I've been pondering an idea for quite some time now and am finally looking to gather some information to see if it could work. Although this is a DIY question, I'm just looking for information at this point and will obviously require the services of a shop to deal with the refrigerant when the project gets under way. If I'm mistaken and this goes against forum rules, I apologize.
I'm an avid camper and regularly pack a cooler with ice, food and drinks. It's a Yeti, a very good cooler. In an effort to maximize the efficiency of the cooler I throw a bag of ice in the night before heading out to pre cool it. What i'm looking to do is take this one step further and actively cool the cooler and some of the contents with a refrigerant type device.
The only product that i've been able to find is a cooler for a marine application, used to make your own built in fridge.
The compressor and condenser are mounted on a little frame and the unit is available with a single flat metal plate as the evaporator. The theory is that i could half load the cooler and lay the plate on top, close the lid and let it chill for a night, getting everything as cold as i can. Here is a link to the product i'm referring to:
There are two problems. The first: The evaporator is plumbed with copper tubing and is thus not suited for repeated movements. Here is my question for the professionals. Is it possible to use a flexible connection for the evaporator? I'm thinking stainless steel braided lines covered with insulation. A shop could cut the existing lines off and solder or braze on fittings to attach the lines to.
The second problem is the price. The product I linked to is very expensive. I'm wondering if a small cheap fridge could be bought and used in the same manner? The small fridges have the freezers made out of a very similar looking cold plate that could be prepared as described above. If not, are there other products that I may be unaware of that could work better?
Any information that would help me on my way to a cooler cooler would be greatly appreciated.