Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeHikingA Full Information to Van Insulation, Sound Dampening & Wall Panels –...

A Full Information to Van Insulation, Sound Dampening & Wall Panels – Bearfoot Concept

Van insulation is a hotly debated subject amongst van lifers (pun meant!), however there’s one factor for sure: if you wish to keep comfy in your transformed camper van, you want correct insulation. A poorly insulated van may imply struggling in uncomfortably scorching or chilly temperates, coping with mildew points, or having to take heed to the whole lot that’s taking place exterior your van always on account of poor soundproofing.

I’ve lived and traveled in two transformed Sprinter vans and I’m planning the construct and structure for my third, so I’ve a reasonably good understanding of how one can insulate a van and one of the best supplies to make use of.

On this submit, I break down the whole lot it is advisable to know to make clever selections about your van insulation whether or not you’re doing a DIY van construct or working with knowledgeable builder. You’ll study completely different choices for insulation supplies, the significance of sound dampening, and some tips about selecting van wall panels.

Keep heat, cool, and dry in your van with this information to camper van insulation plus tips about soundproofing and wall panels.

Van Insulation Fundamentals

Earlier than we soar into one of the best choices for van insulation supplies, it’s essential to get a primary understanding of how insulation works and why you want it.

Warmth Switch 101

The aim of van insulation is to maintain the within of your van at a relentless, comfy temperature as a lot as doable. On scorching days, this implies absorbing, redirecting, and reflecting warmth so your van stays cool. On chilly days, good insulation helps preserve the within of your van heat and comfy.

There are three sorts of warmth switch mechanisms you want to remember when selecting insulation supplies and constructing out your van:

  1. Radiation
  2. Convection
  3. Conduction


Radiation is the warmth that’s transferred straight from the solar into your van, sometimes by way of clear home windows. Radiant warmth could be nice for chilly, winter days, but it surely’s undoubtedly not ultimate throughout scorching summer time temps.

Reflective window coverings or movie can be utilized on home windows to attenuate the solar’s radiant warmth. Alternatively, if you wish to retain warmth in colder months, you should use reflective surfaces inside your van to take in the solar’s rays.

A reflective windshield sunshade can also be a good suggestion to make use of if you end up parked or tenting below direct daylight.

Black van facing camera parked in high desert dispersed campsite. Man sitting in camp chairs in front of fire ring and dog standing in front of van
A reflective windshield sunshade helps stop radiant warmth from heating up your van


Convection is the method during which warmth strikes by way of the air. Since heat air rises, having insulation on the roof of your van may help preserve warmth in throughout chilly temperatures. Alternatively, if you wish to scale back convection warmth in your van, putting in a ceiling fan may help transfer heat air out, retaining temps cooler inside.


Conduction refers to warmth that’s transferred by way of stable surfaces. When the solar’s rays heat the outside steel panels of your van, a few of that warmth is then performed by way of the steel and into your van, heating up the inside. That is the place a white van is prone to keep cooler in comparison with a black van since white displays daylight and black absorbs it.

Conduction also can happen in the other way. When it’s chilly, warmth from inside your van could be misplaced by way of conduction to the surface through the steel panels in the event you don’t have correct insulation.


If you happen to do lots of backpacking or tent tenting, you’re in all probability acquainted with the time period R-value since many sleeping pads have an R-value score. The R-value of a cloth signifies its skill to insulate. The next R-value supplies higher insulation whereas a decrease R-value permits for extra airflow and subsequently much less insulating energy.

Completely different van insulation supplies may have completely different R-values. If you happen to plan on doing lots of winter tenting, you’ll need to use a cloth with a excessive R-value.

Condensation management

Some van builds embrace a vapor barrier which, in principle, prevents moisture from inflicting rust or mildew and mildew. Nonetheless, a seal-tight vapor barrier is nearly not possible to realize, so as an alternative, we suggest selecting van insulation supplies that don’t retain moisture.

Finest Camper Van Insulation Supplies

There are a selection of various campervan insulation choices accessible they usually all have their professionals and cons. No matter materials you in the end select, it ought to have these 4 issues going for it:

  1. Be immune to water, mildew, and mildew
  2. Be simple to put in in the event you’re doing it your self
  3. Be non-toxic
  4. Be reasonably priced

Whereas there are lots of insulation choices on the market, not all are a superb match for camper vans, so we’re narrowing it right down to the highest three van insulation supplies right here to chop to the chase and prevent a while: 3M Thinsulate, Havelock Wool, and foam boards.

3M Thinsulate

For my second Sprinter van, Exterior Van used 3M Thinsulate for insulation. 3M Thinsulate is an artificial materials that’s non-toxic and straightforward to put in. It additionally has some sound dampening properties. Regardless of having a better price ticket and a barely decrease R-value of 5.2 than a number of the different choices, 3M Thinsulate is a transparent front-runner in discussions on Sprinter Van boards.

