Sunday, April 3, 2016


I originally thought that, with all shades drawn and the OEM privacy curtains in place, our Airstream Interstate was fairly light proof.  In fact I had previously tried to do "Interstate glowing at night" creative photography only to discover that there wasn't enough light leaking from the vehicle to create good portraits.  
You'd never know that the thing was ablaze inside, because everything is ablaze outside as well.  TxDOT rest area at Hardeman County, Texas.    
New lesson recently learned:  the Interstate only appears light-proof while situated in areas of relatively high ambient light (urban areas, state parks with park road lamps, rest stops, Walmart parking lots, etc.).  In the "light vacuum" of a remote natural or undeveloped area, it actually appears to be lit up like a friggin' Christmas tree, which is not good if one's intention is to stealth camp, an activity which also goes by the euphemism "overnight parking".

After researching the issue of what might work best to help prevent light leakage, I chose Reflectix as a cheap and versatile option with which to create window liners.
It is essentially double-layered, opaque-shiny-coated bubble wrap.  It gets a bad rap on the internet for its insulation claims which are said to be inflated, but I wasn't intending to use it for insulation so much as black-out.  And what a pleasure to be able to drive 2 miles to Lowes and pick up a roll off the shelf, rather than having to place yet another internet order for something that can't be bought in a brick-and-mortar.  Screengrab above from the Lowes website.  I think I'll skip the rebate claim.  Oh, BTW, the most common size sold is the 16 inch wide product, but that's too narrow for the Interstate's rear windows.  It must be 24 inches.   
The procedure here is very simple - just measure and cut sections of it to recess into the window frames.  
I did direct measure-and-cut for all windows except the kitchen, which is the most Airstream-y window in our Interstate, curved and inset.  For that one, I first did a butcher paper template so I could cut the curves properly.  
The kitchen window was the only one that I screwed up on first attempt.  There's a rubber grommet-like device between the glass and the interior riveted frame.  The Reflectix works best when inset into this rubber, but I cut it too short because it is difficult to judge how deep it is.  So that was the one area where I initially had light leakage requiring a second liner to be cut.  
I used sticky-backed Velcro ovals to secure the cut pieces.  Reflectix is not very heavy and the Velcro doesn't have to bear much weight - it just has to keep the product up against the glass.  Furthermore the black Velcro ovals are placed in the black painted trim areas of the windows, so they are not visible when the Reflectix is not in place.  
Here are a few pics of the result.
Sliding door.  I will be inclined to use this liner even when stealth is not a priority.  The Airstream privacy covering sticks on via the Velcro dots you see in the frame.  It's a bit unwieldy and can get caught up if the door is slid open with it in place.  
I think it looks kind of cool, actually.  You'll notice that I can't make liners for the flap windows because the screens are on the inside.  Those windows are a lesser problem - most of the light leaks from higher-up locations because the lights are toward the ceiling.  Plus, I can pull down the shades fully to cover four of the six flap windows, and use the OEM covering for the two remaining sliding door flaps.  This pic shows the full house lights on, but we never have every light on at night - mostly we just use a couple of under-cabinet spotlights plus the kitchen counter light.  
Marketing claims aside, I don't know whether I'll realize any thermal advantage if I also use these to block sunlight during daytime parking.  
Even a few degrees would be an improvement.  Here's my handy thermometer reading approximately 107 degrees on a normal summer day in Texas, with all flap windows open and the Fantastic running.  It's really difficult to lower the entire vehicle's temperature from 107 degrees once I get back on the road, so any gains would help, even small gains.  
I will say this, however:  I immediately noticed a noise insulation effect with the liners in place.  Which might be good in certain public overnight parking scenarios.

Finally, there is the obvious question of where to store these liners in the Interstate's small space?  Well, Reflectix seems fairly forgiving in terms of its flexibility - it can be rolled up and will open back up as flat without too much of an argument.  For the short term, I think I will stack them on top of our fresh water tank, which has a dead space above it.  They would also fit under one of the couches.  

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