Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van Conversion: Installation and Real-World Data

Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van Conversion: Installation and Real-World Data

Here is our guide on insulating a van with 3M Thinsulate. The Thinsulate insulation, the EZ-Cool insulation, the insulated window covers, the Webasto AirTop 2000 STC air heater and the Maxxair Fan are the key elements to make our campervan conversion comfortable during cold winter days and during hot summer days. We’re happy to report that after living for more than a year full time in the van, the Thinsulate insulation is keeping us nice and warm at temperature down to -15F (-25C) and is keeping the moisture away even when drying our skiing gear! Perfect!


Thought we’d bring that to your attention 😉


Get it now on the Amazon Store or eBay Store.

(there is no mention of “sale” on Amazon or eBay, but the price shown is actually 16% less than the regular price)


How does our insulation performs? Please read “On Second Thought” at the bottom of this page! We have a thorough discussion about that 🙂

You might also be interested in these articles as they’re very related:




16 hours



900$ USD



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  • 3M Thinsulate (SM600L) Insulation, 70 linear feet (Buy on Amazon)
    • Note that we have the High-Roof, Extended-Length; you might need less than 70 linear feet if insulating a smaller van!
  • 3M 90 spray adhesive, QTY = 4 (Buy on Amazon, it should be around $10-$15 per can)



  • A good pair of scissor

Installing the Insulation in our Van


  1. The floor thermal insulation is covered in our Floor Installation post. So let’s focus on the van walls and ceiling here.
  2. Our thermal insulation is comprised of Thinsulate and Low-E EZ-Cool. The Thinsulate installation is covered in this post while the Low-E EZ-Cool installation will be covered in Part II (wait for it…). 


As much as the decision to go with Thinsulate was difficult, the installation was an easy task:

  1. cut thinsulate to size (using kitchen scissors)
  2. apply 3M 90 spray adhesive to the van wall & on the white face of the thinsulate
  3. wait 30-60 seconds for the adhesive to become tacky
  4. press the thinsulate against the wall
  5. That’s all!
Insulation for Camper Van Thinsulate
Cutting Thinsulate (Buy on Amazon) to size




There is about 1.5″ gap between the van ceiling & overhead storage, that’s perfect to insert some insulation in there. We did not use adhesive since the gap is about the same as the Thinsulate thickness.

No need to completely remove the overhead storage; we slightly lowered it a few inches to fit the Thinsulate as follows:


First, we removed both foam pieces on each side of the overhead storage

We used vise-grip and raw power to remove the pins (they were not damaged in the process and we were able to reuse them)



Foam pieces removed



Then, we removed the four screws (total) under the left-side and right-side handles



Next, we unsnapped the three pins in the center of the overhead storage

To unsnap them, the overhead storage must be pushed forward. This is quite tricky, keep calm! Some people have damaged them in the process, but they can be glued back in place later…



BAM! (third one not shown in picture)


It is now possible to lower the overhead storage a few inches and install the Thinsulate

We used tree pieces of insulation to fill the gap: one on the left-hand side, one on the right-hand side and one in the center.

Insulation Camper Van above Headliner Thinsulate
Sliding-in the large Thinsulate center-piece


Sliding-in the insulation right-piece (left not shown…)


Reinstall the fasteners and VOILÀ!




The challenge with the ceiling is to work against gravity. However it proved to be fairly easy for 2 people. We won’t go in details here, because there is not much to say…

Insulation Camper Van Thinsulate Cargo
Admiring the work in progress!

We left the Thinsulate as shown in the picture above for several months and we did not loose a piece. The 3M 90 spray adhesive is doing a great job!




Large cutout were filled with insulation.

Applying the 3M 90 spray adhesive


We also filled the van cavities where possible.

Sliding the Thinsulate in


It’s in!



The plastic panel must first be removed.

The panel is fastened with several push pins. They are fairly easy to remove with a flat screwdriver, or you can do it with a push pin pliers.


Pulling the tab will “unlock” the push pin


Since the sliding door is exposed to exterior elements, there is a plastic sheet to protect the door mechanism. The plastic sheet can be removed simply by pulling it; the goo should remained glued to it for later re-assembly.

