While curtains work for houses, we think insulated window covers are better for campervans. They are lightproof (for shade & privacy) and insulated (to keep the van cool in summer, warm in winter).
We’re obsessed with functionality and these DIY insulated window covers fully answer that need! We inserted rare earth magnets all around the covers edges, so they just “snap” to the van metal window contour. Easy breezy!
The front windshield does’t have a metal contour, so magnets wouldn’t work. We’re using spring-loaded extendable curtain rods (http://amzn.to/2y6dqCZ) to keep the insulated window covers in place (see picture below).
And here are the Insulated Window Covers
Installed, looking from inside:
Installed, looking from outside:
1. Shade & Privacy
The insulated window covers are lightproof (well, except at some random spots on edges) so no light will come in, or out, of the van. We use them for sleeping, changing and when using the composting toilet.
2. Thermal Insulation (winter)
There is no FarOutRide without winter… we’re no snowbirds, so riding will happen all four seasons! Living in a van during winter (think Canadian winter) is no joke, so we must prepare the van accordingly. That means proper ventilation, air heater and thermal insulation. Insulating the van is elementary, but the windows are actually the weakest link! A LOT of heat is lost through the windows; we learned that on our first winter trip in the Chic-Chocs (where temperatures went down to -15F (-25C)) and during our first month on the road.
For thermal insulation, we used 2″ thick SM600L Thinsulate on all covers except for the front windshield we opted for 1″ thick AU4002-5 3M Thinsulate. Why 1″ instead of 2″? Because the front windshield cover is so big, it helps making it less heavy and bulky. In fact, if we had to start over, we would use 1″ thick Thinsulate all over our insulated window covers to make them lighter and easier to store when we’re not using them.
3. Thermal Insulation (summer)
Even with the van insulated and with proper ventilation, we could not keep the temperatures down to a comfortable level in the van. The windows MUST be covered to avoid the greenhouse effect! To do so, we used a layer of Low-e EZ-Cool to reflect the radiant heat. It really makes a HUGE difference when it’s sunny!
TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 80 hours, no joke! (they had to be sewed by hand because of the fabric thickness & multiple layers)
TOTAL COST : Approx. 500$ USD
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- 3M Thinsulate AU4002-5, 15 linear feet** (Buy from eBay)
- Low-e EZ-COOL, 100 sq. ft.** (Buy from Amazon)
- 3M 90 spray adhesive (Buy from Amazon)
- Rare Earth Magnets (Buy from Amazon)
- Spring-loaded extendable curtain rods (Buy from Amazon)
- Fabric with patterns to please your girlfriend (we sourced it from our local fabric store)
**Please make patterns (in cardboard or something) and check the quantity you need. At the time of writing these lines, we forgot exactly how much we used…
- A nice and loving mother in law!
HOW TO MAKE THE INSULATED WINDOW COVERS
No need to get into much details, but here is the important stuff:
- The layers are as follow: EZ-Cool/Thinsulate/Fabric
- 3M 90 Spray adhesive was used in between EZ-Cool & Thinsulate
- The rare earth magnets are POWERFUL …but not that much once they’re covered with fabric and they have to hold the weight of the cover. So make sure to use plenty of them all around (we used 9 round magnets per cover for the rear doors, 12 for the slider door, 3 for each driver/passenger door) and make sure not to use a thick fabric over the magnets (we wished we used a slightly thinner fabric, the black border you see on our insulated window covers is quite thick). Also, with time, the magnets have migrated slightly away from the van metal contour, making them even less effective. Bottom line is, the holding power is affected by the magnet dimension, quantity and accurate location; we didn’t quite find the perfect balance, it’s up to you to do better than us!
Each magnet is contained into a small pouch and this pouch is sewed onto the the Thinsulate (so the magnet stays where it should):
THE EASY WAY…
No sewing skills? Or maybe you don’t have 50-80 hours to spares? Or maybe you’re just looking for something that looks more “stealth”? Strawfoothandmade.com is making a bunch of cool hand-made products and they recently released insulated window covers for Ford Transit & Mercedes Sprinter (they are van people too!). Their insulated window covers are insulated with EZ-COOL (like ours), but without thinsulate. If you drop them a line, they can fabricate the covers with a “pocket” to insert thinsulate; the thinsulate can be removed during summer or for easier storage, neat! We haven’t personally tried them, but after some research we only found great reviews (see some reviews here: fordtransitusaforum.com and here: Sprinter Forum).
Here is where to find them: https://strawfoothandmade.com/collections/all
We only found about Strawfoothandmade after we made our own covers, but we would seriously consider them if we had to start over…
ON SECOND THOUGHT
- We love the fact that the insulated window covers can be installed on-the-fly with the rare earth magnets, but we would use more magnets (and make sure they don’t go away from the metal border) and a thinner fabric to retain the power from the magnets.
- The EZ-Cool is not exactly stealth… it might be a good idea to make the insulated window covers reversible: one side with EZ-Cool (to reflect the sun) and one side black (stealth = not to attract attention at night).
- We would use 1″ thick Thinsulate on all covers to reduce the weight and make them easier to store (we store them on the bed when we’re not using them).
- If you’re living with an Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity condition, get these insulated window covers NOW! Yep, it seems to EZ-COOL is an excellent signal blocker (similarly to metal). If you’re working from your van or if you like to Netflix-and-chill, you might want to get a cell phone signal booster; because once the covers are installed, we’re loosing about 2-3 bars of signal and we completely loose signal in weaker spots. We sometimes remove the covers to get better signal, but then it gets uncomfortably cold… So get a Monopoly game or get the WeBoost 4GX-RV signal booster! It’s not cheap, but again if you’re working remotely it might be a good investment. There are cheaper options out-there, but this is the most popular and best available:
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Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!