First some background for those of you who don’t know what Burning Man is. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community. 70,000 Burners (as we’re called) celebrate in the Black Rock City desert of Nevada for the one week preceding Labor Day every year. It’s the most amazing music and art ‘festival’ in the world.
Here are some of my pictures from the 2007 event which was my favorite year: double rainbows, unbelievable art, some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
Advice on how to prepare for Burning Man after the photos.
Here’s How to Prepare for Burning Man:
You must read the survival guide. Even veterans like me who have been burning for a decade read that thing every year. Super useful. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s in it. Just know that you need to be prepared! Lots of water, all the food that you need, first aid kit, medicine, sunscreen, hydrocortisone for a heat rash, whatever! If for any reason you have a propensity to get pink-eye or diarrhea, make sure you are prepared. You don’t want to be out in the desert, totally screwed because you forgot some random drug store item. It doesn’t matter that there are medical tents, they will not have what you need. I used to think, oh of course they’ll have rash cream. No they will not. BE PREPARED! Pack for the most intense heat in the day (i.e., wide-brimmed hat) and the most intense cold at night (i.e., down coat). Have your car maintenanced before your trek and bring spare keys.
Now, I’m going to tell you what’s not in the guide:
1. If you are tenting, then I would make sure you do a trial run with your tent prior to arriving on playa. If your tent has any holes (air ventilation), then keep in mind that when you return to your tent after a dust storm that a half-inch of dust will be covering all of your belongings. In other words, you need an expensive all-weather tent. If you do not have the funds for an all-weather tent, I suggest you hot-gun pieces of cloth over the air ventilation to prevent dust from seeping in.
2. Goggles. You need goggles to protect your eyes in a dust storm. Most goggles have ventilation holes in them. Make sure you tape over them, otherwise your goggles will be useless.
3. Plan each day out in terms of food and costumes. Food should be as low maintenance as possible, like nuts and crackers. I remember someone had brought pickled eggs which I thought was genius. I was known for bringing trays and trays of Nutter Butters. Don’t judge! I also remember a duo from Europe ‘cooking’ Indian food for our potluck. They had packs of ready-to-eat tikka masala that they heated up on the hood of an RV. We were all cracking up, but it was so good. For clothes, I assembled outfits and packed them into ziplock bag, so I could just grab a ziplock and get ready.
4. Shopping: A) Sports Basement for your tent and other travel essentials, B) the thrift stores in the Haight or the Mission for costumes, C) Bed Bath & Beyond for toiletries, and D) Costco for your food and water.
5. At all times on playa, you should carry a backpack (a tiny one). In it, you need to have a bottle that you can refill with water or booze, sunscreen, chapstick, hand sanitizer, camera, a notebook, and a pen or pencil. You will constantly be running into people who will say, “We’re having a party on Wednesday night, you should come.” And you need to be able to write the events down otherwise you’ll forget. I also recommend wearing a cheap watch.
6. Always carry a roll of toilet paper. When you are out partying into the wee hours and the porta-potties have run out of TP, you will thank me! Hide the TP. Don’t come walking out of a porta-potty with a roll of TP in your hand, otherwise everyone will run up to you and beg for some.
7. You must have a bike. Your bike must be locked. If your bike is not locked, it will be stolen. Do not get a bike lock that is challenging because you will need to lock and unlock your bike constantly while biking around the beautiful city. I buy a super easy lock with a key like this. I attach the key to a bracelet on my wrist so I have easy access to it at all times. It’s good to have a spare too, just in case. One year, my lock broke on the last day (thankfully). Not sure what I would have done if I didn’t have a lock for the duration of the event.
8. Don’t be a dark wad. That’s what we call people who have no lighting in the middle of the night. Do you want to get run over by an art car? Get some neon el-wire and make sure you’re visible!
9. Bring your party favors. There should be no exchange of that stuff on playa lest you want to get arrested. There are undercover cops waiting to put their handcuffs around your wrists.
10. Here’s an easy gift to share with others. Get a stack of postcards, put postage stamps on them, and hand them out to people so that they can send mail to their loved ones back home. Yes, there is a post office on playa. Here’s some really good swag I’ve gotten through the years.
11. Get a radio and listen to Burning Man Independent Radio (BMIR). Listen to it now, listen to it on the playa. Best radio station on the planet.
12. The most important thing to remember is that shit happens, something will go wrong, the lines to get in will be long, the lines to get out will be grueling, but just chill and enjoy the experience. It will be worth it.
Here are some other Burning Man posts I’ve written: