Camper vans are homes to many travel freaks who just love to hit the road whenever they feel like or use it for work. Either way, the only problem is that vans are noisy and pretty bad at heat/cold insulation!
When soundproofing a camper van, you’d need to cover its floor, roof, doors, and windows to stop the transmission of noise. The noise in a camper van is mainly rattling, engine sounds, street noise, or just loud barking dogs.
Soundproofing will also protect the van against heat and cold. The easiest way of soundproofing a camper van is to apply sound deadening panels and top them with some insulation.
Sound dampening material reduces vibrations, and when placed at the right spots, it can make the van completely soundproof. Covering even just 25% of the vehicle will significantly reduce outside noise.
Problem Causing Areas/Sounds?
There are a few main sources of sound in a van. All of them, when combined, can make your journeys quite frustrating.
The most annoying of all issues is vibrating panels! Even if it’s a relatively new vehicle, the doors and walls tend to vibrate enough to create some sound.
Sound deadening material adds mass and dampens the noise hitting walls, doors, windows, or other parts that are vulnerable to vibrations.
The mass added to these side panels absorb vibrations produced from the motion of the van and reduces resonance in return.
The large sheets of metal on walls reverberate after sound waves hit them from outside and transfer them right through. A van can vibrate from external sources as well, if it isn’t at least 30% covered with a sound-insulating material.
Camper vans require exceptionally powerful engines to power them through. The more powerful the engine is, the more noise it makes. Especially as they get old, noise from the engine becomes almost inevitable and harder to control.
Sound absorption or sound deadening tiles greatly reduce noise coming from the engine. It is advised to go for 100% coverage in this case as the engine is way too close to the cabin where most of the seating is. And if space is not an issue, you can go for double layering for more coverage.
You can control what goes on inside your van but you cannot control what happens on the road. It can be distracting and annoying. Similar to the treatment of engine noise, roadside noise can also be controlled fairly by using sound-deadening panels, mass-loaded vinyl, soundproofing floor mats.
Aiming for full coverage is the key! There is no specific or central source of noise on the road. Road noise can come in from anywhere and everywhere and make its way to the front, back, and middle of the van.
What Areas of a Camper Van Need Soundproofing?
Doors, roofs, walls, and wheel wells! Focus all your soundproofing efforts on these areas of your camper van to get a quiet, noise-free van.
Doors and Windows
Your driver, passenger, side, and back doors are the biggest culprits of letting road sounds in. Noise transmission is multiplied if there are gaps or cracks between the van and the door/window.
There’s no use investing in all the best materials for soundproofing your camper van, if you ignore the most vulnerable areas, i.e., windows and doors.
One great option is to go for soundproofing curtains. They add an extra heavy layer to kill the sounds entering the van.
Another option is to go with window covers or plugs. They act as a seal for any gaps and are usually made of rubber for foolproof protection.
Reflective material on the outer side of the windows also helps in reflecting away the sun rays to keep the van cool.
If you ask me what’s the best way to soundproof a camper van, I’d say treat the walls! Walls are one of the most critical areas to soundproof in a camper van. Most of the vans come with thin walls and let all kinds of noise pass through them.
There are a lot of options to deaden sound entering through the walls. You can get it custom built for perfect fitting, or go for prefabricated ones.
Soundproof panels adhere to a layer of closed-cell foam that not only isolates sound but also adds a little cushioning beneath the upholstery. So it’s not all metal clinks. Perhaps the easiest way to cover such large portions is with peel and stick sound deadeners.
The roof of your camper van is exposed to direct rain, storms, hailing, or strong winds and needs as much soundproofing as any other part. Such extreme weather conditions can make it difficult to rest or sleep inside the van.
The roof of a camper van is considered the least vulnerable area if we talk about coverage. Camper vans usually have a pretty solid ceiling which needs very little treatment for soundproofing. A thin layer of soundproofing material there can easily do the job.
What sometimes becomes a problem is that most camper van roofs tend to sag and droop down after some years of use. Make sure you take proper care of the van’s maintenance. Putting a sound deadening mat will also strengthen it and slow down the sagging.
