Hi All - Update on progress of this design. I've made a number of refinements and then a beta tester that volunteered on this forum took it for a 2 week trip where I got some great feedback to refine the design further.
Here are some pictures of the current version (no more bamboo awning poles ).
I also added a way to quickly pull the privacy screen to the side and hold it open.
Here is what the full kit I sent on the beta testing trip looked like.
That includes everything: Door cover, awning/privacy screen, poles (roof, door spreader bar, and awning), tent stakes, and reflective guy lines with sliding adjusters.
Here it is rolled up.
The beta test feedback was generally positive but found an issue with the door cover leading edge lifting up in moderate wind. The cover stayed in place but not the experience I want anyone to have. So thanks to that feedback I'm working on a solution to engage the door spreader bar more securely so I can attach the front edge of the door cover to the bar which should make it much more secure.
Great question and it made me realize that I didn't time the beta tester which I had meant to do. When I dropped it off with him I first put it up so he got to see how it went on then I took it down, disassembled it, and he put it up while I watched without me coaching just so I could see if he struggled with anything. He put it up pretty fast...maybe around three minutes for the door cover the first time and he said he felt it would be faster the next time.
It takes me (6'3" tall) around 2 minutes to put on the door cover and then another 2 minutes to put on the privacy cover. Pulling out the awning, setting up poles, and staking it out is well under an additional 3 minutes depending if I have a good tie down or staking spot.
If you needed a stool then there would be some added time climbing up and down the stool. The beta tester's van is 4x4 so taller than the van I've been working from and he put it up without needing a stool which surprised me (in a good way).
Hi Perce - No bug screen in this version but that request has come up several times. This design is meant to provide shelter from the rain and sun (plus privacy with rear doors open) but it isn't bug proof. I've seen bug screens that seal at the rear door opening but that doesn't give you any outdoor bug free space. I have been thinking about it but don't have a good bug room solution yet.
This looks great! Thanks for posting updates! When you're ready to take orders, would you be willing to offer just the door cover for sale? We are less interested in the awning/privacy screen, poles, tent stakes, and reflective guy lines and it would be so great to be able to get just the door cover. Thanks for considering!
TamagoVan - Door cover only seems totally reasonable to me, I don't have any fixed ideas about trying to sell all the parts in one package. For example - those bright orange aluminum awning poles in the picture above are fairly spendy in small quantities so if someone has a pair they already like then it wouldn't make sense to try and force them to buy another pair. I am looking for what I think are well designed and good value components that I would want to use so will likely offer those up if someone would prefer the full kit - but I don't plan on requiring full kit only.
I see that you are in Portland. If you head up to Seattle with your van let me know and I can show you the current version (unless someone has taken it on another trip) and I'll reach out if I head your way.
You can put me down as someone interested also. Any chance you have pics of how far back it goes onto of the roof? (I looked through the thread and didn't see any). I have a 170ext and my solar setup will be going to the end of the factory roof rail. I wasn't sure if that would prevent your cover from going on.
Hi Va Sprinter - The solar panel question has come up at least once before. I don't have a great photo so I'll need to take one and post it. The design is meant to not extend beyond (towards the front of the van) the rear body weld/seam and I believe most factory roof mounts don't extend beyond the seam to the rear. It would help me to see a picture of your setup to check out the amount of space you have back there. Thanks, Pat.
Great design...just started thinking about added outdoor privacy/shade space after a trip to the Oregon coast and this seems to be the best one I’ve seen too. Count me in when ready to go...I also am a Ripplewear fan but think you’ve got the optimal design. Oh and I’m in Seattle to so if you need another tester let me know.
On another note, for those that have an awning on the slider side, it would also be pretty cool to have another piece of fabric that could mate up like a quasi batwing type awning.
November update: The canopy and privacy extension have been on two more road trips. One to the Washington coast and one to Moab, Utah. Key learnings:
- At the coast it turns out the privacy screen is good at keeping out the coastal moist evening sea breeze. However when the wind picked up the magnets weren't strong enough on the sides to keep if from flapping around. So I added strapping points for high wind stability that can be attached/released from inside or outside the van.
- At Moab it turns out when drunk friends don't follow instructions they have a hard time figuring out how to put on the privacy screen. I'm currently working on drunk-proof installation improvements for the privacy screen/extension.
Some pictures from Moab taken by aforementioned drinkers:
The design is getting close to being ready and I'll be starting the conversation with local manufactures soon.
HeathFranklin - Thanks for the kick in the pants to post a way overdue update. Short answer = yes.
Longer answer: I met with a manufacturer, they reviewed the prototype, and they are excited to make this product which gets us past a key hurdle. Since then I've been spending my time diving deep in to material sourcing to get prices nailed down to come back to you all with accurate cost estimates. The door cover and privacy screen use about 12 yards of fabric which is the biggest cost driver. I'm looking at alternative materials and suppliers recommended by the manufacturer to see if I can get the costs down to a reasonable level for low volume production.
In the mean time I'm running environmental tests on the current materials to see how they hold up to sun and sub-freezing temperatures. Here is a picture of some fabric and logos I've had outdoors since early fall:
I also have had magnets on my car since the summer to test the coatings for corrosion resistance in the Seattle rain (so far no issues). The magnets I used originally would rust pretty quickly but the new magnets have a triple layer coating and still look like new.
I've been heads down focusing on the product design and getting to production but clearly my marketing & communication skills need work. I will post more frequent updates going forward.
I'm very committed to getting the product design right, manufactured in the USA (at a fair price), and available as soon as I can.