Sunday Classic / The Homemade Yeti Cooler

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If You Can't Fix It With Duct Tape...

If You Can’t Fix It With Duct Tape…

Don’t get me wrong, your Yeti is a great cooler and, yes, you can use it for a poling platform, sort of, and it does make you look very cool but if you’re like me and you travel a lot to fish it’s just not practical.

What I need is a cheap cooler that I can use for a week or two, then toss in the garbage on the way to the airport. I suffer a little guilt for landfilling a bunch of styrofoam, but the damage to my wallet is minimal.

I’ve used styrofoam coolers from grocery stores for years. On photo shoots I will sometimes have a half dozen of them. The problem is, they don’t hold up. You can buy cheap plastic ones but they are still twenty bucks or so and they’re not as good as the styrofoam at keeping ice. If you pitch six of them, you’re tossing $120. My frugal soul can’t stand that.

Five or six years ago I figured out this cool trick for making your styrofoam cooler bomber. A couple of layers of strategically placed duct tape on the sides, top and bottom make them surprisingly tough. Adding duct tape hinges and a lid helps to keep your ice longer by keeping the lid shut tight.

I’ve been doing this for years and I have no problem using a styrofoam cooler for a two week fishing and camping trip. It even holds up surprisingly well when your drunk buddy (Bruce Smithhammer) forgets it’s not a real Yeti and tries to sit on it. This one lasted another week and a half after that incident.

You can do two coolers with a good roll of duct tape. Don’t skimp, use it all. You can buy an extra roll for drift boat repair, but that’s another post. For my money, you can’t beat it. There’s nothing more satisfying than drinking a cold beer from your home made Yeti.

But I don’t recommend it as a poling platform.

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / The Homemade Yeti Cooler

  1. The duct tape trick serves another purpose from my distant past. I used to take photos in tropical forests. My Nikon, and a few lens cases, came in the standard black of the day and would absorb heat in the sun. Not what you wanted in the film days. So, early on (60s), a more experienced friend had me buy a can of white spray paint and cover everything. Not only did the white reflect heat, but as time went by, the paint cracked and got dirty so that everything looked like a piece of crap instead of the best equipment you could own. The most discerning thief probably would have nothing do do with my “cheap” stuff.

  2. When go on trips, I almost always fly to a destination and rent a car. One of the first things I do once I’m there is go shopping for essentials. (I’ve found it’s a lot easier to travel without toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, etc.); but I also grab a cheap Styrofoam cooler or 2, ice, a case of water, a 12 pack of beer, and some Gatorade.

    Overall, it’s cheaper than buying beverages at gas stations, and I always have what I want with me. The Styrofoam may not keep things as cold as a yeti, but it’s dirt cheap and I don’t worry about leaving it wherever I am.

  3. Cool idea.

    …my problem with Styrofoam coolers (Styrofoam anything) is the squeaking as I drive down the road.

  4. Great stuff! Beyond my understanding why some think they need a $200.00, six-pack size cooler. Well, I guess that is why I don’t have a $3,500 dollar fly rod. Even the Tenkara bream pole makes me wonder. –If you marketed a solid gold Clouser, with diamond eyes, somebody would buy it.

  5. I love this. I don’t really get the Yeti thing either, but to each their own! On the other hand, I agree with Geoff above, that Styrofoam squeaking is like nails on a chalkboard!

  6. Hi everyone,

    I don’t own a Yeti — they are, as others have pointed out, not cheap — and I have never done the kind of long-term, heavy duty photo shoots and bonefishing expeditions that Louis and the G & G team have done for years now — so I know that I have no right to comment on this. And if you need 5 or 6 coolers on a typical trip, that money will really add up fast, and I get that.

    But shouldn’t we all be doing all that we can to minimize our footprint on the planet, even if it means a bit more of a hit to our wallet? The opening sentence here:

    “What I need is a cheap cooler that I can use for a week or two, then toss in the garbage on the way to the airport. I suffer a little guilt for landfilling a bunch of styrofoam, but the damage to my wallet is minimal.”

    just seems a little off to me, even acknowledging the guilt as it does. Some of the guides I know have stopped all use of plastic water bottles on their trips for the same reason, and in general it seems like the fly fishing community — G & G included — is doing its best to lead the way toward being environmentally aware and avoiding the use of non-renewable resources in general. Couldn’t the Yeti be used as a piece of luggage (sort of) to store / pack stuff on the trip back home? And maybe even, with the great exposure that companies get through G & G, Yeti could be talked into donating some for the cause? (Easy for me to say, I know).

    Again, it’s not my place to point fingers, as the experience is all on your side, and I don’t want to come off as some righteous idiot with no idea what he’s talking about. It just seems like maybe we shouldn’t be buying and trashing so much styrofoam and duct tape, if our long-term goal is to safeguard our resources.

    Thanks for listening, and keep up the good work.

    • Especially when much of that cooler will wash up on our favorite tropical shore. The Maldives now hires flocks of folks to keep the plastic out.

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