What Do RV Slide Out Toppers Do?
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 and they are there to protect the top of the slide out from any debris and even water.
RV slide out toppers extend and retract with the slide which means they are pretty much maintenance free and for the most part you won’t have to worry about cleaning them when they’re installed.
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.
RV Slide Out Toppers Pros & Cons
Let’s start with a general list of the pros and cons of RV slide out toppers.
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.
Slide out awnings collect any 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.
Protects From Rain & Light Snow
RV slide out toppers are like little umbrellas for each slide.
Even though slide outs are made to be water tight 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 of all RV campers. Sometimes you just need to leave and 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 really big 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.
Helps Keep The Camper Cooler
While the topper is protecting the slide roof from UV rays it’s also absorbing the heat from the sun.
Because the sun will be hitting the awning fabric instead of the roof the heat isn’t going to 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.
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 tend to flap when it gets breezy and 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 start to slump in the middle.
This increases the 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 huge threat it can cause tears in the fabric and 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 properly clean the slide.
Awnings get moldy underneath very easily as well so you may need to clean under the topper every couple of years.
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 be able to handle lots of rain and the 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.
So now for the question of whether or not you should get slide out awnings 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.
RV park campers and snowbirds may also find slide out toppers useful since they are usually protected for the most part from high wind gusts.
They also help protect from the sun and keep campers cool which is a nice bonus.
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 anyways.
The wind can change direction and get very gusty out there and if you do have toppers you should be ready to retract the slide when things start to get a little wild.
If you do find yourself needing 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).
Things To Consider Before Getting A Slide Out Topper
Every camper with a slide out topper is probably going to run into windy weather a few times. When the wind gusts start to get above 30 mph you may need to put in your slide to protect the topper.
If your RV has a floorplan that will make being inside your RV with the slide in impossible you may want to skip getting a topper.
Slide out toppers are a pretty 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 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.
Ways To Protect Your Slide Out Topper From The Wind
Put Something Underneath
Probably the fastest way to help keep the flapping noise to a minimum and help keep your slide out toppers from being shredded is to put 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 bit of 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
Besides just putting the slide in 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.
Have any more questions about RV slide out toppers? Leave a comment below.