Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van – Install & Data

Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van – Install & Data

After two winters spent full time skiing from the van (faroutride.com/winter-vanlife), we can definitely say that using Thinsulate insulation was a GREAT decision. It has kept us warm (down to -25F!), and it is still in great condition after that time (no mold, no bugs, still holding in place). We think Thinsulate is the best van insulation option:

The current page is about the installation process of the Thinsulate. To build your knowledge about vanlife insulation and what's best for you, we highly recommend reading this article first:

Vanlife Insulation Guide

Make an educated decision

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait-FarOutRide-Isabelle-Antoine-Van

Time Spent

0 HOURS

Total Cost

$ 0 USD

Prerequisite

Material

ItemDescriptionQuantityLink
Thinsulate InsulationSM600L 40’x 60″ + 30’x60″ TheSwivelShop
Spray Adhesive3M 904 cansAmazon

Tools

ItemDescriptionQuantityLink
Scissors A good pair of tailor scissors will make it easy!1 Amazon

How Much Thinsulate Should You buy?

Thinsulate comes in 60 inches wide rolls. It's up to you to determine what length (feet) you need! So take a measuring tape and find out the surface area you need to cover. To make things easier, we came up with the "Thinsulate Calculator" just below; hope that helps!

Thinsulate Calculator

Arrow-down-left

Cargo Surface

Don't own a van yet? We listed the dimensions for the Transit, Sprinter, Promaster, & Nissan here: Van Selection

Dimension (in)
Cargo Length
Cargo Height
Cargo Width
Cargo Surface (sq.ft.)*

*Cargo Surface = passenger wall (including the sliding door opening, which will be subtracted next in "Remove Surface"), driver wall, & ceiling.

Remove Surface

As required
Height (in) Width (in)
Remove Surface (sq.ft.)

Add Surface

As required
Height (in) Width (in)
Add Surface (sq.ft.)

Result

Includes: passenger & driver walls, ceiling, and all your custom ADD/REMOVE.
Surface (sq. ft.)
Cargo

Remove

Add

Waste 1 50
TOTAL SURFACE

LENGTH OF THINSULATE NEEDED (FEET)

1: To account for waste (it's inevitable due to the multiple funky-shaped pieces needed), mistakes and estimation errors. 50 Sq.Ft. adds 10 linear feet of Thinsulate. We don't recommend skipping the "Waste", unless you don't mind interrupting your build to wait for your next order of Thinsulate...

(Free shipping to USA and Canada. USA orders are tax free and ship from USA warehouse. Canadian orders are subject to taxes and ship from Canadian warehouse.)

As a general rule of thumb:
Small Vans40 feet
Medium Vans50 feet
Large Vans60 feet
Extended Vans70 feet

Thinsulate Installation In A Nutshell:

1- Cut the Thinsulate using tailor scissors:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-1

2- Apply 3M 90 spray adhesive to the van surface & on the white surface of the thinsulate, then wait 30-60 seconds for the adhesive to become tacky:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-18

3- Press the Thinsulate against the surface and voilà!

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-16

Cabin Overhead Storage (Headliner)

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

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-3_ps

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

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-6-ps

2- Foam pieces removed:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-10-ps

3- Then, we removed the four screws (total) under the driver and passenger side handles:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-8-ps

4- Next, we unsnapped the three pins in the center of the headliner. 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…

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-4-ps

5- BAM! (third one not shown in picture)

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-9

6- It is now possible to lower the headliner a few inches and install the Thinsulate. We used three pieces of insulation to fill the gap: one on the left-hand side, one on the right-hand side, and one in the center.

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-13

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

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-12

8- Reinstall the fasteners and voilà!

Ceiling

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 to details here because there is not much to say…

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

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-16

Walls

Large cutouts were filled with insulation:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-18

We also filled the cavities where possible:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-2

It's in!

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-14

Sliding Door

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

push-pins

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 remain glued to it for later re-assembly.

Sliding Door Plastic Sheet

Here is how it looks without Thinsulate in:

sliding-door-before

Thinsulate was then placed in the cutouts:

sliding-door-after-thinsulate

Driver/Passenger Doors

We insulated the driver & passenger doors when we upgraded the speakers; therefore, it is documented here:

Windows

You can spend a lot of money and time on the best insulation, but remember that glass is an excellent heat conductor (in other words, a horrible insulator). You can make cheap & dirty Reflectix covers to reflect the sun in summer, but if you are skiers like us, you will want something that performs better… To minimize heat loss during winter, we made insulated window covers out of ez-cool + thinsulate + fabric. They make a HUGE difference in sub-freezing temperatures, and they’re just plain essential below 5F (-15°C). Here is how we made them:

On Second Thought...

We could go on forever about R values, thermal bridges, 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 supposed 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:

Summer:

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).

