Insulated Window Covers for Camper Van Conversion

Insulated-Window-Covers-DIY-Van-Conversion-Heading-1920px

Insulated Window Covers for Camper Van Conversion

Insulated window covers are a “must-have” for camper or adventure vans because they provide privacy and thermal insulation (for hot summer days or snow chasing winter vanlife). By strategically inserting magnets all around the edges, the window covers are super easy to install/remove: they simply snap to the metal window contour. Neat and functional, like it should! The shape of the window covers can be changed to fit pretty much any vans: Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, Ram ProMaster, etc.

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Portrait

1- Insulated Window Covers In a Nutshell

1.1- Overview

When we converted our Ford Transit camper van back then, we decided to make the insulated window covers ourselves (DIY). More information on how we made them is available further down this page, but for now here is an overview of the final product:

Interior
DIY-Insulated-Window-Covers-Van-(Interior)
The interior is finished with fabric.
Exterior
DIY-Insulated-Window-Covers-Van-(Exterior)
The face against the window is Low-E.
Side
DIY-Insulated-Window-Covers-Van-(Side)
Because we use the van for snow chasing adventures, we added some Thinsulate in there.
Windshield/Cabin
Ford Transit Insulated Window Covers Interior (2)
The windshield is not surrounded by metal, so magnets won't work. Otherwise they're all magnetic.
Side Door
Ford Transit Insulated Window Covers Interior (1)
Rear Door
Ford-Transit-Insulated-Window-Covers-Rear-Door
Windshield/Cabin
Ford Transit Insulated Window Covers
Rear Doors
Ford Transit Insulated Window Covers (1)

1.2- Privacy

A well made cover should match the window contour AND have enough magnets so the edges stay in contact with the window contour.

Light IN

Light coming in (from street light, car driving by, sunrise, etc) is super annoying and disturbs our sleep. The truth is, we don’t always sleep in the middle of nowhere so light is to be expected!

Light OUT

Compared to a RV, a van is “stealth”; you can sleep in a city street and chances are that people won’t notice and won’t call the cops on you. But if light leaks out, that’ll reveal your presence…

Privacy

People are curious and it’s not unusual to have someone peak inside the van. That’s not cool, and it might even get you in serious trouble: there are laws against indecent exposure so don’t put out a show… 

1.3- Thermal Insulation

People tend to go crazy with insulating their van, but the windows are often neglected. Remember that glass (window) is a poor insulator; you can spend a fortune on insulation, but cheaping out on window insulation will pretty much cancel out your efforts…

Summer

The greenhouse effect needs no introduction: leaving your car in the sun will raise the ambient temperature to unbearable level. And because of thermal mass (energy absorbed by all the objects in your van), it will take forever to cool down afterwards. Using window shades dramatically reduces the greenhouse effect, we can’t emphasis that enough.

Winter

For us, there would be no winter vanlife without insulated window covers. For example, just removing a single window cover makes the surrounding cold an uncomfortable (when it’s sub-freezing outside).

2- Insulated Window Covers: Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

This project turned way, WAYYYYY more time consuming than we ever imagined. The problem is to sew the layers all together: we tried with a normal sewing machine and all it did is break the needle. Turns out an industrial sewing machine is required. Of course we didn’t have one, so Isabelle’s mom sew all of them BY HAND. She’s experienced so we thought it would be fine, but that’s a lot of material to go through so it’s extremely difficult and time consuming. We’re incredibly grateful for all of her help, but we suspect she’ll never want to do this again 😂 (with reason).

Time Spent

80 hours

(No jokes!)

Total Cost

~$500 USD

Material

ITEMBUY LINK
3M Thinsulate AU-4002-5 (1″ thick)*eBay
Low-E*eBay
3M 90 Spray AdhesiveAmazon
Rare Earth MagnetsAmazon
Spring-loaded extendable curtain rodsAmazon
Synthetic FabricWe sourced it locally

*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 sorry…

We won’t get into much details, but here is the important stuff:

  • The layers are as follow: Low-E/Thinsulate/Fabric.
  • The 3M 90 spray adhesive was used in between Low-E & Thinsulate layers.
  • 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):

Fabric-Pouch-To-Thinsulate-(DIY-window-covers-for-van)
Magnet-Pouch-pocket-(DIY-window-covers-for-van)

On Second Thought...

  • We should have used synthetic fabric because after a few years our covers shrank a little and we lost some privacy (especially around the windshield edges).
  • The exposed Low-E gets damaged over time and repairing it is not really an option…
  • 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 Low-E is not exactly stealth… it might be a good idea to make the insulated window covers reversible: one side with Low-E (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 updated the “material” section to reflect that!).

– If you’re living with an Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity condition, get these insulated window covers NOW 😂! Yep, it seems to Low-E is an excellent signal blocker (similar to metal). If you’re working from your van, 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:

weBoost Drive Reach RV

If we had to start over...

Yeah, we would just buy them and save our precious time to work on our van build instead!

