A simple set of curtains can be the difference between privacy and feeling thoroughly exposed in a camper van. Luckily, they’re relatively easy to make, and you don’t need very many materials. Choose your preferred color, fabric, and sizes, and you’re one step closer to making DIY curtains.
So, do you want to learn how to put up curtains in a camper van? Follow these steps:
- Choose your fabric and cut it down to the dimensions that you need
- Hem all of the edges to prevent fraying
- Make sure that the top side of the curtains has a 1.5″ hole to slide a rod through
- Slide the rod through the curtains, then mount the rod
- Bonus: Sew buttons onto the curtains to clip them together when you need privacy
That’s all there is to it. This post will also teach you about alternative solutions, the insulation value of curtains, where you can mount them, and several other helpful tips. Without any further delay, let’s go into the details.
Tools and Materials for the Job
Making curtains for your camper van is much easier than you might think. You don’t need all sorts of tools, and you can have them finished in under an hour if you’re good at sewing. It’s important to emphasize that the size of the hems can vary based on the thickness of the rod that you choose.
Here are the tools and materials that you’ll need before you start making the curtains:
- Fabric (preferably 0.015 inches or thicker)
- Snap tape
- A sewing machine
- Mounting hooks (remember to choose the size that corresponds with the curtain rod)
- A curtain rod
- Fabric glue
- Velcro strips
As you can see, you might already have most of these items sitting around at home. Some of them, such as the Velcro strips, fabric glue, and snap tape, aren’t necessary if you don’t worry about the small gaps of light that’ll come through.
It is worth noting that you’ll need heavy-duty scissors for this project. Thick fabric is tough to cut if you have safety scissors, or if they’re not sharp. You’ll also need to get thread for the sewing machine to match the fabric that you choose.
Picking Out Fabric
The fabric is undoubtedly the most essential part of the entire materials list. If it’s too thin, the light will shine through. If it’s too thick, you might end up with too much heat building up inside of the vehicle. Try to stick with the recommendation as mentioned earlier of 0.015 inches, or at least somewhere around there.
When it comes to color, you should opt for a darker selection. Black, brown, dark blue, dark green, and dark purple are all great choices. You don’t want to pick something too light, such as yellow or sky blue, because they’ll allow the sunlight to shine through. These colors also tend to get transparent as they wear down.
Once you’re ready to choose the material, there isn’t a wrong choice. As long as the fibers aren’t loose and they’re thick enough, anything will work. Make sure that you buy more fabric than you need. It’s always better to end up having too much rather than not enough.
For example, if you need curtains for your camper van that measure 50 inches x 70 inches, try to get a piece of fabric that’s at least 55 inches x 75 inches. You’ll need the extra width and length to hem for the rod and to prevent fraying along the cut edges.
The Step-by-Step Process to Make DIY Camper Van Curtains
Now that you have all of the tools and materials that you need, it’s finally time to make your curtains. Find an open space that you won’t lose small pieces and allot about one to two hours of uninterrupted time. Here’s the entire process broke down into manageable steps:
Step 1: Use the scissors to cut the fabric down to the dimensions that you need, if you haven’t already. Since most stores tend to sell material in yards, you might have to buy quite a bit more than you’ll need. Fortunately, you can use the fabric to make one of the alternative solutions later in the post.
Step 2: Use a sewing machine to hem the edges. If you’re not familiar with the hemming process, there are numerous tutorials online. All you have to do is fold about ¾ of an inch inwards of all sides of the fabric. Sew a straight line, creating smooth edges around the entire border.
When you’re about to hem the top, fold it in about 1.5 to 2 inches. You’ll need extra space to slide the curtain rod through, as mentioned in the previous section. An easier way to do this step is to lay the rod at the edge of the fabric. Then roll the fabric over it, and sew along the outside to hold it in place.
