DIY Cooler??

Swamp Coolers, Cooler Management, Dry Ice, Misting Systems, and just plain how to beat the heat.

DIY Cooler??

Postby melodiousdirge » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:51 am

I have googled a bunch on this, but I keep coming up with coolers for gaming CPUs mostly. I'm thinking it would be pretty easy to make a DIY cooler from rigid housing insulation with or without a plywood shell and/or a waterproof liner on the inside. It also seems one could make a larger and much better insulated unit than what is available at the big box outlets. 3-4" thick walls with a reflectix or similar exterior seems like it ought to outperform the coleman and similar alternatives.

Any burners here who have constructed their own playa cooler?
We wouldn't want to alarm the flock, they might start asking questions.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby trilobyte » Sat Jul 30, 2011 2:34 am

You probably could construct your own cooler, but it would most likely be bulkier, heavier, and more expensive. At its most basic, build a shell (plywood, metal, etc), then line with insulation (styrofoam springs immediately to mind, but I imagine there are a huge number of variations), and then an inside liner. Watertight, of course, and something that's not going to affect the taste, smell, or edibility of the food (no plutonium lining for you!). Then of course lid and making a tight seal, etc.

Dammit, now I want to try my hand at making a cooler! Reminds himself that he's passed his deadline for new projects for this year.... :)

I still suspect that for practical purposes, it would be cheaper to buy something. Plus, unless you really know what you're doing, you probably won't come anywhere near the efficiency of one of those 5-day or 7-day numbers.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:04 am

And don't forget portable. You can carry those commercially made ones rather easily.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby melodiousdirge » Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:38 am

Well, being something of a challenge seeker... I think I could make one that compares to the commercial ones - probably would wind up costing more in the end though.

What I was really thinking about was a big mother that wouldn't leave the confines of the utility trailer, it would be big and bulky for sure, but I could cram a ton of dry ice or and regular ice inside and never have to make an ice run!

Probably more effective to just use a regular cooler and replenish ice from center camp hmm.
We wouldn't want to alarm the flock, they might start asking questions.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby FIGJAM » Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:44 am

Google "Ice box".
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby JStep » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:29 pm

I thought I posted this on this thread already???

Anyway, here's a DIY cooler made from flower pots and sand. The ancients, man, the ancients!

http://lifehacker.com/5825676/create-an-electricity+free-refrigerator-with-some-flower-pots-and-sand
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby ygmir » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:33 pm

melodiousdirge wrote:Well, being something of a challenge seeker... I think I could make one that compares to the commercial ones - probably would wind up costing more in the end though.

What I was really thinking about was a big mother that wouldn't leave the confines of the utility trailer, it would be big and bulky for sure, but I could cram a ton of dry ice or and regular ice inside and never have to make an ice run!

Probably more effective to just use a regular cooler and replenish ice from center camp hmm.


I did just that two years ago, as an experiment. super insulated with 4" rigid, foil faced foam, all 6 sides. Foil faced mylar bubble wrap stuff on the outside.
9 days later, the icecream was still frozen, the dry ice was gone, but, the regular ice was still solid.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby SnowBlind » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:53 pm

It feels like the first years I went, the whole ice thing was more of a pain in the ass. Arctica was far away at Center camp, was sold out half the times we went there and had a two hour line the other half.

That's gotten a lot better the last couple of years. The 3 and 9 o'clock Articas made a huge difference, and they are better at keeping them stocked all day. So I feel that getting ice is far less of a pain than it used to.

I was thinking about doing the dry ice thing one year. Of putting extra insulation on our coolers. If you are doing it as a fun project that you get a kick out of, then by all means, go for it. It *is* kinda cool.

But if you are looking for a practical solution to keep your food and beer cool, I find that going to arctica every other day is the easiest solution.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby trilobyte » Sat Jul 30, 2011 1:05 pm

One of those big, white wide coolers (not sure how many quarts, they're as big as the back seat of a car or a car's trunk) should be able to do it. Keep it in an enclosed shade structure (no sun or hot winds hitting it). Up off the ground by at least a foot or two. Cover the sucker in blankets (blankets on a bed don't make you warm, they insulate and help keep your own warmth in). Some friends of ours did that with their coolers a couple years back (with a smaller cooler) and didn't need to re-ice for 5 full days.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby gyre » Sat Jul 30, 2011 2:54 pm

Every other day?
I've gone almost two weeks before adding ice.

