Upgrade my old broken cooler to a Bootleg Yeti

With fishing trips and work, more cooler space is always welcome for me. I already have a nice 165qt Engel cooler chained up in the back of the truck, but two coolers would be even better. Specially to keep food and drink separate from bloody fish and bait. Or, at work, keep meat and poultry away from veggies and dairy, but the problem is I don’t want to spend another $600 bucks on another large rotomoulded cooler. So that’s where this broken old 150qt Rubbermaid Marine Cooler comes in. These old Rubbermaid Marine Coolers were about $100 when we bought them 8 years ago. Made from blown plastic with foam in both the body and lid, a decent cooler for the money, but this old Rubbermaid is definitely showing its age now. This thing has been used hard and put away wet. The lid straps are gone, the latch is broken, the hinges are missing screws and the cooler feet are worn through. The foam in the lid has probably cracked at this point, you are not supposed to sit on coolers. We’ve certainly earned our money from it over the years, but now it’s time to give it a new lease of life. I’ll try to Frankenstein this thing on a budget and bring it back as a Bootleg Yeti.

Old Rubbermaid 150 Qt. Marine Cooler, locks gone, hinges broken, lid straps gone.

The Broken But Clean 150qt Rubbermaid Cooler

This old broken 150qt Rubbermaid Marine Cooler was stored outside in a storage container that had been exposed to the elements. The thing needed a good cleaning. I recommend using a 3-2-1 mixture of water, bleach, and dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray down the cooler you want to clean and let it soak in a bit. DO NOT wear nice clothes for this, you ruin them with the bleach in the mix. Give the cooler a good scrub and then rinse it out. Usually use a magic eraser for stubborn stains, that will take care of them.

The clean and dried lid on the counter, prepared with isopropyl alcohol

DIY: upgrade my old broken cooler to a bootleg yeti

Install the rubber weatherstrip on the cooler cover.
The draft strip was a little short, but the two pieces overlap, so it was good.

Now that the cooler was no longer crisp, time to add weatherstripping to the lid to make a gasket. All the nicer rotomoulded coolers have a gasket on their lids to create an air seal to keep that cold air in and warm air out. So for my Bootleg yeti I bought some black EPDM cellular rubber weatherstripping tape to make a gasket. They were two strips, each 8.5 feet long. I wiped the groove in the cooling cover first with isopropyl alcohol to degrease and then applied both strips as smoothly as possible. Even though they weren’t long enough to reach the overlapping layers, which should be good enough.

The next step for the cooler was to reattach the lid, which was relatively easy. While the original screws were torn out, you just need to buy some oversized stainless steel screws to replace them. That way they can bite into the lid and stay firm. The same goes for attaching the new lid strap, stick to stainless steel screws or they will rust.

Install new metal latches on the cooler.
Completed Bootleg Yeti V1, gasket installed, new latches, hinges fixed and lid strap added.

The last step for the Bootleg yeti was to attach new latches for the cooler. The original lock was broken and long gone. However, that original design wouldn’t really work for this cooler with the gasket installed. You want chest locks that can put pressure on the lid to create the best possible seal when you close them.

Problems with original locks, Home Depot locks were not meant for this.
The latches buckled at the notches and so they failed.

But don’t use Home Depot chest locks or other chest locks with this design. The hole with the wire will warp and bend. These bolts gave out while I was fishing while they could still close. As soon as you opened them, they dropped the wire into the back of the truck. So those latches had to go, I bought a few more from a local hardware store, these have held up much better and even have the benefit of being able to attach a lock. So while I wouldn’t call this bear rated, but certainly enough to keep curious people out of your cooler if you lock it.

New sturdier closures, the threaded holes have more material around them.

Totally spent on this little project to breathe new life into this old cooler, I spent about $20 bucks on materials and a few hours of time. During initial tests with this Bootleg Yeti, it held the ice better than before we put it away. At that point, it only got ice for a few days. However, with the gasket and latches, I got ice for about 4 days. That’s a significant performance boost compared to how it performed before.

However, there are some things that can be done to the cooler to potentially improve performance. It could be something to inject more spray foam into the lid. When screwing in the second set of latches, I noticed that the lid didn’t have insulating foam all the way to the edges. As well as reapplying the gasket material so that there are no more holes.

While both of these can help with ice retention, I feel like the extra effort and money may not be worth the results. I’d say using a decent set of chest locks and adding a gasket is a very cost effective method of improving on an old cheaper cooler. I’ll be holding a side-by-side contest of this Bootleg Yeti vs A Angel Cooler soon. That way we can see if this might be the ticket for you instead of spending that much on a rotomoulded cooler.

Leave a Reply