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Wool Van Insulation: Everything You Need to Know for a Campervan Build

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So, you’re at that stage where you’re researching wool insulation for your van? Congrats! You’re well on your way to building out your dream campervan.

Wool van insulation has become increasingly popular over the years, and for good reason. It’s natural, sustainable, easy to install and is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water from the air. 

Those are all the reasons we’re using wool insulation on our next van build. 

Sponsored by Havelock Wool

Havelock Wool is natural, sustainable and resist mold and flames. As with any sponsored content, all writing and opinions are our own.

Some van lifers have a hard time deciding whether wool insulation for a van is best, or whether they should go with something like Thinsulate. I know many people spend hours researching insulation.

In this article, we hope to give you all the info you need about wool insulation for a van, plus its positives and negatives.

Where does wool insulation for a van come from?

Wool van insulation from a company like Havelock Wool is sourced from sheep in New Zealand, where wool is a huge part of the gross domestic product. The country is able to mass-produce wool that’s properly cleaned and graded for professional building.

The United States and Canada don’t make enough wool to sustain the amount of wool needed for insulation companies. Plus, wool from the U.S. typically contains 1.5% vegetable matter, things burr, seeds, leaves, grass or twigs. Wool cleaned in New Zealand has only 0.1% of this plant matter. 

Havelock wool insulation for a campervan is sourced from high-quality farms in New Zealand.

Best Insulation for a Van
Havelock Wool Van Insulation

Thinking about insulating your van with wool? Havelock wool is mold-resistant, fire-resistant and absorbs moisture and releases it when relative humidity dips below 65%. It's all-natural and sustainable as well, plus has incredible sound deadening properties. We think this is the best van insulation out there.

Positives of using wool van insulation

Here are the main positives of insulating your van with wool! 

It’s natural and sustainable

The main reason we’re going to use wool insulation in our Sprinter van build is because it’s natural and sustainable. My van life partner Tom has sensitive lungs to chemicals and synthetic fibers. We’ll rest easier knowing wool isn’t off-gassing chemicals or leeching microfibers into the air.

We also love that wool for a van build is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly product. Wool is biodegradable, so goes right back into the earth and acts as a fertilizer. You can even use it as composting if you ever need to remove it from your rig for whatever reason, or if you have leftovers.

Compare that to synthetic fibers, spray foam or foam board.

As a couple who lives tiny in a campervan and on a sailboat, we care a great deal about our environmental impact and try to live sustainably.

Companies like 3M, which manufactures Thinsulate, go completely against our ethos. 3M is in $850 million settlement talks with the state of Minnesota for polluting ground water with cancer causing chemicals. We have a hard time supporting a company like that.

Kate and Ben of TwoWanderingSoles insulated their Promaster with wool

“We chose to insulate our van with wool for a handful of reasons. After doing quite a bit of research, it seemed like a pretty easy choice to us. Wool is a natural material, meaning we didn’t have to worry about working with toxic products or breathing them in over time. Another really important factor to us is that wool handles moisture really well, meaning we won’t have to worry about mold growing, especially when we’re traveling through damp environments like the Pacific Northwest.”

Ben and Kate, TwoWanderingSoles.com

Ben and Kate, TwoWanderingSoles.com

Wool is great for moisture management

Let’s face it: moisture is going to show up between your van’s outer metal shell and inner walls. The good thing about wool is that it absorbs that moisture [without becoming wet to the touch!] and then releases it when humidity drops to 65%. The moisture goes into the air and dissolves.

This is the same reason I love wearing wool undergarments for outdoor activities like hiking and backpacking. Wool clothes are great at absorbing moisture while still maintaining insulation, aka, keeping me warm.

If you don’t properly manage moisture in a van build, it can cause rust and mold. This not only affects your van, but can cause air quality issues inside.

Wool van insulation also has sound deadening properties

Wool insulation for a van has incredible sound deadening. Some people even choose to ONLY insulate with wool rather than adding sound deadening materials. However, if you want additional sound deadening, feel free to also install something like Kilmat in your van.

Wool van insulation also fits in those tiny nooks and crannies in your van that other insulation and sound deadening materials can’t reach, like your headliner area.

When measured using the Noise Reduction Coefficient (a rating for how well sound is absorbed), wool measures at 90%, which is a really high number!

Wool Insulation for a Campervan Provides Air Filtration

If you’re someone with sensitive lungs, you will definitely appreciate wool insulation’s air filtration properties. Wool actually bonds with nasty chemicals like formaldehyde, NOx, and SO2 and doesn’t re-release them into the environment. 

Researchers in Switzerland studied air filters made of wool, and found they absorbed 94-96% of pollutants over a six hour period.

In our van, we’d rather have an insulation product that absorbs chemicals rather than emits them, like some alternative insulation products on the market

Wool is really easy to install in a campervan

To install wool in a campervan, you can order 2” batts from a company like Havelock Wool. You’ll have to measure the square footage in your van without forgetting spaces like the headliner area. If you get it from Havelock like we plan on, each bag of 2” batts covers 100 square feet.

It’s good to get enough wool to try to cover all the metal in your van. You’re basically living in a metal box and it’s important to create a barrier between that metal and your living space so you can properly regulate the temperature in your van.

The 2” batts are surprisingly versatile. They rip into puffs for those nooks and crannies and peel off into thin layered “sheets” for larger areas. A lot of van lifers use string to secure insulation on larger van panels. 

Havelock recommends insulating everywhere, even your ceiling and floor. 

