Burning Man 2015 -Carnival of Mirrors - Survival Guide
Burning Man 2016 DaVinci's Workshop Survival Guide
Burning Man 2016 Survival Guide

My wife and I were asked to share our experience, tips and packing list in preparing for the playa and Black Rock City. Ask nicely and you shall receive! Although we will not be attending Burning Man 2016 (DaVinci’s Workshop), we have embraced the playa’s love for 4 glorious years.  To help you out, we’ve broken down this supply / packing guide into easy subsections for you. Radical self-reliance is one of the 10 principles of Burning Man and it is extremely important to come prepared.

Clothing

  • Wide-brimmed hat – Protection from the sun is essential!
  • Toque – It can get very cold at night.
  • Sunglasses or tinted goggles (and clear goggles for night use)
  • Hair ties and clips
  • Shemagh – Also known as a keffiyeh, they are very versatile. Great for protecting you in sandstorms, from the sun, and keeping you warm at night.
  • Bring clothing that will not chafe in any way!
  • Playa wear and jewelry – There’s no right or wrong way to dress. If you’re a virgin burner, don’t stress about this.
  • Safety pins – People will love you for having them.
  • Shoes – Bring shoes that are comfortable and you don’t care about getting dirty.
  • Sandals – Always good for lounging around.
  • Socks and underwear – Bring more than you need.
  • Warm Pajamas and long underwear – It can get very, very cold at night.
  • Gloves/arm warmers – You’ll be happy to have these.
  • Hand warmer
  • Post Burning Man outfit – Keep an outfit stored in your vehicle in a sealed bag. You’ll be happy to have it after.

Health & personal care

  • Nasal Spray – Your sinuses will dry out! Bringing one of these is a must. Only buy saline and bring extra. Do not buy medicated nasal spray.
  • Eye drops – Just like everything else, your eyes will dry easily.
  • Lotion / body cream – It is very dry out there.
  • Coconut oil – Good for both your skin and for dry or frizzy hair.
  • Moisturizer – Vaseline is an amazing moisturizer and will also help protect your skin against the wind and dust. Put some in the corners of your eyes and mouth and even your nose.
  • Sunscreen – For obvious reasons.
  • Aloe – For sunburns. Regular application will help a lot and save you from having a bad experience.
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Microfiber Towel – Don’t forget to bring a towel!
  • Baby wipes – Help you stay fresh and less ripe! Will get you clean of the playa dust pretty quick. Make sure you take your trash with you though. Do not through them away in the porta potties even if they’re biodegradable.
  • Spritzer bottle – Spraying water has never felt better. Helps you cool off!
  • Dr. Bronner’s soap – A liquid soap that can replace both hand soap and shampoo. Also very useful for treating ‘playa foot’, a painful condition (scaly eczema-like sores) caused by prolonged contact with the alkali of the playa. If you notice your skin starting to react to the playa dust, rub this soap in twice a day like lotion.
  • Deodorant – In spite of the heat, most find they stink much less than normal. Good to bring some deodorant just in case, but you may not need it.
  • Prescription medications
  • Mirror
  • Detangling hair brush
  • Solar shower – Make sure you have 1-2 gallons of water per shower. Make sure you also have a plan for your gray water.
  • Toilet paper – Toilets don’t always have toilet paper. Use only 1 ply!
  • Condoms and lubricants – Stay safe.
  • Multivitamins – You’ll be eating less and sweating a lot, so be sure to take your vitamins!
  • 5-HTP – Excellent for supporting mental health recovery after a night of partying. You might not need it, but someone around you definitely will.
  • First aid kit – Accidents happen more than you might think on the playa. Better safe than sorry.
  • Bug Spray – BM 2015 appears to be turning into the year of the bugs. Bring some bug spray just in case.
  • Scissors
  • Painkillers
  • Neosporin
  • Pepto Bismol – For your tummy.
  • Shaving supplies
  • Throat lozenges – For dry scratchy throat.
  • Antihistamine – In case you get bug bites..
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Contact lenses – Disposable contacts are the most convenient to use.
  • Contact solution – Even if you’re wearing daily disposable contacts, it’s useful to bring some extra contact solution.
  • Lip balm – Keep those lips from getting dry!
  • Lysine pills – You’ll have a weird diet and probably won’t get the nutrients you need. Lysine is an essential amino acid that will help with dry skin, and especially dry lips.
  • Prescription glasses – In case you can’t wear contacts.
  • Ashtrays – If you smoke, use some sort of tin for disposal. Mint tins like Altoids work great.
  • Tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products – You cannot throw used tampons in the porta potty; dispose of them in your own garbage bags.
  • Diva Cup – A reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup.
  • Anti-diarrheal tablets – If you have imodium already, great! Bring it with you!
  • Pee funnel – For the ladies out there, so you won’t have to deal with dirty porta potties!

