Melted cooler water … and how to deal with it

man holding ice in the desert

The minute you buy ice at Burning Man’s Arctica centers, it’s going to start melting in the hot desert sun. The minute that ice goes in your cooler, it’s going to continue melting, albeit at a slower rate than in the sun! And every minute managing your cooler is one less minute you’re out and about, meeting new people, dancing or napping.

Dealing with your cooler and ice melt is something you need to plan for and manage as best you can.

Put your ice block in a 3-gallon Ziploc bag

To reduce the rate at which your cooler ice melts, purchase from Arctica ice blocks rather than chipped ice. Then once you’re back at camp, put the ice block in a 3-gallon Ziploc bag, close it up tight and then put the bagged ice in your cooler.

Doing so helps to minimize the melted water at the bottom of your cooler. Plus, the melted water in the bags is pretty clean, and it’s delightfully cold, so it can be great for a cool-water sponge bath in the heat of the afternoon. Some people drink it. That’s stretching things for me, though the Ice Queen has a brilliant solution for having cold water and keeping your cooler chilled, if this idea appeals to you.

Get a rack to elevate food off melted ice water in your cooler

One of the worst things that can happen to your food at Burning Man is to have it ruined in your own cooler. Ugh! It happens mostly when food is 1) crushed and bruised, 2) not being kept at the right temperature and 3) gets water-logged.

Plastic sealable bags are great for storing dried food and other items; however they don’t do squat for keeping your cooler food dry if (and when, because it will happen) a sealed bag of food falls to the bottom of your cooler. Invariably, there will be melted ice water in your cooler, the water will seep into the bag and whatever you thought you could keep dry in your cooler is now water-logged. This issue is especially problematic with meats and cheeses.

So, what to do? Get a plastic-covered wire rack to elevate any food you don’t want squashed or drowned in cooler water. Make sure to test or measure the rack to make sure it fits in your cooler!

Use water-tight plastic containers for protecting food

I like lettuce and greens as a part of my diet on the playa. I have found Romaine lettuce is tough enough to handle the vagaries of cooler life (jostling and getting soaked in melted ice water), though I still like to protect my lettuces and other jostle-sensitive foods. So I bring quality Tupperware-like, sealable plastic containers. They can be bulky when packing, though I think they’re worth it to bring as they allow me to bring foods that would otherwise get trashed and ruined in my cooler.

Consider doing a shift at Arctica.

You need to sign up ahead of time. Consider having your camp do a shift together. Lots of fun.

Ice Photo by Matt Cannon on Unsplash

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