Sliding Door Plastic Sheet


Thinsulate was then placed in the cutouts.



Insulation Camper Van Thinsulate Slider Door
… after


Then just reinstall the plastic sheet and the plastic panel.



Thinsulate Insulation Camper Van Ford Transit
We’re done with the Thinsulate!


EDIT: “We’re done with the Thinsulate”. Euh, no we’re not! We also added some under the passenger seat base (after installing the Webasto Air Heater) and to the driver and passenger doors (while upgrading the factory speakers).



We could go on forever about R values, thermal bridge, etc, but here are the real questions:

Q: How does our insulation solution (Thinsulate, EZ-Cool and Insulated Window Covers) perform in real life?

A: It’s GREAT! It does what it’s suppose to: keep us warm in winter, keep us cool in summer.

Q: If we had to start over, would we go the same route again?

A: Yes!


Now, here is a more thorough discussion:


1- On a very hot and sunny day, the Magnetic Grey sheet metal of our Ford Transit is burning hot. The Thinsulate is warm-hot, but the wood paneling is warm-cool. It shows that Thinsulate alone is fine, but the finished van (thinsulate+ez-cool+wood paneling) is even better! (It might be wise to choose a van with light color if you are living in a hot and sunny region)

2- If the van is left in the sun without the insulated window covers, the temperature will increase beyond our comfort level (ventilation or not); if the window covers are installed, we can keep the van within our comfort level (with the help of the Maxxair fan).



On any cold day, it’s possible to keep the van to our comfort level (66-68F / 18-20C) when running the Webasto heater. Below -18°C (0F), inside temperature starts to lower; for example at -30°C (-22F) the maximum inside temperature is 15°C (58F) which is actually not that bad considering how cold it is outside!

But what if we turn off the Webasto heater? Does our insulation solution will maintain the ambient temperature for a while? The answer is YES, if the insulated window covers are installed (if the window covers are removed, the temperature drop much faster AND it gets uncomfortable near the windows). In fact, we took the habit of turning the heater off when going to bed to turn it back on when we wake up (or use the MultiControl timer to automatically turn it on 30 minutes before we wake up). The temperature drop during the night, of course, will vary a lot with the outside temperature:

-Outside temperature of 50F (10C) in the evening dropping down to 28F (-2C) in the morning: the temperature inside the van will go from about 68F (20C) in the evening and will drop down to about 50-53F (10-12C) in the morning. (remember, we turned off the Webasto heater when going to bed)

-Below what outside temperature do we need to leave the Webasto heater running all night? We still don’t know, wait for it! We spent a week at -10F/-15F (-20 to -27C) last year in the Chic-Chocs (, but we didn’t have insulated window covers at that time and our insulation was about halfway done (no ez-cool), so we cannot draw real conclusions from that trip.



We can conclude that insulating a van is not only about Thinsulate, or spray foam; it’s about the combination of different items. In our case: Thinsulate, Ez-Cool, Wood Paneling and Insulated Window Covers.


About thermal bridge:

This photo was taken during the conversion without ez-cool installed; it means all the frames inside the van had no insulation on them:


It was a cold and damp morning (37F) and we were heating the van with the Webasto heater (55F). Note that there was condensation everywhere outside (on the van, on the ground, etc).

We observe that condensation remains where Thinsulate is installed, but this condensation is “evaporated” at the frame locations where there is no Thinsulate. This is because the frames are forming a thermal bridge for the heat to be conducted from the inside to the outside of the vehicle, thus providing enough heat for the water to evaporate. In other words, there is heat loss where there is no condensation.

We also observed inside the van that the Thinsulate is warm to the touch, while the adjacent “bare” metal frames are cold to to the touch. The Thinsulate is doing it’s job, the bare metal form a thermal bridge.

To minimize the thermal bridges, we will apply Low-E EZ-Cool to the “bare” frames (the wood finish will helps as well). The EZ-Cool is a closed-cell foam sandwiched between two aluminum sheets.



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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!




