DIY cooler? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 02-24-2015   #1
 
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
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DIY cooler?

Has anyone made their own high performance cooler or modified a manufactured cooler by adding insulation?

The typical store bought cooler barely has 1" of wall thickness and often the lids are not even insulated. Doesn't seem too hard to beat that. Plus a homemade box with vertical sides would hold more than the mass production friendly sloped sides on a typical cooler.

I like the quality of the YETI style coolers but the price is too steep for my budget. For $300 you could buy a lot of plywood and rigid insulation...

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Old 02-24-2015   #2
 
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Arco, Idaho
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I made one a few years ago with aluminum and two part expanding urethane foam that I poured in the cavity. The walls and lid are 2" thick and has 125 quart capacity. The cooler looks neat, but the aluminum transfers the cold and heat too rapidly to be effective. I would say that the cooler holds the ice about 1/2 the time as a Yeti or similar rotomolded cooler. Also, the cooler weighs 70 lbs empty. When it was all said and done, I had about $300 into building the cooler and still ended up having to buy an Engel. It's a great conversation piece. Click image for larger version

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Always thought it looked cool on the boat!
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Old 02-24-2015   #3
 
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Evergreen, Colorado
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I insulate all my cooler lids with foam sleeping pads. I like the idea of a home made cooler but you'd have to finish it really well so it wouldn't warp.
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Old 02-25-2015   #4
 
Cortez, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kengore View Post
Has anyone made their own high performance cooler or modified a manufactured cooler by adding insulation?

The typical store bought cooler barely has 1" of wall thickness and often the lids are not even insulated. Doesn't seem too hard to beat that. Plus a homemade box with vertical sides would hold more than the mass production friendly sloped sides on a typical cooler.

I like the quality of the YETI style coolers but the price is too steep for my budget. For $300 you could buy a lot of plywood and rigid insulation...

I think building a "satisfactory" cooler from scratch is beyond my skills, but I've wondered about enhancing an el-cheapo cooler in a couple of ways: (1), by adding spray foam to the hollow lid (most are hollow). In order to prevent the foam from distorting the lid, I think you'd have to drill a few holes (on the inside), not only for injecting the foam, but also to let it out, then trim it off when it's dry. (2) making a liner (with a floppy lid) of cheap sleeping pad foam, that would be removable for cleaning. And (3) is something I already do, which is lay sleeping pad foam under and over my ice (which is frozen jugs), then the food on top of that. And I put certain things like frozen meat under the foam with the ice.
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Old 02-25-2015   #5
 
Sacramento, California
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cooler envy

Please realize that it has only been ten years since these high performance coolers surged into the market. People were river running for 45 years without them. Don't get me wrong they are great and I bought the first generation Yeti which is not close to as good as the newest model but it was $275 in 2007 not $475 that they are now. So guess what, people tend to upgrade because they like new stuff. Get a cheap of free old igloo that someone or a rafting company is upgrading from and get going down stream. Tricks that helped river runers for years. cooler mantainence drain everyday, Freeze your meat and vacume seal it so it doesn't get wet, don't put warm beers in your food cooler to cool them and melt your ice, keep the lid closed and have a plan befor opening you fridge, put five blocks in it for a five day trip, and keep it covered all day either with you sitting on it or with a paco when at camp. I did a six day on the Rogue at 100 degrees last fall we had 3 coolers for 20 people. Mine was the only Yeti the other two were wallmart style. We filled the bottom with ice coverd it with cardboard to absorb free water and insulate, but most important our plan was to have a day 1 and 2 cooler. A day 3 and 4 cooler. And a day 5 and 6 cooler. As we finished one cooler left over ice got bumped into the beer cooler. Don't let price and wants prevent participation. Have a plan, and if you have the lowest performing cooler of all your buddies than use your cooler early in the trip. No big deal! The best engle cooler left open on not latched, or not drained works only slightly better than a rocket box. Peace
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Old 02-25-2015   #6
 
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
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I'm actually thinking about a real 'poverty boat' design, at least for prototyping. Only needs to last a few trips until I get the design perfected. My frame is an odd size and I have never found a cooler that is a good fit.

Here is what got me thinking along this line...

I few years ago I needed a cooler to fit under the seat of my drift boat for a multi day trip. Unable to find one that was a good fit I took a thick styrofoam cooler (the kind that comes with steaks in the mail) and cut it down to size with a hand saw. I added rope handles and covered the outside with duct tape so it would hopefully last six days. 6 years later I still use that cooler. I have had to renew the duct tape a bit, but the 2" thick foam does a very good job at keeping ice.

I'm thinking a box of 1/2" marine ply, epoxy sealed, painted and sanded on the interior. Cover the outside of the box with 2" of rigid closed cell insulation and cover that with fiberglass FRP panels or perhaps painted canvas like the old canoes. Don't really care if the outside suffers a few dings as long the interior remains water tight.
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Old 02-25-2015   #7
 
Denver, Colorado
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Hey this may be old news to the people on this post, but in case it's not, here's a trick my friends and I use: We bring a towel for each cooler, and regularly dunk the towel in the river, and lay it out across the top of the cooler. Aside from the cold water helping to keep the cooler temperature down, as the water evaporates it also cools the cooler. We've done 5 day trips many times, with two "wal-mart" coolers, using both the whole trip and had ice left at the end.

Partitioning coolers for certain days of the trip is pretty clever too, that would really cut down on extraneous opening of the cooler. Good call mcguire!
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Old 02-25-2015   #8
 
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Kengore I do the same thing with styrofoam steak coolers for my crappie fishing cooler (I catch 'em-give them the ole' hillbilly headslap and throw them in the cooler) because I don't want to get blood and fish slime in my other coolers. I've thought about doing what you say although with something lighter than marine ply, just to see if it works so I'd be interested if you try it....and I've been holding onto one to try this with.

I'm also with mcguire and lomabardi as well. I can keep a coleman 48 and a 20gt igloo cold for 4 days in 95 deg heat easily by keeping it in the shade, wet blankets or even diggin a little pit in the sand if there is no shade. With two coleman 48s I can easily stretch that to 6 days.

The high end coolers really are only good for trips over a week IMO. (even then not really necessary). I know plenty of people who have yetis and engles that never spend more than 2 nights in the woods. These are the same guys who don't like it when I point out that for a day trip we can hold more beer in my coolers than their yeti and they will be just as cold thoughout the trip....in a cooler I bought for $5 at a garage sale.
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Old 02-25-2015   #9
 
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I was researching DIY dry boxes last year and stumbled on a few guys making coolers. They used 2" "pink" foam, epoxied the foam together and then glassed it inside and out (there was more detail on hinges and latches that I don't recall). Essentially they made them in a variation of the Stitch and Glue boat building technique using foam instead of wood. They were not fiberglass gurus but did have some experience laying glass for boat building. I don't have time to search for the write up I'm referring to but I found it via Google... It was intriging

I was mildly interested in following up with it at the time, but too many projects and too little time have pushed the idea back in my head.
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Old 02-25-2015   #10
 
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actually, I did find it... it was actually the guys from West systems epoxy that presented it (so they might be glass gurus after all) and here it is: WEST SYSTEM - projects - Building an efficient icebox
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