Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

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

Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby alexamonkey » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:30 pm

Years ago we were setting up & took a little loo long to move our pile of soda and beer flats out of the sun. They started exploding.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby trilobyte » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:34 pm

I've never used temp guns, and I've certainly not dug 5 feet into the playa, but I have run my hands through the playa under the structures I've built, a number of times. The well-shaded ground is significantly cooler in late morning than it is in the late afternoon. If the ground doesn't heat up (and I've just been imagining things all these years), then raising the coolers off the ground would be completely unnecessary and even counter-productive, wouldn't it? (Since the air would be warmer than the ground)?

Looking at just my own coolers, they're the same ones we've been using since 2006. We've always kept them in the shade on the playa, and this year they went through ice at a significantly faster rate. We're careful how we use them (if anything more careful this time than years past, since we were sensitive to ice melting faster), the only real variable being that they were on a cooler table elevated 1 foot off the ground versus a table elevated 3 feet in past years. And so far nothing that's been said provides another explanation as to why the coolers went through so much more ice than in years past.

@alexamonkey - we use bus tubs as well, love 'em.

@TheCO - sounds like a great strategy. We pack the end of week stuff in the freezer cooler as well, and other than checking it every few days it stays taped shut (the cooler has a good seal, the duct tape reinforces a bit plus serves as a visual reminder not to open). This was the first year we've ever had to re-ice that one.

@UglyDougly/essjay - still no change in behavior from years past. If anything, should have been less of an issue as we (gasp) went through less beer.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby BBadger » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:37 pm

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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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Ugly Dougly » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:51 pm

alexamonkey wrote:Years ago we were setting up & took a little loo long to move our pile of soda and beer flats out of the sun. They started exploding.

Wow.
Beer AND explosions.
I'm in love. ;)
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Bob » Mon Sep 19, 2011 2:07 pm

Sure, an IR gun is quick & dirty, and whatever its potential inaccuracy, relative errors should be minimal. Could get air temp pointing it at a white cloth or something.

We kept our extra canned beer on the ground under a dropcloth, and it was quite an acceptable temp at breakfast.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby theCryptofishist » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:29 pm

Ugly Dougly wrote:
alexamonkey wrote:Years ago we were setting up & took a little loo long to move our pile of soda and beer flats out of the sun. They started exploding.

Wow.
Beer AND explosions.
I'm in love. ;)

(I'm glad someone else was impressed, and yet that little sorrowful because I didn't have the chance to say: And it was so cool, that we've always done that to a six pack every year since.)
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Sail Man » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:48 pm

Our Coleman extreme 6 day works the best out there. We just elevate it on a cpl 2x4's, keep it in the shade and it kept ice like a champ. I have a smaller igloo version, a maxcold and it didn't keep ice nearly as good, using probably twice what the coleman did.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby NessaZee » Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:12 am

Our camp had a semi-truck trailer this year, it was cool enough under there that one needed a blanket for an afternoon nap.
my 10yr old coleman extreme cooler (small...30L) was stored under there -on the ground- and there was still remains of the block of ice (purchased in winnemucca) come the end of the week. it was perfect! we used hemp shower curtains to keep the sun out from underneath, the trailer was parked N-S.

will definitely do this again if we bring the truck next year.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Eddie » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:22 am

Anyone try doing both the on the ground and off the ground coolers together just to check whether one holds better than the other using the same type of cooler with the same amount of ice and the same food\drinks in them?

If it works for one person and not for the other the difference may be attributed to the type of cooler they are using.

In the camping world you learn quickly that heat is robbed from your body quickly by sleeping on the ground, this is why you use sleeping pads. Not sure if the same or the opposite would be true in order to insulate something cold like a cooler.

Maybe a cheap closed cell pad cut to size under the cooler would help insulate the cooler from heat coming up or it might have the complete opposite affect and insulate the cold air coming up from the ground.

Actually, now that I think about it, if you want to freeze your ass off camping the easiest way to do it is to sleep on an air mattress or a cot, you're warmer sleeping directly on the ground (with a good quality pad). So maybe raising a cooler would in fact keep it cold.

I'm going camping this or next weekend, I'll try both and see what happens.

While I'm here, if someone is looking to buy a cooler and you want a lightweight soft cooler you can't do better than polarbeatcoolers.com (before you ask, no I don't work for them). They are guaranteed to keep ice solid for 24hrs in 100 degree heat. They come in solar reflective as well.

I use em for motorcycle trips.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Patsh » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:03 am

We were buying ice every day until the end of the week, when I put the cooler in a large silver plastic bag. That made such a difference in preserving the ice!! (cooler was on the ground in the shade)

So, for AZ decompression, I had one of those bags for each cooler, one for food with frozen blocks (the plastic type) and one for cubed ice to drink as it melted (spout at the bottom of the cooler.)