Step 3: Use mounting hooks that can screw into the side of the camper van. These hooks will hold the curtain rod in place. Some people prefer to screw them into the sidewalls, while others screw them right into the roof. It will depend on how much space you have and what type of rod you’re using.
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Van Camping Life Tip: The hooks need to be wide enough to fit the curtain rod. Don’t get something too big; otherwise, it’ll slide around while you drive. Getting the perfect size will lodge the curtain rod where it needs to be, similar to a shower curtain. You can try to get a tension rod, but they tend to fall out when used in vehicles.
Step 4: Slide the curtains onto the rod, then lock the rod to the length that you need. Most curtain rods have a centerpiece that’s made out of plastic to lodge it in place. Once you have everything as it should be, set the curtain rod with the curtains into the hooks. It should be extended enough to touch the walls, but not enough to scrape and damage the paint, wood, or other material.
Step 5: Use fabric glue to attach the snap tape to the center of the curtains. Both sides should connect right down the middle. You can do a small set of three buttons at the top, middle, and bottom for the best results. The primary purpose of this is to prevent light from coming in, but it’s not much of an issue if you have overlapping curtains.
Step 6: Attach Velcro strips along the outsides of the curtains, then stick the corresponding strips to the walls of the camper van. Once you attach one side to the other, they’ll prevent light from coming around the outer edges of the curtains. Again, this isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s perfect if you don’t want to wake up with the sunrise.
That’s it. Making curtains for your camper van costs very little, and it’s quite a simple process. You needn’t be an expert at sewing, nor do you have to use a couple of the optional additions. If you’re going to use a single sliding curtain, proceed to the next section to see the pros and cons.
Should You Make a Single Curtain or Two Attaching Curtains?
Before you make your curtains, you can choose to make one sliding curtain (like a shower curtain) or two attaching curtains (like most window curtains). Either way, you’ll be able to block the light and get a bit of privacy, but there are some considerations why you might want to try one over the other.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of each option:
Advantages of Single Curtains:
- You don’t need to worry about cutting down the center, which is a relief if you’re concerned about uneven lines. It also means that you won’t need to use scissors throughout the entire process (unless you have to reduce the overall size of the fabric bought with the store-set dimensions).
- There won’t be a need for snap tape or fabric glue, which saves you even more money. Along with the reduction from needing less fabric in general, single curtains offer a cheaper solution.
- Sliding from one side to the other is easier, but that’s a personal preference in most cases. Nonetheless, being able to close your curtains in one motion is as quick as it gets.
Disadvantages of Single Curtains:
- Perhaps the most significant cosmetic problem of single curtains is the fact that you can’t slide them open down the middle to create a picturesque scene. Sunsets and sunrises are always better through a set of curtains.
- Since you’re pulling from one side to the other, you’ll slowly wear down the Velcro on one side. The other side will have to be attached and removed every time you slide them open or closed, stripping away the adhesive. Not only that, but there will always be an uneven weight on the curtain rod when they’re open.
Advantages of Two Curtains:
- Sliding them down the middle offers the aesthetic that so many people crave in the mornings and evenings of camping trips. It also looks much more appealing in photographs.
- Weight is evenly dispersed on the curtain rod, extending its life and preventing wear and tear on the Velcro strips as well. Additionally, you’ll never have to remove the strips since they don’t block the view at all.
- Double curtains often offer more privacy since they can overlap, reducing sunlight penetration and transparency. It also makes it harder for passersby to look into the vehicle, which is a huge bonus.
Disadvantages of Two Curtains:
- The most apparent drawback of having two separate curtains is that you’ll have to spend more money on materials. Two curtains also require a little bit more work since you’ll have to cut them down the center and hem the interior edges as well.
- If the Velcro doesn’t stick to the walls, and there’s a chance that it won’t if all of the exposed edges are slippery or non-porous, then you’ll have light penetrate along the outer edges.
Do You Need Curtains?