This is another area that should be fully covered with soundproofing material. Wheel wells are the areas of a camper van that allow a huge amount of noise from the road, tires, and exhaust noise to travel inside the van.
When soundproofing a camper van, make sure you add mass to wheel wells. This not only reduces vibrations in that area but also blocks noise.
Remember, only using deadeners in the wheel wells won’t result in complete sound blockage. You would need more mass and sound absorption here.
Best Materials for Soundproofing a Camper Van
How do you soundproof a camper van in the easiest way possible? Just take care of two products:
- Sound Deadening product, which will dampen the vibrations from the van’s metal build
- Insulating material, which will absorb extra sound
Sound Deadening Material
Mostly, sound deadening material is composed of butyl rubber that is very efficient in lowering the frequency of vibrations. And as discussed above, vibrating metal is the biggest source of noise in a camper van.
You only need to cover 33% percent of the metal surface by sound deadening panels. Any more coverage will add to sound blockage but won’t significantly reduce vibrations.
You can also add a layer of mass-loaded vinyl or MLV on the top for extreme sound protection. The only downside is that this addition makes the van heavier than it should be.
Apply sound deadeners to the walls, floor, ceiling, and wheel wells. Typically, 50 square feet is enough to cover all the major areas of a camper van.
Sound Insulating Material
Insulation inside a camper is not only about insulation against outside sounds, it has a huge impact on the temperatures inside the van. Proper insulation will keep the van appropriately heated or chilled in extremes of weather as well.
The insulation capacity of a material is measured in R-value. It is the measure of the ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating power. This is one of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing insulating material for your van.
Recently, two major front runners have risen for the preferred insulation type.
Thinsulate is a popular insulation product for camper vans. It doesn’t off-gas, is not itchy, and doesn’t retain moisture. Thinsulate comes in 1.75” thickness which is thinner than most of the insulating materials. You can find it here on Amazon.
3M Thinsulate is a synthetic, non-toxic material and is very easy to install. It has a relatively lower R-value than some other options but works well with a sound dampener underneath. Its sound dampening properties combined with a sound deadening material give somewhere around 6 R-value.
You’d need around 60 inches wide rolls, 40-70 feet of Thinsulate insulation for your vehicle. Moreover, it adds to the longevity of the structure as it is mold, moisture, and mildew resistant.
Rockwool is an excellent thermal resistant and sound absorber. It’s lightweight and very easy to work with. It does however make you itchy when it comes in contact with the skin, so you’d need gloves, a mask, and long sleeves if DIY-ing.
Rockwool is basically stone wool which is a natural material from volcanic diabase rock. The rock takes its final form after being crushed, mixed with slag and coke, melted, and spun on rotating wheels. Small quantities of mineral oil and resin binder are added to lock the stands together.
Rockwool has an STC rating of 4.5, which is pretty fine when coupled with a sound deadener at the base. Its R-value is 4.3 per inch of thickness or a total of 15. It doesn’t off-gas and retains moisture just like Thinsulate.
Sheep’s wool is an all-natural, eco-friendly van insulation material. It is cheaper and has natural moisture-wicking properties which work great for sound dampening as well. Manufacturers usually put small amounts of boric acid in sheep’s wool to keep insects and bugs away.
It is somewhat messier to install amongst all the options you have, but it has a 3.5-3.8 R-value per inch of thickness.
5 Simple Steps to Soundproof a Camper Van
Here’s how you can soundproof your camper van:
1. Tidy the Van Up
The first step is to clean every area you intend to soundproof in your camper van. Pay special attention to grease, dirt, and moisture. Remove body panels, clean in the corners, and make sure the van is completely dry before the installation.
Drying is as important as cleaning because the sticky material won’t stick on a moist surface.
To bond sound deadening panels strongly with the structure, you need to make sure it’s stuck in the right place and in the right manner. A simple vinegar solution can be used to wipe the metal for a clean finish.
2. Measure and Cut
After thoroughly cleaning the surface, take accurate measurements of each section/area you’re planning to cover. Carefully draw out the cut lines with a sharp marker and cut them. You can use scissors or a box cutter to easily cut out the sound deadener for the perfect fit.
