The #vanlife community exemplifies the spirit of adventure and exploration, but there are a few things people can’t seem to agree on. One of the biggest points of contention in this community is whether to insulate your camper van. If you’re considering taking to the open road, here’s everything you need to know to make an informed decision on this contentious topic.
Why some people oppose insulation
If you’ll be spending extended periods of time living in your camper van, insulation seems like a necessary step — and indeed, FarOutRide and Gnomad Home both agree that for long term van dwellers, insulation is a must. That being said, however, there are a few reasons why someone might choose to avoid insulating their van.
Perhaps the biggest concern is moisture buildup. When people live, breathe, and even cook inside a van, moisture and condensation is inevitable. Soft layers of insulation within the van can create pockets where moisture can build up, which may lead to mold if left unchecked. This is inconvenient, expensive to fix, and potentially hazardous to the health of the people living in the van.
Another argument against insulation is the fact that it takes up space, which is already limited inside a camper van. Add this to the fact that some materials are extremely costly, and insulating a van may start to feel like more trouble than it’s worth. People who don’t plan to live in their van for extended periods of time — or who plan to travel exclusively in temperate areas with no extreme heat or cold — may decide that they don’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of insulating their camper vans.
The benefits of insulating your camper van
According to Gnomad Home, properly insulating your camper van is perhaps one of the most important steps you’ll take during the design process. This is because whether you’re sleeping in hot or cold environments, insulation can help maintain a steady, comfortable temperature within the van.
In the summer, insulation can help prevent excessive amounts of heat from building up in the camper van. In the winter, less heat will escape from a properly insulated van. No matter the weather, insulation can keep you more comfortable and reduce heating and air conditioning costs.
There are three types of heat loss to worry about: conduction (heat transfer through materials), radiation (heat transfer through electromagnetic waves), and convection (heat transfer through gas). Typically, a camper van will experience a combination of all three types of heat loss. As such, many people argue that insulation simply cannot be left out of a van build. Although it may seem like an expensive upfront cost, proper insulation will help you avoid extreme temperatures and ultimately save you money on heating your camper van.
Recommended types of insulation
When choosing an insulation material, FarOutRide explains that the R-value is one of the most important numbers to pay attention to. This value describes how well the insulation material will resist heat flow — the higher the number, the more insulating the material will be.
There are a wide range of insulation materials, and which one you choose comes down to personal preference and budget. One reliable option is sheep’s wool, which is environmentally friendly, non-toxic, relatively affordable, and not prone to moisture buildup. Another slightly more expensive option is Thinsulate, which FarOutRide describes as easy to install and excellent for noise insulation.
Ultimately, whether you choose to insulate your camper van depends on how much time you’ll spend in it and what type of climate you’ll be traveling in. If you do opt to insulate, taking a little time to research the best material options for your needs will save you a significant amount of time and hassle.