Introduction: Floating Playmate Cooler

About: just a guy that likes to tinker.

One of the more enjoyable things to do in central Texas is floating down the various rivers. The cool water on hot summer days not only cools the body but pulls the stress of the week out of you. I’ve been going with friends of mine that have tubing down to a fine art including a tube for their 70 quart cooler and a custom made radio player built into a 48 quart cooler. During that time I’ve would borrow space in their cooler for my favorite beverage (read “beer.”) It was always a concern as to how much space was allowed for me. And of course, every time I wanted one they were either upstream or downstream from me. So, I started to think what I could come up with. Searching the net I found either water noodles around a small tub for a pool or tubes for much larger coolers. I
wanted something in-between.

Being like most folks on this site I wanted to come up with something that easy, functional, and made of things around the house. For my first revision/build I turned to my personal Playmate cooler from Igloo. It was just the right side for me, held just the right number of my favorite beverage (read “beer”), a couple of bottles of water, and some snacks. The first picture is of final product of the first build.

Since the cooler is to be used on and off the river the cooler couldn’t be damage (i.e., no holes, nothing glued to the sides, etc.) So the first build was to involved strapping material. The cooler will float in by itself but will float tilted based on the contents and the weight shifting. I thought it would need some addition floatation devices surrounding the cooler.

Step 1: Parts List

The material list for the first build goes something like this:

Playmate cooler

Water noodle 2x15” ($3 for 4’ feet at Dollar General)

Buckle (left over from my scuba diving days. Can be other types of fasteners if you like.)

Rope, about 56” long to go through the noodles

2” nylon strapping material, about 48”

2” nylon strapping material, about 24”

Black zip ties


Long blade knife

Sewing machine (if you want to sew the strap ends)

A lot of this was fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants measurements changing all the time I was making it so I’ll give y’all the numbers I finally came up with.

Step 2: Making Your Cross Strap

Take the smaller 24” strap and folder over 2” making a loop and sew down the end to the strap. Do the same for the other end. The overall length should be between 19” and 20”. The screwdrivers are there to show the loops at the ends of the strap and keep the strap from rolling up.

Step 3: Adding a Slot to Your Water Noodles.

Take the two noodles and cut a 2 1/2” inch through the noodle.

Step 4: Start to Assemble

Snake the rope through a noodle, through one end of the strap, through the other noodle, and then through the other end of the strap.

Step 5: Adjusting the Rope to Your Cooler

Place the cooler upside down and put the noodle on the long sides of the cooler to get an idea how long and tight the rope needs to be around the cooler. You want the center of the noodles to be about 3 ½” from the bottom of the cooler. To help see that, notice how the center of the noodles are about the same height of the white part of the cooler. I used a hose clamp to help hold the rope end together till I figure out the right length.

Step 6: Fixing the Length of the Rope

Using a couple of zip ties, tie wrap the rope together.

Step 7: Hide the Ends

Pull the ends into the noodle.

Step 8: Adding the Tie Down Strap

Affix the buckle onto one end of the longer strap and weave it through the noodles.

Step 9: Centering Your Straps

Place the cooler inside the apparatus and center the straps on the cooler.

Step 10: Anchoring Your Center Strap

Center the strap that goes the along the longest part of the cooler and put a zip tie through the strap and around the rope. This will keep the strap from moving to either side of the cooler.

Step 11: Completion

Once that is done route the long strap around the cooler and buckle it down.

You are done.

Step 12: Observations

Ok, after a couple of field tests, it worked well but a few observations. 1) The top doesn’t swivel much, just enough to get some cans and a 1 liter bottle of water in. 2) The strap can get in the way. 3) It did tip over but remain floating, just lost water that melted from the ice. 4) The top can only pivot one way.

Step 13: Rev 2

In the back of mine mind I knew what I wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to do so till I went to Goodwill and found a Playmate for $5 that someone had donated. (Thanks to the Zimmerman family.)

Step 14: Part List for Rev 2

With this cooler I started with my second build. It was
to be a little simpler since this would be dedicated to tubing. Again I had all
the material left over from other projects so total cost was the $5. The part
list more hardware based:

Playmate cooler

Water noodle, 2 x 12”

Rope, about 56” long to go through the noodles

Eight rubber washers about ½” (I made some from an old
bicycle tube.)

Four flat washers, 1 ½ OD.

Eight smaller flat washers

Eight star washers

Eight nuts to fit #10-24 bolts

Four #10-24 2 ½” bolts

(Note: you can sub the hardware has you see fit but I would definitely use the rubber washers and keep the length of the bolts at 2 ½”. And yes, the count of hardware is different in my picture but y’all get the idea.)

Step 15: Drilling Holes

Drill holes through the sides of the cooler. Mine were about 1 ½” from the sides and 3 ¾” from the bottom.

Step 16: Adding Bolts to the Cooler

Place a small washer on the bolt with a rubber washer and push it through the inside to the outside of the cooler. Place another rubber washer, smaller flat washer, a star washer, and tighten it all down with a nut.

Step 17: Adding the Noodles to the Cooler

Center the noodle between the ends of the cooler, push it onto the bolts, and using a large washer, star washer, and a nut, tighten it all down.

Step 18: Adding a Rope

Take the rope, snake it though the noodles, zip tie the ends together, and pull them into the noodle. The reason for the rope is to tie it off to the tube you are floating on, the onion sack for your trash (no littering on the river) and nice accent to the cooler. Your final product should looks something like the second picture at the start of this instructable.

Step 19: Ending Comments

Thanks it folks. Hope you like it and if you see room for improvement, please let me know. Time to hit the river. See y’all there.

Step 20:

Outside Contest

Participated in the
Outside Contest

Summer Fun Contest

Participated in the
Summer Fun Contest