After looking longingly at the high end, 5+ day Yeti coolers and others of similar caliber I realized nobody makes a small, long lasting cooler. The key word being small. All I want to be able to do is bring a dozen pasture raised organic eggs with me on long road trips and be able to save my lunch leftovers to eat for dinner while traveling to and from Michigan, partly because it'll be easier than stopping twice with Kitai (my dog) with me and more importantly because I hate wasting food. I also wanted enough space to be able to store the second half of a can of soup until the next day.
So far I've been able to keep ice frozen for three days after doing some serious redesign modifications on the Coleman Party Stacker Cooler my friend Carl got me as a trailer-warming gift. I liked the stacker style because it's rectangular but low profile. The exterior dimensions are 22"L x 13.5"W x 8.25"H with interior dimensions of 16.38"L x 11.13"W x 6"H. Now, how to fit the things I want to keep cold and keep them colder for longer than just a day?
Here is my solution:
1. Coleman Party Stacker cooler.
2. I added a cut to size piece of Reflectix (the silver, mylar, bubble wrap insulation). I thought to use the Reflectix because some of the reusable shopping bags I own are lined with it and I saw a forum member use it in their cooler on a trailer forum I joined. So, I figured it was good for insulating. I found it by the foot at Orchard Supply Hardware and by the roll at Home Depot.
3. Using a sliding, long blade utility knife I cut apart an extra styrofoam ice chest we had and made 1.5" insulating panels for the sides around the ice container.
4. I purchased a plastic egg caddy at REI but it was too tall so I cut it in half removing the lid and cut the handle off
Then I made my own mylar dividers to protect the eggs.
5. I added more Reflectix around the sides and found three tupperware containers that fit perfectly for storing my leftovers.
I'll use the largest tupperware for restaurant leftovers, the medium one for the second half of canned goods, and the smallest one for incidentals.
6. I took the cooler to Storables and found the perfect container to fill with water and freeze solid to create my own block of ice. I carved a perfect niche in the styrofoam sides to hold the container above the food. The best part of this is the water will stay clean so I can reuse it by pouring it with a funnel into a fresh water container.
While on the road I'll have to purchase bagged ice which I'm sure won't last as long as a block but it'll do in a pinch.
I also added two smaller foam blocks to the right and left sides of the cooler to give more insulation around all four sides of the ice tray.
Granted, when the yellow container is full I will want to pour some of the water out as it melts so that it doesn't splash onto the food below but that'll be easy to do.
7. I used more Reflectix and made one more insulating layer to place between the top of the ice container and the cooler's lid.
8. With the lid in place.
9. I added one more piece of Reflectix to the top of the lid. Sorry for the lens flare.
10. So now the sides are insulated more heavily but what about the top and bottom? I used the lid to the cooler I cut apart to set the Coleman on top of it. I wrapped the edges with duct tape just to make them more durable.
11. Then I made a Reflectix outer box to set the cooler in using only duct tape to create the box and hinged lid.
I did this because I could feel the cold coming off the top of the cooler once it had been sitting with the ice inside for a few hours.
I simply place the Party Stacker inside the insulated cooler cozy. . .
Then shut the lid.
12. To top if off I purchased a small piece of rigid foam board to add more insulation. I may make another Reflectix sleeve to hold it in place, like a larger version of the lid to the outer box.
13. To make it less noticeable in the car I can drop this wool blanket that matches my car's interior over the whole set up as it only fits on my front passenger seat. A bonus is the fit is so tight it's wedged in place so I don't have to worry about it becoming a projectile that will hit me if I slam on the brakes.
I'm hoping by opening the cooler only three times a day the ice will last 3-4 days. I'll report back after my road trip and let you know how it worked out.
If you have any suggestions on how to improve my design please leave them in the comments!