Installing Shade Sails for our Airstream to Keep Cool in the Desert

Shade Sail Airstream Install to keep cool in the desert
Creating Shade for our Airstream
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Updated May 19, 2020

If you’ve lived in, or even just visited Arizona, you know how important shade is. It can be a whopping 90 degrees outside, but if you have shade, it’s totally bearable. 

The low humidity and sunny days is one of the many reasons we wanted to move here. But if we’re going to make it through the summer in our RV, installing some sort of shade for the Airstream is essential.

After tons of research we decided to install shade sails. We didn’t want something that was permanent because we’ll be building our house in the near future, and when that’s complete, the Airstream will be moving to a different location on the property. We needed something sturdy, but not necessarily permanent.

We purchased two triangle shade sails that are 18’ on all sides. Lots of research led us to the decision to place our 6x6x12 pressure treated posts at a distance of 21’ apart.

With our limited tool supply, we called up our friends Bill and Yvonne from The Upside of Downsizing and they came out with their auger to help us dig the holes! What a time saver! We are so thankful they were able to come help us with that part. And if you want to watch their straw bale house build, check it out here!

After the holes were dug to our desired depth of 34", we set the posts in concrete with 3’’ screws angled 45 degrees upward for an additional surface for the concrete to bond around, and the posts were set at an angle of 5 degrees away from the center of the shade sails.

We made square forms out of 2x4's to build up the concrete around the posts, but we also angled them for optimal water runoff.

Concrete around 6x6 posts

Here in Arizona, we hear that the monsoon season is intense, so we are hoping that having this added concrete form at an angle will allow the water to run off and not pool at the base of the 6x6 posts.

With the concrete set, it was time to figure out where we wanted the shade sails to be mounted on the posts. We strung them up with ropes to get the placement we *thought* we needed. And sure enough, after they were up and secured, the angles just weren’t right.

Shade Sails for Airstream

The sun is blasting this side of the Airstream around 2:00 and we weren’t getting the shade we needed util around 5:00. Time to rethink this a bit.

You know what? Let's look at the bright side here. Even if this shade thing doesn't work out, at least I'll have the best clothes line around!

Shade Sails and Clothesline

Now, let's think about this a bit. I thought we needed to keep a certain distance from the top of our 6x6 posts, but turns out you can drill that 3/8” hole as close as you want to the top! So that’s what we did. We got the RV side of the shade sails up as high as we could, but our Airstream really needed to be closer to these posts.

We were loosing day light but the move needed to happen. As the sun was setting we all worked together to get the Airstream hooked up and moved over as close as possible.

With everything in place, we feel much better about the angle of the shade sails and the closer proximity of the Airstream. So far, we've definitely got more shade earlier in the afternoon and it helps so much!

Airstream with Shade Sails

Now the real test will be to see how the sails will hold up during monsoon season. Luckily, with a little effort, we can take them down if the winds get too intense.

This was our first big project on the property, and it got us super excited about building our house and other buildings we have planned. As with everything we do, there will be mistakes. We’re learning as we go and we hope that our mistakes will help others that are wanting to do something similar.

And best of all, building this dream with our kids by our side is really what it’s all about. They get to see us mess up, but they also get to see us come up with a solution to fix it! Team work makes the dream work. On to the next project!

Triangle shade sails shading vintage Airstream.
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Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of Tiny Shiny Home. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

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Posted May 19, 2020


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