Bike supplies & preparation

A must read before bringing a bike: Bicycles at Burning Man. Having some wheels is certainly the best way to see the art and explore the deep playa which can be quite far. You can still do Burning Man without a bike, but it will be rather inefficient and exhausting and you’ll need that energy for other activities! Having a bike can also be a fun way to express yourself and to show off your decorations!

So what bike should you bring? Most importantly, don’t bring an expensive one. If you read the article you’ll know that the playa dust is very corrosive to metal and will seriously damage your bike. Bring a bike that you won’t mind being abused (just don’t leave it when you go home!). Most of you probably don’t usually ride bikes anyways, but the ideal bike to bring is a single speed beach cruiser with big tires and a big seat (because yes your butt is going to start to hurt after a week of riding around). So keep it simple — single speed, coaster breaks, big comfy seats and fat tires.

  • Playa Bike – Beach cruisers work the best. Think of the playa as a giant beach. Be sure to test it before you go!
  • Bike lights (for safety) – Don’t be a darkwad. There a thousands of people, bikes and vehicles. You will get yelled at to ‘get lit’ very rudely and loudly. The easiest is to have a white light on the front to illuminate your way and a red light at the back, just like a car. We suggest adding lots of lights and EL wire.
  • Bike bell – Make your presence known!
  • Bike helmet – Always recommended, always decorated.
  • Bike lock – Avoid the grief and get a combo lock. Don’t get a key lock because you will lose the key. We also suggest tagging your bike with your name, playa address, email and phone number.
  • Extra wide bike seat – Yes, your butt will hurt by the end of the week. Get some extra cushioning for your tush.
  • Bike basket/rack – Seriously really convenient and great for carrying stuff around like ice! Get a front basket that suits your style. Avoid rear baskets because you may not realize when something falls out.
  • Bike repair kit – The playa is harsh and bikes always end up needing repairs eventually.
  • Bike pump – Because tires don’t inflate themselves!
  • Spare tires and tubes – But they will deflate themselves (often permanently), so bring extra.
  • Tire repair kit – Still, try repairing your tires first if they do become damaged! Your bike repair kit should already include parts to repair your tires.
  • Bike lube – Don’t use oil based bike lubes. We use Dry Graphite. The less moisture to attract dust that can clog up the chain, the better.
  • Bike decorations and EL wire – Also helps prevent your bike from being ‘borrowed’. The crazier your bike decorations, the easier it is for you to find!
  • Hydration pack – Great to have while biking around.

Bike rentals & shops

Tips

  • Single speed bikes have less moving parts, coaster breaks allow for less cables, and fat tires will make for a much easier ride!
  • Wide, fat tires will help keep you on top of the playa, while narrow tires will slow you down and cut into the surface (not good!).
  • You can also let the air out of your tires slightly to help fatten them up and provide better traction.
  • Lock your bike up, especially when going to the bathrooms.
  • Attach your bike lock to the frame and the back wheel. Or if possible, lock your bike to a friend’s bike.