3- The Easy Way (Buying Window Covers)

No sewing skills? Or maybe you’d rather spend this precious time working on your van conversion? Then we recommend going pro:

Van Made Gear

Top-quality window covers for Sprinter, ProMaster and Transit vans. These window covers attach magnetically (except for the windshield) and are insulated with Low-E. Handmade in the USA.

At checkout, use “faroutride” coupon code to get free shipping!

4- You Might Be Interested In...

Mosquito Screens

If you’re like us, the noise of a single mosquito can ruin a good night of sleep. They say that killing the mosquitos before going to bed is part of the Vanlife routine… it actually doesn’t have to!  Adding bug screens to our van was a priority, and in retrospect, we’re SO GLAD we did! In the article below, we’ll give you a quick tour of our bug screens and give you a solid option for the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, or Ram ProMaster vans. 

Mosquito Screens Ford Transit Van (6)
Mosquito Screens Ford Transit Van (3) (Custom)
Mosquito Screens Ford Transit Van (1)

STAY IN TOUCH!

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

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!

28 thoughts on “Insulated Window Covers for Camper Van Conversion”

  1. Where can you buy the window roll down cover for the big sliding door window. I like how yours rolls up and secures in place? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  2. You have window covers, so do we, but I notice that you also have a curtain, I have never seen it discussed. Do you sometimes not bother with the window covers and just drape the curtains over the backs of the reversed seats? Like in moderate weather when you aren’t heating too much?
    And does the curtain rod go from the hole (or the big indent) in the blob from one blob to the other?

    Reply
    • The curtains is faster to deploy than the window covers; it’s useful when you need to use the toilet or if you need some privacy. We still prefer to use the window covers overnight, so we can still use the cabin as living space.
      The curtain goes from one blob to another, pretty much. It’s attached to the ceiling, not directly to the blob.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: | Allyson Overland
  4. I was wondering if there is a way to take used sleeping bags and sew window coverings out of them? We have a second hand store here in Chattanooga that gets a lot of the camping gear that is left at Bonaroo and they sell it for pretty cheap(with good reason). I am not sure I would sleep in one of those bags, but I think I would be willing to wash them up and use them for window insulation. I assume getting them the right size so that they fit close to the window is important. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Why not! The downside I see is that the covers will be super “soft”, so make sure to use plenty of magnets (or velcro, whatever you had in mind). Yeah, in theory you want them as close as possible to the window to minimize condensation (but you’ll get condensation anyway, so…).

      Good luck with that 🙂

      Reply
  5. Wow.

    Mocked up some covers over the last week for our first winter trip, very interesting.

    Thank fully, I only have three windows I need to insulate, the front window and the driver and passenger windows. This is excepting the back-side window over the bed, which I don’t intend to cover. We don’t have a half window in our sliding door yet, and the longer I go without it, the more I might not add it. But you are correct, it is a painful blindspot.

    I did not appreciate the massive size of the front window covering. I now know what covers the majority of your your bed during the day. And getting it in/out, is that normally a two person job? Whew.

    I ended up using a sandwich of EZ and mini cell, no thinsulite, bonded with spray adhesive. It’s pretty stiff, and reversible, and about the same R-value.

    Georgia? Really?

    Hey, if you get up to Michigan (not great mountain biking or half boarding), visit. Great beer here in Kalamazoo. We are 2 minutes off I-94. And can drive you both to Bell’s Brewery (place of Two Hearted IPA) in a non-van.

    Reply
  6. Love your blog! It’s the most detailed, informative, in-depth, and user friendly site I’ve come across yet. The links to other sites for info & to product sites are true time savers for DIYer’s and and anyone contemplating life on the road, a great template!!
    Just wondering if you had ever contemplated using Velcro for fastening you window curtains, especially the windshield where you lack magnetic anchor points. Velcro may not be the best option everywhere, but still worth considering for some applications ie. mosquito screens for windows.
    A definite fan from Calgary. Safe travels and party on !! David

    Reply
  7. Awesome design and write up!

    I was wondering if there is a reflecting material more flexible than EZ-Cool, so that the window covers could be rolled up? Do you think much of the total insulating powers of your covers is provided by the plastic bubbles in the EZ-Cool? Perhaps most of the benefits are from the aluminum surface providing reflection for radiant heat and the Thinsulate for conduction (convection too?). Here’s a fabric that might work for the radiant heat, but one review said it smell bad! 😉 : https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01N5MHXQD?tag=amz-mkt-chr-us-20&ascsubtag=1ba00-01000-s1060-win70-other-smile-us000-pcomp-feature-scomp-wm-5&ref=aa_scomp#customerReviews

    My sister is coming to visit soon and she has agreed to help with the sewing of my window covers, so I need to start purchasing window cover fabrics, insulation, and parts. I am thinking reversible with black on one side, aluminum mylar on the other, and 1 inch Thinsulate in the middle, with lots of magnets. What do you think? Would using EZ-Cool be significantly better?

