Ice Chests

Ice chests come in all shapes and sizes. Although we are recommending two different powered coolers for our minivan camper conversion, many people can get by with the normal ice chests which simply use ice to cool. But if you are out boon-docking in the wilds somewhere, you may not have ice available. But there is almost always sun… and solar panels… and generators… and a powered cooler just might work better for you!

But if you don’t mind furnishing a constant supply of ice on a daily basis, or if you just need something to carry away from your site on a hike or boat trip, and you only need it to last a few hours, then small ice chests are a great idea.

There are coolers for nearly everything these days, from a single drink to bringing a week’s worth of fishing home on ice. Some are solid construction, while others are “soft-sided” and collapsible. There are plenty of small collapsible coolers around, many times given away as advertising specialties, so we won’t worry about those. We are going to offer some nice mid-size coolers that will work well for going on hikes, or as extra coolers in your vehicle. As always, we’re showing only a sampling here. Amazon has over 3,000 coolers available just under one set of keywords. I’m sure a different search using different keywords will bring up many more. So if you don’t see what you want in the images, click on any image and then do a search on the  Amazon site. They have over 17 times the inventory of Wal Mart worldwide, so if you can’t find it at Amazon, you probably don’t need it!

One story we heard recently is that one guy bought a huge solid-walled ice chest, and actually uses it for a bath tub/shower when he isn’t using it for storage in his full-sized van. At first I thought it was funny, and rather odd, but after thinking about it for awhile, it makes perfect sense! After all, it’s about the size of the tub we had in our 34-foot motorhome, which was built partially over a wheel well, and had a built-in seat at the back of it. And the ice chest already has a drain near the bottom on the side, so whether you use it for a tub or a  shower base, it can still be drained without lifting it! And for using it in a full-sized van without an extended top of some kind, where you only have about 4-1/2 feet of standing room, all you have to do is put a portable seat inside of it and use it as a sit-down shower. All you need is a way to hang the shower curtain around it and let it hang inside the tub, and provide a means of using a shower wand. Any on demand type water heater system with a shower wand with a shut-off on the handle with do.

And if you have a means of using it outside, you can leave the seat out, and stand up to take a shower, using the cooler as the base. On a full-sized van with double doors, a simple rod across the two doors at their outermost top corners, opened so they’re parallel to each other, will provide support for a rear tent or tarp for privacy. The cooler can be set on the ground between the two doors and used with or without the  shower curtain. All you have to do is attach a garden hose to the drain, and you can drain the water away from the vehicle. If the tub is used inside a van, the water could even be drained to one of the blue tote tanks on the outside and then disposed of at the dump station. Below are the two largest ice chests we have found to date, which are large enough to fill the need:

And so that you don’t have to hunt for a seat to fit in it, I have also located one which will work as a shower seat as well as an extra seat anywhere else. The Coleman ice chest has the largest inside dimensions, and is 19-inches wide. The Rubbermaid didn’t list interior dimensions but it is 19-inches wide on the outside. Both are roughly 3-1/2-feet long, and this seat should work very nicely in it. It will leave plenty of room to tuck the  shower curtain in around it..

Keep in mind, unless you actually use this as an ice chest, you probably won’t have need to try to carry it full of stuff, so we have purposely chosen one without wheels or pop-out handles. Our intent here is that it be used as a storage vessel, in which you can keep jugs of water, the water heater,  shower curtain and other shower accessories, all of which can be kept in a basket or even some of those cloth grocery bags with handles, available at nearly any grocery store, including Wal Mart. That will make it quick and convenient to empty when you want to use it for something else… like a shower. Also, it has nice drink holders built into the lid and can be used as an extra seat in the vehicle or outside. It’s a win/win situation!

Needless to say, I don’t think this odd use of an ice chest is so funny anymore. It’s a very practical way of getting a bath or shower no matter where you are!  We can’t begin to tell you what you “should” have. Everyone has to make up their own minds on that issue, based on their own needs.

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