Reflectix Window Inserts for Camping in your Vehicle

In a recent blog post, I commented that we slept in our car thoughout an 11 day road trip.  It certainly wasn’t a five-star hotel, but we did save a lot of money by doing this.  After deciding to camp in our vehicle, the next thing we had to decide was how to cover up the windows.  The back windows are tinted, but we were looking for a little more privacy than that.  It seemed logical that curtains would be the way to go.  We found that Honda makes privacy curtains specifically for the Element, however, the pricetag was over $100.  This was much more than we were interested in spending for this particular project.  We continued to search online and came across a post about this very topic in the Element Owners Club forum.  As it turned out, a cheap alternative to curtains was to make panels out of Reflectix.  That became the solution to our problem.  We made a set of inserts and they worked great.  They were cheap and relatively easy to make.

Supplies needed:

  • Reflectix
  • scissors
  • measuring tape
  • square
  • Sharpie
  • strap or bungee cord

Start by purchasing a roll of Reflectix (which is essentially bubble wrap covered in a sheet of some kind of silver paper).  Plan on paying about $20-$30 (although I have seen smaller rolls for cheaper).  You should be able to find this at most hardware stores.

Next take measurements of the windows in the vehicle from the inside.  Do not worry about slants and curves for now.  Measure the longest length and width for each window.  Add at least an extra inch to each measurement just to make sure you do not measure short.  Another reason for doing this, is that in some cases after continued use, the panels have shrunk a little.

  

Transfer those measurements onto the roll of Reflectix and cut out the rectangle.

  

Take the rectangle of Reflectix back to the car and place it over the window you are working on.  Push the edges of the Reflectix into ledges of the window.  For the corners that have a slant or curve, use the Sharpie to mark where you need to cut.  Trim it where you made your marks.

  

For the side windows take the panel you just made and use it as a stencil to make a duplicate for the window on the other side.

Once all panels are cut and trimmed, it is time to put them all in.  Line up the Reflectix insert with the window and then tuck the edges into the ledges that border the window.  It should stay nice and firm.  If, for some reason it still seems too big, feel free to trim it further until it fits.  Just make sure you do not trim it too short otherwise you will need to start over.  It is difficult to cut the perfect shape, but don’t worry too much about that because usually you can just tuck in the extra material.

  

To store your panels while they are not in use, take all the panels and lay them in a pile.  Then roll them up like a sleeping bag and secure the roll with a strap or bungee cord.

  

If done correctly, you should be able to block out just about all light that would come into the vehicle.  This makes your vehicle private and cozy.  One thing I should add though, if your windows are shut while you are sleeping in the vehicle, don’t be surprised to see an accumulation of water on the windows in the morning.  It is just trapped condensation and it will go away after a few minutes of running your defroster.

For our first time camping in a vehicle, the Reflectix inserts worked great.  There were a couple of corners that we cut short that let in a slit of light, but it wasn’t enough to bother us.  Overall, this was an effective and inexpensive project and we were glad we used the inserts rather than paying the extra for the privacy curtains.

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20 Responses to “Reflectix Window Inserts for Camping in your Vehicle”

  1. [...] is some room for one or two larger items.  For privacy and to block out the light, we put in our Reflectix window inserts.  They worked great.  Even after the sun came up, it was nice and dark in the car.  Below are a [...]

  2. Shannon says:

    Hey, I wanted to say thanks for posting this- I’m probably going to do this for my Honda Fit. I’m thinking of picking up some work doing disaster relief, and it’s nearly impossible to get a hotel room in disaster areas- also, if there’s a shortage of rooms, I’d rather the room go to a family in need than someone like me!

    This is exactly what I need to feel comfortable as a woman alone sleeping in my car. Thanks again!

  3. Dillydog says:

    We used this method to cover the windows on our Toyota Prius when we went camping in June. It worked great. Instead of just pressing the reflectix in place after cutting it to fit I bought some suction cups at a dollar store & fastened them to the reflectix & it worked great & the suction cups didn’t leave any marks on the windows.

  4. Ruth says:

    Thanks so much this worked a treat. Instead of getting a roll of reflectix I purchased about 5 silver sun shades from the $2 shop … Making it a very effective and cheap solution.
    Highly recommend this over getting curtains made up. :)

  5. Hanover says:

    Thanks for posting this. I used your instructions to outfit my E with these privacy shades. They worked out great. Like you I had a few places where I cut too short but for the most part they look great and do the job.

