DIY Cooler (Part 1) Introduction

Or: An adventure to find a ice chest what doesn’t look like modern industrial excrement

There’s a certain exciting feeling when you walk into a period camp. Wow, look at this, and look at that! What’s going on over here? It’s like a period movie without all the boils and 90% less dysentery. Know what ruins that feeling? Looking at people cooking over an open fire with a pile of modern brightly colored plastic coolers tossed behind them in a forgotten corner. Is your period camp being ruined by a monster in the corner?


I know, there are lots of ways around this: Going full-period and getting rid of even century-old ice-based food preservation (tell that to the food budget and the horde of starving, picky kids). Painting over the bright colors (so now they look like painted MIE coolers). Putting the MIE inside a tent (where they take up precious dry space and are now super inconvenient to get at).

One of the more typical examples I’ve seen is where people take a modern cooler and build a wooden box around it. Even the best executed examples still look like a plastic cooler inside a wooden box. And if you’re already going to the trouble to make a wooden box, is there a way to kick it up a notch?

Its really not that big a deal to make a wooden box and line it with insulation. But that exposed insulation is 1) not durable and would get chewed up right quick and 2) not watertight, all that melting ice is going to make a big mess of your wooden box. Hand-vacuum forming a deep plastic liner seems like a royal pain and outside the capabilities of most home workshops. Forming a metal liner is even more of a pain and expensive to boot.

But, there is a potential solution! In recent years there has been a great expansion of options for paint-on/spray-on waterproof coatings. Spray-on bedliners, rubberized coatings in a can, all relatively inexpensive and easy to get. But, will it work?

Read on…

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