Vanlife Insulation: Best Material + Install Guide

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There’s nothing like the feeling of getting into your van and hitting the open road. Nowadays, more people than ever are taking advantage of the freedom and adventure that comes with van life.

However, before you get started with your own road trip, it’s important to consider your practical needs. It’s easy enough to travel when the weather is nice, but what about when temperatures are extreme? Are you prepared to drive when it’s overwhelmingly hot or cold?

To keep your van comfortable during extreme weather conditions, it’s important to install van insulation. By blocking the transfer of heat, insulated vans can keep you warm during winter and cool in the summer.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about insulating your van including what products to use & how to install them. Our goal is to help you make the best choices possible when it comes to van life.

What Is Van Insulation?

Before we can get to the best insulation for camper vans, it’s important to understand the purpose of insulation. Put simply, it’s is a method for slowing down the transfer of heat both in and out of your van. Let’s take a closer look at the main forms of heat transfer and how sprinter van insulation can help.

Radiation

Man Installing Window on a Van
@applecountycustoms on IG | Photo

Radiation is when heat transfers through the air. Unlike other forms of heat transfer, it doesn’t require a material medium and can occur even in a vacuum. An example of radiation is when heat from the sun passes through the atmosphere and your van’s windows, consequently heating the interior of your van.

By performing van window insulation, you can slow down this heat transfer and help keep your van naturally cool during warmer months. It’s also advisable to use reflective window coverings (which prevent the absorption of heat).

Conduction

Van Interior Facing a Sunset
@ama_windows on IG | Photo

Conduction refers to the transfer of heat by direct contact, such as through solid surfaces. This form of heat transfer is extremely common and will arguably impact your van the most. On a hot day, heat from outside will seep through your van and warm the inside — on a cold day, heat from your HVAC system will exit the van body and leave you chilly. Fortunately, campervan insulation can slow down these processes and give you more control over the temperature.

Convection

Woman Placing Insulation Material on Van
@campncar on IG | Photo

Convection is the process by which heat moves through a fluid (such as liquid or gas). This occurs naturally every day — the hot, less dense air rises to the roof while the cooler, denser air sinks to the floor. You can combat heat loss by convection is to seal any gaps through proper ceiling and van floor insulation.

How Does Insulation Work?

Woman Installing Splashback for Van Insulation
@stravanaig on IG | Photo

Insulating your van is a great way to retain heat in the winter and release it in the summer. It works by blocking cracks or crevices in your van’s floor, ceiling, windows and walls, consequently preventing heat from leaving or entering. You can choose between several materials when insulating a van for winter or summer, such as:

  • Spray foam insulation for vans
  • Wool van insulation
  • Rockwool insulation for vans
  • Sheep wool insulation
  • Denim insulation
  • Fiberglass insulation van conversion
  • Bubble foil insulation

Every insulation material comes with an R-value, which measures its resistance to heat transfer. In general, a higher R-value means a stronger ability to prevent heat from leaving or entering the van.

What Are The Benefits of Van Build Insulation?

Woman Making Thumbs-up While Working With A Man Inside A Van
@bridgesadventures on IG | Photo

If you’re still unsure about the idea of cargo van insulation, it might help to take a closer look at its benefits. Here are some of the top advantages of van interior insulation.

Increased Comfort and Health

The biggest argument for insulating van windows, floors and ceilings is the extra comfort you’ll enjoy. Without proper insulation, your van will alternate between a hot oven in summer and a freezing metal box in winter. Temperature control brings health benefits as well. The Harvard School of Public Health claims that if more people used insulation, there would be 6,500 fewer asthma attacks and 240 fewer pollution-related deaths every year.

Reduced Costs

Van life insulation is a great way to save money. By properly insulating van doors, ceilings and windows, you can reduce the amount of money you’d otherwise spend on air conditioning or heating. As an added bonus, van insulation is an all-natural solution, which benefits the environment.

Moisture Control

Condensation, or the process in which air turns into water vapor, often leads to rusting or mold formation. Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid — condensation occurs every time warm air connects with a cold surface (such as through breathing, cooking or drying clothes). Proper van roof insulation will control condensation, serving as a natural moisture barrier for van conversion.

Noise Reduction

Hot and cold air isn’t the only thing that van door insulation can take care of. A high-quality insulation will act as a noise barrier, reducing unpleasant outdoor sounds (such as honking cars, chirping crickets or loud passerby).

What Is the Best Way to Insulate a Cargo Van?

Dog Inside Van During Insulation Work
@_designbygina on IG | Photo

There’s no right answer when it comes to the question of how to insulate a cargo van. The exact process depends on the shape and size of your van, as well as the materials you’re using. Moreover, each part of the van (such as the floor, roof and walls) has its own installation rules. Below you’ll find a general guide covering the basic elements of the van insulation process.

