Battle of the Bugs

Car Camping: How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Vehicle

Ever been car camping in the heat of summer?  Even if you’re not a dedicated gypsy, I’ll bet you have.  And I’ll bet you remember a time when it was hot, humid, and the bugs were everywhere. You just knew they were waiting to sneak in your vehicle and eat you alive.

Flies, mosquitos, no see-ums, or just gnats: unwelcome visitors that make sleeping in your car in unfamiliar surroundings even more challenging.  What makes it even worse is that I seem to be hubby’s best bug repellent (they’re drawn to me, instead of him)!

Of course, it is always too hot and stuffy to sleep with the windows closed.  You can leave the car running and the air conditioning on, but that has a whole host of other  possible  problems. (Like running out of gas, breathing the exhaust, etc.).  So sleeping in the car with the air conditioner on isn’t an option that I favor.

Part of this new lifestyle is also about being resourceful.  And since, I didn’t want to run a own blood bank for a van full of tiny biters, I needed to come up with a solution.  I simply made screens for our van’s windows.  I’m pleased to report that it worked marvelously, and was very inexpensive.

How to Make Screens for Your Car/Van’s Windows:

  1. Measure the windows that you would likely want to crack open when car camping.  Jot down the measurements.
  2. Visit a local fabric store that carries a selection of thule.  (Thule’s a synthetic see-through netting that are used for a variety of things such as bridal veils.)
  3. Select a thule with netting openings are just small enough to keep the insects out.  However, remember that smaller isn’t always better.  You only want it to keep the bugs out, and not restrict the fresh air circulation!    You can also pick a color of thule that suits you.  I went with a darker shade to help screen out light, and to provide a little extra privacy.
  4. Get enough of the fabric to cover the windows, allowing for a couple of inches of extra fabric around the edges of each window.
  5. Take it home, and fashion a pattern out of a paper bag, or old box, or similar for each of the windows.  Again, you want to allow a border of a couple of inches around the circumference of the window.  For example, if your window is 22” x 20”, you’d want a pattern that’s approximately 26” x 24.”
  6. Cut the fabric.  No need to worry about seaming the edges.  Thule won’t fray.
  7. Estimate the number of magnets you’ll need around each window to hold the thule screens securely in place.
  8. Visit your local hardware store to purchase your magnets (or order them online).
  9. Test your new screens.  You’ll apply them on the outside of the vehicle.  Simply hold up the screen so that it covers the window, and place magnets around the outside perimeter of the window.  Smooth the screen out, so that there are no wrinkles that the bugs can sneak through.
  10. Figure out how you want to store them while traveling.  I went super simple and use an old pillow case.  When I take the screens off, I always stack them in the same order, and then roll them up.  (Our van windows are different sizes, so this is easier than trying to figure out which screen goes to which window.)  I have a small sack I place the magnets in.  They all go in the pillowcase, and get rolled up for their protection and to take up as little space as possible.

When you’re settling in for the evening after a day of driving, it’ll only take a couple of minutes to install your screens.  And in the morning, when you’re ready to hit the road, it’ll only take a few minutes to remove and stow them. (Don’t drive with them on – they’ll likely fly off in the wind!)

Note: I’m afraid this solution only works if your vehicle has a metal body.  Some of the newer vehicles have so little metal that the magnets won’t stick.

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