The ice never melted enough to drink or make my coffee with, and the blocks were still frosty 3 days later when I got home. The cubed ice lasted until the next Thursday in my garage with the silver bag around it. (six days! not bad!!)

This plastic is like the 'space blankets'... one could duct-tape a custom cover for one's cooler...
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby FIGJAM » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:07 am

Be fair Triken.

I froze my nuts off and they were'nt in the cooler! :lol:
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Patsh » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:48 am

True... it WAS cold... much colder than the playa. :shock:
But the playa cooler (in the bag) and the ice in my warm garage for a week were enough to convince me that it makes enough of a difference that I'll certainly be using the bags every time I need a cooler!

(In my little house on the mountain, when I had a propane fridge, I could put food in the fridge to keep it from freezing overnight ... just a thought for your poor frozen nuts...) :D
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby unjonharley » Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:25 am

I make a cooler cozy from dollar store windshield reflectors and a Goodwill blanket..

Was doing this long before going to Burning Man..
This year I'm putting a cozy on a Igol drink cooler.. I can make my own shaped ice. 5Gallons of ice water.. Will have to add water to start the melt..
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby graidawg » Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:41 am

If I remember my absently gained infomation from half watching TV a few months ago, one of the best insulators is static air, so i would guess a sealed box to stand your cooler on would be the best choice, though wrapping it in a reflective insulated cloth would be wise too, and of course not opening the damn thing except to get what you need out.
is it worth mentioning pre chilling the stuff to go in it also saves on ice?
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby jola » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:40 am

I was thinking of bringing extra pool noodles (covering rebar with them as well) and putting the ice chests on 3 of them. Figured they are easier to pack and move than bricks, 2x4's etc. Seems to me they would work, there would be at least an inch if not more of space between the ground and cooler.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Joeln » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:03 am

jola wrote:I was thinking of bringing extra pool noodles (covering rebar with them as well) and putting the ice chests on 3 of them. Figured they are easier to pack and move than bricks, 2x4's etc. Seems to me they would work, there would be at least an inch if not more of space between the ground and cooler.

Damn fine idea!
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby chuckularone » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:09 am

jola wrote:I was thinking of bringing extra pool noodles (covering rebar with them as well) and putting the ice chests on 3 of them. Figured they are easier to pack and move than bricks, 2x4's etc. Seems to me they would work, there would be at least an inch if not more of space between the ground and cooler.


I'd cut a flat spot in one "side" so they don't roll around. Other than that, YOINK! <-- That was the sound of me stealing your idea! :-)
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Canoe » Wed Mar 12, 2014 6:29 am

More recent thread covering the topic, and more.
https://eplaya.burningman.com/viewtopic.php?f=276&t=64666

And, for 2013 (but could be changed for 2014; unlikely to relaxed),

NOTE: under the Burning Man Food Safety Requirement for the Temporary Food Establishment permit, it requires
Store all foods, beverages, serving containers, equipment and ice off the ground a minimum of 6 inches.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby unjonharley » Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:10 am

Earlier this year we had to replace our water heater.. It is in a tight closet.. We used 2 inch foam board in the wall studs.. New water heaters do not require a jacket.. There is enough foam board to box in my shitty little cooler..So it will be cabineted into the vans living space.. It will be on a hip level shealf along with the bucket cooler.. I will be freezing my own ice again this year.. Four one gallon and two half gallon containers.. This keeps the drinking water clean and cold as it melts..
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby BBadger » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:11 pm

Rather than hacking together some container around a shitty cooler and potentially using inferior insulation or neglecting to proper seal it, buy a good insulated cooler as your first and primary line of defense. High-quality insulated coolers encase their contents with high R-value insulation (yes, better than styrofoam), and the're sealed around the edges and latched to prevent air leaks. These will usually be better than any hack you can cobble together yourself.

As for elevating your cooler, the additional layer of insulation it provides should be relatively negligible. Conversely, if elevating the cooler does make significant differences it probably indicates that your cooler is shitty to begin with. Heat shouldn't be conducting well through the bottom of your cooler if it is properly insulated. Furthermore, improper elevating can enhance convection if there is airflow. You need to prevent airflow -- a major mechanism insulation seeks to prevent.

#1: Buy a good, insulated cooler ("5-7 day coolers"). Costco and other places frequently sell good insulated Igloo coolers for good prices.

#2: Make sure your cooler does not leak air. Keep it latched down and inspect the linings. You don't want air to bypass your cooler's insulating barrier. While frequent opening of the cooler can affect ice consumption, worry more about the "constant leaks" from bad seals.

#3: Use "cold batteries" in your cooler, in the form of ice blocks. Water takes tons of energy to change phase, and can keep air temperatures steady in your cooler.

#4: Compartmentalize your cooler so that regions of different temperatures don't conduct.

