When to start planning curtains for campervan windows
While curtains and window dressings in a traditional home are often for show, campervan curtains are vital campervan gear.
Considering the impact of light, number of windows and their location, curtains and window coverings need to be considered when choosing your van.
Whether you’re in the process of choosing, building or improving a campervan, I’ve got you (and your windows) covered in this comprehensive guide to curtains for campervan windows.
Are campervan curtains a must?
While it’s great to let the light in and see the sights from inside the van, unless you’re an exhibitionist, some type of opaque window covering is required.
It’s human nature to be curious and many people just want to see details of your van build.
So you need to be able to fully close off your visual world to prevent nosy passersby from peering in.
But there’s more than basic privacy to consider:
- Security: Thieves love to check out potential pickings before deciding where to break in.
- Sleep: Campervan curtains eliminate light, aid screen watching and avoid a glaring sunrise waking you up at 5am
- Stealth: From police, neighbors, thieves and passers-by. If they can’t see in, they can’t be sure whether your van is occupied or not
- Invisibility: If you’re stealth camping, black out curtains can block a bright light shining from your window. More on this below
- Insulation: Campervan curtains and window panels keep sun/heat out and keep the van snug and warm at night
- Comfort: Bottom of the list, but still important, is the homey atmosphere provided by curtains for campervans
So, now you’re convinced of the necessity of campervan curtains, what type of window covering will you choose?
Our curtains for campervan windows, materials and tools Top Picks at a glance
Click for current pricing and more info
|Sleep Well Blackout Curtains||Hanes Serenity Blackout Drapery||Brother Lightweight Sewing Machine|
|Deconovo Thermal Blackout Grommet Curtain||Reflectix Bubble Pack Insulation||HG-X 10 Yards 1″ Black Sew on Hook and Loop|
The best material for campervan curtains
If you have no concerns about light transfer, security or stealth, use whatever material you like.
Since most of us need to fulfill at least one or two of the issues we’ve listed above, there really is a best material for campervan curtains, and that’s blackout cloth, our Top Pic for material for campervan curtains.
Blackout material solves all of the above points and it does just what its name implies; totally blocks light.
Fortunately, it’s available on Amazon and from most fabric shops in bulk and any type of campervan curtain or window covering can be sewn from this material.
If you’re not excited about a sewing project or you’re hiring a seamstress (or.. seamster?) to build your window coverings, ready-made blackout curtains can be purchased from Amazon, and altered to fit your rods or other mounting system.
Blackout campervan curtains need to be designed to keep light from entering or escaping around the edges. Sew the curtains to overlap, and secure edges with Velcro, magnets or ribbon ties.
Sewing your own campervan curtains
I get it, you’re not a seamstress or a quilter or a tailor. Sewing looks daunting and the machines are bulky and expensive and you’ll have to start a thimble collection and wear a wrist mounted pin cushion…
All kidding aside, in recent years some great, inexpensive portable sewing machines have come on the market.
We’ve done our usual diligent research into the best portable sewing machines to consider and found this Lightweight Brother Sewing Machine. Highly rated, great price and all you really need to sew hems in fabric.
Who knows, maybe sewing will become a passion and you can earn some extra cash for your van travels.
I’ve included some videos below with sewing, design and other curtain building tips.
A multitude of options for campervan curtains
Let’s step out of the proverbial box to look at and explore some variations on campervan window coverings. The Vanlife community is nothing if not innovative and inventive. We’re confident that you’ll find the solutions you need here.
Fitted window panels
Our Top Pick for insulating windows against both heat and cold are window panels. These window covers have many advantages – creating total blackout, providing insulation against cold transfer through glass, and fitting the windows exactly. Use them along with tie-back curtains for a softer look.
There are even pre-made window covering for some well-known van brands such as Sprinter and VW and they’re a great option if cost is not a concern.
One con of window panels is that they need to be removed and stored when you require natural light, rather than just being drawn aside.
If the idea of window panels appeals, they are pretty easy to make yourself. Carefully cut a piece of rigid plastic, sturdy cardboard, or Reflectix to fit the glass area of your window and cover with fabric.
Fix cloth to the board with special glue (see below) or staples for a cheap instant fix or stitch through your backing material to hem around the circumference. Use spring-loaded curtain rods, hook and loop, or magnets to secure the panels in place.
Many van builders use pre-made quilted blanket material for extra insulation. Cut to size and attach to a rigid backing…
Reflective foil bubble sheet
A variation on making your own window panels is using foil bubble sheet, the most common brand being Reflectix. It consists of two layers of reflective film bonded to internal layers of polyethylene bubbles.
