DIY Cheap Thermal Blackout Curtains

Thermal blackout curtains can be expensive. My van has three windows and I wanted to insulate them the best I could at a low cost. I also wanted to be able to block any light from the inside so I could remain stealth in public places.

I purchased black and brown quilting fabric from Joanne’s. This store is great because they have a phone app with coupons you can use at the register. I saved over $20 with these coupons. The quilting fabric is 100% cotton with 100% polyester batting inside. These should do a good job of holding air to prevent heat transfer by convection and conduction. I also ordered Mylar (space blanket) to act as a vapor barrier and radiant barrier. I purchased a few blankets from here.

First I cut the fabric and mylar to the size I wanted. Then I sewed three edged together in this order.

I flipped it inside out so the mylar would now be on inside.

For the top edge, I sewed across about three inches down.

The top edge gives something for clips to latch on to and it hides the curtain tracks. I used these clips that I also purchased from Joanne’s.

I placed the clip on the inside.

I ordered bendable curtain tracks from amazon. This was the lowest profile curtain track I could find. It is very easy to make it fit the strange shapes of the van, and it was easy to cut with a hand saw. Amazon Link: RECMAR 4108 Bendable I Beam Curtain Track – 8 Feet Silver

I attached the tracks using some VHB tape, some Scotch Extreme mounting tape, and two screws on each end.

I also ordered these wheel carriers from amazon to fit the curtain tracks. They slide really nicely. Almost too nicely because I kept losing them. I made sure to buy extra. Amazon Link: I-beam Nylon Wheel Carrier

I hooked the clips right onto the wheel carrier and skipped the ring in order to make it shorter. The clips kept falling off the wheel carriers so squeezed them tighter. The whole set up looks like this:

Finished Product:

I’m leaving Thursday. I’m heading to New Jersey to visit my friend Nate. I have a couple places in mind that I want to see in NJ such as the Great Falls. The van is finished aside from running some hoses and connecting some wires. Future blog posts will be a mix of my travels and the rest of the van conversion details.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be feeling, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m sort of in disbelief at the amount of work I’ve done and everything I’ve learned in the last few months. There is a feeling of excitement and uncertainty. It’s the type of uncertainty that I needed and craved. My life up until this point has been a scheduled To-Do list and that’s finally over. Structure, routine, rinse, and repeat. People keep asking me where I’m going. I really don’t know what to tell them. I don’t have a definite plan and I don’t want to have one.

As this blog turns to more of a travel blog, comment below and let me know how I can improve it.

UPDATE: 5/24/2017 I have since doubled up on the layers of the window curtains using the fabric from the partitioning curtain. I replaced the partitioning curtain with a wooden partition. Read about it here: DIY Sprinter Van Partition.

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  • Richard Hauser

    So many ideas for where to go, but I will give one that is very vague and still a ways off.

  • Van Derlust

    We did something similar and it working ok!

  • Steve Dowdell

    Did you feel that the curtains were well-insulated enough for use with your van windows. I’m considering this type of quilted fabric setup, but also thinking about using some thinsulate insulation (bought from Hein on Sprinter source, but pretty thick at about 1.5″) with fabric and a reflective surface too. But not having done any of this yet, I’m not sure if the thinsulate is overkill or the fabric not robust enough.

    • Joe

      Well the windows now have four layers of the fabric. It’s pretty robust and I can feel a big difference between both sides of the curtain. Thinsulate wouldn’t hurt if it’s in your budget.