Burning Man is a "pack it in/pack it out", leave no trace event. You need to bring everything you will need to live, including food and water with you to the event, and you will need to take everything, including garbage with you when you leave.
Burning Man is held in an extremely harsh and hazardous environment, and you MUST be prepared for this. Temperatures may soar well above 100 during the day, and have dropped into the 20s at night. Additionally, high winds can whip up thick dust storms that reduce visibility to just a few feet. Finally, the low humidity coupled with the high heat can lead to dangerous dehydration. Please take these conditions seriously when planning and packing.
The essentials for survival include shelter, food & water and clothing. Some lighting is highly recommended for nighttime adventures, and a bike is highly recommended for getting around the event.
For most attendees, a tent will suffice for sleeping. If you use a tent, be sure to get an all-season tent that can be fully sealed up, to keep the fine playa dust from filling your tent and covering all your belongings.
Other popular sleeping shelter type include yurts, RVs, and small domes. Many other creative structures have been created over the years as well, so be sure to ask veteran burners about what options may be best for you.
In additional to a sleeping shelter, you will want to have a sun shelter for use during the day. These shelters work best when they allow for good ventilation and airflow, but provide shade for your relaxation and socializing. it is also helpful for these shelters to work as a kitchen and gear storage if need be. Lounge chairs, a small table and lighting can complete a basic camp and provide a nice place to spend a hot afternoon or late night with friends.
There is no food for sale on the playa - you must bring enough food for your entire stay, as well as any equipment you may need to prepare and serve your food.
For many people, the simplest, most basic foods suffice - some burners have lived happily for the entire week on cans of chili and water. For others, preparing and sharing fine, gourmet meals is a centerpiece of the experience. Try to determine where you fit on that spectrum and prepare accordingly. Also take into account how much time you wish to spend preparing food rather than exploring the event.
For food suggestions and recipe ideas, check out our article on food.
For kitchen design ideas, check out our playa kitchen article.
Food is often gifted by camps around the playa, so don't be surprised if much of your food is uneaten at the end of the week! Likewise, try to bring some extra servings of your meals so that you can invite neighbors and friends for a dinner. Sharing food is at the heart of the Burning Man principles, so be prepared to both give and receive!
It is recommended that you bring a minimum of a gallon and a half of water for each day you will be on the playa. Also consider bringing some extra water if your camp will have a shower.
Many people wait to purchase water until they are closer to the event, to avoid the fuel costs of carrying water a long distance. Be aware, however, that as you approach the event, some stores may have run low on supplies and water containers may be hard to find.
Water storage can take on several forms, depending on your situation. The easiest, although least cost-effective water solution may be a collection of gallon or 2.5 gallon containers available at supermarkets. Be aware that these containers also create a moop problem, as you need to deal with the empty containers that will accumulate through the week. This may be a good solution for a camp of a small number of people.
Collapsible water cubes may be easier to deal with, as they lead to less garbage and are lower cost in the long run. Be aware that these can sometimes spring minor leaks, so test your equipment before you leave for the event!
For larger camps, drums of water or other bulk water containers may be financially and logistically the best solution, as they provide the most amount of water for the lowest cost and create the least amount of garbage.
Costuming is a hallmark of burner culture, and no article can begin to cover this topic adequately. How you dress is a great way to contribute to the overall spectacle of the event. Consult veteran burners, experienced costumers and your inner child for the best ways to cover and decorate your body.
However, there are some universal best practices that you will want to consider when packing your clothing and costuming.
- Temperatures can fluctuate wildly between day and night! Be sure to pack for extremely cold nights as well as the high daytime heat.
- Cover your head during the day. A sun hat is a really good way to avoid sunstroke.
- Be sure that your costumes allow for hydration options. A hydration pack is great, but make sure it fits with your costume choices.
- Pockets are power! It's really helpful for your costumes to have pockets, pouches or purses to carry all your stuff with you. Some burners prepare daytime and nighttime "go bags" that have everything they're going to have with them during their adventures.
- Avoid moopy costumes! This includes things like feathers, boas and other materials that can shed in the wind. They may look great in photos, but please leave the feathered headdresses at home.
- Be lit at night! Don't ruin your evening by getting run down by a mutant vehicle or mad biker who can't see you until they're on top of you. Also, personal lighting itself contributes to the spectacle of the event, so use this as an opportunity to get crazy and creative. Check out the lighting article for more information and ideas.
- Good shoes coupled with stringent foot care can really make the event. Some people's feet is highly tolerant of the alkaline desert conditions, but most people are not so blessed and will want shoes to protect them from playa foot. Also, shoes protect your feet from other dangers, such as rebar, tent stakes and other opportunities to break a toe or cut your feet. Be sure to bring a good pair of comfortable, well broken-in closed-toe shoes that can protect your feet from the dangers, and also practice good foot maintainence every day!
Oh, and guys? Seriously, avoid shirtcocking.
You will want to have on you AT ALL TIMES the following items:
- Dust mask
It is also advised that you keep a supply of baby wipes, lip balm, sun screen, a hat and a bottle of hand cleaner such as purell on your person. A playa cup, fork and collapsible bowl will also keep you ready for sudden food opportunities that will arise.
Dust storms can come up suddenly and without warning. So can attractions like art cars that whisk you away on an unplanned adventure and drop you off two miles from home. Be sure that you're always prepared for any opportunity that arises by never setting foot out of camp without your basic supplies or go-bag, even if it's just down the block to the potty. You have no idea where that quick trip will lead to.