Camping gear

  • Water container – The most critical supply to bring. Bring more than you need. 2 gallons of water per day per person, plus 1-2 gallons per shower. You’ll need the water for both drinking, cooking and cleaning yourself.
  • Headlamp – Not having to hold a flashlight makes things a lot easier.
  • Dry ice
  • Collapsible organizers
  • Lawn chairs
  • Table
  • Solar lights
  • Garbage bags – Its important to bring a strong bag and not cheap thin ones. The best we’ve found are tall drawstring garbage bags that are easy to cinch and use when it’s windy.
  • Fire extinguisher – If you’re lighting fires, make sure you always have an extinguisher on hand.
  • Lantern
  • Duct tape
  • Flagging tape  – To mark off ropes and wires so nobody runs into them.
  • Ziploc bags – Protect your gear from the dust. They are incredibly handy because the playa dust gets EVERYWHERE. This is not an exaggeration. You will always find uses for ziploc bags.
  • Tarps and poles
  • Portable toilet – Some prefer their own toilet.
  • Disposable urinal – Quite convenient, useful and unisex! Biodegradable pouch that turns your liquid waste into an odorless gel.
  • Shade structure
  • Shade cloth
  • Compass – For setting up your shade structure towards the shade.
  • Tent
  • Steel tent stakes – The stakes that come with your tent won’t be good enough. Buy some steel stakes that will hold your tent down during dust storms and high winds, otherwise you may find your tent flying away.
  • Tent kit – For a little bit more buy a tent kit that includes steel tent stakes, a rubber mallet, hand broom, dustpan and mesh carry bag.
  • Tent stake cover – Tennis balls are a fun and easy way to cap your tent stakes. Simply cut a small slit and push them on. Help avoid injuries!
  • Multi tool
  • Hammer
  • Whisk broom and dustpan – For tent cleaning
  • Rags
  • Zip ties
  • Rope of various lengths and sizes
  • Bungee cords
  • Work gloves
  • Tea lights or candles
  • Fan – Whatever you can bring, handheld or otherwise.
  • Pillows – And you might want to bring an extra pillow case.
  • Air mattress, pump and batteries
  • Patch kit
  • Sleeping bag
  • Blankets
  • Ear plugs – You’ll need these to sleep.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones – You may also want to wear these to sleep.
  • Eye mask
  • Water bottle
  • Drinking cup
  • Batteries and chargers for your devices
  • Garbage bags – Its important to bring a strong bag and not cheap thin ones. The best we’ve found are tall drawstring garbage bags that are easy to cinch and use when it’s windy.
  • Bedsheet to cover your sleeping area and other stuff.

Car gear

Note: AAA will no longer be operating within the BRC fence line. They will only offer assistance to members along state highway 447, county road 34 and other local roads and highways. Within BRC, there is a group called the Emergency Services Department (ESD) that have volunteered to help participants instead.

  • Bring spare keys! There is no locksmith in BRC!
  • Printed directions and map
  • Cell phone – For emergencies.
  • AAA card
  • Bike rack – There’s a big variety of bike rack types, sizes and number of bikes each carry. Find one that works with your vehicle and requirements.
  • Jumper cables and flat tire inflater
  • Car GPS
  • Car window tint
  • Gas can
  • Space blankets
  • 3″ painters tape – Seal up the seams of your vehicle to help keep the dust out.
  • Bungee cords – Great for packing.
  • Compressed air – To clean your car after.
  • Old sheets – To cover your seats on the way home.
  • Fire extinguisher – Car fires can be dangerous.
  • Emergency vehicle kit and supplies
  • Spare tire
  • If you’re borrowing a vehicle from someone, make sure you have evidence that shows you have permission to take their vehicle and a phone number to reach them at.

Food & cooking supplies

If you haven’t read it, read this trash minimization guide first. It contains some great information and explains why you won’t need as much food as you think, and also why not to bring more than a couple days of fresh food. From experience, you will eat much less than you planned as you will lose your appetite in the heat.

  • 5 day cooler (cover it in Reflectix and you ice will last much longer)
  • Garbage bags – Its important to bring a strong bag and not cheap thin ones. The best we’ve found are tall drawstring garbage bags that are easy to cinch and use when it’s windy.
  • Cooking stove
  • Stove fuel – Make sure you bring the correct type of fuel, and then double check that that you have the correct type of fuel.
  • Lighters – (bring a long lighter for the stove).
  • Paper plates and bowls
  • Paper towels
  • Paper bags for burnable trash
  • Cutting board
  • Dish towels
  • Sponge (for cleaning)
  • Wash tub for dishes (or use wipes)
  • Kettle
  • Tea pot
  • Ziploc bags
  • Compostable utensils
  • Tupperware
  • Cooking pots
  • Frying pan
  • Spatula
  • Multi tool (can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew, knife)
  • Sugar or honey
  • Salt & pepper
  • Ramen
  • Dried foods
  • Trail mix
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Energy bars and other snacks
  • Meals – Plan ahead! Bring foods with strong flavors and lots of sodium.
  • Thermos meals – Pre-prepared kits of shelf stable foods. Throw the meal in a thermos with hot water, wait a few minutes and eat!
  • Electrolyte Drink Tablets – You will be sweating a lot, and these little tablets will help maintain your fluids.
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • Caffeine pills
  • Water container
  • Frozen bottles of water – Better than chunks of ice. Make sure you leave some extra space when freezing, as the water will expand.
  • Frozen cans of juice

