GREAT INVENTIONS

Ice-free cooler

By Pat Lynch

How to keep drinks cold without ice

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If in a few hundred years’ time, the cottaging universe is to be understood by a future society, the unity of our peaceful, yet mosquito-addled, existence could succinctly be explained by one thing: We kept a ready supply of cold, delicious beverages on hand at all times.

When Allan Cox began his quest for peace on Dog Lake, north of Thunder Bay, he was simply being a good father on a property that was water-access and service-free. “We’ve got three kids,” says Cox, “and they almost always brought friends along, so there was no way our coolers were going to keep pace with our cold drink needs.”

After picking out a galvanized garbage can at the local Canadian Tire, Cox sunk his shovel into the sandy depths of his cottage property and buried the pail up to its handles. Transferring the coolness of the surrounding earth, the can acts as an outdoor fridge, keeping frosty beverages from the cooler chilled for days. The lid snaps on to bar any small animals, and a wooden cover, made from 2 x 4s and fence boards, keeps the sun off the can, maximizing the ground fridge’s cooling potential.

Twenty-five years after Cox first devised the power-free chiller, the cottage has road access and propane-powered refrigeration, yet he maintains his ground fridge, preserving peace in the kitchen by making room for the most important cold drink of all. “The propane fridge is so small,” he explains, “that the beer gets relegated to the ground fridge. I’ve got a couple cold ones in there right now.”

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Pat Lynch