Finding the right curtains and hardware for our minivan camper conversion is almost as tricky as trying to find “bedding” for it. I’m sure there must be a hundred different answers as to what works best for whom. Some camping stores have ready made curtains for around the windshield of larger motorhomes, but the typical colors are tan or gray. Although that might work for some vans, they lack “personality”. Also, they would still have to be modified for use in our minivan.
The type of material is important if you expect privacy. Many fabrics look great in daylight, but if you hold them up to a light on the other side, you soon realize you can see through them! That could be a problem with lights on inside the minivan when it’s dark outside! Many times, people don’t realize that you can see through many curtains at night! And if you are trying to look “stealth”, so no one knows you are in your vehicle at night, then you don’t want any light at all showing through the curtains to the outside!
The best solution for a stealth vehicle is to first have all the rear windows tinted as dark as the law allows. You will still be able to see out during daylight hours, but no one will be able to see in unless “maybe” they might have their nose against the glass with their eyes shielded from the sun. But having dark windows won’t look very stealth if you have light-colored curtains behind them! So the logical thing is to have very dark colored curtains on the outer side, and just for esthetics, I prefer mine to match the color of the van if possible. We have a dark green van, so dark green is perfectly suited for the outer side of the curtains.
If I had a light colored van, like white, then I would go with a dark version of whatever the trim color was. If blue, then I would go with a dark blue. If red, then dark red, if tan, then probably a dark brown, and for gray, probably black for the curtain, etc. And you will want the same type of covering for the divider, between the front seats and the living area of the van. That way, anyone passing by the front of the vehicle sees just a very dark area, which could easily be mistaken for simply not enough light to see back there! And if you have your curtains sealed tight on all sides so that no light escapes, they won’t have a clue that someone is inside the vehicle!
The concern has been mentioned that dark colored curtains facing the outside will only attract sunlight and heat inside the van, but I doubt if that will be much of a concern. Remember, if you have your windows tinted very darkly, there will be very little sunlight get through the glass. And if you also have another layer of lighter fabric on the inside, the air space trapped between the fabrics will act as insulation to keep the heat out. So in reality, you won’t see any more heat coming into the van than you would from any of the other areas of the van where there are no windows.
However, you probably don’t want a dark color on the inside of your van, especially if you get no light through it. On the inside, a much lighter color will make it seem more “roomy”, and less “gloomy”. This almost necessitates a dual layer of fabric for the curtains. The two layers “could” be sewn together back to back… sort of “laminated”, but it isn’t necessary. As long as the outer dark layer seals up tight and lets no light through, the inside layer could hang freely and look more like a conventional curtain.
So your best bet is to go to a fabric shop and pick out your own fabric for your curtains. At some point, we may offer a few choices and put together a full package that will work in any minivan, but we have many other things to do before we get to that point! Probably the first thing we will offer is a means of attaching any type of curtain to your minivan without drilling holes in anything, although that option may not be possible on some vans. We know what works with our own van, but we are still researching all the different vans and model years to see if what we have come up with will work for them all. When you stop and think how many different brands and models of minivans have been built in the last twenty years, and all the different trim materials and window shapes and sizes, that’s an enormous task in itself!
We may resolve to attaching Velcro to the perimeter of the glass itself, but we won’t use the self-sticking type, as it tends to melt in heat. If we go this route, we will suggest the plain Velcro and we will talk to a professional, like 3-M company, to see what adhesive they would use for such a task. We want something that that will not soften in the heat of the sun, and yet be able to scrape off with a razor blade when trading vans. But for neatness’ sake, we can’t have just a big patch of material that sticks to the Velcro… it will have to be cut to the shape of the window and have the Velcro also applied to its perimeter, probably by sewing it on. We know that it will be more work, but the finished product will be much nicer than something just thrown together.
If you are working on creating your own minivan camper and need help with designing an attachment means for your curtains, or leave a comment down below, and we will be glad to research it and help you come up with something! Your project is just as important to us as our own, because as we meet the needs of one reader, it will help anyone else with that model of van, and that helps everyone to get out there faster and see this beautiful country we live in!
As we find suppliers for various curtain hardware that will work in all applications, we will present them here.