Why Are Cooler Lids Hollow? Easy Ways To Upgrade Your Cooler

If you’re sick of the ice in your cooler melting too quickly, you’re in the right spot to find a solution!

Cooler lids are often hollow to keep the cooler lightweight. Insulation adds to both the weight and the cost of the cooler. As a result, companies that want to provide convenience will opt to cut down on the cost. Instead, they focus on a cooler that is easy to carry and inexpensive.

However, not everyone wants the most inexpensive option. That’s especially true when your food is at risk! Continue on and learn about a number of options that you can use to insulate your cooler.

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.

Why Are Cooler Lids Hollow, After All?

Cheaper coolers often use an air gap to insulate rather than insulating foam. It’s likely that companies that don’t insulate the lid are trying to save costs.

The more expensive the cooler is the more likely you’ll have insulation on all sides of the cooler.

What Is Cooler Insulation Made Of?

Many of us spend more time thinking about the food in the cooler rather than the cooler itself. That might include wondering what foods to put in there. Should eggs go in the cooler? Our article here can help you find out! If you do choose to store them in there, you may want quality cooler insulation to be certain they stay cold.

Cooler insulation is typically made using different kinds of foam. Before we get into those foam types, it’s worth keeping in mind that many coolers have no real insulation at all. Most inexpensive coolers may be double-walled, but there is only air between those walls.

When it comes to insulated coolers, foam is often placed between those two walls. Depending on the kind of cooler you get, you may end up with something that uses polystyrene foam or styrofoam, or a polyurethane foam.

If you’re looking for insulation options for your cooler, there’s a good chance you want the best of the best. After all, why put in the extra effort for only a little more cooling?

Big names in insulated coolers like Yeti and Pelican use polyurethane foam. Sometimes, this foam is combined with other features. For example, Yeti makes use of a special commercial-grade version of this foam which they have titled PermaFrost Foam.

What this all means is if you’re looking to insulate your cooler yourself, polyurethane foam is a fantastic way to do it.

Ways To Insulate Your Cooler

When you want to save money while making sure your cooler stays cold, use these tips! Some may require some tools, while others are quite simple and easy to use.

While you’re preparing your cooler, you might want to think about the tupperware you use in it as well. If you tend to notice that you end up with soggy food in your cooler too often, our article on waterproof tupperware can provide perfect solutions.

Methods That Require a Drill

These methods are for those who like to build their own solutions. While using them, you’ll at least need a drill, and probably some other tools as well.

Filling The Lid With Spray Foam – Drilling Holes

Before you get started with this method, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need handy. Tools you should opt to have prepared include:

  • A double-walled cooler
  • A drill
  • Your spray foam of choice
  • Safety gear, including glasses and gloves

You’ll need to start by drilling holes evenly in the lid. You can do this on either the top or bottom side, but the bottom may be best if you don’t want them to be obvious.

Once you have your holes drilled, you can begin adding the spray foam. There are a few key things to keep in mind when you do this part. First, keep in mind that the foam can expand a great deal. Consequently, you’ll want to add it in small amounts to avoid warping the shape of the lid.

Additionally, don’t forget that each spray foam needs to be handled differently. Before you get started, make sure that you have looked over the safety precautions for your specific spray foam. These foams can often be sticky, so wear gloves to avoid getting it on your hands.

Cutting It Open

In some cases, those who are looking to add insulation to their cooler may choose to cut a portion of the lid open completely. This isn’t deemed as something that is necessary, but you may find it to be easier than filling the cooler lid through holes.

If you’re planning to use this method, make sure that you have plenty of protection for your hands and arms. Take serious safety measures if you’re going to use a saw. Finally, plan out a way to close the lid back up.

If you aren’t concerned about the obvious cutting in the lid, then you may just need a way to get it closed. Otherwise, think about ways you can cover up the cut so that the cooler. That way, it comes out looking great as well as with more insulation!

Starting From Scratch – Making Your Own Cooler

You may choose to take steps beyond insulating the lid. While the lid itself can be helpful to insulate, you really don’t want to forget about the rest of the cooler as well. Having added insulation where the ice actually rests can be extremely useful.

That said, insulated coolers that you purchase at the store can be extremely expensive. Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on the best cooler. The good news is that there are ways to re-create such a cooler by yourself.

This largely includes finding a pair of inexpensive coolers. You will need to make sure one of the coolers can rest inside the other, with space in between for your insulation.

When you’ve found these coolers, you’ll need to use your spray foam, as well as other tools like pipe insulation and reflective tape to turn those two coolers into one super cooler!

Overall, this is a great way to obtain an insulated cooler while saving money in the process.

Methods That Don’t Require a Drill

These tips won’t require too much mechanical know-how, but they can still be very useful! When you’re looking for a quick solution, give these a try and you’re sure to find a solution that works.

Cover It Up

Adding come extra coverage for your food can help to keep things cooler. For this, you’ll need to find some kind of foam mat. This could be just a foam sheet, or something like a yoga mat. What matters most is that it should be able to fit in your cooler.

You may need to cut the foam sheet so that it can easily be tucked into the cooler. Ideally, it should cover all of the food and ice without sticking out the sides or bubbling up.

Try A Lining

Reflective lining can also be an incredibly effective tool for keeping your food and beverages cold. You can use something like Reflectix, which is a specialized kind of bubble wrap. Otherwise, even the kind of reflective shade you use in a car can be helpful.

When you’re doing this, you’ll need to cover the bottom and sides on the inside of the cooler. Additionally, cut a section that you can stick to the underside of the lid. This material will help to keep the warmth of the sun out of the cooler, allowing it to be more effective.

Just make sure that you have something to help the reflective material to stick. This might just be tape if you want to be able to remove it, or something like super glue if you want this to be a permanent feature.

Don’t Forget The Bottom

The bottom of the cooler is a key area to cover if you want your ice to stay cold. Because of that, finding a way to insulate that space can he very helpful.

One way to do that includes attaching a piece of foam to the bottom. Depending on what you’re aiming for, you might use a foam mat similar to the one you might use to cover the food and ice.

The only real difference here is that you aim to cover the bottom of the cooler rather than the top of the food. If you’re feeling especially handy, you might do both! It may be a good idea to line the sides of the cooler as well, though this might be a little tougher with a foam mat.

Opt For a High End Cooler

If all else fails, it may be worthwhile to save up your funds for an insulated cooler. If you want to, you can aim for something top-of-the-line like a Yeti cooler. Otherwise, there are a number of brands out there, like Grizzly and Pelican, that offer similar styles at lower prices.

Whether you find out that your DIY attempts haven’t worked, or you just aren’t all that interested in trying to build a solution, you can always buy one. It’s likely to be a more costly endeavor, but one that can also save you time and materials.

Once you’ve got the cooler of your dreams, be careful about what ice you put into it! Using larger chunks of ice, like ice blocks or ice that has been made in water bottles, can help in the fight against melting. Some may also choose to try out dry ice, but it’s important to understand how to use dry ice safely if you’re going to choose that option. Take a look at our article on the topic here!


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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