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MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning; In-Depth Review

Updated 10/23/20 / Read Time: 10 mins

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Meet MoonShade: A Universal Off-Road and On-Road Compact, Lightweight, and Portable Awning – Ready for Rain or Shine!

MoonShade is a portable vehicle awning from Moon Fabrications Incorporated, in San Francisco, California. MoonShade comes in a small package but is big on features. Whether you are looking to protect yourself from the harsh sun or extreme rain, this portable awning is definitely a great option to consider.

We got an introduction to the MoonShade a while back, and after that article dropped, we were anxious to get it out and see what it was all about. It has some pretty impressive features and specs, that few to no other awnings on the market have. Today, we’re going to cover everything that the MoonShade offers.

Construction, ease of setup, multiple mounting options for almost any vehicle, and the ability to use the awning off vehicle are just a few of the things that make MoonShade a great product.

Find it online: 

  • MoonFab’s MoonShade Portable Awning (Fits Any Vehicle): Check Price

Read on for the full scoop!

Construction & Design

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Having worked at a backpacking store for a few years while in college, and being sort of a “gear junkie”, I’m very familiar with quality outdoor equipment. When I unpacked the MoonShade awning for the first time, I could tell that it was good stuff, right away.

The body of the awning spans 7 feet by 9 feet. It is made of tough, 420 denier ripstop polyester. The top side has a UV 50+ rated coating to help protect against damage from the sun, and increase durability. The bottom side has a light-colored, reflective coating that aids with light reflection by night, and provides sun protection by day.

MoonShade includes:

  • Tension Poles (12mm diameter, 7001 aluminum alloy)
  • Support Poles (19mm diameter,  7001 aluminum alloy)
  • Strut Pole (19mm diameter,  7001 aluminum alloy)

7000 series alloys are a blend of aluminum, zinc and other trace elements. Of the 7000 series of alloys, 7001 alloy has the highest yield strength (the point at which a pole becomes permanently bent), while also being resistant to corrosion. The sections of the poles are connected by an elastic shock cord, which makes assembly and storage easy.

Two vertical support poles are height adjustable, and telescope from 78 to 96 inches.

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

The corners of the awning body have PVC-coated pockets, which securely hold the ball-shaped ends of the tension poles. The tension poles are attached to the awning body via a series of plastic clips, which contribute to very short setup time.

D-rings at each corner are used to connect to the awning to the included mounts, roof rack rails/crossbars, or any stationary object that is on or off your vehicle.

Guy Lines w/ Built-In Tensioners

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

5mm reflective polypropylene guy lines with built-in tensioners connect the awning to heavy-duty stakes, which have loops made of the same reflective polypropylene.

The loops make it easy to remove the stakes from the ground, and the reflective bits in the rope really shine when light hits them. No more tripping over guy lines and stakes in the dark!

“Lever Action” Suction Cups

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Four “lever action” suction cup mounts ship with the MoonShade.

When installed on clean, non-porous surfaces, the levers increase suction and holding power, while external tabs on the mounting surfaces make the mounts easy to remove when desired. Two of the mounts have Velcro straps, which allows them to be used with the strut pole.

All of the above weighs in at just under eight pounds and is stored in a zippered bag (also made from 420 denier ripstop polyester), that has a shoulder strap for carrying. The bag is only 28 inches long and six inches wide, which makes it very easy to stow inside your vehicle.

Features

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Unlike, traditional vehicle awnings, which are affixed to one side of the vehicle or the other, the MoonShade can easily be mounted on either side of the rear of a vehicle. In a scenario where the awning is used to provide shade in the morning, it can be swapped to the other side of the vehicle later in the day, as the direction of the sun changes. Doing so takes only a few minutes, and doesn’t require moving a vehicle like it would with a different awning that was mounted in a semi-permanent way.

The strut pole can be attached to the 7-foot side of the awning, and used to support that side when the awning is used off-vehicle, and attached to a single vertical object, like a tree or light pole.

At 84×108 inches, the MoonShadow awning is larger than the popular ARB awnings in 2000×2000 and 2000×2500 millimeter sizes (~79″x79″ and 79″x98″), yet the MoonShadow only weighs 8 pounds. In comparison, the ARB awnings weigh 25 and 35 pounds, respectively.

Attach a Light Inside the Awning

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

A plastic clip in the center of the awning provides a spot for mounting a light to the underside. The reflective coating helps spread the light, even with a low powered lantern.

Unique Dome Shape Prevents Water Pooling

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

In wet weather situations, the shape of the MoonShade’s canopy allows water to run off the sides, rather than pooling in spots, as can occur with flat awnings.

Setting up the MoonShade is Quick and Easy

After reviewing the included instructions, and a couple of practice sessions, I can assemble and install the MoodShade awning on my 4Runner by myself, in about 5 minutes.

Step 1. Unpack Bag

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Remove the awning body, poles, guy lines, stakes and suction cups or magnets from the storage bag.

Step 2. Unfold Awning

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Unfold the awning body, and lay it on the ground, with the reflective side down.

Step 3. Assemble Tension Poles

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Assemble the two tension poles by aligning the ends of each section, and letting the elastic shock cord do its work. Do the same for the two, larger diameter vertical support poles.

Step 4. Attach Tension Poles to the Body

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Lay the tension poles diagonally across the body of the awning, and insert the ends of the poles into the corner pockets. This will cause each of the poles to gently bow, and put tension on the awning body.

Then snap each of the plastic clips onto the tension poles above them.

