Get the best cooler your money can buy for Burning Man
I tried using the $40-range coolers for my first few years at Burning Man. No more. While I’ve yet to splurge on a Yeti, I’ve definitely upgraded my cooler for my 10-day (or more) journey to the playa. Seriously. Don’t skimp when spending money on your cooler. Your cooler quality not only impacts how cool your food is kept (super critical), it also impacts how much time you have to spend managing your cooler and purchasing ice.
You need a cooler, the question is, what kind?
The short answer to this question is that you need the best quality cooler you can afford.
While ice is available for sale at Arctica, traveling to get it each day, especially if your cooler can’t maintain the cool temps needed to keep your food safely chilled, is a hassle. Mind you, a trip to any place anytime at Burning Man is going to be fun, so whether you’re getting ice or going for a stroll, you’re at Burning Man, and that in and of itself makes it a good day. The problem with low-grade coolers is that you run the risk of your food going bad, and that’s not a problem I’d not want to have at Burning Man.
Plus, the problem with sub-optimal coolers is not just about your food going bad; they also create MOOP because food you can’t eat because your food spoiled is now not only MOOP, but it’s likely to be wet, stinky, decomposing organic matter MOOP.
Also, Arctica isn’t open all the time, the lines can be rather long and you’ll often be baking in the direct sun while waiting to purchase ice, so, to me, the fewer times I need to go to Arctica, the better. Add to this, ice is sold at three locations and Burning Man is BIG when navigated by foot or bike, and then you have to get your ice back to camp, and quickly.
So, yeah, I say get a good-quality cooler that will keep your food cooler longer. Invest in the highest-quality cooler you can afford. If you’re flying in and have a really nice cooler, you can use your cooler as one of your “suitcases.” Pack it with clothes and gear for the flights out and back.
Styrofoam coolers are a very bad choice
Styrofoam coolers are completely unacceptable for any reason, even if you’re an Aussie and will only use it for a week. Styrofoam inevitably becomes MOOP, and really difficult to pick up MOOP, at that because the pieces of styrofoam break off and the wind whips them around and whips them across your camp, into your neighbor’s space and out into the larger playa.
Plus they don’t even do what you want them to do, which is to keep your food or drink cooled.
Share a dedicated drink cooler, if you can
One solution to simplify your cooler management is to share a dedicated drinks cooler with campmates. Drinks can stay safely in floating ice water in the shared cooler, and you can then use the extra cooler space you now available to better store your own perishable foods.
Talk with your campmates. If there is a small group of, say four to six people you’ll be camping next to, you may want to have a shared-drinks cooler. The ice and ice-cold water in that dedicated cooler provides a great place for quick-access cold drinks (which also means you won’t be opening your food cooler as much).