Making foldable window shades from Low-E foil-faced foam

Low-E window coverings that will fold up.

We made some window shades for our van a while back using Low-E. They work great but they are a pain to store. We decided to make them fold so they’d take up less space.

We tried stitching them with a sewing machine, melting them with a soldering iron, just smooshing them together, but the best overall technique was to use a hot iron on the fold lines. This is how we made it work.

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LED lantern comparison – we did so you don’t have to

Five lanterns to test out in the van.

We bought five different types of LED lantern to test out which worked best in the van.

We found that we needed a couple of small lanterns for when we want to get up in the middle of the night rather than switching on the main lights inside the van. Because they are portable, we also use them outside the van when we’re hanging out after dark.

Here’s a list of what we tried, and which worked best for our needs…

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Upgrading the stock Sprinter stereo – overview

Grille from old stereo system

The Sprinter’s “Audio 15” stereo system has an interface from the mid-90s, and speakers that sound like they are made from wet toilet paper. Sane people would just replace the whole lot, but we experimented with keeping the head unit and seeing what a difference good speakers would make.

When that didn’t give us quite enough improvement, we swapped out the head unit for something that produces clearer sound and connects better with our phones.

This is an overview of the different articles we’ve written about our attempts to get good sounds inside the van. If you’re trying to do the same thing, start here.

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DIY Conversion vans are always a prototype

Design drawing for cabinets
pro·to·type (ˈprōdəˌtīp/) noun: 
(1) A first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied.
(2) A DIY conversion or adventure van, from which new layouts are continually developed or evolved.

 

We “finished” our conversion about a year after we got the van. By that point we had all the systems in. Either to our original design or to the design that we made up as we went along that reflected our real-world usage better. We didn’t necessarily have everything tidied up (we still don’t!) but all the components worked.

Now though, after using the van for a while, we want to make some changes. We don’t know quite what we want to change, or how we’ll do it, but we feel there’s potentially a better layout, a better storage setup, a better way of stopping water tanks from freezing over the winter, and a better way of freeing up cargo/bike space in the rear of the van.

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Keeping conversion van weight under control

Sprinter Vehicle Identification Placard on driver's seat base

Its easy to get carried away with a van conversion and add all sorts of stuff. But the weight can add up much faster than you think, and soon you could be pushing up against the maximum vehicle weight.

If you’re using a long wheelbase 2500 crew van with a V6 engine and 4×4 transmission like we did, your payload weight isn’t very high at all.

Although 1-1/4 tons sounds like a lot, it soon disappears as you build out cabinets, a bed platform, a fridge, electrical system and some water tanks.

Add in a couple of people, a couple of mountain bikes, and some food, clothes, and water for a week’s getaway and things can get out of hand.

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