Travel, climbing, and Van-life



Van Build: Insulation

There a few different opinions about installing insulation in a van. The main concern is around the moisture that exists when condensation occurs. If this moisture gets trapped between the metal and your insulation, then rust eventually will occur. Researching this a little, I decided to keep the insulation on the minimal side, and avoided trying to make anything air-tight.

That said, I am mainly staying on the west coast, and do not anticipate any temperatures below freezing or anything searing hot. So for me, a minimal approach works. If this is going to be your ski van, or if you have a little more time to construct the layers and barriers, then maybe choose a more robust route.

My approach was, basically, to add a bit of mass to the walls, and cover as much as I could in rigid styrofoam. To break down the layers, starting from the exterior and working in: the van wall, 1/4" reflectix, 2" styrofoam, and then the wood paneling. That's it. And the same approach was used for the ceiling as for the sides.

After living in the van for almost six months now, I am pretty happy with the temperature regulation. Most of the time, the back of the van is just a little warmer than the exterior temperature, unless it's parked in the shade. Given how much time I had to build my van (two weeks, while working a day job), I am happy with what I have, but I am a little envious of people who are able to safely put in thicker insulation.




  1. Reflectix

    I saw a lot of people using this in their van builds, so I looked into it, and it seemed like a great low-profile way to increase the R-value.

    First I went through section of the van and cut a piece of Reflectix to size. After cutting each piece, I simply used the spray adhesive to stick each one in place, spraying both the van wall and the piece to be attached. That's it.

    Getting started with attaching the Reflectix
    Getting started with covering the walls in Reflectix.
    the reflectix attached
    The Reflectix insulation attached with the spray glue to every open wall area.
  2. Rigid Foam

    Next, I basically repeated the process used for the Reflectix, but for the 2" rigid foam. Wherever they would fit, I cut out pieces to be stuck right on top of the Reflectix, again using the spray adhesive to stick them on. As insurance, I also put some duct tape around each piece.

    Example of rigid styrofoam attached
    Before the furring strips were attached (next section), the rigid styrofoam was glued over the reflectix.
    Start of the framing
    The rigid foam covering most of the panels.
    First section covered with paneling
    We were doing a lot at once, but the insulation on the ceiling is seen here, with just 1/2" rigid foam.