an overview of effective RV awning cleaners, highlights their benefits, and even covers safety precautions necessary when using harsh chemicals.

How To Open A Manual RV Awning + Troubleshooting & Wind – A guide on how to open a tricky manual RV awning. We’ve also included some pro RVer tips and tricks on how to protect awnings from the wind.

Have any more questions about RV slide out toppers? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

4 thoughts on “RV Slide-Out Toppers: Essential or Overhyped? Find Out Here!”

  1. Thank you for this great article! I think you really reflected the pros and cons well and took into account the different types of campers that would benefit, or find headache, from the toppers. We do not have toppers on our current rig and based on this information, I think we will be better off getting a leaf blower instead!

    Reply
  2. Thank you for this information. Now I understand more about the toppers and why some have and some don’t have. My motivation for reading this is a persistent leak on one slide. Somehow water is getting inside the wall of the slide. It comes inside the RV at the wiring opening of wall sconce. I’ve used seal tape on the top of the slide yet it still leaks. Is it possible that the leak could be from the roof above the slide? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you again.

    Reply
    • Hi Bill,

      Slide-out leaks can be tricky. It sounds like the water is definitely getting into the wall, so it’s probably not the seal between the RV wall and slide out. I would check the sealant on the sides of the slide-out. It’s pretty easy for it to get cracked and worn from the slide going in and out.

      We had a slide-out leak in our travel trailer. Here’s an article we wrote on how we fixed it. Maybe there’s some info there that can help you out.

      Reply

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