*Temporary Portable Air Conditioning*
This is definitely one of those non-essentials for survival. But, although Iíll "rough it" just like the toughest of them in the field, if Iím going for a relaxing static camping weekend, this is really nice to have.
Last year, in a period of temporary insanity, I was working 110+ hour weeks. Sometimes after getting off a shift it would be so late that I would get more sleep by sleeping in the back of my truck (on the extended cabís bench seat, not in the bed) than if I spent time going home. Unfortunately, on a Texan August night itís often still in the 90s at midnight, so I had a lot of trouble sleeping (I didnít want to run the engine at idle all night to power the A/C). One night I couldnít sleep so I drove to the Super Wal-Mart nearby and just browsed. It was there I had an idea, remembering an article I read about old-fashioned cooling methods. I spent about five bucks total buying a bag of ice, one of those cheap disposable Styrofoam coolers and a 6-inch diameter battery-powered fan on clearance in the automotive section.
I filled the cooler with ice and rigged the fan to blow over it. I placed the contraption on the floor beside the seat and within about 10 minutesÖ.bliss. I thought I was pretty smart, but as is so often the case with ideas, someone had thought of pretty much the exact same thing before I did. I found something very similar called the Kooleraire (http://www.kooleraire.com), but never bought it. Instead, I tweaked my design and thought Iíd share it with you; itís a great thing to have in a small tent when camping, especially in the summer, and is inexpensive assuming you already have an ice chest.
The device is really simple to make; look at the diagram below if you want clarification on something.
First, open the cooler and look a couple inches below the rim on the inside. A lot of coolers have a slight lip there that the lid fits down into. Take approximate measurements of this, and cut the Styrofoam a bit larger. The idea is to make it set flush into the cooler, but rest on this lip. Just use the knife to cut the foam down until itís a snug fit. If there isnít a lip there, itís easy to hot glue a small dowel inside to serve the same purpose Alternatively, just make the foam a lot larger to rest on top of the cooler (the lid is open when in use) and duct tape it down while in use. A couple inches from one edge, cut a hole in the foam the diameter of the fanís blades, but smaller than the housing. Place the fan over the hole so it blows into the cooler, and tape it in place along one edge to make a kind of hinge that you can tip the fan up to switch it on or off. On the other end of the cooler, cut a slot in the foam about an inch wide and a few inches long. Thatís it. Take the thing out of the cooler so the lid can close to keep the ice from melting en route to your campsite.
To use, fill it with ice. It doesnít matter if you also have food or drinks in it. You can use any of the things mentioned above, but I donít use the ice packs. Usually I fill a bunch of old 20 oz. coke bottles with water and freeze them and put pack them upright in the cooler. Theyíre reusable and their circular form means the space between them maximizes surface area with ice. The downside is that they take up a lot of room freezing them at home, so sometimes Iíll just splurge the 79 cents on a bag of ice when I gas up on the way to the campsite. When youíre ready to sleep, slide the thing into your tent, open the lid, put the foam in place and turn the fan on. Youíll notice a slight chill on the air exiting the outflow slot, but itíll usually still take ten or fifteen minutes to cool off even a small tent to any noticeable degree. It doesnít work very well in daytime since tents donít insulate well against sunlight, but in the evening it makes sleeping very comfortable. Usually Iíll wake up in a couple hours (just because itís camping and that means not being in a comfortable bed) to turn the thing off and close the lid. Since going to sleep in a hot environment is usually harder than continuing to sleep, plus itís usually cooler around 3 or 4 AM, it will have served its purpose and shutting it off early means I can usually save the ice for a second night if Iím staying at that campsite.
A Trane it isnít, but it makes for a neat afternoon project and can make things a lot more comfortable.
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