by an Engineer and Outdoorsman
Skreenz™ were invented in 1986 by Chuck Blethen, who
lived in Minnesota at the time (photo of Chuck
making wild blueberry pancakes boatside on Lake Michigan on left). Chuck
was an engineer by education, a devoted camper, hunter, and winter camping
instructor. He had purchased a VW Vanagon and loved to go camping. One
weekend, he took his family for a camping trip in their new Vanagon.
When it was time to bed down for the night, he and his family folded
down the back seats and spread out their sleeping bags. After about 30
minutes it became hot and stuffy, so he rolled down his windows to get
some fresh air. The mosquitoes swarmed inside. He rolled up the windows,
sprayed the inside with insect repellent, and tried running the engine
and air conditioner - it was noisy, used gas, and the engine over-heated
when left idling for over an hour. He shut off the engine (and air conditioner)
and rolled down the windows - in came the mosquitoes again. That was
the most miserable night of his camping career. He was used to tent camping
where there were screens to keep out the insects. There had to be a better
The Usual (and Unusual) Screening Materials Didn't Work
Upon his return from that memorable weekend outing, Chuck set about calling
VW dealers and other van manufacturers trying to find a solution to
his problem. No one had a solution, including VW America in New York
and VW Germany whom he visited during a business trip. Chuck began experimenting
with different materials to see if he could make an effective bug barrier
so he could get a good night's sleep in his van in the middle of the
summer in the Minnesota woods. He first tried cutting metal screen to
fit the exact window slot. It worked, but the metal screen leaked when
it rained and the windows could not be rolled up or down. Then he thought
of making a "pillowcase" or "upside
out of various webbing material. That idea allowed him to to roll the
windows up or down between two layers of screen, but the nylon stretched
and let the bugs in. So did polyethylene. So did rayon. So did cotton
and wool. But Chuck was certain the "pillowcase" design was the way to
go, if the right material could be found.
The Answer - Woven Fiberglass Developed for the Army
His materials engineering background kept him at it until he hit upon
the right materials combination to solve his problem - a coated, woven
fiberglass material developed for the Army which had the unique characteristic
of not stretching in the horizontal or vertical weave direction but
which would stretch on the bias. He made a few samples until he had
just the right size and tension for his Vanagon door frame. Testing
under deep woods camping conditions in Minnesota (a World Health Oorganization
category 10 mosquitoe infestation area) proved his product was capable
of protecting his family from biting, stinging insects. Neighbors saw
his screens and wanted them for their vans.
of Skreenz™ Sold all around the world since 1986
That was in 1986. In 1987, Chuck started making patterns and hard templates
for the most popular vans and soon he and his family were making Skreenz™
and selling them throughout the United States and in many foreign countries.
Chuck applied for a patent. Skreenz™ by Blethen has been operating
as a family business since 1987. Thousands of Skreenz™ have been
manufactured during that time. Many have been sold through automotive
supply catalogues, but most have been sold direct to the public via the
Internet. His best advertising comes from satisfied customers who rave
about his Skreenz™
on various camping blogs. His most recent invention was a Skreenz™ for
the sunroof openings of vehicles.
acquired the Bug-Barrier RV Division Retail/Wholesale sewn product
line from Bug-Barrier Screen Corporation in Medina Ohio.
Skreenz™ began fabricating
the sewn products immediately. By the end of 2010,
all of the sewn products previously manufactured by Bug-Barrier was being
manufactured by Skreenz™ in North Carolina. The
products include grill screens for the Sprinter, Ford vans, Chevy vans,
and Dodge vans as well as a variety of pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans.
Rear cargo screens for the Sprinter are included as well as side and
rear cargo doors for Ford, Chevy and Dodge vans.
Photo of Chuck
& Jeannie during a visit to Tuscany in June 2013.