Mixed with further sound dampening materials, Exterior Van estimates that they achieved an R-value of round 6 in my second Sprinter van. Placing numbers apart and talking from qualitative expertise, the insulation in my van appears very efficient. We do have a heater (extra on that in our information to van heating and cooling programs), however we’ve slept in sub-freezing temperatures on ski journeys and have had no points with temperature management or moisture.

Fast Stats:

  • R-Worth: 5.2
  • Thickness: 1 3/4″
  • Price: $1.70/sf
  • The place to purchase: Amazon

Verify worth: Amazon

Havelock Wool

One other rising front-runner for van insulation is sheep’s wool from an organization referred to as Havelock Wool. An all-natural materials, sheep’s wool has been touted as an eco-friendly insulation selection. It’s received a barely increased R-value than 3M Thinsulate (R-value of seven.2 for a 2″ thick batt) and it’s cheaper, has pure moisture-wicking properties, and in addition supplies sound dampening.

Nonetheless, bugs love wool, so in an effort to stop bugs, in addition to scale back flammability, Havelock applies a small quantity of boric acid to the sheep’s wool. That is thought-about non-toxic, based on the Nationwide Pesticide Info Heart.

One very last thing to think about is that in comparison with 3M Thinsulate, sheep’s wool is reported to be barely messier on the set up, though Havelock’s insulation is available in 4’x1.3′ batts (sheets) to assist simplify set up.

Fast Stats:

  • R-Worth: 7.2
  • Thickness: 2″
  • Price: $1.50/sf
  • The place to purchase: Havelock Wool

Foam Boards

A closing possibility I’ll point out for van insulation is inflexible foam boards, like Polyisocyanurate. Polyisocyanurate foam boards have an R-value of 6 for a 1″ thick panel though thinner panels can be found as properly (R-5 for a 0.75″ panel – you don’t need to go any decrease than that if you’d like your van to be good and comfy). These are extensively accessible at {hardware} shops and are comparatively low cost making them a superb finances possibility.

If you happen to determine to make use of a inflexible foam board, you’ll want to concentrate to any air gaps between the boards and ensure to fill them in with spray foam, 3M Thinsulate, or wool. In any other case, airflow will end in moisture build-up in these areas.

Additionally value mentioning is that Polyisocyanurate foam boards are constructed from plastic, so whereas they’re thought-about non-toxic and don’t off-gas, they aren’t essentially environmentally pleasant.

Fast Stats:

  • R-Worth: 6 for 1″ thick panel
  • Thickness: Varies from 0.5″ – 1″
  • Price: ~ $0.78/sf
  • The place to purchase: Most {hardware} shops

Van Insulation Choices to Keep away from

There are just a few supplies you’ll need to keep away from for van insulation, together with


Denim retains moisture so that you don’t need to use it when insulating your van partitions, regardless that it’s unhazardous and environmentally pleasant because it’s constructed from used/recycled supplies.


Reflectix was once well-liked as a van life insulation, however because it seems, it’s not very efficient. Reflectix is nice for reflecting daylight and radiant warmth, which is why it’s generally used as a sunshade for entrance windshields and on the surface going through aspect of insulated window coverings. Nevertheless it has a low R-value, so as soon as put behind a wall, it’s not very efficient.


Fiberglass accommodates formaldehyde and is poisonous – not one thing you need in your dwelling house. Whereas that’s sufficient mentioned proper there, fiberglass additionally has a decrease R-value than the really helpful van insulation choices listed right here and it absorbs moisture which you undoubtedly don’t need.

Insulating your Van Home windows

The home windows of your van are a important approach that each warmth and chilly can enter and exit your van. In reality, the extra home windows you might have, the much less insulated your van will likely be total and the extra topic it will likely be to exterior temperatures.

You possibly can decrease this by buying or making insulated window covers. These make an enormous distinction when it comes to comfy temps inside your van and are nice for privateness as properly.

DIY Insulating Window Covers

Whereas we’ve heard that DIYing insulated window covers is a ton of labor, it’s doable in the event you’re on a finances, helpful with a stitching machine, and have time in your palms. The outward-facing aspect is usually constructed from a reflective materials corresponding to Reflectix or Low-E with a layer of cloth on the within for a completed look. For extra insulation which you’ll probably need in the event you’re touring in scorching or chilly climates, you may add a layer of insulating materials (3M Thinsulate as mentioned in one of the best van insulation choices above is an effective selection) between the reflective outer layer and material inside layer. You may additionally need to contemplate making the within of your insulated window coverings black so you may flip them round at night time when it is advisable to go stealth mode.

Needless to say you’ll additionally want to determine a method to simply connect and detach your insulated covers to your home windows. Magnets are essentially the most generally used possibility we’ve heard of.

The place to Purchase Insulating Window Covers

The far simpler (though pricier) method to go is to put money into a superb set of insulating window covers which might be professionally made, look good, and are tremendous simple to put in. They need to final you a really very long time so whilst you’ll be spending extra upfront, you’ll probably have a product that you find yourself being happier with for years and years.

