Hmm, we did go through a lot of ice this year as well. It was hard to compare with last year, as we were only around for the later half of the week. I wonder if the calmness of the playa this year contributed to less cooling? It may also have been just the air that was warming up the coolers. We had a big Igloo water cooler we'd use for ice nearly always elevated and shaded, so that we could dispense cool water. We'd pour ice into it to keep it cool, but despite that it'd warm up (not warm, but not cold like before) after a day or so. One small insulated cooler we used for non-potable water remained very cool however, even though it'd stay on the ground.
I think we'll just invest in some more insulated coolers this year, and save on bags of ice. Even that $320 cooler, it holds about as much as 2.5 other coolers that cost $60 each, sans shipping, so you're essentially paying double, but in a single solution, which usually keeps things cooler, possibly requiring no additional ice for the entire trip. It's also insulated, ruggedized, and if used just for BM, over a few years it might pay for itself (assuming using shitty coolers). The price benefit diminishes if buying other insulated coolers of course, but hell, people assume that a lot of their stuff they bring to BM is disposable, and if it lasts multiple trips, it's keeping more value than a cheaper disposable item.
For a thermometer, I'd bring one of those probe-based types, as the gun-type will only get the very surface. I've used those gun type ones, and you need to make sure that heated air or steam and stuff doesn't contribute to the reading.
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