The new SheltaPod is designed to give campers more versatility in staying protected from the elements. Part awning and part dome tent, the multipurpose pod extends protection off the side of a camper van, putting fabric between campers and the sky above and wind around. It also works as a fully enclosed overnight shelter and, with its large windows and integrated retraction system, offers a great view of the wide open spaces outside.

There are already a wide variety of awnings and vehicle-mounted tents available on the market, but SheltaPod designer Julie Ritson believes there's room for something a little different. The SheltaPod debuts as more of a casual awning/tent than the heavy-duty offerings of the off-road/overland market and a more flexible alternative to existing camper van awnings, such as Vango's AirAway awnings.

The SheltaPod rides to camp in a bag, an 18.3-lb, 39 x 9 x 7.5-in (8.3-kg, 100 x 23 x 19-cm) package, and attaches to the side of the vehicle upon arrival. It's designed with camper vans in mind, but can also work with other styles of vehicle and comes with several options for attachment. In about 10 to 15 minutes a single person can set the whole thing up. A wall-less awning provides a roof just outside the vehicle door, and the attached half-dome shelter provides fuller coverage, a place to dine or relax out of the wind, sun and precipitation.

Possibly the coolest feature of the SheltaPod is its retractable design. Using rollable fabric and a hoop-pole mechanism similar to the one we saw last year on the Mollusc tent, the half-dome shelter's fabric retracts into several configurations, going from fully closed, to partially open, to a fully open entry arch – four configurations altogether, as shown above.

"I bought my first camper van four years ago and wanted an awning that was easy to set up singlehanded, that didn't block the views from inside the van and gave me some extra storage space," explains Ritson. "I just needed some shelter outside the van where I could cook, eat and store stuff. It also had to go up and come down quickly if I was only staying for one or two nights. I couldn't find what I was looking for so I bought a sewing machine and made my own."

The SheltaPod's half dome could serve as an open overnight shelter – roof and walls surrounding campers – but many a camper would prefer fuller protection from critters, insects and weather. That's why the SheltaPod includes an attachable polyester inner tent, which includes a mesh window and door and a tub floor, relying on the half-dome awning as a rain fly. A waterproof outer door panel zips closed to provide wind/water protection on front of the tent, where the half-dome canopy is open. Clip-in curtains can be secured over the large half-dome windows to keep the light out. The tent sleeps a family of four.

Since campers may want to leave camp without completely packing up the awning and tent, the SheltaPod can also be quickly detached from the vehicle. The awning roof panel removes and secures to the main poles via Velcro, and extra support guy lines keep the structure steady in the absence of the anchor vehicle. In this way, the SheltaPod can also be used as a freestanding tent.

The SheltaPod has gone through several stages of prototyping, and Ritson is ready to release it to the world. She has launched a Kickstarter campaign with hopes of getting production up and running by October. Contributors will find the SheltaPod, including the inner tent, at pledge levels of £225 (approx. US$295) and up. If all goes as planned, deliveries will begin in March. The project is close to a quarter of the way to its £80K goal, with 20 days left to go.

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