  6. Snel says:

    I made inserts for my windows with cardboard, cheap black fabric to cover the cardboard, and iron-on adhesive in sheets that you can buy at a craft store. I cut the cardboard like you described cutting the Reflectix, and ironed on the fabric with the adhesive (leaving about in inch more fabric than cardboard, this helps seal up light spots). It’s best to put a notch in the cardboard after you form it so you can pull it out with your finger to remove it from the window. The beauty of this method is that the windows are just black, and anyone shining a flashlight can’t see in at all and it doesn’t look homeless-y.

  7. Keldon says:

    I have decided I am going to do Reflectix and glue dark fabric on the one side using spray adhesive.
    This way I can either have the silver side facing outwards if there is much sun and we want to stay cool as possible, or have the dark fabric facing outwards if we want passive solar to help warm us up.
    The side window covers will swap from left to right depending on cooling or heating.
    The windshield and back window will be reversible in place.

    I haven’t quite sleuthed out the best way to make them stay in place time after time, but I will post back when I have completed the project.

  8. 2015 Honda Fit Owner says:

    Thanks for posting this! I copied you and bought a 48″x25′ roll of Reflectix and made custom inserts for all the windows. The 2015 Honda Fit has 10 windows including the windshield and hatchback! First one was the hardest (getting technique right) and the windshield and hatchback were a little tricky. The other windows were fine.

    In case there are any Honda Fit owners reading this, the hatchback window doesn’t have a rubber seal like the other windows (the entire hatch has the rubber seal), so I used these two little slits on the left and right side of the window frame to secure the Reflectix. Basically I made little “tabs” on either side of the insert that fit into those slits to hold it in place. I also cut the insert so it fit snug on the bottom, but went beyond the window on the top.

    For the windshield, it’s a bit unwieldy to get the 48″ x 60″ piece that I cut into the car/windshield, but I slowly started trimming and it fit well. I trimmed a little too much off here and there but it’s less than a cm so it still does it’s job. I cut a vertical slit in the top to get around the rear view mirror, and then cut a flap for the part where it connects to the glass. Most of the insert fits into the windshield, except for the part I deliberately left a little tall so the sun visors could fold down on the insert and help keep it in place.

    Highly recommend using Reflectix for privacy / heat control!

    Thanks for sharing your idea & instructions!

  9. Chris says:

    I ordered a roll of vellum paper and traced the inside shape of the windows. Next I took the vellum paper and placed it onto the reflectix to be cut out. Then I ordered 4″ wide gaffers black tape and covered one side of the reflectix. It just looks like dark tint from the outside.

  10. Jody says:

    Thanks for these great ideas! I’m thinking about taking a little road trip for my Birthday this coming week. This is just what I needed. Thank you all!

  11. Todd says:

    One 48″x10′ roll works for a 2004 Volvo XC70, and probably anything smaller.

  12. Alex says:

    Great post, thanks for the idea! I just finished fitting Reflectix panels for all windows in my Toyota Sequoia. Removing the rear row of seats, I’ve got room in the back to sleep on an Exped Megamat, plus plenty of room for other camping gear and my dog. Saved many thousands over the cost and hassle of a camping trailer!

  13. Alex says:

    Also I will say… if you cut your pieces too narrow.. Reflectix also sells a 2″x30′ reflective foil tape product that you can attach to the edges to give a little extra edge where needed.

  14. Alex says:

    For my Toyota Sequoia (which has 8 windows) I needed one 24″x25′ roll for the side and rear windows, and another 48″x10′ roll to cover the windshield.

  15. Rhonda says:

    Where do you get the Reflectix?

  16. Brian says:

    I used this for some of my wondows in my converted school bus on really hot or cold days. Works great

  17. I used second hand curtains from a charity shop, cut down to size and held in place with sew on velcro on the material and the opposite velcro on the car interior as the sticky on version, works a treat.

  18. Liz says:

    Hey everyone, I wanted to suggest a product called Mounting Putty for all sorts of uses, including an extra secure way to stick Reflectix onto windows. Mounting Putty comes in many brands, but I recommend a brand called UHU TAC (link below). This stuff is amazing — it can be rolled, put on, removed, and will work on almost any smooth surface. It will leave absolutely no residue and lasts forever. https://www.amazon.com/Saunders-Removable-Adhesive-Putty-99683/dp/B0000AQODM

    Happy camping!

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