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73 thoughts on “Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van Conversion: Installation and Real-World Data”

  1. My wife and I are working on our own van conversion and love your website. We purchased Thinsulate for the main insulation but I was on the fence about adding the EZ-Cool or not. Based on your results ya’ll posted “To minimize the thermal bridges, we will apply Low-E EZ-Cool to the “bare” frames (the wood finish will helps as well). The EZ-Cool is a closed-cell foam sandwiched between two aluminum sheets.” Do you have any post installation of the EZ-cool results to compare to the pictures showing the condensation you took before you installed the Ez-cool?

  2. Hi Guys,

    Excellent work with the website! Its helped tremendously with my ford transit build!!

    Quick question, If you could start over with the insulation, would you have applied EZ cool to all of the bare metal surfaces in the back of the van & then applied the 3M insulate on top of that?

    Please let me know your thoughts on this!!! I should be doing insulation on my transit within the next few week.Would love to get your opinion on this!

  3. Removing those foam pieces between cab and back! WOW! I got frightened trying to do so because it seemed that the airbags were underneath the foam. Is that so?

    • Yes there are airbags, but they’re behind the headliner not directly under the foam pieces. I don’t think removing the foam pieces will make the airbags deploy 🙂


  4. Hi there! We are trying to decide whether or not to insulate our Promaster front doors as well…did you two? We’re worried about impeding the “down” window position space, but if we aren’t insulating everything inside the door because of avoiding that space, is it even worth it?

    Can’t wait to hear!

    Bailey and Jake

    • Hey!
      The window should be in an enclosed space; I don’t think you can prevent it from opening, no worries. We insulated our doors when we upgraded the speakers (; we’re not sure how big of a difference it makes, but if you have time and extra Thinsulate why not? If you don’t plan on using the van for skiing or such, it might not be worth it.


  5. Resalut à vous deux,

    Petite question au sujet de l’isolation.

    Antoine tu disais dans ton post “climat control” qu’il n’avait pas de solution miracle quand vient le temps de parler d’isolation et qu’il était difficile d’avoir un bon équilibre entre bien isoler et évacuer l’humidité pour éviter la corrosion au point de contact du véhicule.

    Tu ajoutais aussi que l’idée est d’empêcher l’humidité de pénétrer dans les matériaux isolants et que par contre, de cette manière, le matériau isolant est pris en sandwich entre deux pare-vapeur. Au final, si l’humidité pénètre il n’ya pas d’évacuation de cette humidité.

    Dans ton post “On second tought” tu réaffirmes que vous avez fait le bon choix en retenant la combinaison Thinsulate et EZ-cool.

    Maintenant, si j’ajoute à cela la question suivante: Comme l’humidité pénétrera d’une facon ou d’une autre, as tu pensé à un moyen pour contrôler (dans le sens de vérifier) la présence d’humidité entre la partie isolante et le métal du véhicule? Si oui, de quelle façon? Si oui (ou non), est-ce que votre choix de combinaison d’isolation permet à de l’humidité de s’accumuler entre la partie isolante et le métal du véhicule?

    Merci à l’avance 🙂

    • On pourrait toujours enlever quelques planches et se glisser la main entre le métal et le Thinsulate, mais on l’a pas encore fait.
      Le Thinsulate est hydrophobique, c’est-à-dire qu’il ne retient pas l’eau. C’est entre autre ce qui fait du Thinsulate un bon matériel pour l’isolation, à mon avis.

      Voilà bonne journée! 🙂

  6. Hello! Great site you guys. This is very helpful to us beginners! 😉 Thanks!
    I saw a gentleman the used Grace Bituthene 3000 as sound reducer and insulation in his van.
    Do you think that will help?

    • At first glance, it says it’s not made for temps above 130F and a dark van will go above that (directly on the sheet metal). Also I would be concerned about off-gazing (not sure but this should be checked). But I honestly think it’s not necessary; Thinsulate is a very good noise insulator, so keep it simple! Also, keep in mind the windows and the roof fan are the weakest link; noise will still get in through those.

      Good luck!