Materials for Van Conversion Insulation

Materials for Van Insulation
@larkincustomconversions on IG | Photo

The most important material is the insulation itself. You may also use the following supplies:

  • Furring strips: Furring strips consist of thin strips of wood (or a similar material) that are used to prevent dampness and make extra space for insulation.
  • Screws and drills: Depending on the type of insulation you use, you might need the assistance of screws and drills. These are also useful when installing panels.
  • Thermal breaks: Thermal breaks help mitigate thermal bridges, or areas with high thermal conductivity. These are usually minor, exposed elements that have not been insulated, such as a metal frame on the van roof.
  • Vapor barriers: Campervan vapor barriers prevent moist air inside the van from getting into contact with cold van surfaces, ultimately reducing condensation issues. You can get separate vapor barriers or invest in insulation materials that have built-in vapor resistance.
  • Panel van insulation: In some cases, you may cover up your insulation with another material, such as a panel. For example, if insulating the van floor, you’ll need to apply subflooring or panels to walk on.
  • Soundproofing kit: Installing van insulation gives you a great opportunity to soundproof your van. Many van owners purchase soundproofing kits to help reduce external and internal noises.

Instead of buying all these materials separately, you can invest in a van insulation kit.

Camper Van Insulation Kits

Man Holding Insulation Kit for his Van
@the_european_van_company on IG | Photo

The standard cargo van kit comes with everything you need to install high-quality insulation throughout your van’s interior. Here are some of the most popular kits:

  • Ford transit van insulation kit
  • Chevy express insulation kit
  • VW T4 or T5 insulation kit
  • Astro van insulation kit

Once you have your materials, you can move forward with the installation.

How to Insulate a Van floor

Various Materials for Van Flor Insulation
@chloes.camper on IG | Photo

To insulate the van floor, start by clearing out everything in the van. This involves removing items and then cleaning the area with a broom or mop. Once you have a clean, empty space, just follow these steps:

  • Measure the floor dimensions
  • Fit the floor with furring strips, creating a wood grid
  • Attach the furring strips together using screws
  • Cut your insulation, then place it inside the grid openings
  • Attach the subfloor to the wood grid

Van build floor insulation is often neglected due to its complex process. However, the floor is a prime spot for valuable heat to enter and exit — it’s important not to ignore it during the van insulation installation process.

How to Insulate Van Walls

Man Placing Insulation Material for Van Walls
@leonard_en_vadrouille on IG | Photo

Insulation for van windows and walls is important if you want to reduce the amount of heat you lose and gain through conduction. When performing a cargo van wall insulation, you should start by stripping the wall down to the bare essentials. Next, install the vapor barrier or soundproofing material (if you intend to use any).

The method you use for installing the insulation depends on your chosen material. Some materials are self-adhesive, which means they can be attached by simply pressing them to the walls. Whichever material you choose, you’ll want to start with the larger areas, then move on to smaller gaps and spaces. Finally, install the panels to cover and protect your insulation.

How to Insulate Van Roofs

Insulation and Soundproof Materials for Van
@fox.van.life on IG | Photo

Campervan roof insulation can be tricky as you have to work above your head. However, the job is definitely doable provided you work slowly and carefully. It involves the following steps:

  • Attach self-adhesive heads into the metallic roof surface
  • Push the insulation boards onto the pins to secure it in place
  • Fill in any gaps and spaces in the roof for adequate insulation.

You should try to insulate your roof with the thickest insulation possible (without consuming too much of the available head-space). In general, anywhere between 1 and 2.5 inches of insulation is usually ideal for van roof installation.

Is Insulating a Van Safe?

Man and Woman Applying Tape for Spray Foam Insulation
@stefandbo on IG | Photo

Van insulation is safe as long as you follow the proper safety guidelines. These include:

  • Wearing protection: No matter which material you use, it’s a good idea to wear protective gear (including a mask, gloves and goggles).
  • Keeping areas clean: The area where you’re applying the insulation should be clear to help avoid fire hazards.
  • Avoid compression: Don’t try and squeeze insulation into areas where it doesn’t fit — this makes the product less effective.

It’s also a good idea to have at least two people doing the job.

Professional Van Insulation

Woman Wearing Coverall to Spray Foam Van
@wandering.wild.campervan on IG | Photo

If the insulation process seems overwhelming, you can always hire a professional. The cost of a professional van insulation varies based on a few factors, such as:

  • Location
  • Size of the van
  • Insulation materials used

A professional spray foam insulation generally starts at around $2,000. While hiring someone is more expensive than performing the insulation yourself, it also comes with a guarantee of quality.

How Much Van Insulation Do I Need?

