How to Prepare for Your First Burning Man
There is nothing like your first burn. It’s the best show on Earth.. but this is no ordinary vacation. The environment is harsh and there is no supply store, so the success of your trip will rely on your preparedness. The Burning Man website offers details on how to prepare, which you MUST read! This article contains additional tips from a 10-year veteran Burner. Scroll down for How to Take Your Kids to Burning Man.
Commit to going
If you’re serious, buy your ticket as soon as you can afford to. If you procrastinate, you’re not really committed and won’t start getting ready as early as you need to. The longer your wait, the higher the ticket price goes and you’re less likely to buy tickets once they’re $350. Low Income tickets may be available as late as May 30th.
Make your check list. Start a Burning Man notebook or make spreadsheets. Keep your notebook or spreadsheets handy so you can log things as they come up.Create sections for;
* Things to Do
* Packing List
* Things to Buy
* Things to Find (that you already have)
* Things to Make
* Camp Plan, includes campmates, Layout, schedules, etc.
* Meal planning
* Burner Contacts & Events, people you’ll want to connect with at Burning Man.
To Do List:
* Book a hotel. If your drive is longer than five hours, consider doing it in two legs. Reno is a great place to spend the night, and the last chance for supplies, hotels and a hot meal. Plan ahead and book a hotel in advance, go through Hotels.com for the best deal.
* Review your auto insurance and registration. Put copies in your vehicle now.
* Have your car tuned up; check brakes, tires and fluids.
* Start researching trailer rentals, cargo racks, bike racks.
* Tune up bikes; check brakes, tires, gears. Splurge for a kick-stand and horn, you’ll be happy you did.
* Make a camp layout map. Include all your camp members, their vehicles, tents and structures.
Do your homework
* Go to the Burning Man website and read everything on preparation.
* Use this info to start your “To Do”, “To Buy” and Packing lists. After you buy your tickets, you’ll receive an official survival guide in the mail, or find it on the BM website. Read it all and use it to double check your list.
* Get familiar the Black Rock City layout and learn Burning Man terms like ‘playa’, ‘esplenade’, ‘center camp’, ‘9:00’, ‘3:00’, ‘moop’.
Master packing list. Divide into sections;
* Big-ticket Gear: shade structure, tent, generator, bikes, trailer or cargo racks, folding tables, bike rack.
* Camp gear: air mattress, camp shower, camp chairs, camp stove, shade fabric, camp lighting (xmas lights work well), clear plastic shoe rack for gear, ground cover, buckets for gray water, giant zip-locks for packing (Ikea has the best zip-up sturdy clear bags).
* Survival gear: head lamps, goggles, spray water bottles, drinking bottles or Camelback, batteries, sharpies, gallon zip-lock bags and dust masks.
* Tools & Hardware; tool belt, 18″ rebar stakes, sledgehammer, hammers, paratool/pocket knife, zip ties (small to giant), rope, duct tape, bungies, carabeaners, ladder, broom.
* Kitchen: Water containers; 5-gallon bottles are sturdy and reusable, 5-gallon deflatable bottles are easier to bring back, 5-gallon paint buckets with lids stack easy and can be used for other things when empty.
* Costumes & Clothing
* Toiletries & First Aid: Baby wipes, one-ply toilet paper, vinegar, shampoo (doubles as shower soap), bath towels, toothpaste/brush, sunscreen, heavy-duty lotion or salve. Things get lost so multiples of small bottles are better than one giant one.
* Gifts & Fun Stuff: postcards, games, gifts, body paint, hair accessories. * Don’t over-pack. Don’t bring things you don’t need. It’s just one more thing you’ll have to bring back. * Don’t bring anything that you don’t want ruined. The playa environment is harsh so your belongings will never be the same.
* Start searching your garage, attic, family’s garages, storage spaces and closets for gear you already have.
* Set things aside that need repairing or cleaning. Remember, gear needs to work so don’t bother bringing things that are broken. It’s just one more thing to pack in, then pack out.
* Create a large staging area for all your gear, a garage is ideal.