  7. I’m curious why you placed the white fluff towards the walls and the black backing towards the inside. Wouldn’t it be easier to install and more “fluffy” if the flat back where against the flat of the van wall? Do you know of any downsides to doing it this way?

  8. Salut,
    Je me demandais si vous aviez considéré utiliser de l’urethane giclée pour l’isolation? si oui, pourquoi avez vous utilisé le Thinsulate à la place?? il me semble que le facteur R de l’urethane giclée est plus élevé? De plus, elle couvre partout et scelle airmétiquement..? pouvez vous m’éclairer?? Merci beaucoup!!!
    votre van et votre site sont malade! bravo 🙂

    Martin Proteau

    • C’est vrai que l’urethane a un R plus élevé. Mais il faut l’appliquer en minces couches sinon la tôle risque de se déformer et d’onduler en permanence. De plus, ce n’est pas vraiment possible de l’appliquer partout; il y’a beaucoup de “raccoins”.

      Mais nous avons vu plus d’avantage avec le Thinsulate:
      – Vraiment très simple à installer
      – Pas permanent (si jamais on voudrait faire des modifs ou en cas de réparation suite à un accident)
      – Nous avons eu une fuite avec le toît; puisque le Thinsulate a laissé passé l’eau nous avons pu nous en rendre compte avant que ça fasse des dégâts; si il y’avait eu l’uréthane, l’eau serait probablement restée là et corrodé à long terme.¸
      – Enfin, nous avons passé du temps à -25C et nous étions capable de garder la van à 18-20C à l’intérieur alors ça fait ses preuves 🙂

      Ceci étant dit, les 2 choix sont bons, à vous de choisir 🙂
      Bonne chance!

  9. Can’t tell by your photo”s did you put the black ugly foam pieces back on the front cab by the over head storage? If not what did you use to cover the area?
    Love your blog btw

  10. Great site, thanks for all the info. Looks like there’s no info on how you insulated the rear doors, particularly above the windows. Were you able to get thinsulate in there somehow? I’m actually contemplating just cutting a big hole and then trying to figure a way to cap it nicely.


    • Hey Donnie,
      We haven’t insulated the rear doors. We close our mosquito screens (full-closure mode) and that helps a bit.
      Even if you manage to fit some thinsulate in there, there is so much exposed metal it won’t do much unless you cover that metal. Some people just install an insulated curtain between the doors and the living space…

      Good luck!

  11. Great write up here! Thanks for all the info. Do you know if vapor barrier’s are recommend with Thinsulate? Or are they not necessary because of the Thinsulate advantages?

    • There is no consensus on that unfortunately… some people install one, some not. We installed ez-cool but not everywhere, so the thinsulate can breathe.


  12. Hi Antoine and Isabelle! Are you happy with the level of sound dampening/deadening from Thinsulate alone in the walls and celing? I want the van as quiet as possible on the road and am trying to determine if I should use a dynamat type product on some panels, wheel wells, etc in addition to Thinsulate. Did I read on the ford transit forum that you installed a dynamat type product and were unhappy with the results?

    Thanks for all the work you have shared.


    • If we had to start over, we would discard the MLV and dynamat. We feel the Thinsulate alone is enough, but we haven’t test with/without so it’s just a guess. And the finishing panels + all the furniture helps absorb the sound too.

      Have a good one!

  13. Hello… When you used the 3M adhesive, did you spray just one coat on the van and thinsulate or 3 coats as the manufacturer recommended… would you describe the coating as light, medium, or heavy? Thanks!

  14. Hey there
    We are likely going to purchase a van tomorrow. Your build and website has been a great template for me to do further research off off. Thank you so so much! I am in awe and inspired but how awesome your van is and agree with a lot of your build aspects.

    We are probably going to go with thinsulate, via your recommendation. I know you bought 70 linear feet, does that translate to 50X60 off amazon? (Math… I’ll get better.)
    A quick question before we go for it though… I’m wondering what your thoughts are on wool insulation from a source like Black Mountain Sheep Wool ( ) I like the idea of it and a friend of mine (also an engineer) did a van conversion and insulated with it. My worry is, it settling when we drive as well as wool’s ability to absorb moisture. If we went the rout of wool we would probably do a vapor barrier on the roof but not the walls as well as leave a small gap at the top of the walls to add more once it starts to settle. R value is similar, and I like the idea of using natural products in a small living space (verses spray foam, even though the r-value is high).
    Would love to have your opinion if you have time.

