Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Swamp Coolers, Cooler Management, Dry Ice, Misting Systems, and just plain how to beat the heat.

Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby trilobyte » Fri Sep 16, 2011 5:07 pm

Even under a good-sized shade structure, by late afternoon the ground radiates warmth upwards (since the playa as a whole is being heated by the sun all day). To get the most from your cooler (and the ice inside it), you need to get those coolers up off the ground.

This year we were short on actual tables, so I just screwed some scrap plywood into a couple 2x12 boards to get them up off the dust. It was better than nothing, but it still felt like we were going through ice faster than we should. And we were careful to minimize going into them wherever possible.

Who out there knows more about these things - what are your recommendations for elevating them?
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby oneeyeddick » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:08 pm

Inside an air conditioned RV seems to work pretty good.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Drawingablank » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:14 pm

Screwing plywood to boards seems to be a lot of extra effort - we just set ours atop a pair of scrap 2 x 4's.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Miles » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:27 pm

Yah the plywood seems unnecessary- and also, I think the key here is to have air, a great insulator, running below your cooler. I've used 2x4s in the past, but just used a couple extra scraps of rebar to get it off the ground this year.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby jkisha » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:33 pm

From my understanding regarding cooling HexaYurts, is that once the Yurt is built and starts keeping the sun from heating the top layer of the playa, after a day or two it will actually start feeling cool and will help to keep the yurt cool, because the deeper layers of the playa are actually cooler and the cool will start to rise to the surface if you keep the sun from reheating the area. (Hmmm, I'm sure I could have said that in a simpler way.)

But I guess my point is, if the coolers are kept inside a shaded area and elevated slightly off the ground, it makes sense that they might do a better job of cooling.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby BBadger » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:16 pm

The fact that the ground would conduct enough heat into your cooler indicates that the real problem here is that you're probably using a run-the-mill air-walled cooler, meant for afternoon day-trips, rather than well-insulated coolers that are meant to actually keep things cold for longer camping trips. Use the former as storage chests in place of Rubbermaid bins or cardboard boxes; use the latter for anything you actually want cold for longer durations.

Considering how much my sub-group spent on ice each day to keep things fresh until our Thursday cooking day, I think we'll want to invest in a much nicer insulated cooler. Styrofoam boxes are a good choice, but don't provide much space, or structure, so I'm looking into a Yeti heavy duty insulated cooler. They're relatively pricey, and the larger they are, the longer they keep the stuff inside cold. You don't even need to invest in something that high end though, some regular insulated coolers will go a long way in keeping your food cold without the need to insulate a cheap cooler from the ground.

Edit: scratch that on the YETI coolers. $300-400? I'd rather just buy more ice. Those insulated Rubbermaid coolers look good though.
Last edited by BBadger on Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby junglesmacks » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:19 pm

jkisha wrote:
But I guess my point is, if the coolers are kept inside a shaded area and elevated slightly off the ground, it makes sense that they might do a better job of cooling.


JK this is a slight thread drift, but have you guys experimented with a Figjam style swamp cooler ducted straight into your yurt?

I'll never forget seeing this perfect yurt with literally 3 picture perfect Home Depot bucket style Figjam coolers ducted straight in to the walls just pumping at like 3pm. I was so proud of my little eplayans at that point I could have just popped.

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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby FIGJAM » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:37 pm

Last year I did'nt have room to put my ice chest inside.

This year, having the ice chest in the cooled space saved me a lot of ice. 8)
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:05 pm

There's a whole thread-drifty thing about thermal mass here.
The whole playa warms over the summer, and then cools in the winter. So, if you were building houses there, you could dig cellars (or basements, if the difference is anything more than semantic) or dig your first floor halfway into the playa and then you'd have a jump up on warming or cooling the space.

Of course, you'd have other problems, like the BLM evicting you, so I'm not actually advocating for this.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby trilobyte » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:01 am

As far as the plywood being unnecessary or not having airflow, I think you're misunderstanding my setup. Two 6' long 2x12's running parallel to each other, and the plywood screwed into the top to both keep the plywood standing straight (so we had a 12 inch lift from the ground) and a surface for all the coolers (8 or 9).

@jkisha, unless it's one seriously big hexayurt, it's not going to get to a piece of genuinely cool playa. The whole of the playa is cooked quite thoroughly, by late afternoon the sun-heated portions are radiating intensely to the point of the ground being warmed even 20-30' into the shade. The shade structure I built was 900 square feet of shade (with heavy duty industrial silver/silver tarps), bigger than any yurt I saw. Fantastic shade, but we still had heat coming from the ground by late afternoon. The sun never touched the ground anywhere near where I set up our cooler table for a full ten days.