* Start organizing gear by category. Use large plastic tubs or giant ziplock bags to sort. Clear bags are better for packing because you can see what’s in them, they take up less space and can be crammed into small spaces when packing.
* Label each tub/bag as you go, so things don’t get lost. Check things off your list as you stage them.
Plan your transportation
As you begin to stage your gear, you’ll get a sense of how much packing space you’ll need. Determine if your vehicle will be big enough.
* Research trailer rentals or cargo racks that may be needed as early as possible. Ordering gear online is often the cheapest, and you’ll have more options. Ebay is the best place to start looking for new and used gear.
Divide your “Things to Buy” list into sections by resource;
* Thrift stores & garage sales
* Camping/Outdoor/Sporting Goods store
* Home Improvement/Hardware store
* Online; Ebay, etc.
* Bike Shop
* Discount store like Target
* Craft/Fabric store
* One-Dollar store
* Grocery store
* Start shopping for your gear by June, as you go about your usual errands. This will give you a chance to comparison shop for the best products at the best price. It will also give you the time to find things at thrift stores and garage sales. There is nothing worse than running around at the last minute trying to find a cargo rack that fits your car.
Best prices & best gear
* Headlamps – Home Depot, two for $20.
* Giant sturdy zip up storage bags – Ikea, $5
* 18″ Rebar stakes- Home Depot
* New Tents – Ebay
* Cargo racks – Ebay
* Costumes – Thrift stores
* Basic gear like shoe racks, buckets, ziplocks – Target
* Used Bikes – Thrift Stores and garage sales
Your sleeping & dressing quarters
* The playa is dusty… really dusty, so you’ll want a clean place to sleep.
* If you don’t have the luxury of an RV, consider car camping in an SUV. * If you’re tenting it, choose a large tent without mesh flaps. If it does have mesh flaps, you’ll need to seal them off with a sheet over your tent, otherwise the dust will blow right in. Bring an extra sheet to cover your sleeping bag with during the day, to keep the dust off. Bring a hand dust broom and dustpan to tidy up.
* Create an enclosed space as your changing room; a place to clean up and get dressed. A large tent or 10×10 shade structure with walls works. Secure sheets with lawn pins as ground cover so you’ll have a clean place to stand. Include a chair and hang a plastic pocketed shoe rack to stow your gear and toiletries in. * Consider making this your shower room as well. See “Tips” below for shower info.
Prep your bike
* You absolutely need a bike on the playa, and it should be a beater, but you’ll be riding it all week so it should fit you. If it’s too small, your back will hurt. Too big, you stand a chance of crashing. There a few things your bike should have:
* Fat tires with heavy tread for soft playa.
* A comfortable padded seat. Your ass will thank you.
* A basket and cargo rack on the back. You’ll need it.
* A kick stand. There is nothing worse than all your gear hitting the ground every time you lay down your bike.
* A bell or horn so you can keep in touch with your posse on the playa.
* Decorative markings or an bike outfit. Many bikes are taken by accident or ‘borrowed’, so if you make your bike outrageous, it’s less likely to be taken. Pimp your bike with faux-fur, paint or anything that won’t fall of and be come moop.
* A cable and lock. It’s best to just lock it up, especially at night.
* Schedule a crafting party to make costumes, gifts, dog tags, ringed lip balm, patches, postcards… whatever needs to be made. It’s more fun to craft with friends.
* Ringed Lip balm: Expect to apply lip balm constantly. Keep it handy by adding a tiny eye-screw to the end. Then add it to your dog tags.
* Dog Tags: This serves as your ID if you become incapacitated. It also serves as a place to clip on your lip balm and gifted pendants. Buy long shoe laces at the Dollar store. Add a basic key ring. Make ID tags with your name, camp and location and laminate them.
* Postcards: Make up some postcards to gift out to people. Either print yourself on card stock, or order them online with your own design.
* Patches: A rare and totally appreciated gift. Create a simple Burning Man design in Photoshop and layout several on a page. Print on iron-on ‘fabric paper’, available at fabric and craft stores. Cut up and store in a small ziplock bag.
Clothing & costumes
* Pack for extremely hot weather, very cold weather and everything in between.