 

Winter:

On any cold day, it’s possible to keep the van to our comfort level (66-68F / 18-20°C) 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 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 drops much faster, AND it gets uncomfortable near the windows). In fact, we took the habit of turning the heater off when going to bed and 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 (10°C) in the evening dropping down to 28F (-2°C) in the morning: the temperature inside the van will go from about 68F (20°C) in the evening and will drop down to about 50-53F (10-12°C) 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 -27°C) last year in the Chic-Chocs (faroutride.com/chic-chocs-winter-wonderland-december-2016), 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.

 

Conclusion

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:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-19

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 observed 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 the touch. The Thinsulate is doing its job, the bare metal forms 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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NICE TO MEET YOU.

About-Us-Narrow

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!

54 thoughts on “Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van – Install & Data”

Heads up! As of Fall 2021, we are currently visiting our families back home and we might not be able to answer all comments due to time constrain. Thanks for understanding and see you on the road! -Isabelle and Antoine

  1. Hey y’all!
    So i have a ford transit as well, but do not have a window on my sliding door. I’m wondering if you have any recommendations on how to finish the door! would it be best to insulate and then recover with the original black plastic? and also, how did you finish the bottom half after you re-attached the plastic over the thinsulate?
    Cheers! and I hope you both are staying safe and healthy 🙂

    Reply
  2. Did you fill the bottom rail/cavities with Thinsulate? I was going to start stuffing them, but my husband is worried if water collects anywhere it will collect there. He would prefer to leave them empty but I want to avoid empty cavities. Please help settle this debate!

    Reply
    • We filled the cavities with Thinsulate to get as much isolation as possible. Thinsulate doesn’t get soaked; which is a good thing if water has to accumulate in the cavities. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Hya

    Ive just found you guys thanks so much for all the info here its illuminating!
    Im ain the process of getting a van I was considering a passenger type vehicle but the insurance would be to much here in the Uk so my options now are aimed at getting a box truck
    more room – stronger chassis

    as to the insulation I was wondering what the options are as the box isnt metal i still need to insulate so would thinsulate still be the best bet here?

    Reply
  4. Great website! Thank you for all this amazing information. I am going to be insulating my work van and eventually it will be our camper van. Can I re-attach the stock wall and ceiling panels over the thinsulate and ez cool? Will the panels be able to snap back in? Thank you and I look forward to your response.

    Reply
  5. Bonjour Antoine,

    Hard time here in Quebec to get SM600L (even throught eBay with prohibitive shipping cost).
    What would be the impact to use 2x SM400L? (If any)

    Merci!

    Reply
  6. Hi. Did you remove those plastic moldings at the top of each wall (the ones presumably holding in the electric wiring), and the plastic “step” moldings at the rear and side entrances? Also, we’re going to travel from cold (New England) to warmer climates to visit our children and will not be staying in the van during cold times like mid-late Fall through mid-Spring. I ordered everything (Thinsulate, minicell, etc.) you indicated and it is coming in each day. If I fail to do the installation perfectly (I will try), should things end up roughly OK? Is there anything to watch out for that will hurt the van for the future? I’m following your insulation and floor build as exact as I can figure from the description. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Hi, I am getting desperate in buying Thonsulate in Canada. The Amazon link doesn’t ship here. Any idea of where I can get a small amount (ex. 10×60)? I only want to insulate the cabin of my sprinter, all the rest was foam spayed. Thank you

    Reply
  8. Thank you for all the Info. Whats your thoughts on Armaflex? It kinda works the same way…I guess it’s harder to get into certain spots. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • We do have an opinion, from https://faroutride.com/insulation/ :

      “WHY WE DON’T RECOMMEND IT
      By now we know that efficient insulation materials are low-density. A coat of paint is everything except low density…

      The manufacturers don’t provide any data (i.e. R-value, etc.) to backup their claims; there’s probably a good reason why (it would be fairly easy to test and publish data).

      According to this American Scientific Article, EPA does not recommend insulating paint: “We haven’t seen any independent studies that can verify their insulating qualities“. They noted some heat gain reduction on surfaces directly exposed to sun only, and that “the reflectivity of the painted surfaces decline considerably with time”. It’s all about reflectivity, not insulation capacity. Are you really gonna paint the exterior or your van with insulating paint..?

      Until independent studies show a benefit of insulating paint through standardized test, save your money and your time.”

      🙂

      Reply
  9. What are your thoughts about using only Thinsulate as a ceiling, no wood or paneling underneath?

    My van has an oddly shaped fiberglass roof topper. There is no where to safely screw in studs to hang a ceiling so I am thinking about just glueing up one long piece of Thinsulate and calling it done. Maybe hang some tapestries up there for aesthetic.

    Does that sound crazy? Would the 3M 90 hold the Thinsulate up without a structure underneath? How low would the Thinsulate sag?

