As the first snow of the season is starting to fly around our house in Michigan, we are already longing for the days when we had to worry about the inside of our Roadtrek overheating from the baking sun.
One of the ways we beat the heat inside our van in the summer months is with a set of Heatshield window shades. Most of us are used to the cardboard or foil type of shades that accordion open and closed. One of the downsides to that type of shade is that it’s more of a one-size-fits-most approach. The Heatshield-branded products, however, are custom cut to fit your specific model of vehicle. In our case, the Roadtrek is built on the Chevrolet Express 3500 chassis, so that’s what we ordered.
Another advantage of this product is that they have options for multiple windows. So we have the Heatshield shades for the front windshield, the front door windows, and the rear door windows.
According to the manufacturer, the window shades are “a special metalized polyester film, laminated to a thin layer of closed-cell foam, with a clear polyester film back…Then they are sewn around the edge with a cloth binding.”
The fit of these shades is very good, with a tight seal right up to the frame of the windows, which means you’re blocking every bit of sunlight from heating up your vehicle through that particular window. With our 2008 van, the curtains have seen a lot of wear and tear. Ari thought these window shades might even work to provide enough privacy that we wouldn’t have to use our curtains as much. He was more than right! The shades are custom fit to the windows enough that we haven’t used our curtains on those five windows since we bought the Heatshields. They go in and out from the windows faster than we can maneuver the curtains, so that’s a bonus, too. However, Jessi laments the one downside to this system is the inability to quickly or stealthily look out the window. You can’t just “pull back the curtain” for a peek at your surroundings to check for wildlife or
spy on the neighbors look around your campsite.
The Heatshields stay in place well for many reasons. First, because they are custom cut, they slide up into the frame around the window, which helps hold them in place. The front windshield has the van’s sun visors to help support it, although it holds in place well without them. The four smaller shades for the side and rear windows have suction cups that help attach them to the window, as well.
About the only drawback to the shades we have found is that when they aren’t in use, you have to store them somewhere. With our RV curtains, they are rolled up and snapped into place on the wall, so they are more out of the way. The Heatshields have a nice feature in that they can be rolled up and secured with the velcro loop that comes attached to them. But you still have to find someplace to store them. (We have found it’s sometimes better to leave the four smaller shades unrolled and stash them just inside the rear cargo doors.) But if we need them all rolled and stored, we can do it, and they don’t take up that much room. Plus, if you’re parked, which is when you need more livable space in the van, the shades are generally in the windows keeping the sun out. If we’re rolling, we just toss the shades in the rear of the van on one of the couch sections to keep them off the floor or from rolling around.
Any slight inconvenience from taking up precious space in the van is trumped by how well these shades work. They keep the temperature down in the van by reflecting the hot sun, they offer additional darkness over what the curtains were providing for those early mornings when we might want to sleep in a little, and they offer quick and easy privacy that surpasses the built-in curtains for ease of use.
Hit or Miss?
Overall, this is definitely a hit for your gear list (minus the aforementioned inability to spy on your neighbors – nothing’s perfect). This product isn’t a flimsy cardboard sunshade you find at a discount store, and the price reflects that. The largest of the shades for our van, which was for the front windshield, was $39. With all five windows covered, you’re well into $150 range. But the quality of the fit and finish is really good and after a lot of use this summer, all five window shades seem to be holding up very well. They are flexible enough to take a beating from being put in and out of the windows and rolled up for storage, and yet are stiff enough that they keep their shape well to fit into the windows just right each time. (Ari has noticed that since the weather has turned much colder, the shades are holding their rolled-up curves more, so we’re probably going to store them unrolled for the winter months.)
You can purchase the Heatshields via Amazon; since they are not Prime eligible, there are some shipping costs, too. But the company does a great job of protecting them for shipping, so between the quality of the product and the care taken with shipping, this is another example of you get what you pay for.