It’s been a while since I had something new to report with the adventure van, but this past weekend I finally got all the supplies to do the Reflectix inserts for the windows! On my last adventure I ended up parking underneath a streetlamp in a parking lot. I managed to get sleep, but it was a bit of a distraction. The quickest and easiest way to fix a problem like that is with rolls of Reflectix material, cut out to the shape of the windows.
The first challenge I had was to make a template, since I didn’t want to make a mistake with the actual material and waste it. I sought some counsel from vanlife folks online and the best recommendation I had was to use builder’s paper. This is a thick brown paper (feels like a thick paper grocery bag) that comes in large rolls and is often found covering the floors of remodeling areas to protect them. It’s a good size, and flexible and cheap enough to form templates for my van windows.
One of the difficulties with a traditional passenger vehicle, versus a cargo van, is that the interior is stylized to look sleek and hide anything mechanical or ugly. That means that none of the windows are nice simple rectangles. They all have weird curves and shapes to deal with. Thankfully, with Reflectix, you just need to get it close enough to jam in to the opening, and it usually stays in place. Having the template be slightly large works in my favor, since it helps to hold it in position.
To start, I cut the builder’s paper into sheets that matched the outside dimensions of the windows. This was a lot simpler way of cutting down the material I was working with to something more workable. Once I had a smaller shape to work with, I crawled into the inside of the van and began to shape the final template. It took a few tries of marking and cutting to get things right, but in the end I had some templates that would guide my cutting of the real material.
Originally I was going to cut the Reflectix with a utility knife, but found it to be too difficult to be precise while working through all the different layers of the material. I resorted to some dull kitchen scissors and that did the trick. After about 40 minutes I had 5 windows cut out and, with some final fitting, they all stayed in place and blocked the light.
The final step is to create a nice edging around the shades with hockey tape. This step will also let me fine tune any gaps or areas that need additional bracing. Once that’s done I’ll be looking for a shower rod to extend across the cab of the vehicle for that last step of privacy. I opt’d not to create shades for the front windows right now, but I may reconsider in the future. Either way I’d most likely get a commercial shade for the windshield as that would be a major hassle to cut by hand.
Next step is to order some bug netting material and start making some covers that will allow me to keep some windows open a bit for ventilation, without getting inundated with mosquitos.