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Old 03-01-2015   #1
The Box, ~
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 199
5 gal bucket no-ice evap air conditioner

I stumbled into this survival site last year when looking for some information on a VHF ham radio. I'm very interested in looking into making one of these air conditioners for my hot triple-digit river trips. I don't sleep the best when it's 100-degrees at midnight.

Obviously, it'll need a solar rechargeable power source during the day. This homemade AC runs off 12V DC so I can either use the solar panel or connect to a battery. Draws as little power as absolutely possible.

I'm not an electrical guy, so those who are, how practical is this on an extended river trip?

Build your own DIY 5 gallon bucket no-ice evap air conditioner


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Old 03-01-2015   #2
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1965
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 175
No reason why it wouldn't work but as you said if you are wanting it for sleeping you will need a battery to go with your solar panel. It should produce about 70 degree air on a hot dry day
Step 1 Figure up how many amps the fan and pumps use (assuming its 12V).
Step 2 Multiply the amps by of run time to get A-hrs.
Step 3 Your battery should have about 1.5 time this amount of storage capacity to prevent over drawing. I would use a sealed lead acid battery.
Step4 Take the A-hr rating of the fan load from step 1 and multiply by 12 to get W-hrs
Step 5. Divide the W-hrs in step 4 by 8 hrs per day (or however long you think you can keep the panel in direct sun). This will give you the W rating of the solar panel that you need
Step 6 Look for a panel that has the watt rating from step 5 and an open circuit voltage of about 18V.
Step 7. Wire the panel to the battery with a fuse and a charge controller in the positive wire.
Step 6 Wire the battery to the fan with a fuse and a switch in the positive wire.
Step 7 Wire the pump to the battery with a fuse and a switch in the positive wire.

I have a small version of this I use for charge station mounted on/in an ammo can. Depending on how bit the panel is it may or may not be worth your trouble but do the math and decide. I could see this as a major babe magnet during cocktail hour!

Stay cool

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Old 03-01-2015   #3
montrose, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 326
I doubt that little fan will provide enough air flow. Could be wrong. I would love to hear how it works.
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Old 03-01-2015   #4
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
The bucket coolers work well if you get the details right. I made one last year and gained some insight - ie I substituted a different fan and it didn't move enough air to be truly awesome. Also this ends up being a somewhat expensive project - about $200 depending on how you power it.

The fan needs to move enough air to replace the air volume of the tent every few minutes (3-5). I used a 90-100 cfm fan in a 10'x9' tent that's about 6'6" tall. It produced cold air just fine - just not enough of it to fully cool the tent. For this summer I'm either using this fan: Delta Electronics AFB1212SHE-CF00 120x120x38mm Cooling Fan, 190.48 CFM, 55.5 dBA, 4100 RPM, 1.6 Amp, 4+3-pin power & TAC connector: Computers & Accessories or this fan: Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze.

As Jbrebe said you need the right amount of Amp hours for the fan and the water pump. This leads to a decision about whether to go solely with a larger battery (simplicity) or to go with a smaller battery and a solar panel (more complexity but indefinite life). Partly this depends on how many hours a day you want cooling for and how many days at a time you will be on the river. I used a 14W folding solar panel and a 18 Ah deep cycle SLA battery - that ends up being about the smallest combo that works - unless you have cloudy days - this relies on recharging everyday and getting sun while you're using it. Otherwise then you would need a bigger battery and/or solar panel. Many people choose a 105 ah deep cycle marine battery from Costco (you probably won't need a solar panel with this large of a battery for trips up to a week long).

I highly suggest reading this thread from here:

Also you might want to read some lessons learned here:

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 03-01-2015   #5
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
One thing that occurs to me is if the water's fairly silty or has a lot of dissolved solids, as Western desert rivers usually do, the sediment will settle out in the bottom and the filters may clog pretty quickly from the salts.

The next summer desert multi-day trip I go on, I'm bringing a plastic 3-gallon garden watering can. My plan is that as soon as we hit camp, to sprinkle river water all over the main social areas of camp, the area where my tent will be, and any big rocks where folks hang out in camp. The idea is to let evaporative cooling suck the heat out of the sandy soil/rock so the ground isn't radiating that heat back on us all night. I've tried this on a limited basis before and it worked pretty well.

Or just forget the watering can and just sling buckets of water around the campsite when you land...

Good luck staying cool!

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 03-01-2015   #6
Cortez, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 151
Or just forget the watering can and just sling buckets of water around the campsite when you land...


We do this on summer San Juan trips. Throw up the shade (lotsa shade), wet the sand (and wet it again), then finish setting up camp. It works pretty well. Taking a swim as often as needed helps too.
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Old 03-01-2015   #7
glenn's Avatar
BZN, Montana
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,489
Egyptian cotton soaked and wrung out works really well. No batteries needed.
The sunshine walked beside her
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Old 03-01-2015   #8
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
Good shade + wet sand + soaked clothes = a lot of cooling.

The swamp cooler thing works well for desert car camping and festivals. I haven't taken mine on the river - but I can see the appeal for Cataract or the GC in mid summer. Then again a wet sheet also goes a long way.

On a river trip just letting the main setiment settle out before using the river water (maybe use some alum) would be fine. The evaporative cooler pads can be rinsed in the river easily. My setup fits in a 50 cal rocket box (for the battery) and one 5 gallon bucket (for everything else).
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Old 03-01-2015   #9
albuquerque, New Mexico
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 134
sometimes i can't believe this place isn't the onion.
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Old 03-01-2015   #10
Redmond, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1973
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,031
Originally Posted by bigscottone View Post
sometimes i can't believe this place isn't the onion.
This from Dr. Vijeyapal's HERBZA web page.
I could not find any peer reviewed source.

Onions..They are cooling in nature..Thats why during summer, villagers always eat buttermilk rice/rice soaked in water(Neeraagaaram) with onion to keep their system cool throughout the hot working hours.our Andhra people intelligently combined hot avakkaya with cooling onions to balance the system.Rajasthanis applied onion juice on their chests or behind the ears to alleviate the heat and whenever they went out they kept the peeled onion in their turban to keep the cool.
It goes on.

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