Wool has a good R-Value

R-Value is how a material’s resistance to conductive heat flow is measured. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

Wool insulation comes in with an R value of 3.6 per inch. Thinsulate, on the other hand, has an R value of 3.3

What’s cool about using wool insulation for a campervan is that the R value doesn’t degrade over time as moisture buildup doesn’t occur. 

We’d much rather go with wool, a natural substance with a great R-Value! What would you want to put close to your body?

Wool is mold-resistant

Wool is made out of keratin and doesn’t support the growth of mold. Plus, wool absorbs up to 33% of its own weight in water while still staying dry to the touch. Wool traps that moisture inside its fibers where mold spores can’t get to it. It insulates so well that it creates an inhospitable environment for mold.

Woman putting wool insulation for a van in a panel van walls
Installing Havelock wool in a panel van

You’ll also need to use proper ventilation in your van build to help move air around and help moisture dissipate. That means one or two fans in your ceiling and slider windows with screens.

Wool van insulation is fire resistant

Another great plus of using wool insulation in your campervan is that it’s naturally fire resistant. That comes from the wool’s high nitrogen and water content. It will usually just smolder and burn away before it catches fire. 

Negatives of wool insulation for a van

With any type of insulation for a campervan, there are negatives that come along with each type. Here are a few things to know about wool van insulation.

It might smell like a barn

Wool comes from sheep, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it could smell like you’re on a farm, at least at first. Eventually, the barnyard smell will dissipate from your wool van insulation.

One way to hurry up the process is to open the bag and let the wool reloft and breathe for a couple days before installing it in your van.

This doesn’t bother most van lifers, but if you have a particular aversion to the smell of wool, you may not want to use wool insulation for your van.

Wool is treated with chemicals

Wool van insulation is treated with boric acid to repel insects. Companies like Havelock use just a small amount of boric acid to repel insects, which is all-natural and non-toxic. Boric acid is mined out in nature and is shown to have negligent toxicity levels when breathed or eaten.

It isn’t vegan

Kate and Ben of Two Wandering Soles pointed out that wool isn’t vegan, so it might not be the right insulation for you if you’re trying to avoid using all animal products.

It’s not quite as easy to install on large areas as other products

If you’re insulating a panel van, you’ll have large areas of metal where you’ll need insulation. For wool insulation for a van, you’ll need to use string or tape to make sure the wool stays in place. Some people prefer using an insulation like Thinsulate as you can just stick it to the larger panels.

Man cutting wool batts for van insulation
Man cutting wool batts to insulate his van

However, using string or twine to hold wool in place isn’t too difficult of an install. You can see how Two Fit to Travel used twine for wool insulation in their van’s walls and ceiling. They also recommend using painter’s tape and criss cross it over the wool to hold it in place.

Be prepared to carve out a little extra time if you’re installing wool insulation in a van.

It doesn’t have the highest R value of all van insulation options

If you’re looking for the very highest R value of all campervan insulations options, wool doesn’t win. Spray foam is the highest with an R value around 6.5-7, but the tradeoff is huge. With spray foam, you’re introducing chemicals into a tiny living space. Also, if spray foam is applied incorrectly, it can damage your van’s panels.

The choice is yours to make – if using spray foam, it’s best to get it professionally installed by someone who knows how to insulate a campervan’s unique space and layout.

Top Questions Answered about Wool Insulation for a Van

Here are some of the top questions we’ve seen asked in van build forums about using wool for campervan insulation

Will I need a vapor barrier with wool van insulation?

You do not need to put in a vapor barrier if you’re using wool insulation in your van build. A vapor barrier is meant to prevent vapor from moving around. The point is for wool to absorb any moisture, and release it when humidity drops below 65%. You want that moisture to be able to move out and dissipate. 

A vapor barrier would actually trap moisture, which leads to rust and mold.

Do I need to insulate the ceiling and floors, too?

It’s recommended that you insulate every part of your van that you can. Use string or tape to secure wool insulation to your van’s ceiling and walls. Insulating the floor is more a personal decision. We’ve seen people in van life forums who think it isn’t worth the effort.

However, if you plan on winter camping in really cold temperatures, you may want to insulate the floor so you’re not freezing your feet every time you walk around. Insulating the floor with wool will also trap heat from your van’s heater – preferably a diesel heater – for those super chilly temps.

Insulating the floor also cuts back on road noise. 

Where can I buy van wool insulation?

We recommend buying wool insulation from Havelock wool. This is a popular company amongst van lifers – and Havelock even has its own campervan insulated with wool.

They’re great with customer service and answering any questions you might have. This is definitely the company we’re going with when we insulate our campervan.

Best Insulation for a Van
Havelock Wool Van Insulation

Thinking about insulating your van with wool? Havelock wool is mold-resistant, fire-resistant and absorbs moisture and releases it when relative humidity dips below 65%. It's all-natural and sustainable as well, plus has incredible sound deadening properties. We think this is the best van insulation out there.

Conclusion about wool insulation for a campervan

Wool insulation for a van is great if you’re looking for a natural, non-toxic, sustainable option for your van. Wool is mold-resistant, fire-resistant, and soaks up moisture without getting wet. Wool is nature’s insulation with an R&D timeline of many thousands of years.

Wool van insulation stuffs easily into nooks and crannies, and you can hang it on the ceiling and in wall cavities using tape or string. Wool also has amazing sound deadening properties to quite your ride.

We plan on using wool insulation on our next campervan conversion. We hope this article helped you decide if wool is also right for you.

Click here to check out wool van insulation on Havelock Wool. 

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