“I want to sleep with my barn doors open and not get wet” is where the Hangout started. A random assortment of tarps, straps, and bungees just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The two-year development history is captured on the Sprinter Forum with many design details revealed below.
Shelter: How does it keep the rain out?
The domed roof over the doors acts like an umbrella. The integrated side panels cover the large gap between van body and open doors preventing blowing rain from sneaking in from the sides and soaking you or your stuff.
You can also extend the privacy curtain into awning mode giving you more shelter when needed. One Sprinter Forum member is a cinematographer who needed a way to protect his sensitive and expensive equipment from the elements while out on film shoots. He has been using an early prototype and pronounced it worthy in surprise North Carolina downpours.
Installation: How do I get it up there?
The hardware is color-coded to make assembly intuitive. Poles have internal elastic shock cord to self-assemble when held vertically, accelerating set-up.
By grabbing the ends of the domed roof poles, you can lift the door cover onto the roof of the van while standing on the ground.
Strategically-placed strong neodymium magnets on the edge of the door cover act as a second set of hands to hold things in place while you finish the setup.
“I got it installed by myself in the wind and didn’t need a step stool or any other job aids.”*
“As my van is a 4×4 it sits a Lot higher than yours, it’s a bit of a stretch getting the cover up to the top and properly positioned, I think practice makes perfect.”
*All quotes were posted on the Sprinter Forum by actual customers.
Simple graphic instructions are ready at hand to guide you if needed. All printed on recyclable water resistant card stock made in Tacoma, Washington.
The privacy curtain attaches to the door tops and is separate from the door cover. Anchoring to the doors ensures a secure connection to the van when it gets windy for both privacy and awning modes.
You can install the privacy curtain while standing in the back of the van by pulling one door partially closed at a time.
It takes me less than five minutes to install the door cover and privacy curtain. Of course, I’ve had a lot of practice but the best installation tricks have come from new users – maybe you’ll teach me a thing or two:
“I also found that leaving the bungees unhooked from the bumper makes it much easier installing the privacy curtain.”
Just, like, that.
I look forward to hearing what you come up with.
Awning? No problem. Grab the bottom of the privacy screen and pull out. The magnets release and the top articulates to give you more than 50 square feet of covered space behind your van. The awning accessory kit will hold the awning up and out in style.
There are lash points sewn into the underside of the awning around the perimeter so you can hang things up – like lights – or beaded fringe if you need to channel your inner hippie.
One more detail I’m proud of: the privacy curtain upper corners automatically adapt the tension needed to hold the top snug in privacy mode. When pulled out into awning mode the upper corners rotate rearward. When lowered back into privacy mode the articulating corners automatically pull the fabric tight around the outside of the door tops. All without you noticing, or having to climb a ladder to make any adjustments, making camp-life less demanding. You’re welcome.
Access: How do I get into the back of my van?
Magnets hold the privacy screen in place – no straps to undo. You only need to pull it open making access to the back of your van quick and easy. When you let go, the privacy screen will fall back into place and the magnets will grab onto the doors. Super simple.
A curtain tieback, made using marine grade bungee shock cord and kayak hardware, is pre-installed and waiting to hold the privacy screen out of the way when needed – saving you time and effort over trying find and create your own.
Storage: How much room will it take up in my van?
Leveraging backpacking tent technology, all that goodness packs down small into a tidy package less than 28 x 10 x 4”, saving precious space in your van.
“I thought the whole package would be larger when all stored in the bag. But it is really quite compact. I love the pockets for the rope, stakes, and instructions.”
But not too small. Have you ever struggled to stuff a tent back into its bag after opening it? So have I. The storage case organizes all components and the pockets are roomy enough to make for drama-free re-packing.
“And everything fits back into the storage bag! Very nice!”
There is even an external lash strap to give you more storage options and make sure it stays put as you roll down the road.
Durability: How long will it last?
400 denier weight fabric was chosen after evaluating many different materials. Mountain Safety Research (MSR) provides a detailed description of denier (D) that includes this summary:
“Ultimately, you want to keep in mind that the higher the denier or thread count, the stronger and heavier the fabric. If you want a lightweight tent (and everyone does), you have to accept that one made with 15D fabric won’t be as strong as one made with 40D fabric.”