What to do with your shitty coolers? Use them as storage containers.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby BeeWeeDee » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:14 pm

Somehow my mind read this thread as


Get your Hooters off the ground.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby trilobyte » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:27 pm

@jola - IMO, pool noodles wouldn't be a great idea. You want to get the coolers off the ground and allow for air circulation... and pool noodles don't allow for that. Sure, it's better than nothing... but not a lot better.

@Canoe - I appreciate the effort but posting for the sake of promoting a similar thread isn't necessary.

@Graidawg - yes absolutely, pre-chilling what goes in definitely helps (a lot of the ice's energy is used to lower the temp of warm stuff).

@Bbadger - damn straight.

Following up on this long-dead thread I started in 2011, I'll say that we were dealing with a combination of things that led to burning through fuckloads more ice than we should have. For a start, we had some old and inefficient coolers in the mix. Second, the cooler elevation plan wasn't all that great. Third, some of the cooler's contents weren't cold when they went in (which had us starting in a deficit, more or less). In 2012 we replaced the old coolers, had better cooler tables, and everything was cold going in before we left for the playa. Worked like a charm. For bonus points, we also had a small 6-pack cooler that we used for drink ice. That was genius.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby FossaFerox » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:38 pm

No matter how efficient your cooler is, elevating it will STILL improve it's efficiency since the heat transfer is dependent on the temperature difference between the skin of the cooler and the internals. No matter how low the thermal conductivity is this difference still matters. The difference in warming time will always be percentage based and thus will never be negligible. You end up turning a good situation into a great one rather than a bad one into a passable one, so it's less critical, but it still matters.

Take it from the only camp on our block that sill had dry ice to freeze otter pops on Friday. :P

Also, if you're doing something that requires a food permit they don't care how efficient your cooler is. Elevate them 6+ inches or you'll fail your inspection and potentially get shut down.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby trilobyte » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:07 pm

I don't think either I or Bbadger were saying that elevating a cooler was a bad idea, but his point (and I completely agree) is that replacing an old/crappy cooler with a newer one that's got advanced insulation will do more than any other thing you may want to consider....so do that first.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby Canoe » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:52 pm

trilobyte wrote:@Canoe - I appreciate the effort but posting for the sake of promoting a similar thread isn't necessary.

Thanks, but it's not promoting.
It's directing people to more complete information so they can do it right, to help have a good burn. Or should I write the information here all over again...
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby EmilyD » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:00 am

I covered our coolers with mylar bubble insulation, taped it on with metal plumbing tape and built:
little pallets for each of them to sit on. They reside on the side of our tent trailer that faces East covered with a cloth painters tarp. Every other day we need to refresh the ice. It's an inexpensive way to keep things cool.

I'm thinking of trying this to cool inside the trailer this year. We already have one of these fans

http://snowcalla.livejournal.com/605173.htm
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby BBadger » Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:42 pm

FossaFerox wrote:No matter how efficient your cooler is, elevating it will STILL improve it's efficiency since the heat transfer is dependent on the temperature difference between the skin of the cooler and the internals. No matter how low the thermal conductivity is this difference still matters. The difference in warming time will always be percentage based and thus will never be negligible. You end up turning a good situation into a great one rather than a bad one into a passable one, so it's less critical, but it still matters.


Maybe you'll see a difference on poorly insulated coolers, but it will be outright negligible for well-insulated coolers. Well-insulated coolers are insulated on all surfaces, including the bottom, whereas cheaper coolers are often just air-walls, which allow convection throughout the walls of the cooler. They may even be fixed to the bottom, effectively having no insulation.

On the topic of convection, you may even make your cooler situation worse if you have an open air gap by be increasing the movement of warm air around your cooler. Insulation works by 1) utilizing poorly conducting materials, and 2) prevent the movement of a working fluid (i.e. it prevents convection), usually by creating lots of small air pockets. The latter effect prevents, for example, a hot molecule from floating to another surface faster than straight conduction would allow. Air is only a decent insulator if it doesn't act as a good working fluid in the system.

If you have an open air gap, you have a terrible insulator because now warm playa air can replace cooled air from under the cooler with unlimited supply. This is how heat-sinks work with their fins, only by removing heat instead of cold. With an open air gap it's almost like having no insulation at all, because playa-air temperatures will remain at the surface of your cooler all the time, rather than cooling down a surface to an equilibrium state and relying on poor conduction through soils, etc.

Overall, it's not going to do much for a well insulated cooler anyway because of the high R-value of their insulation. Also the surface under a cooler on the playa isn't even that hot to begin with when shaded, is a relatively poor thermal conductor, and will reach an equilibrium point with the cold ground below. You'd be better off throwing a blanket over the cooler to reduce air flow and shade the surrounding playa rather than bothering with elevating.
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Re: Get Your Coolers Off The Ground

Postby misfit » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:35 am

physics aside,,, we elevate our cooler and cover with a reflective emergency blanket. helps greatly with ice melt....
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