    • Hi and congratulations for the van!!

      70 linear feet is 50’x60″ AND 20’x60″ of Thinsulate (

      We haven’t considered Sheep Wool for our build, so we don’t have much info about it. We know Thinsulate is fire retardant, doesn’t degrade with vibration, is hydrophobic, etc… is that the case for sheep wool? We don’t like being guinea pig, so we would go for Thinsulate again… insulation is the base and we can’t even imagine how it would suck having to do it again! Just our thoughts!

      Good luck with the build!!

  15. Thank you for the write up. I am currently torn between Thinsulate and Max R Polyiso for my insulation. The thinsulate is a 5.2R for 1.65 inches while Polyiso is 6 R for 1 inch, from the specs, the polyiso is the clear winner

    But from your personal experience you say that you are able to keep cool during the summer and war during the winter? How cool is the car during the summer? Do you think the hear loss/heat gain is faster then what you would want? Just want to make an informed decision before buying the materials. What do you think about the Polyiso boards?

    • Hi Gene,
      “How cool” and “heat gain/loss” is really hard to define… our real-world observations are in our monthly trip report (fifth-month on the road). At this point, you have to look at all the pro/cons of each insulation type (here are a few types: and make a decision based on that. If you’re only looking at R values, polyiso make more sense. But Thinsulate is a really good noise insulation, is easy to work with, is pretty easy to remove (for repair or whatever) and if you you get a leaking roof (check out our sixth month article in a few days…) water won’t get trapped and remain there forever (rust).

      Bottom word: Thinsulate might not be the highest R value, but if we had to start over we would choose Thinsulate again!

      Good luck with your decision!!

  16. Loving your blog – so many great tips!! I had not heard of plus nuts, for instance, and they seem like they’ll be a big help. I have one question about the thinsulate though . . . You mentioned in your insulation pros/cons article that one reason to go with thinsulate is that it’s removable . . . But you glued it on, according to this. Do you still consider it “removable”? Did you glue just around the edges or something?


    • Hi James!

      What we means is that it’s not permanent and it’s much easier to remove than spray foam, let’s say there is a body repair to perform (for example). It’s glued on all its surface, so removing it would probably damage it; I don’t know if it could be re-used, maybe?

      Hope that clarifies things!


  17. Interesting. I’m only just scratching the surface on insulation and it’s issues. Have you looked at vapour barriers like membrane that moisture out from the insulation under certain conditions?

    • Like goretex? I haven’t seen anything like that for automotive application, and I guess it would come with a HIGH price tag. And material like goretex has to be maintained to keep it’s breathing properties (washed and treated periodically).

      If you find anything let me know!

  18. Hey guys awesome site! My question is, how do you know you aren’t getting that condensation on the inside of your metal walls, underneath the insulation?

    • Some condensation is almost inevitable at very cold temperatures, especially in cold areas in the van (windows, floor level, “garage” under the bed, etc). That’s why we don’t think a vapor barrier is a good idea: moisture will find it’s way and won’t be able to dry with a vapor barrier.
      Also, vans are not totally waterproof (many owners report small leaks on the FordTransitUsa Forum) and are designed with drain path for water evacuation. Another reason not to use a vapor barrier…

  19. Did you guys put any thought into getting the version of the van with full wrap-around windows? I think there are options for privacy glass. Were you considered about privacy or the ability to insulate?


    • It’s a no-go for us, since we use the van in winter (like -25°C sometimes). Even with insulated windows covers, I think thermal loss would be too much.
      Also, when were in the van, it’s probably because we want some privacy. We’ll go outside to see the world around us.
      Finally, window = no space for storage.

      That’s is! It totally depends on your needs though.