Various Boxed Materials for Van Insulation
@goldilocks_van on IG | Photo

Before we discuss insulation options, you should calculate how much insulation you’ll actually need. This depends on both the type of insulation and the size of your van.

Type of Insulation

Man Installing Insulation Material for Van
@atransitcalledwhitney on IG | Photo

The insulation type refers to how the insulation is applied to your vehicle. There are four main types of van insulation:

  • Rolls
  • Batts
  • Faced
  • Unfaced

Rolls and batts are the most popular kinds of caravan insulation. Rolls are (as the name suggests) rolled out onto the wall, ceilings and floors, while batts are applied in separate pieces. They’re available in similar price ranges and R-values.

You can also choose between faced and unfaced insulation. Unfaced focuses solely on insulation, while faced provides both insulation and moisture protection.

Van Size

Interior of Van Before Insultation Work
@nordic.vanventures on IG | Photo

The size of your camper van will influence how much insulation you’ll ultimately need. You can start by measuring the length of the walls, then multiplying this amount by the height of the van. You’ll also need to measure the space between the wall studs (which refers to the metal or wood that helps form the framework of the wall). You can easily locate wall studs with the help of a stud finder.

Once you have your measurements, you can purchase rolls or batts that accommodate your square footage requirements. Insulation can cost anywhere from $0.75 to $2.50 per square foot (although prices may vary based on the material you purchase).

What Is the Best Insulation for an RV or Camper Van?

So, you’ve calculated how much van insulation you’ll need and even learned how to perform the installation. However, the journey’s not over yet — you still have to select your desired material. The truth is, there’s no best way to insulate a van. The answer depends entirely on your unique budget and heat needs. To help you decide, we’ve analyzed and compared some of the most commonly used materials.

Sheep Wool Insulation for Van Life

Sheep Wool Insulation for Van
@luomupaku on IG | Photo

Sheep van wool insulation is a renewable, biodegradable material commonly used for van insulation. While it doesn’t have the highest R-value, it’s both breathable and affordable.

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Easy to cut and fit into tight spaces
  • Moisture management and soundproof properties

Cons

  • Unpleasant smell
  • Lengthy installation process
  • Low R-value

Rockwool Insulation for Van Life

Dog Laying Down on Top of Rockwool Bag
@vbombb on IG | Photo

Rockwool, or mineral wool, is a semi-rigid insulating material made of rocks spun into thin fibers. It’s known for being resilient and non-combustible (meaning you won’t have to worry about fire hazards).

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Non-toxic
  • Resistant to moisture

Cons

  • May release fibers (which can trigger allergies)
  • Burdensome installation process
  • Low R-value (3.0 per inch)

Fibreglass Insulation for Vans

Van Interior Insulated with Pink Fiberglass
@streamymcdreamy on IG | Photo

Fiberglass, or earthwool insulation, is made from up to 80% of recycled glass. Its simple installation needs, coupled with its soundproof properties, make it one of the best options for van conversions.

Pros

  • High thermal factor
  • Non-combustible and odorless
  • Strong temperature and noise control

Cons

  • Vulnerable to moisture and mold
  • Limited sizing options

Thinsulate Van Insulation

Van Interior Insulated with Thinsulate
@pixel.jedi.at.large on IG | Photo

Thinsulate is a common, synthetic material known for its heat, sound and moisture control. The most popular product is its 3m Thinsulate insulation for campervans, and it generally has a Thinsulate R-value of 3.3.

Pros

  • Noise insulation properties
  • Can be fitted into small spaces
  • No moisture or mold risk

Cons

  • Low functionality if the product gets wet
  • More expensive than other materials

Spray Foam Van Insulation

Man Wearing Coverall for Spray Foaming Van for Insulation
@stefandbo on IG | Photo

Spray foam insulation has a high R-value, which is why it’s often considered to be one of the best ways to insulate vans conversions. Moreover, campervan insulation foam is resistant to water and forms a vapor barrier when installed correctly.

Pros

  • Soundproof properties
  • Strong moisture and temperature control
  • Can accommodate big vans

Cons

  • Flammable
  • Strenuous installation process
  • More expensive than other materials

Self-Adhesive Foam

Self-Adhesive Great Stuff Insulating Foam Can
@toplesstopics on IG | Photo

While spray foam is arguably the most common foam-based insulation choice, you can also get self-adhesive foam (which serves as a stick-on insulation for vans). One of the most popular self-adhesive foam brands is Great Stuff Foam. According to van life forums, Great Stuff Foam provides quality for an affordable price, making it an excellent campervan insulation option.