Some people feel that curtains are a waste of time and space for their camper van. After all, they’re another amenity to deal with. However, the benefits of installing curtains far outweigh the disadvantages, making them a no-brainer for most camper van owners. Remember, you don’t have to make your own if you’re worried about it.
Even if you settle for store-bought curtains, they’re invaluable to stop the light from coming through while also providing unparalleled privacy. The biggest problem with store-bought curtains is that they’re much more expensive and far too large for camper vans. You can buy them from specialty stores, but the price hike is unavoidable.
When it comes down to it, you’re more than likely going to find yourself wanting a good set of curtains. Once you understand and reap the benefits of them, there’s no going back. Sleeping in beyond sunrise, parking wherever you want without having people peek inside, and parking without worrying about theft are just a few to name.
Where Should You Put Your Curtains in the Camper Van?
There are four primary locations that people put curtains when they buy a camper van:
- Behind the driver’s seat. This area offers complete coverage when someone is looking through the windshield and front windows. It also means that you can park facing the sunrise without it shining on your face in the morning.
- Next to the side windows (if your van has them). If you have valuables, then there’s no doubting the effectiveness of covering them behind a curtain. Most camper vans have the ‘meat’ of the amenities in the back of the van, which sit in plain sight from the side windows.
- In front of the bed (if the bed is sitting sideways). If you’re only looking to keep the sunlight out of your face while preventing people from watching you sleep, then mount the curtains right in front of the bed.
- Alongside the rear windows. Most people add curtains alongside the rear windows in addition to one of the other suggestions mentioned above. They block sunlight, onlookers, and they provide privacy when you’re getting dressed or trying to sleep.
Read our post “Do Campervans Get Stolen? A Guide To Preventing Theft” for more suggestions on keeping your valuables safe.
Feel free to combine two or three of the various methods. The best combination would be 1, 2, and 4, but it requires a lot of cutting, sewing, and spending. When you’re on a strict budget, it might be a bit more challenging to fit curtains along all sides. Choose your favorite locations and enjoy the privacy and comfort of curtains.
If you don’t want to use curtains, or you want to bolster their effectiveness, try one of these alternative solutions:
Window coverings are easy to make. By using Reflectix cut to the size and shape of your windows, you can block sunlight and add insulation throughout the vehicle. Glass is the worst heat transferring material in your camper van, so these covers are perfect for the job. Use the extra fabric from your curtains to wrap the covers to blend in.
Sun visors for car windows are another way that you can block the sunlight from penetrating the camper van. They might not be as efficient as window coverings, but they will prevent onlookers from seeing what’s inside of the vehicle.
Window tint is the final alternative option that you could try out. While it might not cut out 100% of the light and visibility, it’s a great addition to curtains. Luckily, some camper vans have tinted windows when you buy them.
Do Curtains Add Insulation to Your Van?
The two main reasons that people buy curtains for their camper van are insulation and privacy. There’s no doubting the privacy provided by curtains, but many people question the effectiveness of insulation.
Truthfully, curtains aren’t great for insulation, but they still reduce the heat inside of the vehicle. How so? By cutting out the direct sunlight that hits the interior surfaces. When sunlight radiates on countertops, cupboards, and metal edges, they all warm up, increasing the temperature of the vehicle.
Insulation is for all-around temperature control, and curtains don’t add much of a barrier at all. However, they reduce the heat by preventing surfaces from heating up. You find that the van is cooler, whether or not you use window insulators.
Be sure to read our post “How To Keep Cool Sleeping In A Van: A Very Practical Guide” for more tips on staying cool in your camper van.
Making your curtains saves you time, money, and frustration. They also allow you to customize the interior of the camper van, unlike any other store-bought solution. Fortunately, you’ve learned all of the steps that you need to create the perfect set of curtains for your travel vehicle.
Remember, you can mount curtain rods in front of the side windows, rear windows, front windows, and in front of the bed. Whichever style you choose, you’ll love the privacy and heat reduction that you’ll receive. Not only that, but the picture-perfect qualities are unrivaled!