  20. Help me think through this. It seems that in a poorly insulated van the metal will be cold and therefore not experience condensation on the exterior. A moderately insulated van (yours, for instance) will raise the temperature of the metal and result in condensation on the outside. Only a very well insulated van could prevent the heat from the interior of the van from warming up the exterior metal. Some condensation on the exterior seems like a fact of life unless you insulate your van as though it is a Yeti cooler. Am I correct?

    • First to clarify, i am not trying to fight the condensation on the exterior. It will happen and that’s fine (however, obviously, I don’t want condensation inside). I was just using that phenomenon to “demonstrate” the thermal exchange. In the particular case (“second thought” section), humidity was very high outside so there was condensation everywhere (not just on the van). At places where we have not insulated yet, the heat from our heated van was transferring to the outside sheet metal, evaporating the water from the surface.

      So you are right, condensation on the outside is a fact of life. Where I disagree is that a POORLY insulated van (and heated inside) will have LESS condensation on the outside. Because heat loss = evaporation.

      I hope that make sense!

    • Hey Piper, we did not have to, the van is already primed and painted from factory 😛

      Are you thinking rustproofing? We primed, painted & clearcoated EVERY trimmed metal (fan cutout, screw holes, etc) to prevent rust.
      Then, the Thinsulate was installed directly over the factory paint. Any rustproofing (that i know of) would prevent thinsulate from being glued to the van.

      What did you have in mind?

      • Antoine,

        What products did you use for priming, painting and clear-coating?

        I’m ready to put my floor in, but my transit is not as shiny-new as yours. There cargo area is pretty scratched up, though there’s not much rust yet.

        I apologize in advance if you’ve already discussed this in another part of your site, I couldn’t find it.

        • Hi Gabriel,
          We just went to a car part shop and bought the primer/paint/topcoat there. Your color code should be in the driver’s door. I recommend to buy spray bottle, then spray into a small plastic jar the amount you need. Your spray bottle will last a while (when you’re finished, turned the spray bottle upside down and spray to clear the straw so it doesn’t clog).

          The cheap all-in-one touch-up pen doesn’t work.

          Good luck!

  21. We are working on insulating the overhead panel today. Can you tell me what size bit you used for the 4 overhead panel screws? It doesn’t seem to be a common size. Thanks!

  22. Great info as we wondering how to get in there.

    On a different note, checking to find out if anybody has any of the black J shaped clips (approximately 1″ long) from the back of the black wall panels that they may no longer need. Lost a bunch into the walls when we took apart the walls and ford only sells them as part of the panel.

  23. As always a well-written post with a lot of information. Just the way I like it!
    I have to face the insulation question soon too, but still have some doubts about Thinsulate. Things are less critical for me as my van will be a ‘warm weather van’, with an occasional cold weather trip. As you likely know, Thinsulate has only a moderate R-value and after your little experiment (“the Thinsulate is warm to the touch”), I wonder if Poly-Iso might be a netter choice, not withstanding the ease of installing the Thinsulate in small places. I recently also noticed how hot the (inside) sheet metal can be and will use a piece of Poly-Iso to do the same experiment.
    Enjoy yourselves!

    Van Williams

    • As you know, there is no perfect design! Everything involves choices and compromises to answer constraints and specific needs 🙂

      Let us know how your experiments turns out!

      • I’m still working on my Murphy bed and several other items, but before I install the bed, I will do the (wiring and) insulation.
        I have pretty much decided to use the Poly-Iso in combination with a second material, such as Thinsulate or Blue Denim. Poly-Iso is clearly a proven material, with high R-values and low cost. Thinsulate is expensive, less effective and highly promoted by one person on well-known forums. Poly-Iso is more difficult to install inside the walls; the gaps are also an issue, but the addition of a second material may alleviate that.
        I am still left with one issue: condensation from the windows (I have all-around windows) will flow along the outer skin downwards and I have to find the best solution to keep it away from the insulation and create a way for it to evaporate or leave the vehicle (p.e. through new weeping holes).

        Van Williams

  24. Thank you so much for your detailed conversion notes, especially the close in photos of strange parts and how to deal with them and all the materials you are using! It’s my dream to do a similar Transit van conversion, though mine will be several years in the future. Please say that your website will still be up at that point!

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