Thoughts on Ice
Before you head out to the desert, you should give some serious thought to how you plan to keep perishables and liquid refreshments cool.
One thing to remember is that the desert is hot. I mean really hot. You might think it is really hot where you live, but it is so stinking hot in the desert that you can actually smelt copper into ingots and make a mint if only the market for copper was not so depressed. 78.85 for 1000 ounces is just too damn low for profitability, even if you can smelt for free.
Humor aside, the desert is a hot place, ice is hard to find growing wild in Black Rock City. Although Burningman typically supplies ice, you should not depend on them for support. If you think you will actually supplement your ice with Burningman's supply, you are a far for optimistic soul than I. So the best advice I have is to plan ahead. You will be in the desert for up to a week and you need to plan accordingly to be self sufficient.
My best advice is to bring more than one cooler and make sure each cooler needs to be in good repair. The lids should fit snug, the drain plug in place and the cooler body should be free of any holes not intended by the cooler manufacturer. This is to insure the cooler has a good seal. The better the seal, the longer you will be able to keep your ice cold.
The best idea is to have one cooler designated as the common cooler you will be visiting all day long, one for perishables and a third cooler to hold all of your ice. You should only get into this cooler once a day when you need more ice. Careful management of your cooler will extend the ice for days.
If you have the room, consider setting up a fourth cooler to handle food items you plan to use at the end of your stay. Pack this cooler full of food, fill in every crevice with ice until it is absolutely full. Then tape it shut. Keep the cooler in a cool place such as a shade structure and elevate it slightly off the ground.
Plan to buy ice blocks over crushed ice. It lasts far longer.
If you follow these simple steps you will be far happier. You can turn to BMORG, but that is not a very sure gamble. Trust me, I am not trashing them, I simply want to convince everyone that if you are relying on them for ice and you jump in line and find 10 people ahead of you and 30 bags of ice, you are going to be out of luck if people start buying three bags each. So please, please, please, make some extra room in those cars for ice.
Thoughts on Ice
When buying ice you want to get it as cold as you can. Ice in some store coolers is only about 32 degrees F. If you can find it from a supplier at closer to 0 degrees F, it will last far longer.
Another good technique for stretching the life of your ice is to add some Dry Ice. Dry Ice is far colder (-20 F) and will help chill your ice. It can be found in some supermarkets that sell fish, or you can buy it directly from manufacturers. I have found the price to be in the neighborhood of $10.00 a pound.
Be sure to wrap your dry ice in paper (it usually comes that way) or in plastic. Keep your dry ice from floating in any liquids such as melted ice. One last thing is to tape your cooler shut with duct tape. This will help slow the offgassing which is one of the biggest reasons dry ice starts to evaporate. Follow these steps and it will dramatically increase the life of your dry ice and your water ice.
Another suggestion is to freeze water bottles in your home freezer to use instead of ice. Crank your freezer to the lowest setting a few days before you leave and allow it to become as cold as possible. You can always move it back to a normal setting for energy conservation before you leave. This method of creating ice has some really great side benefits such as the water does not go to waste when it melts. It becomes a source of cool potable water.