Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Windows and Privacy

I do 2 things for privacy while inside the Prius. First, I tinted the windows. If I were to do it again, I would not tint the front windows for better visability for night driving. And, because I hang a curtain behind the front seats, I don't need the front windows tinted for privacy.

I've used several types of window curtains in my Prius hatchback, including fleece, Duvytene, and Reflectix. I've described below how I've used each of these materials.

The Reflectix is a thin insulating material with tin foil on both sides of bubble wrap. I've used it plain; and I've also used it with black material glued to the outside for stealth. It has enough stiffness that if you cut it a little larger than the shape of each window, it'll wedge in and stay put without any additional help. The down side is that it takes up quite a bit of room in a small vehicle like a Prius. Plus, it's kind of a hassle, for my lazy self, to put up, take down and roll away. The up side is that it provides insulation on chilly nights.

Duvytene is a material that is used in the theater for black backgrounds. The soft side absorbs light real well. When looking in from the outside, when the Duvytene is hung, it just looks like an empty car or darkly tinted windows. The same is true of the black fleece. The fleece stretches, but the Duvytene does not. The Duvytene ravels (and should have a sewn hem), but the fleece does not ravel. The Duvytene wrinkles, and the fleece doesn't wrinkle. The Duvytene is cotton and the fleece is polyester. Both are lightweight.

I started out using black fleece curtains onto which I glued a long strip of Velcro to the top (the hook side). The Velcro would stick good enough to the headliner to hold the curtains up. I have 4 curtains, 1 just behind the front seats, 1 just in front of the hatch, and 2 for the back windows. When hung, if you looked into the back hatch window, you could see the bed. But, both the tinted windows and the black sheet over the bed make it difficult to see that there is actually a bed inside.

But, just like the Reflectix, the Velcro'ed fleece was a hassle to hang up, take down and put away (in a stuff sack) each night and morning. I wanted easy. I wanted curtains that I could just draw closed at night and tie back in the morning.

So, I got some black bungee cord and made a curtain rod from it. I strung it from 4 anchor points inside of the car -- 2 at the front corners (using the handles above the doors) and 2 at each back corner (using the struts for the hatch) -- making a rectangle-shaped "curtain rod." I cut 2 very wide curtains from the duvytene. One curtain would be tied back at the driver's side of the hatch and, when drawn, stretch across the back (just in front of the hatch) as well as cover the driver's side back passenger window. The other long curtain would be tied back just behind the front passenger window. When drawn, it would hang just behind both front seats and cover the passenger's side back window. When tied back, these curtains do not obstruct my view for driving. I hung the curtains so that they would slide on the bungee cord using small safety pins attached to the Duvytene.

The good thing about this set up was that it was easier to put up and take down. But, the unhemmed Duvytene raveled and looked raggedy, and the safety pins were not strong enough for daily use. Plus, the safety pins were starting to make holes in the Duvytene.

So, now I'm back to the black polyester fleece, also cut into 2 very wide curtains, and tied back at the 2 corners like I did with the Duvytene. At the top of each of the long curtains, I put in grommets which align to the anchor points for the bungee cord. At each of the bungee cord's anchor points I put an "S" hook that I slip the grommet onto when I draw the curtains. I use the bungee cord "curtain rod" to lay the top of the curtain over to hold it closer to the ceiling. So far, this is the easiest and cleanest looking solution to date.

I got my black fleece from cutting up blankets purchased at thrift stores. The Duvytene was a real find on craigslist for free. The yards of bungee cord were purchased off of eBay. And, I think everything else was purchased from Walmart.

29 comments:

  1. Suanne, thank you for making this information available.

    I may have missed it, but I'm wondering how you deal with the hatch window.

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    1. For the back hatch windows, in the past I have wedged-in Reflectix to cover them. But, as I said above, that's a hassle to put up each night. Now, I don't cover those windows with anything directly. Rather, I hang curtains down just in front of them. I sleep with my legs in the hatch area under a black sheet which, along with the window tinting, makes it appear as tho' the car is empty when looking through the back.

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    2. I'm sorry; I should have said "back hatch window." I'm just starting to think of the Prius this way, and realized I should use your experience instead of recreating wheels.

      Do you bother with a solar set-up for your electronics, or do you just use an inverter and leave the engine on?

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    3. I don't have solar on the Prius, party due to lack of space and partly because the Prius' hybrid system is a good substitute for a generator. When I'm parked for so long that I can't charge my electronics while driving, I turn the Prius on while parked. Since the engine only runs when the batteries' state of change gets low, it's not as noisy or intrusive as a generator. Also, I try to avoid using an inverter and use 12v plugs for my electronics because they are more efficient (requiring less power to recharge). Also, for night-time light, I replaced the headliner light with LEDs to save battery power. The best to you using your Prius!

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  2. Hello Suanne!

    It sounds like you have givens this some thought! Great writeup! Do you have any pictures of your curtain? That would help to visualize it for me.