    Thank you for all your guidance!

    Chris

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,
      From what I know mylar is super fragile, but i’m not familiar with the product you linked.
      Most of the insulation in our covers come from the Thinsulate, not from the bubbles in the EZ-COOL; so I guess using a different radiant material is OK too.

      Bottom word, my only concern with mylar is it could tear and deteriorate in the long run.
      Let me know how it turns out!

      antoine

      Reply
    • Chris,

      I used an insulation fabric from Joann’s. It has two layers of reflective material, sandwiching three layers of light compressible fill. I love them and they make a huge difference in keeping heat in or the sun out. It’s readily available, in custom cut lengths, and Joann’s is always having promotions. I put black fabric on the exterior for stealth and looks like the windows are just tinted really dark. For the interior you can leave it the way it is (it already has a nice finished look) or use a decorative fabric of your choice. No need to stare at reflectix on all your windows. Plus this fabric actually provides good quality air spaces, unlike reflectix which is plastic bubbles that doubtfully create a quality, impactful airspace.

      https://www.joann.com/54in-ivory-warm-window/10674935.html

      Reply
      • Laura, how did you sew the magnets in your JoAnn Fabric coverings or are you hanging them on a rod?, could you attach pictures? Please. We just bought a new Cargo van to turn into a camper van. I am not that great at sewing but with a visual think I can do it. We are putting so much money into making this van, I really can’t afford custom made covers.

        Reply
  8. Do you use the same window covers during the summer, in the desert, etc?

    On a sunny day in the winter, do you get more thermal gain with the windows uncovered, at least the windows that are facing the sun? Or, is it always warmer with the window covered?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • We use the same covers. In summer the ez-cool reflect the sun and that prevent to create a greenhouse effect (keeps the van cool). In winter, the thinsulate layer helps minimize heat loss (keeps the van warm).
      On a sunny day in winter, we observed that we get more thermal gain with the windows uncovered; we had a day in Jackson where it was 15F outside and it was 70F inside the van (just by parking the van facing the sun). I’m sure our paint color (dark grey) helps too…

      Cheers!

      Reply
  9. I was curious if you could expand on how you sewed the magnetic strips onto the coverings? Did you sew directly into the ez-cool side?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • The magnets were inserted into a small fabric pouch, then the pouch was sew to the Thinsulate. Please look again at the article, I just added the picture showing this!

      Hope that helps 🙂

      Reply
  10. Your window covers look awesome! We have been using refletix cut out for all 4 doors and windshield this summer. Works well but its time to step it up like you guys have done. Any particular reason you went with double scrim thinsulate instead of the single 400? Thanks

    Reply
    • I think that at time of making our covers, only double-scrim was available…

      Advantage of the double-scrim: it might makes the thinsulate sheet a bit more rigid (the covers get a bit more “soft” with time) and it’s a bit easier to work with. I guess single or double scrim is quite similar, but the price is similar too so I would get the double scrim!

      You’ll really appreciate the improvement, the covers make a huge difference in cold weather!

      Reply
  11. I think you have a typo under the Material section:

    “**Please make patrons (in cardboard or something) and check the quantity you need. At the time of writing these lines, we forgot exactly how much we used…”

    I believe you mean pattern not patrons, but I could be wrong.

    Love the blog

    Reply
  12. You’re leaving the EZ-COOL exposed, rather than more elegantly covering it with fabric like the Strawfoot set.

    There’s so much myth and misinformation about insulation. My understanding is that covering EZ COOL with fabric completely negates its insulating capabilities.

    Thank you for your write-up. Such an amazing resource

    Reply
    • Hey Jackson. I had the same question and asked the Low-E manufacturer specifically about this before making and selling the window covers. They use Low-E for roof underlayment insulation and since the Low-E had aluminum double-sided facings, they say it does not matter if the aluminum is exposed or covered because of the aluminum thermal barrier.

      Reply
  13. I’ve been using EZ-Cool covers with black (outside) and grey (inside) fabrics, the EZ-Cool works just as good as “naked” and the inside of the van stayed relatively cold compared to outside.

    and just to be more precise… you don’t really need good network signal for a “Netflix-and-chill”… you’ll need window covers though :p

    Reply
  14. I know you order your van specifically, so curious if you have a “on second thought” about your windows? If you could do it all again, would you still want windows in the back and on the sliding door? Pros cons? I would like stealth, but it seems like it would be seriously gloomy in the back without some natural light. Thank you in advance for any input!

    Reply
    • In our opinion, the sliding door window is nice to have. It makes driving much safer (if not there’s a huge dead spot) and it’s nice to look outside (but because it’s tinted, it’s really difficult to see inside the van from the outside).
      We could live without the rear windows, because of our garage/platform bed setup. But they were mandatory when ordering the sliding door window, no big deal. We leave the window covers almost 100% of the time on them.

      Good day!

      Reply

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