How to Build an Outdoor Cooler

How to Build an Outdoor CoolerWhen we you think of "keeping cool" these days, images of air conditioners or refrigerators might come to mind. But if you're on the trail or camping out in the middle of nowhere, such electricity-demanding amenities almost certainly won't be available. Never fear--it's not too difficult to make your own outdoor cooler for your food, no matter where you happen to be pitching your tent.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • 6 perforated metal sheets
  • 4 metal brackets
  • 12 screws (with nuts, bolts)
  • 1 hinge
  • 2 wood or metal boxes (with lid)
  • Water
  • 4 pieces of cloth
Step 1
Obtain six pieces of perforated metal. The size of the metal pieces depends on how large you want your cooler to be; if you're looking to make an outdoor cooler that is about the size of standard store-bought coolers, you might want to go with 3-foot by 3-foot squares of metal. The holes in the metal will allow air to flow freely through your cooler when finished--an essential quality of the device.
Step 2
Fasten the six pieces of metal together using four metal brackets, and a hinge (the latter for the cooler's door). Secure the brackets in place using screws, nuts and bolts. The result should be a cube box with a door that swings open.
Step 3
Obtain two boxes (made of wood or non-perforated metal), with lids. The boxes need not be deep; in fact, shallow boxes (perhaps one or 2 inches deep) are probably best. At least one of the boxes should be wide enough to support the perforated cube box on top of it.
Step 4
Fill the two boxes (obtained in Step 3) with water. Place one of them underneath the perforated metal box cube. Place the other one on top of the cube. Set their lids aside for the time being.
Step 5
Obtain four pieces of cloth. Soak them in water, then place them over the cube box, one piece on each side (ideally completely covering their respective sides).
Step 6
Run one end of each piece of cloth into the water-filled box on top of the cube, then replace the lid on the box to hold the cloth pieces in place. Except for the cloth on the cube door side, run the other ends of the cloth into the water-filled box underneath the cube, then replace the lid to hold the cloth in place. Allow the cloth on the cube door side to simply hang down; when you want to open the door, you can simply lift it, then replace when the door is closed. You should now have a perforated metal box with a door, four pieces of wet cloth running down each of its sides, with the ends of the cloth running into water sources on top and bottom. Your outdoor cooler is complete. As the air passes through the wet cloth, it evaporates, cooling the inside of the cooler, while the water containers on top and bottom will keep the cloth moistened for long periods.

Tips & Warnings

If ice is available, putting a block of ice into the bottom of the perforated cube can further cool the box.
Outdoor coolers like this one work best in areas with low humidity; the difference in temperature may only be marginal in high-humidity regions.

Article Written By William Jackson

William Jackson has written, reported and edited professionally for more than 10 years. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, high-level government reports, books and online. He holds a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.

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