The importance of using high-quality window covers in a van conversion cannot be understated. Their use is four-fold: temperature regulation, sound dampening, privacy, and theft deterrence.
When traveling in cold and hot climates, insulated window covers help keep the heat in or out. Glass is a great conductor of heat… and most vans have a lot of glass! The windshield alone transmits massive amounts of thermal energy. Although the rest of the van may be well insulated, it is very easy for heat to leave and enter your van through glass. Simply snapping covers onto your windows when you’re trying to keep the van cool or warm can save massive amounts of energy that may otherwise go into running the air conditioner or heater… and saving power is always a win!
Of course, in order to get maximal benefit, the construction materials used in the creation of the window covers should be carefully considered. Choosing or making window covers with a layer of insulation, like Havelock Wool, and layer of reflective material (eg. EZ cool or Reflectix) will optimize temperature regulation in your van. The insulation reduces the transfer of heat using air pockets (which are poor conductors) and the reflective material reduces the thermal heat transfer by reflecting the radiation back to the source.
Sound dampening is an unexpected benefit of using window covers that can make the living space more comfortable and enjoyable, especially when traveling or parked in noisy environments. With them in place, sound vibrations traveling through the window have an extra layer to pass through and, therefore, become dampened. This is particularly beneficial when parked at a noisy sleep spot (think Interstate-side rest stops) or trying to work in peace.
Perhaps the most obvious use for window covers is to maintain privacy. This is key for comfort, stealth camping, and even from a safety perspective. No one wants to be in a fishbowl.
Being able to block out sleep disturbances like the early morning sun, passing headlights, and street lights to create a dark private space is a sure way to get some rest. Additionally, certain campgrounds and rec sites have become especially crowded over the recent years and covering windows is a must if you’d like any sort of privacy while changing, showering, etc.
On top of being important for privacy, window covers are key if you’re trying to do any form of stealth camping. As you are likely aware, having lights on inside a vehicle draws attention in a dark environment… and there is no flying under the radar if someone sees you brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed in your van! Your van is undoubtedly more likely to go unnoticed if it looks completely DARK.
Finally, from a safety standpoint, window covers maintain the mystery of who is in the van. Is there one person, two people, three people…? Are there dogs…? Solo travelers especially may find some comfort in having privacy for this reason.
Quite simply, if an ill-intending passerby cannot see into your van, they are much less likely to break into it. The risk-reward benefit of breaking into a van with unknown contents is high enough for most to reconsider, we’d like to think. Whereas if a laptop, camera equipment, and expensive climbing gear are in plain sight, for example, the same cannot be said… Also, no one will know whether or not someone is inside the vehicle which further deters break-in risk. Snapping on your window covers when away from the van can be a very simple way to keep your belongings safe!
DIY WINDOW COVERS
Although window covers can be readily purchased, they tend to be quite pricey. Making them yourself is a great way to save money and customize them to fit your needs and style. The DIY route certainly does require more time and patience, however. What follows is one method for making your own window covers.
- Ripstop nylon: Used as the outer layer. Windows are a site of condensation and thus moisture! To preserve their lifespan, choose your material wisely
- Reflective material of your choice (Reflectix or EZ-cool, for example)
- Havelock Wool as insulation
- Magnets for securing window covers easily to the van’s chassis
- Make a template of the windows you wish to make covers for. Transfer the template onto your reflective material (this is EZ-cool). We suggest dividing the larger templates into segments so that you can easily fold them for storage–remember to number them so you don’t lose track of where they should be!
- Arrange the template(s) onto the ripstop nylon appropriately and pin 3 sides of the perimeter as well as between each cut segment. Make sure to leave at least 1 ½ inches around the perimeter to allow space for a seam!
- Slide strips of Havelock wool through the un-pinned sides into the respective areas. The wool should be on the VAN-side of the window cover (vs. the GLASS-side). Then pin the remaining perimeter.
- Use a sewing machine to sew the perimeter and each pinned section of the window cover. Then secure magnets (they often come with adhesive) inside the extra material at the edges and create a nice fold-over seam to finish it off with a sewing machine.
- Admire your handiwork in place!
Whether you decide to make your own or purchase them, having a good set of window covers is an invaluable part of having a comfortable camping experience.