We’ve spent countless hours making insulated Sprinter van window covers (shades, curtains or whatever you want to call them). Since I first wrote my original how-to article I’ve learned a lot and we’ve iterated on our design for over 6 months. I’m truly proud of the window shades we are making now!
Here are some pictures of a recent batch of insulated window shades I made for the rear door covers for an NCV3 Mercedes Sprinter van. You’ll notice nice straps, strong ribbon around the outside, according-style folding and just better sewing in general.
The right magnets for window covers
Part of the refinement process involved finding the not only the right size magnet to sew in, but the also the right strength. I use only the highest quality and most powerful N55 rare earth magnets for all of our shades. We have these magnets custom made to our specifications in the USA. A typical window cover will have anywhere from 16 to 32 magnets. These magnets keep the shades in place on even the most punishing roads.
One of the issues I had before was some of my shades would attach to the metal around the window with just enough force. Now, with my refinements, they aren’t going anywhere even if you just have them attached at the top when the shade is folded up.
The right fabric for window covers
When it comes to manufacturing Sprinter van window covers, you need to make sure you use the right fabric. For the fabric that faces the exterior, I always use a black, super strong, waterproof, ripstop nylon. The black is key for “blacking out” your windows at night. When these shades are deployed you literally can’t see any light coming from within the van. It’s almost scary how stealthy they make the van.
For the interior we use a gray, waterproof ripstop. The gray is pleasant to look out without drawing too much attention to it. There are a ton of different ripstop fabrics to choose from and they aren’t all created equal. Some are like the ones found in puffy jackets, others have a more cotton-like feel, but they are so thin you can see through them. For our windows we use a 420 denier high-quality diamond ripstop. It is thick and exceptionally rugged.
Folding them up when not needed
Whether you are living out of a van or literally living in your van, you know space is an absolute premium That’s why we make our window covers so that they can easily fold up, accordion style. When you don’t need them deployed, don’t take up precious cargo space, just fold them up and use the straps to get them out of the way.
Some other manufactures make you literally roll your shades up. Who wants to spend time monkeying around like that? With our window shades, just fold them up and they stay put, even while driving on serious bumpy roads. (Of course, never leave any window coverings up that will obscure your view while you are driving!)
The right tools for the job
Like any project, having the right tools for the job can make a huge difference. It can not only save you time, but you’ll end up with a better product in the end by using the right tools. The main tool for our trade is the sewing machine.
Sewing machines come in all shapes and sizes. You can get a home sewing machine for around $100. Surprisingly, it can do a lot. However, if you want to make professional window shades, you are going to need to invest in something significantly more powerful.
To sew through layers of insulation, fabric and binding you need an industrial walking foot sewing machine. These machines are incredibly powerful and can even sew through multiple layers of leather. At our shop we currently have two industrial machines, one is a walking foot and one is a regular straight stitch. We also use various attachment arms to help us put on the binding around the margins of the shades.
Outfitting your van
Whether you hired an upfitter or you’ve done the work yourself, getting your van ready for #vanlife takes a lot of time. If you do it yourself, it seriously takes a lot a lot of time! How many times did you think a project would be relatively easy only to find out it took 10x longer than you expected?
If you like to sew and don’t mind investing in yet more tools, then definitely make your own window covers for your van. But if you want to save yourself a week worth of time and $100s (if not $1,000s) in tools, then just buy ours.