* Foot wear – Find comfortable pair of high-top boots to keep the playa out. Replace laces with elastic (laces get caked with playa) or get slip-on boots. Bring one pair of clean cushy socks for every day you’re there, plus a few extra. Don’t look like a rookie and walk around in flip-flops. You’ll get playa-foot (an alkali chemical burn) and you hate life.
* Utility Belt – Get a sturdy belt with large rings or grommets that you can clip things to; water bottle, paratool, etc. Also consider a fishing vest with multiple pockets, you’ll need them.
* Playa wear- Support playa commerce versus big retail when possible, these are fellow burners who make playa wear. If you can’t afford to go all out, start with the basics; furry leg warmers, furry hats, fur-trimmed anything (use fabric glue instead of hot glue), flashy hot pants, fun over-the-knee socks, garters.
* Head Gear – Bring a couple of wide brim collapsible hats, with a chin strap. Also several bandannas or stretchy gaiters (face wrap) to use a dust mask, it stays on much better and won’t fall apart.
* Post Playa Wear – Pack a clean change of clothes in a ziplock for the ride home.
Plan your meals
* Build a camp kitchen. There is nothing fun about cooking on the dusty ground. Bring a 6′ folding table, or two card tables, a good 2-burner camp stove, a tabletop propane grill, pots, cooking tools, knives, cutting board, can opener, a whole box of gallon-size ziplock bags, dishes & utensils, sham-type kitchen towels, scrubbers, dish soap and a wash basin.
* Keep meals simple but plan on having protein every day. You’ll need it.
* You have to pack out your trash, so go with things that have the least amount of packaging or collapsible packaging; Gogurts instead of yogurt in cups, tuna in pouches, tortillas, pasta sauce in cartons instead of cans. Avoid glass containers all together.
* Drinks – Skip that 48-pack of plastic water bottles at Costco. You have to bring all that plastic back with you. Instead, bring 5-gallon bottles with a hand pump and a refillable bottle. There is an aluminum recycle camp, so drinks in cans are okay. Buy powdered Gatorade at Target and Red Bull at Costco. Bring Emergen-C and Electrolite packets. Bring sippy cups for cocktails, they keep the dust out and travel well.
* Snacks – Focus on high energy foods; trail mix, nuts, jerkey, dried fruit, protein bars, apples.
* Perishables – You’ll have to buy buy fresh ice nearly every day, so go light on these. Pack one cooler with meats and dinner things, you won’t want to open this cooler often. The other cooler is for cold snacks and things you’ll want to get to often; hummus, carrots, cheese, yogurt, etc. Some things can be frozen in ziplocks then used as they thaw; meat (double bagged), hummus, bacon (a playa must) red sauce, pesto, butter, beaten eggs. You can pre-cook meals and freeze them, but you’ll need more coolers and dry ice. Unprepared dry goods take up less space. Produce; unripened melons, apples and root vegetables last longest.
* Easy Dinners – Black beans & rice, macaroni & cheese with bacon, pasta with turkey red sauce, tuna quesadillas, MRE-style foods in pouches.
* Dry goods – Rice, pasta, potatoes, cereal, crackers, snacks like beef jerkey, energy bars, dried fruit and nuts.
* Plan on sorting as you go so bring stackable containers.
* Wet trash – bring a couple burlap bags for wet trash. Hang them in your kitchen area. The wet trash will dry out and be less stinky and wet at the end of the week.
* Burnables – Cardboard boxes, paper. These can get burned in a burn barrel at the end of the week.
* Aluminum – Goes to Recycle camp, but do it by Thursday.
* Everything else – Buy super heavy ‘contractor’ trash bags. Collapse everything you can to make trash smaller. Cans can be smashed down.
* The desert is hot so plan on driving at night if possible. There will be less traffic and no chance of your car overheating.
* Road Gear – Pack a gas can, water, coolant, flares, tire iron, tools, gloves and your spare tire where you can reach them.
* Glove Box – Burning Man Tickets, Burning Man notebook with schedules/contacts, drivers license, car registration, insurance, road map, Burning Man Survival guide with directions to Black Rock, your camp-plan map, pens and sharpies.