Journey Van Co who was at our van life competition, Open Roads Fest, makes nice insulating window curtains for Sprinters, Ford Transits, Ford E-Sequence vans, and for Dodge Promasters.

Insulating your Van Flooring

You’ll need to insulate and add sound dampening to your van flooring as a part of your construct as properly. The identical insulation choices really helpful above in addition to the sound dampening supplies really helpful beneath apply.

Exterior Van insulated the ground of my second van with 3M Thinsulate, the identical materials they used to insulate the partitions. Under that, they put in a layer of sound deadening materials much like the choices lined beneath.

For extra on this subject take a look at our submit on camper van flooring layers.

Sound Dampening Supplies on your Van

Sound dampening supplies make an enormous distinction in decreasing the vibrations and highway noise in your van. These supplies assist preserve exterior sounds inside and outside sounds inside so you may benefit from the peace and quiet of your van whether or not on the highway or camped out. You additionally received’t be as simply heard from the surface, which is useful when stealth tenting.

Sound dampening supplies are sometimes put in straight on the within of the car’s steel partitions earlier than including insulation.

Peel-and-stick sound deadeners are a well-liked possibility for van conversions. They’re simple to put in and also you don’t want a ton of fabric to make an enormous distinction. Making use of the fabric to even simply 25% of the within house will considerably scale back exterior noise and vibrations in the event you’re utilizing a superb product particularly designed for this goal.

I counsel making use of sound-deadening supplies to partitions, the ceiling, the cab, the ground, wheel wells, doorways, and below the hood. 50 sq. ft is often sufficient for the most important areas of a panel van, however you’ll want extra if you wish to cowl the whole inside.

Exterior Van lined the entire inside of my second van with sound dampening supplies, and different van lifers who rode in it at all times commented on how quiet it was. So I’d say including sound dampening to the within of your van partitions earlier than putting in insulation is value it.

Listed here are three well-liked sound dampening supplies which might be generally utilized in camper vans:

Interior of cargo van ready for insulation installation. Rolls of wool insulation on the floor.
Sound dampening materials put in inside my second Sprinter van earlier than the insulation goes in

Van Wall Panels

With regards to deciding on supplies for the wall panels and ceiling in your van to cowl the layers of sound dampening materials and insulation, there are lots of choices. You possibly can go along with one thing prefabricated or custom-built, and you’ll go in a wide range of instructions when it comes to look, from rustic wood-paneled partitions to one thing extra trendy and clear.

There are some nice sources on the market that provide constructing supplies at discounted costs, like salvage yards, upcycling facilities, and native building shops – so preserve that in thoughts as you seek for the suitable wall panels on your van in the event you’re doing a DIY construct.

Finally, materials choice is predicated on just a few issues: finances, aesthetic selection, and availability of sources.

In my second van, Exterior Van used Mahogany luan panels (principally a kind of plywood) for the partitions. They adhered a layer of closed-cell foam to present the panels a little bit cushioning after which wrapped every panel within the desired upholstery. Within the case of Exterior Van, they sometimes use polyolefin, which is an upholstery with many makes use of corresponding to carpeting and car interiors. It’s sturdy, immune to stains, mildew, and daylight, so it’s an awesome possibility for camper vans.

In my second van, Exterior Van used a cloth referred to as Sil-Leather-based, which is product of silicon. Sil-Leather-based is eco-friendly, non-toxic, waterproof, and extremely sturdy, and I used to be very proud of it in my van. I may actually get a moist material and wipe the partitions clear (particularly good because the partitions had been white). I additionally love that canine hair doesn’t follow it like it might on extra conventional upholstery.

Another choice to think about for upholstered wall panels is Sunbrella which is a sturdy outside material that’s simple to scrub (though not as simple as wiping Sil-Leather-based) and doesn’t fade like lots of different supplies.

Proper infrastructure is key for a comfortable van conversion. Learn the basics of van insulation, sound dampening, wall paneling options and more.
Exterior Van used Sil-Leather-based on my partitions. You possibly can see the insulated window curtains right here as properly.

Different van lifers just like the look of wooden paneling. I don’t have private expertise with wooden, however many DIYers go for tongue and groove paneling. Others on a tighter finances simply use marine-grade plywood and paint over it.

Van Inside Conversion Package Possibility

A closing van insulation possibility I’ll suggest is the Journey Wagon Van Conversion Package. These conversion kits are at the moment accessible for Sprinters (each the 144 and 170 wheelbase) and Ford Transits. They arrive with the whole lot it is advisable to construct a stable basis on your van together with insulation, wiring, upholstered wall panels, trim, L-track, and extra.

For people who need to DIY however don’t need to cope with constructing all of the infrastructure, this can be a nice possibility.

Assets Part

Do you might have questions on van insulation? What did you go along with in your van? Share your questions, suggestions, and experiences within the feedback beneath, and ensure to join our van life publication!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments

error: Content is protected !!