More Cabin Coolers: Swampy Gets Chilly

Swampy challenges our test findings for its IM30 ice-based cockpit cooler and sends two more models for trials. One proves a winner.

Our June report on ice-based cabin coolers drew a challenge from one of the manufacturers, Swampy Cooling Systems. Shortly after our report appeared, Swampy fired off an e-mail asking if we had done our tests correctly. Swampys Jack Stich told us the companys own tests and reports from customers revealed

Swampy Cooling Systems


that its IM30 cooler was capable of blowing 60-degree air. (Our tests showed about 70 degrees.)

Stich asked if we would agree to repeat the tests, this time with two Swampy models not tried in the last round. He conceded that the IM30 sent to us wasnt ideally configured for our test and lacked clear instructions on its pump-out feature. We reported that it didnt have the meltwater pump-out feature found in the Arctic Air coolers, but Stich says the IM30 is so equipped. For the second test, Swampy sent two models, the M300 ($627), which is based on a large Igloo picnic cooler and the smaller M200 ($587), which uses a purpose-made ice container and is quite a bit smaller than the Igloo cooler. The M300 measures 25 inches high by 16 inches wide by 15 inches deep and weighs 19.5 pounds empty. It will hold 40 pounds of ice. The M200 is 17 inches high by 15 inches wide and 9 inches deep. It weighs 14 pounds and has room for about 18 pounds of ice. All of these coolers use a small marine bilge pump to circulate chilled water from the ice compartment through heat exchanger coils. A strong fan circulates air past the coil and the chilled air can be directed in the cabin through four adjustable eyeball vents. One design difference in the M200 and 300 not found in the IM30 is that the chilled water inlet and return line are separated. On the IM30, both inlet and return hoses are bundled together in a fiber sock. If you dont separate them inside the ice chest, cooling is less efficient because the pump will circulate warmer water.

Second Test

Swampy Cooling Systems


We loaded the M300 with 40 pounds of ice and enough water to submerge the pump. We used a compact pick-up truck as the test cabin, placing the cooler in the area behind the seats. The M300s outlet air measured 61 degrees, a temperature it maintained for a little over an hour with 40 pounds of ice. It cooled the cabin from 106 degrees to a comfortable 86 degrees and held it there for nearly an hour. To pump out the meltwater, Swampy provides a clear plastic hose which slips over the pump return line inside the cooler. We found this a little more awkward to use than the Arctic Air pump-out hose, but once connected, it worked well, emptying all but a shallow pool of water in three minutes.

We repeated this test with the M200 after loading it with 18 pounds of ice. According to our trials, the smaller unit was capable of chilling the outlet air to about 67 degrees, at best, for about 30 minutes. For a portion of the test, the outlet air measured 75 degrees. This had a negligible effect on inside cabin temperature. Directing the cooling vents at the face or body helped, but the smaller cooler didnt seem as effective as the larger one.

A Swampy customer, Kevin Lockhart, wrote us to say his tests of the IM30 yielded outlet temperatures as low as 59 degrees and an average of 62 degrees. (See letters on page 3 for more detail.) He asked if we had inadvertently placed the pump inlet and return too close together. But, as instructed, we separated the pump and return hose as much as possible. In the M200, the pump is fixed to the floor of the ice container and the return line is in the lid, so its not possible to position them close together. In three tests using a total of 50 pounds of ice, we couldnt duplicate Lockharts findings with the smaller cooler, although we could with the larger M300. Ambient temperatures for all tests were similar.


We think the larger of the Swampy units, the M300, cooled impressively and has similar performance as the Arctic Air products. Because of their size, both the Arctic Air and Swampy M300 are a bit awkward to muscle into the airplane, but once there, they do a good job of cooling in exchange for giving up a seat and 60 pounds of payload. Worth mentioning is the need to secure them so they dont become missiles in turbulence or a crash. The M300 pump-out worked well and we even got it to work in the M200, although Swampy says that product isnt intended to have pump-out.

Our tests suggest that to cool effectively, these devices need a large volume of ice-at least 40 pounds-which will cool for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Our recommendation is to buy the largest model of either brand that you can comfortably fit into the airplane. The smaller models-or at least smaller ice volume-just dont seem to have the cooling capacity. Contact Swampy at or 480-897-1233.

Paul Bertorelli is Aviation Consumer’s Editor at Large. In addition to his valued contributions to Aviation Consumer, his in-depth video productions on sister publication AVweb cover a wide variety of topics that greatly contribute to safety, operation and aircraft ownership. When Paul isn’t writing or filming, he’s out flying his J3 Cub.