* Playa-arrival kit (things you’ll need immediately) – Goggles, bandana/mask, baby-wipes, gloves, sunscreen, lip balm, shorts, fresh socks/undies/toothbrush (if drive straight through), sun hat, water bottle, head-lamp, a Red Bull, Emergen-C, energy bars, half-gallon of water per person in your car, toilet paper.
* Travel Comfort Items – Neck pillow, blanket, warm fleece jacket, water bottle, road music, pain killers for stiff joints.
* Stop in Reno to gas up, replenish your ice, do last-minute shopping and have a hot meal. Eat something salty and start drinking water continually. This will keep you hydrated for arrival.
Arrival to the playa
* Plan to arrive early in the morning if possible, to avoid camp set-up in the heat of the day.
* Getting through the gate takes an hour or two in the morning, and up to three or four hours at night… longer if there are dust storms. You need water and food handy in case your trapped in your car for hours.
* Find your playa-arrival kit as soon as you get in line at the gate. You’ll likely need to use the potty, so and gear up with face mask, goggles and lip balm and be ready to jump out.
* Know where you are going to camp then ask your greeter to orient you with the map, and give you directions to your destination.
* When you arrive at your camp location, pull out your camp plan map and grid out your camp. Park your car where it will stay so you don’t have to move it later.
Camp set up
* Before you start; drink a Red Bull and lots of water along with a protein snack. If your coolers are out of ice, go get ice at Center Camp so you’ll have cold water to drink as you work.
* Put on your tool belt and load up the tools you’ll need. Avoid placing small tools directly on the ground, as they can get covered with playa dust and lost… forever!
* Unload your gear systematically, placing things where they go according to your camp map. This helps to avoid moving things several times and makes it easier to find things.
* Set up your shade structure first, so you’ll have somewhere to rest right away. Use your 18″ rebar stakes and secure the structure with guy-lines right away. You don’t want to get spanked in an unexpected dust storm.
* Cover your rebar stakes with plastic bottles and tag your rope with ribbons to prevent trip hazards.
* Set up your kitchen next, so you can prepare a snack as needed. Keep your coolers out of the sun (under your vehicle).
* Tents can be set up last, but make sure to do it before the sun goes down. Again, secure with 18″ rebar stakes and guy-line it down.
* If it’s the middle of the day, then rest while you wait for it to cool down. Center camp is a great place to chill and get a cold lemonade while you recharge.
Plan your week
* Once you’re settled, read the ‘Where, What, When’ guide to determine what camps and events you’d like to check out. It’s heartbreaking to find out you’ve missed the Billion Bunny March.
* Schedule some quality time at ‘The Man’, ‘The Temple’ and any other art pieces that are significant to you. Early morning is the best day-light time to tour the playa.
Take care of yourself during the week
* Drink water constantly.
* Avoid drinking alcohol in the heat of the day, which leads to dehydration and will wipe you out. Wait until evening to enjoy adult beverages.
* Take care of your skin. Wash your hands and face often, rinse with vinegar-water in a spray bottle. Protect your feet, never go barefoot. Moisturize with salve, heavy lotion or olive oil. Apply sunscreen often.
* The heat will keep you from feeling hungry, but eat anyway to keep your strength up. Schedule regular meals times so you don’t forget.
* Rest in the heat of the day. Save your energy for night-time activities.
* Treat yourself to a daily shower and hair wash. You’ll feel more human and less like a vacuum cleaner bag.
Be a true Burner
* Know the Law. Drugs, serving alcohol to minors, fireworks and firearms are illegal. There are uniformed and undercover officers everywhere. The laws in Nevada are stricter than other states. Act responsibly…. because a trip to a Nevada jail would totally ruin your trip.
* Read and respect the ten fundamentals of Burning Man.
* Gift things to strangers.
* Contribute somehow… volunteer or help out fellow burners. Participate any way you can.
* Don’t be a taker.
* It’s a gift society, so avoid using the word ‘free’.
* Pack it all out… including all your trash and gray water.
* Send postcards.
* Connect with people, hug everyone you meet.
* Enjoy your burn and take the feeling home with you.