@BBadger, of the 8-9 coolers only one of them was an old school POS. Of course it didn't do as well as the others, but that was to be expected.

I'd been keeping coolers on spare folding tables (with dry goods on the ground beneath) in previous years and had much better ice efficiency. Just that this year we ended up having fewer tables and so I improvised with the boards thinking a foot would be enough to get some lift and airflow. While it was better than nothing, it wasn't great.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Snow » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:42 am

Trilobyte, you're completely missing the thermodynamics going on here with the ground heating claims you're making.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby trilobyte » Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:40 am

I'm fairly sure I'm not. Put your hand on the ground and run the playa through your fingers in a shady spot in the late afternoon. Even under a fairly large structure, it's warm - not cold. And it's certainly warmer than it was in late morning, even though it's been in the shade the entire time. Sure, it's not as hot as playa under direct sunlight, but it's still warm. The sun's energy hits the ground and penetrates several feet deep as it heats the playa throughout the day, which in turns radiates heat outwards in all directions. Is there something I'm missing?
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby jkisha » Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:37 am

I was just repeating something I read regarding why HexaYurts stay cool on the playa. I read this probably more than three years ago now, and since we air condition our yurt anyway, I never did much research on it. Though it somehow made sense in my mind at the time. I most certainly could be wrong.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby ygmir » Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:53 am

remember: there is not such thing as "cold", only "lack of heat".

I could see, with a yurt, since it'd also block the "warm/hot" breeze, that it'd allow the cooler, deeper playa materials, to absorb the heat from the surface more. And, without sun and hot wind to replace said heat, have the effect of lowering the surface temp there. It'd also make sense, that some heat would radiate from just outside on the surface, to just inside, laterally. Might be interesting, to measure (with one of the infrared thermo guns) the surface temp at the edges, and towards the center.
It would also stand to reason ((IMHO), that under a shade structure, it'd do it some, but, considering the hot air circulating, it'd be less so.

well, that's my take, anyway.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Snow » Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:42 am

Yes you are missing something HUGE, soil has a fairly low thermal conductivity (unlike metals). That means heat moves slowly (via conduction) through it, that is why earth is such a good insulator. Dig even just an inch down and its cooler than the surface. Ever put your feet in the beach sand on a hot day? The surface is too hot to touch but just a couple inches down its nice and cool. This is the same reason caves are nice and cool, the reason why geothermal heat pumps work and the reason desert animals live in borrows during the heat of the day. It takes quite a while for the ground to change temperature and its actually relatively stable at a given point in the season and doesn't vary much with the day/night (diurnal) cycle. In fact during the day the ground is actually cooler than the air around it, and the opposite at night. The ground temperature is closer to the average temperature (of the high and low) than the ambient temperature at that time (ignoring solar insolation from direct sun). The surface in direct sun heats up more, but in soils this is primarily confined to the surface.

JKishas observations are more accurately representative of the physics.

Here are some thermal conductivity numbers for common materials (this only applies to conduction, convective heating changes things in fluids). The higher the number the faster heat moves through the material (aluminum is highest, why its used in heat sinks and motorcycle cylinder heads). http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/therm ... d_429.html
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Snow » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:03 am

The suns heat does not in fact penetrate several feet into the ground as you claim. I fact quite the opposite. Approximately 5 feet deep the soil temperatures remain a constant 50-55 degrees year round.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Bob » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:09 am

Those thermometer guns are only $20 or $30 at Jocko Homo Depot these days. Model your scenario in the back yard, try getting us some actual data, and get back to us. Post JPEGs.

FWIW, I've used a Raytek gun out there a bit. To ballpark it, any kind of shade appears to keeps the ground under it about 10 to 20 degrees cooler than outside the shade. And what Snow said.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby alexamonkey » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:42 am

trilobyte wrote:Even under a good-sized shade structure, by late afternoon the ground radiates warmth upwards (since the playa as a whole is being heated by the sun all day). To get the most from your cooler (and the ice inside it), you need to get those coolers up off the ground.

This year we were short on actual tables, so I just screwed some scrap plywood into a couple 2x12 boards to get them up off the dust. It was better than nothing, but it still felt like we were going through ice faster than we should. And we were careful to minimize going into them wherever possible.