Day pack

Having a day pack is really useful when you want to go out and don’t want to have to return to your camp for a while. Pack up your warm coat and keep it with you while you dance.

  • Hydration pack – A backpack is too big and  a fanny pack is too small.
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Reusable plastic mug – You’ll get a lot of drinks and booze from people you meet (and there will be a lot).
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturizer
  • Camera
  • Lighter
  • Pens/sharpies
  • Notepad or journal – For writing down people’s contact information that you may want to reconnect with later.
  • Pens
  • Medications
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Compass – Useful in emergencies if you are stuck in a whiteout.
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • Sunglasses or tinted goggles
  • Clear goggles for night use
  • Earplugs for dancing
  • Cookies, crackers, snacks, power bars, etc.
  • Alcohol
  • Hat
  • Shemagh
  • Arm warmers or long sleeve shirt
  • Extra socks

Fun & useful stuff

  • Camera – Heavy zip-type bags for camera or electronic gear
  • Watch
  • Diary or notebook – For writing down people’s contact information that you may want to reconnect with later. Also try recording your dreams 🙂
  • Alcohol – Just be careful because it causes dehydration.
  • Books
  • Portable speakers – Where there is music, there is dancing!
  • Portable FM Radios (for listening to Burningman radio stations)
    1. Burning Man has its own radio station. Catch entertainment, safety alerts and warnings about approaching dust storms on this station
  • Gifts (something you would like to give people) – You’ll meet people you really like and may want to give them a gift. Having something with you on the playa to give out is always nice. Bring things that are personal (artworks, CDs, etc.) or fun toys or lights, just don’t go overboard especially if you’re on a budget.
  • Cool stuff you made yourself
  • Costumes, musical instruments, props, decorations, and anything that might make the experience more fun for you and your playa neighbors.
  • Body or face paint
  • Massage oil
  • Tutu
  • Sharpie – For leaving messages on the Temple.
  • Musical instruments! – What can you play?
  • Glow sticks (battery powered, not disposable, otherwise they are very bad MOOP!)
  • EL wire is much better than disposable glow sticks
  • Incense
  • Blinky toys
  • Water toys
  • Water balloons
  • Sex toys
  • Games
  • Frisbee
  • Playing Cards
  • Sharpies
  • Scrap paper
  • Music!
  • Decorations – Like costumes, the possibilities are endless and an expression of creativity. Decorating is optional, but if you’re in the mood, its a lot of fun to have a circle of glowing gnomes outside your tent.

Don’t forget!

  • Your ticket and car pass
  • Printed directions
  • Cash! It is currently $18 for a 6 pack of crushed ice
  • Common sense, an open mind, a sense of humor and a positive attitude!

Post-Burning Man

Please take a look here for post playa tips: http://burningman.org/event/preparation/playa-living/post-playa-tips/

Leaving no trace behind is a critical part of Burning Man’s survival and it is of utmost importance that you do not leave anything behind.

See here for more information on how to deal with your trash and recycling during exodus.

See you on the playa!

  • Chris

    I am *shocked* no one has commented on any of your articles. This list is the best I’ve come across. Love how comprehensive, organized, and succinct it is. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • SuperGrail

      Thank you so much! We work hard and do a lot of research to give the best and most complete information possible. Your comment really means a lot and brought a smile to our faces!

  • Bobcat Queen

    One quick correction: The 6-packs of ice are $18, and they are bags of crushed ice. There is no 6-pack of blocks. 🙂

    • SuperGrail

      We have corrected this! Thanks!