BurningMan Style
Tips and packing lists to help you get ready for the Playa

Photo: Zack Sheppard

Essential Gear

At least one gallon per person per day. 2 gallons if you intend on using it for solar showers or cooking, as well. Err on having more water than you need. (I brought two 5-gallon jugs just for myself.) Regular plastic jugs might get leaks; I recommend investing in some of the heavy-duty flexible jugs from camping stores like REI. They're made of a rubbery material similar to camelbaks, but much thicker.

Keep a water bottle with you almost all the time. At least a 20oz bottle. Or better yet: a CamelBak. Refill and drink a lot whenever you pass by your camp, so that you can reduce the number of water trips you need to make throughout the day.

Goggles are easily found at Burning Man vendor fairs (such as Prepare for the Playa but otherwise you should probably google around for goggles. Since I wear glasses I bought really large goggles at a military supply store in the Haight.

Make sure that they are air-tight. Dust gets everywhere, and your eyes is the last place you want to get dust. I also recommend polarized or at least tinted goggles so that they can act as your sunglasses during the day.

BTW, it is common at Burning Man to have big boots, all sorts of bulky protective head-gear, while wearing a costume of a completely different style (or nothing at all!)

Dust mask
Cheap white $1-2 dust masks from your corner pharmacy or hardware store are the norm. I bought a slinky black and white print mask last year which I love. Scarves might also do the trick.
Cover your feet! Sandals are an easy way to invite playa-foot, and dust will creep into regular low-riding shows. I use hiking boots myself.

Cool tip: To keep your feet from drying out, put a bunch of lotion on your feet before putting on your socks.

Wet wipes
Playa dust gets everywhere, and one of the best ways to get you and your stuff clean again is through a generous supply of wet wipes/baby wipes. Since water is a scarce resource in Black Rock City, wet wipes are the best way for cleaning hands, feet, and gear. Get unscented ones. You will probably burn through at least 10 per day (or a lot more if you're a bit of a neat freak like me), so one box won't be enough: get two or three. If you get wipes made from cotton or another natural fiber, you can burn them. Keep your wipes in airtight containers, and keep a few with you in a ziploc bag in your daypack.

Warning: Do not put baby wipes in the toilets, which causes all sorts of nasty problems that I don't want to describe here. Feel free to use wet wipes as a nicer alternative to toilet paper, but you must take the soiled wipes with you when you're done.

Warning: Do not clean near your eyes with wet wipes! Great pain ensues as the moisture is being sucked out of your eyeballs.

Trash bags
Carry around small trash bags or ziplocs for throwing away your baby wipes, any moop ('matter out of place') you find on the Playa, and any other errant items that must be disposed of.

Leave no trace! You are expected to gather all of your own trash, and pick up after less-responsible burners, and to take it all home with you. (Avoid dumping everything in Gerlach, which probably too many people are tempted to do. Wait until you get home or at least several hours away to start dumping trash and recyclables.)

There are some Burning Man camps where you can recycle very specific types of items. Take the rest home with you.

Camp Gear

A fan+lamp for your tent
Flashlights just don't cut it when you want to forage around your tent in the dark. I'm really happy having bought a Zephyr fan which is battery-powered, hangs overhead (via a magnet-based mount) which gives me both enough light for my tent and a refreshing breeze on my face for the hot times of the day.

Your Camp

Your camp might be nothing more than your tent, but veteran burners and industrious do-it-yourselfers tend to bring several additional things with them to make Burning Man a bit more comfortable and interesting. E.g.:
  • Shade structure
  • Greywater solution
  • Solar shower
  • Kitchen and cooking solutions
  • Chill spaces
  • Signs, decorations, and stuff to support a camp theme

Your Tent

Unless you're staying in an RV or a large camp that includes sleeping/crash space (or completely surrendering yourself to Black Rock City as a floater), you're probably going to be highly dependent on a tent.

Instead of using the tiny stakes that come with your tent, use rebar (long metal stakes usually used for reinforcing concrete). You can get rebar and a large mallet for driving it into the ground from Home Depot. You must put something on top of the rebar to avoid the accidental impalement of yourself on these sharp metal stakes. Either buy some of those gaudy orange rebar caps from Home Depot, or duct-tape empty water bottles onto the tops, or top the stakes with stuffed animals, or anything else safe.

Make your tent distinguishable in the dark. Decorate it with glowstuff, ewire, anything reflective or light-generating. There's a good chance that you will be seeking your tent while dead-tired and chemically altered at 5am, so plan ahead. (This is also when you are most likely to walk into/on your rebar stakes, as well.)