Who out there knows more about these things - what are your recommendations for elevating them?


OK- here's what we do- simple, easy:

Of course, keep coolers in the shade-

I use bed risers to elevate the coolers. For those unfamiliar, they look sort of like pots for plants, are about 6 or 7 inches high, made of super hard plastic, designed to put the casters of a bedframe on, so they can take plenty of weight. They are also light and stackable.
If you keep your eyes open you can get them for super cheap (I got mine for under $1 each)

Another advantage of rising coolers is easier draining:

We use small plastic bus tubs to drain the coolers where they stand without moving them. For clean coolers (canned beverages, etc), consider re-using the water- misters or footbaths. If not re-using the water, slide the bus tub with the cold drained water underneath the cooler- any bit of cold helps.

Consider separating your food in coolers- plan some coolers for 'later in the week' food, mark it, and ONLY OPEN IT TO RE-ICE!

5 day coolers. Or 7 day coolers. Or whatever they invent next. I'm finally done with regular coolers- the 5 days REALLY cut down on the ice bill.

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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Snow » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:48 am

I do raise my coolers too, its a HUGE help when draining them. The (non food) cooler water also makes a VERY refreshing foot bath. Since I also have an ice cream bike we have its cooler which is full of ice and salt. You can freeze drinks solid in there and they are great when slushy and add a bit of salty taste to each sip (from the rim). We call this the "salty rim job" cooler.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby jkisha » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:49 am

"bus tub" stumped me for a minute. I'm thinking now that you are referring to those plastic/rubber grey tubs that bus boys use to bus tables?
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby alexamonkey » Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:12 pm

Sorry, too much time in the food service industry.- Yes, like those plastic tubs waiters use to bus tables, but you can get them in smaller sizes.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby unjonharley » Sun Sep 18, 2011 1:12 pm

You might think not but cold go's to heat..

If the cooler has air moving around it the cold will feed out to the heat.

Wrap the cooler in windsheild reflectors then a old blankets. Put the whole thing where it's shade and windless all day..

The heat will be reflected away from the cooler..

With a good cooler I have always had ice for tow three day after I got home from BM.

2010 I screwed up and had to buy ice.. Could have gotten by but like my comfort cold drink.. Wont happen again..
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby BBadger » Sun Sep 18, 2011 5:38 pm

Is there really that much heat stored in that playa dirt? It's so dry that I don't imagine the dirt would retain much heat, especially after a day in the shade. I still think that, regardless of the conditions, just buying some decent insulated coolers in the first place would be the best solution to maintaining the temperature inside the cooler. You could even use that plywood you'd use for a base to construct a stronger box for a styrofoam cooler, guaranteeing adequate insulation. Hell, you could use styrofoam for a base if you wanted, just cover it in tape.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Bob » Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:05 pm

Sometimes the best place to sleep is right on the ground, under a truck trailer.

Maybe I should have slept on a board.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Bounce530 » Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:37 am

I just have a cheapy red Igloo cooler, nothing fancy at all. I use a plastic 2 littler bottle 6 pack tray to raise the cooler off the ground. This year I also kept the cooler wrapped with a thick parka jacket. I only bought ice twice through the whole week. When I got home and emptied out the cooler I still had half of the ice block that I started the week with. So, cheap cooler+off the ground+wrapped up with insulation= frosty treats all week long.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby The CO » Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:49 am

We do a beginning of the week cooler, an end of the week cooler, & a "dry cooler" for veggies & bread. They live elevated in the shade structure. If you pack the end of week cooler correctly, you may not have to buy ice for it at all.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby FIGJAM » Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:55 am

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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Ugly Dougly » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:04 pm

I understand that if you have canned beer, even if you don't keep them COLD until you need them, they should be kept reasonably cool until it's time to drink them.

In other words, don't leave them out in the sun and figure you can cool them off later - cause the beer will be NASTY by the time you get to it!
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby essjay » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:12 pm

Ugly Dougly wrote:I understand that if you have canned beer, even if you don't keep them COLD until you need them, they should be kept reasonably cool until it's time to drink them.

In other words, don't leave them out in the sun and figure you can cool them off later - cause the beer will be NASTY by the time you get to it!


Not to mention, putting warm beer cans in your cooler will melt your ice immediately and result in more trips to purchase ice.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby junglesmacks » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:14 pm




A $320 cooler.. *facepalm*
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