Pros

  • Easy installation process
  • Strong moisture and temperature control

Cons

  • Flammable
  • More expensive than other materials

Reflective Insulation for Vans

Man Installing Reflective Sheets for Van Insulation
@ldvcamper on IG | Photo

Reflective insulation uses reflective facing materials to mitigate the transfer of heat. Despite its name, it’s not actually insulation — rather, it’s a radiant heat batter. Common types of reflective insulation include:

  • Bubble foil van insulation
  • Cardboard van insulation
  • Plastic film van insulation

The most popular brand for reflective insulation is Reflectix, Inc. When asked, “is Reflectix worth it?,” many consumers agreed that its high-quality materials and extensive testing make the product line one of the best for vanlife.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to work with
  • Long lifespan
  • Unaffected by moisture

Cons

  • Not as effective in colder climates
  • Requires maintenance and cleaning
  • More expensive than other materials

Aerogel Van Insulation

Van with Aerogel Insultation
@swissoffgrid on IG | Photo

Aerogel is a synthetic, ultraviolet material taken from a special gel that replaces the liquid component with gas. It features microscopic pores that greatly inhibit the transfer of air (and heat), making it (one of) the best insulation for van floors, ceilings and walls.

Pros

  • Effective in blocking convection
  • High R-value
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Doesn’t hold up well under tension
  • More expensive than other brands

Denim Insulation

Man Using Denim for Van Insulation
@sprintercouple on IG | Photo

Denim insulation is an innovative solution that uses recycled jeans, shredded denim and cotton to create renewable, non-toxic insulation materials. The fabric is generally treated with boric acid to make it resistant to things like fire and mildew.

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Simple installation process
  • Non-toxic

Cons

  • Limited sizing options
  • Reduced functionality if it gets wet

Polyester Van Insulation

Man Holding Polyester Insultation Bag
@outbackinsulation on IG | Photo

Polyester has become an increasingly popular choice for van insulation (the Higgins Co makes great stuff). Made from polymers, it offers durability, longevity and quality. These distinct advantages have helped the product earn its place as one of the top insulation options.

Pros

  • Odorless and non-itchy
  • Can be made to be environmentally-friendly
  • Long lasting

Cons

  • Thicker than other materials
  • Difficult installation process
  • Requires respiratory equipment during installation

Thermoliner

Van Walls Insulated with Thermoliner
@murielsadventures on IG | Photo

Thermoliner is a brand as opposed to a material. It’s designed to thoroughly seal any cracks and crevices, fostering a comfortable, humidity-free environment. While Thermoliner is available in the US, it’s more commonly known as a van insulation solution in Ireland and the UK.

Pros

  • Cost-effective
  • Secure barrier against heat and contamination
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Can be bulky and hard to manage
  • More commonly used for packaging than vans

Where Can I Find Van Insulation?

Two Women with Havelock Wool for Van Insulation
@choosethepathyoutake on IG | Photo

Now that you know the different materials available, you might be wondering: where can I actually get van insulation? When making a purchase, most people turn to one of the following options:

  • Insulation brands
  • Online retailers
  • Physical storefronts

Here’s a closer look at each of these choices.

Insulation Brands

For the highest-quality products, you should rely on a brand that specializes in creating insulation. We’ve mentioned a few of these already (such as Great Stuff Foam, Reflectix, Inc. and Thermoliner). While buying directly from a well-known insulation brand might be more expensive, it’s the best way to ensure longevity and durability. Moreover, many companies offer installation services. This option is best if you plan on traveling in your van extensively.

Online Retailers

If you want to save money, you can purchase insulation from a third-party online retailer (such as Amazon). When looking for insulation, you may tailor your search to meet your material, quality and budgetary needs. The least expensive options are generally made overseas, where production costs are lower. However, quality might be sacrificed as a result. This option is best if your insulation needs are limited.

Physical Storefronts

You can find insulation in supply stores right in your neighborhood. Common options include:

  • The Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Walmart

Many stores offer high-quality products at affordable rates — some may even carry well-known brands. This option is best if you’re looking for a quick yet effective solution.

Prepare the Perfect Van Life Journey

Woman Inside Van Watching the Landscape
@andeegreen on IG | Photo

If you’re planning a short-term road trip, all you have to do is hop in your van, set your destination and take off. On the flip side, if you’re considering converting to full-time van life, you’re going to need to do a bit more planning. Proper insulation can go a long way in creating a comfortable, safe environment that you can enjoy in the summer heat and winter frost.

Of course, planning out your van insulation needs is easier said than done. Not only do you have to choose a material, but you also have to conduct measurements and handle installation. While the process might seem complicated, you can rest assured that our team will do everything we can to help you make the right decisions. Our overall goal is to help people get the most out of their vans. Contact us today to learn more about van life!

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Comments

3 Responses

    1. Hi,
      Awesome explanation.
      Lot of choices.
      Could you tell me what is the white cotton like inaulation material?
      Thank you.
      Beat regards,
      Alex

Comments are closed.