Step 5. Affix Suction Cups or Magnets to Roof

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Affix the suction cups or magnets to the roof of the vehicle, with approximately seven feet between them.

Step 6. Lift Awning Up

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Lift the awning assembly up, and close to the side of the vehicle.

Attach it to the suction cups or magnet, using the D-rings that are under each corner of the awning.

Step 7. Insert Legs Into Awning Grommet

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Insert the silver end of each support pole into the metal grommet at the corner of the awning body.

The bottom of the support poles have rubber “feet”, and a spring-loaded button/telescoping action that can be used to adjust the height, as needed.

Step 8. Attach Guy Ropes/Lines

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Attach the guy lines to the same corners of the awning body that the support poles are installed in. The guy lines can be attached to the fabric loops or D-rings.

Step 9. Metal Stakes In Ground

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Insert metal tent stakes into the ground, at an angle and a few feet from the bottom of the support poles.

Loop the guy lines around the tent stakes and use the black plastic pieces on them to adjust the tension on the lines.

Step 10. Enjoy Your New Portable Awning!

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Mounting Options

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

The MoonShade awning includes a very nice set of suction cup mounts (more on performance testing of these in a later section). They also offer a number of generic, and vehicle specific alternatives:

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

You can set up the MoonShade with either the 7-foot or 9-foot side facing out, but I’ve found that mounting the awning with the 7-foot side facing out is a better fit on the 5th gen 4Runners, given the length of the roof.

Off-Vehicle Mounting for the Win!

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

You can set up the MoonShade without a vehicle – attach it to a chain-link fence, tree, light pole, etcetera.

This, and the fact that you can mount the awning on multiple vehicles, is what really sets the MoonShade apart from awnings that are hard mounted.

Have to park away from your camping or picnic spot, but still want some shade? No problem, just attach the strut bar to the 7-foot end of the MoonShade and attach that to a tree using an adjustable strap, bungee cord, or rope.

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

At a sporting event, and want some shade along the fence line?

MoonShade can do that too.

Simply clip the D-rings on the short or long side awning to a spot on the fence, and then use the support poles and guy lines on the opposite side as normal.

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Care & Maintenance

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Moon Fabrications recommends cleaning the MoonShade after each trip, or periodically/seasonally.

They suggest wiping everything down with a damp cloth and paying special attention to things like tree sap, bird droppings, fine dust, sand or salt/sea-spray from the ocean air.

The MoonShade should be allowed to dry completely before storing it in a cool, dry place. If the awning is put away wet or stored in a damp location, it may mildew and you definitely don’t want that.

Moon Fabrication’s Guarantee

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

From Moon Fabrications:

“We guarantee your MoonShade against materials and construction defects for the life of the product. For our purposes, the life of the product means the life of the ripstop polyester canvas material that the shade fabric is made out of. This, like any fabric, will eventually succumb to the effects of the elements, especially UV rays. How long it lasts depends on how much sun it’s exposed to, but we built it out of heavy UV-coated polyester so it will last a long time.

If anything breaks or falls apart before this fabric reaches the end of its serviceable life, we will repair or replace, at our option, the defective component(s), free of charge. Basically what this means is if the fabric is brittle and worn out, then it’s time to get a new one, but if anything else breaks before that happens, we will take care of it.”

Final Thoughts

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

As I mentioned earlier, mounting with the 7-foot side out seems to work best on 5th gen 4Runners, but some of the last of the above photos show the MoonShade set up with the 9-foot side facing out. It barely fits, with the rear-most mount having to be the suction cup on the spoiler, or the magnetic mount inward/forward, on the hatch.

Testing the Mount Strength

I was curious to know how many pounds of pressure it would take to pull off the MoodShade suction cup and magnetic mounts. Given the way that the magnetic mounts really pop onto a metal body panel, when held anywhere close to it, I was surprised at the results of my testing.

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Using a digital fish scale, and a very clean spot on the body of my 4Runner, I found that the suction cup mounts held consistently held 17-18 pounds of pulling pressure, before starting to slide (but not pop off). The magnetic mounts also held 17-18 pounds of pulling pressure, but slide quite a bit once they started to give way. Your results may vary, but both mounts should always be used on clean/dry surfaces to prevent damaging the paint underneath.

Given the fact that the suction cup mount can be used on almost any non-porous surface, and it doesn’t require as careful of an installation/removal as the magnetic mount does, the suction cup mount would be my choice in most situations.

MoonShade: Compact, Lightweight, Portable Awning - Full In-Depth Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Modifications

Something that I’d like to see is an option for shorter support poles, to allow for positioning the outward side down, for shade when the sun is low. I’m thinking about cutting the “foot” end of the support pole off, just below the highest of the existing adjustment holes, and then drilling new holes of the same size and spacing on the shortened section.

Doing so would allow me to adjust the telescoping support pole to positions where the awning is level, and below the level when mounted on my 4Runner. This would be the ticket for times when the sun is low in the sky and shining under the outward end of the awning.

Questions or Comments? Leave them below!

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Dave
Dave
October 23, 2020 2:14 pm

I am interested by your roof rack. It looks like new load bars for the factory installed rack. Can you provide any info on it?

Bobby
Bobby
October 23, 2020 12:34 pm

great job – would be cool to see other sizes added in the future too. I would love one off the tailgate. I am thinking a wide support beam so you could still attach and mount to something less than 7ft wide, like off the tail gate?

Jerry
Jerry
October 21, 2020 7:29 pm

Amazing write-up. I have a feeling it reflects all of this companies design goals.

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