400 denier is more than 10 times heavier than backpacking tent material to increase durability. Yet it still packs down small (28 x 10 x 4”) to save space in your van. It also has a polyurethane waterproof coating to help keep you dry. This material has been exposed to Seattle’s rain, sun, and snow 24/7 for well over a year and retains its full strength (yes, I test it).
Roof and door poles are 7076-T6 aluminum extrusion, which has been a go-to standard in backpack tent design for many years. Light, yet strong and durable.
All magnets are triple-coated for corrosion resistance. They’ve been stuck to the outside of my van, in Seattle, for nearly two years to verify performance of the magnet coating. Channelling my inner mag-nerd here.
Elastic bungee shock cord is used in several locations making set up quick and easy. The bungees are marine-grade to hold up to UV exposure and last a long time. Working in consultation with the supplier each bungee is designed to stretch below its plastic deformation limit preventing overstretching which will prolong life. And if that wasn’t enough, each one is easily adjustable and replaceable by you if needed.
Wind: What if it is windy?
A Sprinter Forum member took an early prototype on a multi-week trip. Luckily for us he had lots of experience camping in windy locations, like rip-the-side-awning-off-your-RV windy. His feedback went directly into several design improvements.
The door brace tips fit into the door lock mechanism so it will stay in place and keep the doors open when windy.
The door cover has two carabineers that lock over the door brace pole to hold the door cover corners down in breezy locations.
The separate privacy curtain attaches over the tops of the doors and is secured in place by a bright orange bungee that quickly hooks to the upper door hinge. Maybe design overkill, but better safe than sorry if the wind picks up. Why bright orange? To help you remember it is there if you go to shut the doors.
Strong neodymium magnets covered in a rubberized diamond grip material hold the privacy curtain in place – helping to keep your privates private when windy.
Mag nerd post here in case you missed it above.
Heavy metal hooks, that could ding your paint when blowing around in the wind during set-up or removal, were replaced with strong lightweight composite hooks to prevent accidental dents or scratches. In fact all exposed metal components have been eliminated (except for the poles) to keep your van looking sharp.
Awning Accessories: Where can I get those custom poles?
The awning accessory kit comes with two telescoping awning poles custom-designed for you. They’re a sturdy 1.5″ outside diameter and can be set at any height from a short 32″ to 7 feet allowing you to adjust your awning up high or kneel it way down. Custom 12′ reflective guylines come pre-tied with matching aluminum slide adjusters because who wants to sit around tying knots while setting up camp? The guylines light-up when your headlamp shines on them allowing you to gracefully navigate your camp at night. Pre-tied loops and slide adjusters make awning set-up and tensioning super simple so you can spend more time relaxing. You also get a set of matching lightweight aluminum tent stakes to keep things grounded. An extra set of guy-lines and tent stakes are included for backup.
Fit: Will it fit on my van?
The door cover dome shape was designed to sneak over the top of your backup camera and seal along the rear body weld seam on the van.
This allows it to fit under most roof racks and rear fans.
“In my head as it was on it’s way, this was my concern: Would it clear the Maxxfan on my 170EXT with Hein’s rear mount.
The privacy curtain covers the top 7 inches of the rear doors to ensure a sturdy connection to the van.
Door mount ladders, spare tires, and cargo bins….oh my! There is a wide variety of super cool rear door mount accessories across the adventure van universe but I don’t have an exhaustive list of Hangout compatibility. If the privacy screen isn’t blocked from fitting on the door tops and there is space between the outside of the rear doors and accessory when open, then it might just fit. Email me a picture of your setup or let me know if you are coming through Seattle so we can test it out.
Fit: "I said, will it fit on MY van?"
Mercedes Sprinter 2008-2018 NCV3 and 2019+ VS30 two and four wheel drive high-roof: yes. Revel models with the ladder bracket at the top of the door is incompatible (for now).
Pre-2008 T1N: Not yet, I need a volunteer van in Seattle. Email me if interested.
Promaster: Not yet, but my friend bought a Promaster and he reminds me not to forget about him.
Ford Transit mid-roof: Not yet. A colleague has one on order and he will likely want one too.
Let me know what van you have and get email updates here: