Jason vanOirschot – a grain farmer from north east Saskatchewan, Canada – lives in a region rich in wildlife. Hunting moose and elk is very popular amongst his neighbors and friends. But they all face the common challenge of how to store and process their meat in a safe and efficient way, because everyone is out hunting at the same time. The local butcher shops quickly become overwhelmed.
“September is our elk season, and it’s still quite warm to hang an animal in that kind of heat,” Jason says. “The season always opens on the same day, so everyone is out hunting at the same time. Everywhere fills up. You can’t really hunt unless you know you’ve got a place to put it.”
Jason was not satisfied with the options available to him. He didn’t want to pay a butcher to process his wild meat, as it would cost more than just buying domestic meat in the grocery store – thus defeating the purpose. He also didn’t want to buy a used trailer or prefab cooler, as they were hard to find and also expensive. He had considered building his own walk-in cooler with some friends for a while now, but he wasn’t sure where to begin.
“I was kind of shocked there weren’t better examples of coolers on YouTube,” Jason says. “The ones I saw, I was like, really? People are using that shiny insulation, and it’s too fragile. If you build a flimsy cooler, you can’t even have a rail. For me, there was no question I had to have walls and shelves and hooks in there. I wanted it to literally be a butcher shop.”
That’s when he came across CoolBot, which seemed to be exactly the reliable (and affordable!) DIY and cooling solution Jason had been searching for.
“As soon as I saw how it worked, I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” Jason says. “Just take a regular A/C and trick it. That triggered me to go ahead and start this project.”
Jason ordered the CoolBot Pro and the biggest 110 powered A/C unit he could find. He then set out to build his own walk-in cooler from scratch, using materials he had on hand or bought locally. He framed the cooler like a house, using 2×6 wall frames and styrofoam insulation inside and outside. The final cooler is 14 ft long x 9 ft high and 7ft wide inside, which provides ample space for hanging elk and moose. He wanted the cooler to be on a trailer, which he also built himself from scratch.
“I wanted this thing to be able to cool the meat but also have the space to be able to butcher in there,” Jason says. “Right away, it cooled down to 33-34 degrees Fahrenheit, which is very cold.” He actually had to prop the cooler door open while butchering in order to not freeze himself!
Jason built an incredibly sturdy rail system in which to hang the animals from, using a heavy metal overhead door rail and a channel iron. He reinforced the roof with boards and straps to support the weight of the moose and elk. He says he could probably winch his vehicle up with the rail, it’s so strong. “If you want to hang a 600 lb moose, you’ve got to have something strong,” explains Jason.
The door was another challenge, as he needed a 9 ft tall door to match the wall height. He built the door with 2x4s and tin, using big hinges to prevent sagging. He also made sure the cooler was airtight and mouse-proof, using steel wool and spray foam to fill any gaps.
Jason spent about $1,000 Canadian on the CoolBot and the A/C unit, plus additional costs on various materials and insulation. “For $500 CDN, I bought a 14500 BTU Danby, and I’m very pleased with the quality and price,” Jason tells us. He says it was worth it, as he will now save money on butchering fees and has successfully avoided the cost of a commercial cooler.
“This project here was a bit costly, but I framed this thing like a house,” Jason says. “I am kind of a carpenter; I built my own house. I want to build things to last. And I’ve got nothing but time during the winter, so I started [building] in January. Not everything went exactly according to plan, but in the end I did get a chance to try it out.”
One minor setback was when Jason nearly sliced off three fingers with his table saw and needed 17 stitches! But he didn’t let that stop him, and he just “worked more with the one good hand while his fingers healed.”
Jason is very happy with his walk-in cooler – and so is his neighbor, who brought over his butcher equipment and uses it all the time. Right after finishing construction on his CoolBot, Jason let the cooler get to temp for about two hours prior to hanging and butchering a couple of pigs.
“It works amazing, it’s exactly what I wanted,” Jason says. “It’s a great value. And with your advertising of recommended sheet specs for a project like this, I nailed it 100%.”
Jason says he is glad he chose the CoolBot Pro, as it will allow him to eventually monitor and control the temperature of his cooler remotely via Wi-Fi. He doesn’t currently have WiFi in his shop where the cooler is located (it’s about 300 feet from his house and his router doesn’t reach that far), but he plans to use his iPad as a hotspot during hunting season.
Jason is proud of his walk-in cooler and thinks it’s a fantastic deal. He wanted to be resourceful and save money, and CoolBot helped him achieve that. He recommends CoolBot to anyone who wants to build their own walk-in cooler for hunting, farming or any other purpose.
“It’s absolutely perfect,” Jason says. “CoolBot is amazing.”