Some areas are a lot trickier than the others, such as the cab floor or wheel well. Such oddly shaped surfaces, that are otherwise difficult to cover, can be covered by cutting strips of 5-6 inches and laying them in sections.
Remember, you don’t need 100% coverage. Cut the mat to cover all the large areas such as wall panels, roof, floor, and wheel well. On average, for the camper van flooring of a short van, you will need around 4-8 square meters of sound deadening. And for a long wheel-based van, go for 8-12 square meters of sound deadening base.
3. Peel and Place
This is the simplest step!
Sound dampening mats have an adhesive back. Once you have cut the right shapes, you can peel and stick them to clean surfaces.
A very useful hack for better adhesion is to heat them up a bit before applying. You can use a hairdryer, heat gun, or the running heater of the van to give the additional warmth.
Remember, you need to remove the panels or speakers from the doors.
Lastly, use a roller press to firmly secure the deadener in its place.
4. Install Insulation
Next, just as we did for the sound deadener, measure the surface you want to put insulation on and cut! Then, install open-celled insulation material to block off all the sound. They are also self-adhesive, and if not, still they are very easy to install.
For a small van, you would need almost 10 square meters of insulation material and around 15 to 20 square meters for longer, bigger vans.
This is the stage where you must install acoustic panels, if you wish, for more protection against airborne noise.
Insulate the Floors
Installing just a single layer of foam on the floor will do the job. You can however add a layer of a dense sound barrier if you still feel the need. This will block vibrational as well as airborne noise coming from the road, tires, and exhaust.
What NOT to do When Soundproofing a Camper Van
Some common misconceptions and misinformation have spread over the internet on soundproofing a camper van. Here are a few things you must NEVER do:
- One product can never solve all your sound issues. If a brand or company is claiming that their product will resolve everything, stay away from it! Because it is probably low quality and won’t be worth the investment. One product can never solve complex sound issues, it can only be solved with layering.
- Many people recommend using foil bubble wraps because they are cheap and might have worked for them in the short term. It is useless when it comes to insulation, be it sound or thermal. So, you need to avoid using bubble wraps as a soundproofing material.
- Do not use flashing tape. Flashing tapes have a material called bitumen which is used for making concrete. It is very sensitive to temperature and degrades quickly. Temperature changes are very common in vehicles and this product is not suitable for that.
- Avoid using fiberglass! Fiberglass is very toxic and highly sensitive to moisture. It is not safe to use a material that absorbs moisture quickly because vans can sometimes have condensation build-ups.
FAQs – Soundproof a Camper Van
Where do you put sound deadening in a van?
Add sound deadening panels to the walls, doors, and any other metal part that you see exposed and vulnerable to vibrations. Doors, windows, and metal sidewalls are more prone to structural resonance and vibration from the van’s motion. Thus, adding mass there will prove to be most effective.
What is the best soundproofing material for camper van conversion?
There are many great soundproofing materials for camper vans, some of which are listed below:
-Soundproof Drywalls and windows
-Mass loaded vinyl
-Sound deadening paints and sprays
-Foam floor underlayment
-Sheep’s wool insulation
Is van conversion a hard process?
It sure is a challenge to convert a usual vehicle into a camper. But it becomes manageable and quite easy if you have a plan and a vision in mind.
Be realistic when deciding the layout and features of the van as it is going to be your home away from home. The process is simple if you spend a little time researching the best and most suitable products for your van.
Is living in a camper van legal?
There is no such straightforward law that prohibits living in a van, motorhome, or camper. So yes, you can definitely live in one without any issues as long as you have legal ownership of the vehicle.
Soundproofing a camper van is worth every penny expended on it.
It becomes more of a necessity, if you wish to relax and sleep in the van on your journeys.
Large vehicles like camper vans already make a lot of engine noise, combine that with noise from the road and surroundings. This environment is not healthy to live in and causes distractions even while driving.
So yes, soundproofing your van sure is worth your effort and investment.