    I have done some testing myself, but not got i right yet. You can see my blog here:
    http://simplicityontheroad.blogspot.se/2013/09/thinking-about-car-curtains.html

    More pictures of your setup would help =)

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    1. Good idea! I don't have them up right now. But, when I do, I'll take some pics and post them here. They are black fleece so pictures don't show detail very well. I'll figure out a way, tho'.

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  3. could you make a video of this or pictures, im really interested on how this actually looks

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  4. That's a good idea, but I've never made a video that was worth watching. All I have is a smart phone for photos (or video). I tried taking curtain pictures on this last road trip and they just don't come out.

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  5. I think maybe if you can draw something and take pictures of the drawings, that might eliminate the problem of black fabrics. Of course, I don't want you to work harder than you need to, but this would help anyone using a hatchback, and maybe it would be easier than taking pictures of black fabric against tinted windows.

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    1. Drawing is not my forte, but I may be able to take a stab at it. I'll see what I can do as time permits. Thanks for the idea.

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  6. I have a Chevy HHR and go on road trips across country. For my curtains I used $1.99 emergency blankets and cut them to fit windows put them up with Velcro. You still have to put them up and take them down but they store away easy and also provide "insulation" and black out

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    1. Thanks for the idea. I hope you are enjoying the road this summer!

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  7. Hi Suanne. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon boondocking and stealth camping videos on youtube and thought about how it would work for my wife. You are both of an age and attitude. We live about 4hrs from the house of mouse here in Florida and the wife is a HUGE fan, after a cancer scare and a year of treatments she is thankfully cancer free and determined to use her yearly mouse house pass more often. She had some concerns when I suggested "stealth" camping overnight but after seeing your interview video she is a little more receptive. Of course she laughingly said "get me a prius" but her small sedan has fold down back seats and more than enough room to begin with and she's not adverse to looking at small vans that we can both use to explore a bit more

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    1. Thanks for checking out that video and this blog. I sincerely hope that using your sedan works out well to get her to that Mouse House more often. It's a cool place, having grown up near the west-coast version. Safe travels!

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    2. I would add that the Prius really is the secret weapon. Having a sedan with fold down seats can work but you don't have climate control like you do with the Prius. That big ole and self monitoring electrical system/computer of the Prius let's you just sleep and not get too (hot/cold)/humid.

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    3. The Prius really is an amazing set of technology on wheels!

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  8. I want to mention another side and back window option. Visit/call a sign shop and ask about their perforated window vinyl. you can see out but outsides can't see very well. It is peel and stick and very weather/sun resistant. Available in white and other colors or they can custom color it to closely match your vehicle exterior color and looks very OEM that way.

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  9. I use black towels with button holes sown in. I hang them on 3m hooks tucked under the headliner. I spaced the holes and hooks equidistant for versatility. They are mutltiuse as towels and coverups to hide my gear.

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  10. Hi Suanne, Can you share how you attached the no seeum screens? I just purchased the material and want to place it on my minivan windows. I saw the tour of you prius on youtube and although the screens were mentioned, it was hard to see how they were attached to the windows. Thanks! Joyce

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    1. Originally I used velcro glued around the frame of the windows and sewn onto the screen. After 3 years the Gorilla glue began to fail due to desert heat and PNW moisture. Now, I've re-glued the velcro at the base of the window frame, but now use Gorilla tape to secure the screen on the sides and top of the frame. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't use glue or velcro at all. I'd just use the tape.

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    2. Thanks Suanne, I'll check out the gorilla tape!

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    3. Hi Suanne, do you leave the no seem netting up on your windows while driving? Do you have any visibility issues or can you see through them?

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    4. Yes. I leave the noseeum screen on all of the time, even when I'm not traveling. It hinders visibility about the same as tinted windows. Hope that helps. Suanne

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  11. Suzanne, what is that strap that is attached to your rear struts and a ring that your bungee window "rod" goes thru? I see it in a photo but it isn't too clear. Do you leave it up all the time? Is it affected by opening and shutting the rear door? Is it durable enough to last for years? I have a camping reservation next weekend and I'm hoping to get something up on my windows by then. Do you have a better picture? Thanks.

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    1. Scottie, I'm not sure, but I think you may be referring to some long lengths of velcro strips on my ceiling (just the the "hook" side of the velcro that stick to the headliner). I mostly use those to hold the bungee cord "rod" closer to the concave ceiling in the back when I want to keep more light out while sleeping (usually in a Walmart parking lot). In the 4-5 years it's been on my headliner, I've not noticed any degradation of its "stickiness."

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  12. Hi Suanne, can you please clarify this for me, as I am not understanding it. I feel like there's too much of a gap between ceiling and curtain. Thanks

    "I use the bungee cord "curtain rod" to lay the top of the curtain over to hold it closer to the ceiling."

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    1. Yes, there is a gap. I only am concerned with the gap on the side windows. There I place the curtain top into the hook (by the handle) and then put the bungie cord into that hook as well. This keeps the curtain top at the ceiling instead of leaving a gap. Hope that helps.

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