    Reply
    • We had our Thinsulate holding with only adhesive for a few months when we built our van; it worked. Might not be ideal as a permanent solution, as you might damage it in the long run and it could maybe detach at some point. I mean it’s not a big deal, you could replace it if it gets damaged, but not ideal…

      Reply
  10. You guys are awesome, I recently purchased all of my van needs through your links! Is it okay to do my thinsulate installation in the winter? 30F temperatures? Will the adhesive stick just fine?

    Reply
  11. Thank you for all the amazing content! You’re site has been my #1 site as I take on my own conversion soooo THANK YOU!

    Did you have any issues with the 3M 90 spray adhesive sticking to the your sound dampening material? I have more sound dampening material and less exposed van metal currently which is why I ask. Also, does it degrade the sound dampening material? This last question stems from me trying 3M 90 on a piece of foam insulation which the adhesive ate through… Obviously, not meant for polystyrene 🙂

    Reply
  12. I didn’t notice it mentioned anywhere in the article, but did you guys double-layer the Thinsulate anywhere in the transit? Seems that at least the wall panels are pretty deep with respect to the frame “posts” and that another layer would probably fit fine behind the (eventual) furring strips, although not sure if it’s needed/useful. We’ll also put the EZ-Cool in there eventually anyway so not sure it would make too much difference. We don’t plan on doing anything too extreme like your adventures in the sub-zero teens (we currently have a < 1 y.o. in tow, after all) but will probably use the van to post up in parking lots at ski slopes from time to time, so would like it to be as comfortable as possible in the above-zero teens 🙂 Thanks for all your awesome content!

    Reply
    • We doubled it in the “cavities” on the wall, near the ceiling. We had some extra Thinsulate left I believe.
      If you go ahead and double it, just make sure not to compress it; it must be all expanded to be fully effective.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  13. Hi! Thanks so much for being an excellent resource! You two have made my van conversion super smooth. I’m wondering why you didn’t insulate the back doors with Thinsulate or EZ- Cool. I’m curious if it will impact my experience in the desert for a week. What are your thoughts/ recommendations?

    Reply
    • Because it was last on the “to-do” list and we just never did it haha 😉

      So we’ve been travelling without insulation in the back doors for the past two years down to -15F sometimes; you’ll be fine in the desert 🙂

      Cheers!

      Reply
  14. Hi guys,

    Love the blog and all the data points! I was wondering how you measured that 70′ linear amount. I’m planing on the Ford Transit without the extended back, not a huge difference but if I can end up getting away with less that’d be better.

    Did you have a lot of the thinsulate left over? Did you end up just cramming it where it needed to be?

    Reply
    • The amount was based on recommendation from others, pretty much. I just emailed the supplier (Hein) to ask him if he could provide a table with recommended amount for each van/length. Hopefully we get an answer soon!

      Reply
    • We considered it, but we went for Thinsulate because:
      1) If not apply properly, spray foam can create “ripples” on the sheet metal (seen from outside)
      2) Spray foam is permanent, while you can remove thinsulate fairly easily
      3) Thinsulate is MUCH easier and cleaner to install

      That’s pretty much it. Here are all the material we considered and why: https://faroutride.com/insulation/

      Cheers!

      Reply
  15. Hello! I was wondering how much you are supposed to buy for the transit high roof extended cab?
    which combination of what they have available on amazon equals 70 linear feet?
    thanks very much =]!

    Reply
  16. Hi Antoine and Isabelle,

    Q on the van cavities in various places esp. near the roof line:

    Did you try to spray/glue the Thinsulate in, or did you just stuff them in like you did over the front overhead? And, so much room, did you ever do two layers?

    The access is so dodgy that it seems that pushing pre-glued Thinsulate in, it would just stick to everything/anything as you are pushing it in. Or maybe I am over thinking this, and it’s easier than I think.

    Cheers, and when will/did you tackle your new side window!

    Don

    Reply
    • Hi Don,
      – We didn’t glue Thinsulate in the cavities. Like you said, it would be too hard to install!
      – We had some Thinsulate leftover, so we did double it in the upper portion of the walls (near the ceiling).
      – No heat wave so far this summer, so we haven’t feel obligated to add a window! Maybe later… 🙂

      Hope you’re progressing well in your conversion!

      Reply
      • A&I,
        Thanks for the response.
        Re the conversion, I have some picts, I might send them by normal e-mail when I think my progress is not too embarrassing.
        -d

        Reply
    • Do u need to minimize the amount of thinsulate you put in to get the loft to do the insulating or can you pack it in and the more the better.Thanks

      Reply
      • To be fully effective, the Thinsulate should not be packed; it should be fully expanded. So you can add two layers if you want at some places, but don’t compress it.

        Cheers.

        Reply

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