LeChat has done this too.

There's a thread about this and commercial grade coolers too.
Many options.

Start with the best consumer grade cooler you can get, coleman or igloo with an insulated lid.
Design your setup and foam or line the outside between the shell and liner.
LeChat used polyurethane foam.

You can buy refrigeration grade seals too.

Better insulation will make a difference.
Size is the only issue.
Toughness is another attribute of the commercial grade and fishing coolers.
Some are truly bulletproof.
They start at about $100 and go up.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby melodiousdirge » Sat Jul 30, 2011 6:16 pm

gyre wrote:They start at about $100 and go up.


I guess at this point I shouldn't really be quibbling about $100 here and there, but it seemed to me that enough rigid insulation to build a 2x2x4 foot cooler with very thick walls could be had for the same price or less. Of course, then there's the inevitable scope creep that would come along with such a project, and the fact that I depart in 25 days.

Maybe I should prioritize my ideas.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby melodiousdirge » Sat Jul 30, 2011 6:19 pm

ygmir wrote:I did just that two years ago, as an experiment. super insulated with 4" rigid, foil faced foam, all 6 sides. Foil faced mylar bubble wrap stuff on the outside.
9 days later, the icecream was still frozen, the dry ice was gone, but, the regular ice was still solid.


This is exactly what I'm talking about!

One other idea I've tossed about is buying $30 worth of that 2 part expanding polyurethane foam (Hi expansion factor, rigid when cured), and then either doing a rubbermaid bin inside another rubbermaid bin, or building a big box out of plywood around a huge rubbermaid tote such that there would be 4" of insulation on all sides or so.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby phatChance » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:06 pm

Obviously I'm late on this thread. I was searching the internet to figure out the best methods for insulation. Not sure if insulation in addition to an air chamber is the best. I guess I can find out, I think it's called the R coefficient, of air and other materials.

Anyway, to add to this thread, you may want to consider using fiberglass for your shell instead of wood. That would be the ideal kind of material to use. It's quite easy to fiberglass things. Sort of like paper mache, but with a respirator…
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby phatChance » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:11 pm

Here we go. Build a fiberglass container with an air chamber then figure out how to vacuum out all the atmosphere and seal it. Gives you a theoretical R Value of 30, compared to an R value of 7 from the home insulation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_insulated_panel
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby melodiousdirge » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:12 pm

phatChance wrote:Obviously I'm late on this thread. I was searching the internet to figure out the best methods for insulation. Not sure if insulation in addition to an air chamber is the best. I guess I can find out, I think it's called the R coefficient, of air and other materials.

Anyway, to add to this thread, you may want to consider using fiberglass for your shell instead of wood. That would be the ideal kind of material to use. It's quite easy to fiberglass things. Sort of like paper mache, but with a respirator…


Wow, talk about raising a dead thread, but thanks for your input. I've done quite a bit of fiberglass work - aquariums, auto body stuff, even my burning man swamp cooler. I'd have to disagree that it's "quite easy". I mean it's not very complicated but it certainly is time consuming and expensive to do it nicely.

I wound up running into and talking to quite a number of people who made their own cooler for the playa and my conclusion was that in general it's not really worth it. For you foodies it might be, or if you don't like making ice runs, then sure, but ultimately you can buy a pretty damn nice cooler for what it would cost to make your own in my estimation. I don't mind making a couple of ice runs during the week, so I just went with a couple regular old 100liter coolers.
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Re: DIY Cooler??

Postby melodiousdirge » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:14 pm

phatChance wrote:Here we go. Build a fiberglass container with an air chamber then figure out how to vacuum out all the atmosphere and seal it. Gives you a theoretical R Value of 30, compared to an R value of 7 from the home insulation.


If you can build a fiberglass shell strong enough and well enough sealed to maintain a vacuum, then pull the air out of it and seal it... then you sir are a better man than I.
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