The sheets are durable, cheap, and readily available. Easy to cut with scissors or craft knife and fix in place, this cushioned material also has some insulating properties, is waterproof, reflects sunlight, and, when cut exactly to size, is mostly light-proof – job done!
One downside to using reflective bubble sheet for campervan window covering is that it is very shiny and may attract notice from passers-by. When not in use, the bubble sheets can easily be rolled and stored.
Since Reflectix is so light, it can be attached to windows using a few small pieces of hook and loop.
One issue will be how to attach that Velcro. It’s important to use the right glue as most will melt in the high temperatures common in campervans, especially at the window. See below for more info on glue.
If using Reflectix as the core for your campervan window panels, leave the Reflectix mostly exposed on the glass side to reflect light, or use a reflective material on the outside.
Blinds for campervan windows
Blinds don’t tend to be robust enough for campervans and blinds made for house windows should be totally avoided as they quickly become a mess of bent plastic (aluminum…) and tangled cord.
The only blinds we’ve found that are tough enough for the constant earthquake happening in campervans are made for the marine industry.
Of course these would need to be custom build for your particular van. Pricey, but very sturdy and long lasting.
The problem with blinds is they’ll most likely have side gaps, which counter the privacy, blackout, security and insulation you are trying to obtain.
If you do go with blinds, you’ll want to also have window panels against the glass, or blackout curtains over top.
If you’re equipping a high-end RV, custom made powered curtains and blinds are a nice touch. However, they’re expensive, will require maintenance and repair in the long-term (then again, what doesn’t?) and can sap your electricity.
Roman shades: The best curtains for campervan windows?
Roman shades are a great campervan window covering solution. They meet all of our requirements as mentioned above. Use them in conjunction with insulated window panels for total black out and extra insulation.
Our overall Top Pick, we believe that Roman blinds are the best solution for campervan curtains, even if you have to hire a seamster to custom build them for your van.
The video below shows the obvious advantages of Roman shades for campervan windows and also demonstrates a very simple option for window covering.
A note about campervan window tint
One common misapprehension is that window tint can replace window coverings and while there are many advantages to quality window tint, it has its limits.
Since window tint works on principles of light reflection, even tint with very high light blocking percentages won’t keep lights in the van from shining out after dark.
This means that at night, when most of us need the most privacy, you’ll be fully visible to the outside world.
Modern window tints are nothing short of amazing in there ability to virtually eliminate sun rays responsible for high temperatures inside the van, but they won’t replace fully opaque window coverings.
Easy to make curtains for campervan windows
Another great option is a blackout material panel with grommets along the edges that hook onto posts mounted around the window. Like the fitted panels, these also require storage when not in use, but since they’re just cloth, they can be folded to take up very little space.
This is our Top Pick for simplicity that can be made by anyone with a pair of scissors, a grommet punch and some good adhesive.
The previous video shows the value and effectiveness of both Roman shades and removable curtain panels.
The following video will get you started on how to make Roman shades.
Mounting curtains for campervan windows
Next, think about mountings for your curtains. As with most things in campervan life, simple is often best due to the “perpetual earthquake” inside the van. Rods and rings provide plenty of flexibility, but like blinds, will require added panels to block light.
Alternatively, sew a pocket along the top of the curtains, thread them onto picture wire (braided cable) and secure either end with screws. Do the same along the bottom hem to avoid the curtains flapping around loosely and dangling in other stuff.
The downside of this method is that your curtains won’t open all the way. If space permits, this can be remedied by extending the wire 3 to 5 inches past the outside edges of the windows. The overlap will also help block light.
Other possibilities include:
- Snaps for screwing in to window frame or wall
- Magnets that get sewn in to hem line and glued on window frame or wall
- Grommets kit for pressing in to curtain. Mount hooks or posts on window frame or wall
- Velcro aka hook and loop to sew or glue on curtains and window frame or wall
- Doweling or tension rod system
Materials to avoid
Non-flammable material is recommended for campervan curtains, especially if you are using them near a cook top, or like to use candles.
Unfortunately I’ve not had much luck finding non-flammable blackout cloth. If you know of solutions for this, please comment at the end of this post.
We mentioned that blinds not intended for rv’s are a bad idea.
Most adhesives on or near glass will fail due to high temperatures and most vehicles interiors can quickly reach over 130°F in direct sunlight.
This includes tape, most glues, and self-adhesive hook-and-loop tape. Instead, use a quality adhesive that can handle high temperatures and, when possible, stitch hook and loop and other mounting features on vs gluing.
Thanks for reading
We hope our tips on campervan curtains have helped you avoid some unnecessary pitfalls so you can enjoy the relaxed vanlife to the full.
What campervan curtain solutions have you found? Please comment below.