enjoy the journey, play, explore, and delight in the creation around you!
water + reusable container (BYCO - bring your own container - many camps are bars which will gladly serve you if you have a container for liquid), shelter, sunscreen, clothes to shield from sun, goggles for duststorms, bandanna/facemask, earplugs, blinkie for nighttime, warm clothes for nightime, nutritional foods, electrolyte source (e.g. salt/food, coconut water comes highly recommended, can get packets from food stores), clock (if you wish to go to scheduled events)
I drink 2 gallons a day [1.5 gal/person/day is the bare minimum]. It is heavy, look into getting a food grade water barrel with hose/pump if you will be camping with several people - larger containers are your friend because they reduce packaging and enable more effective packing.
most tents provide partial shelter from the sun - if you can have 100% shade it will help keep you cool and prevent heatstroke. Having a sleeping space in complete shade will also allow you to sleep later in the day. Usually you will be woken up by the heat fairly early in the day, but having the luxury of complete shade will allow you at least a few hours before your tent turns into a solar oven. Even having space available in the open with shade is an upgrade for many (such as beneath a truck, a wise nap location), and there are also camps whos gift to the community is to provide shade.
tent/staking your claim:
get yourself some nice x-stakes (most likely not the thin toothpicks your tent comes with) and once you have your tent staked down, pour some water around the area that you pounded it in - you don't need much, but it will turn the playa dust into a makeshift concrete that will enable the stake to withstand the wind much more effectively. choose a tent with sturdy poles [my first year i borrowed a 'discard' tent from a friend and the poles snapped the second day. attempts to repair them proved for naught, causing snappage in many locations - leaving me with a flat tent for a week. i compensated by being in my tent only to sleep] Ideally, one would have a tent which allows air to pass through to cool it, but has some futuristic screen that would not allow the very fine playa dust in. as far as i am aware this does not yet exist (oh hey free invention seed) so the dust will get in your tent, all you can do is minimize how much gets in, and it's not too bad if you zip that puppy up tight when you leave on your wanderings in the desert.
if you are bringing a large shade structure which may be prone to whisking away mary-poppins style due to the heavy winds, you are going to want to get yourself some rebar (get the end bent to it looks like a candy cane where you aquire it/get it cut for easy-peasy removal), a rubber mallet and some rope in case you have trouble getting it out (hook the rope under the downward turned candy cane and pull the two ends of the rope...still stuck? wiggle the rebar around, give it a few whacks with the mallet in various directions to loosen...borrow some vice grips and gloves...)
in the day, you will be waking up to a hot tent (very challenging to sleep past a certain hour due to heat, btu trust and believe it can be done), avoiding/protecting yourself the sun. Common pitfalls include dehydration (be drinking enough that you PISS CLEAR), eletrolyte depletion (water doesn't replace electrolytes, which you lose when you sweat), sunstroke, and heat.
shade in the day - bring a hat to shade yourself from the sun - wider brims are recommended, sunscreen, chapstick, a breezy natural fiber covering for your sholders and torso area to diffuse/block direct sunlight on these high-sunburn-potential areas
during the night the desert comes alive with those creatures who have hidden away in shady places, there will be much glowing, blinking, and fire. Common pitfalls include being a darkward (procure a resuable LED blinkie light) and getting run over by an art car or bike, impaling yourself on rebar or other unseen sharps, and cold.
warm clothes for nightime - thick socks, coat, coverings for all skin surfaces, hat, gloves
warmth at night - there are public burn barrels at many camps that are tended by kind individuals if one needs to warm themselves up. dancing is my preferred warmup method and there are groovy tunes of all sorts booming their way across the desert at all hours
battery-powered LED light so that you are not a darkwad (not lit up and therefore invisible to others). One does not want to get runover by bikes or artcars. This becomes especially pertinent if one stops on the open playa to stargaze, sleep, or canoodle beneath the stars - make sure you are brightly lit up from several directions so that you do not get run over.
GLOWSTICKS ARE LAME - they are toxic and not-reuseable, invest in a reusible LED, which is not only brighter but more in keeping with LNT
LNT - Leave No Trace:
one of the Ten Principals of BM (the core guiding values of this community) this means that what you pack in, you pack out, and indeed try to leave better then you found it - how does one do this you ask? by being personally responsible for your MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) as well as by being a good citizen of Black Rock and picking up any MOOP you find as you are moving through physical space.
clip your nails before you get to the playa (do it outside your home so that you do not have to collect the nail fragments), if you are a smoker, bring a portable ashtray - such as an empty mint or candy tin - cigarette butts are the largest MOOP-creating objects by far. Avoid sequines, feathers, or glitter that can easily fall off (cleanup is a stickler about these), remove all the packaging from your food/objects before you get to the playa, the less you pack in, the less you have to worry about packing out (perhaps enabling you to evaluate how much packaging your food really comes in an using this to steer your purchasing habits?), plan ahead re: food yes, mangoes, banannas, and pineapples are appreciated, but you have to take the rinds, peels, seeds and pits home with you (these are welcome, but simily be aware in your planning ahead for a plan to deal with these materials). This becomes more peritnent if your camp plans to cook (I recommend cooking everything pre-playa and warming it up if you are interested in hot food) because you have to deal with the scraps from preparing the food as well as the greywater you will produce from cleaning the cookware.
water from cooking, cleaning, showering that is no longer potable (consume-able). In years past, evaporation pools/ponds were recommended, but these only do well for small volumes of water and don't do as well as these cool newfangled evapotron hamster wheel creations (powered by the wind). if one uses minimal and biodegrdable soap and is in a small camp, this can be scattered on the street to keep down the dust when it comes time to leave Black Rock City, however, this is not a favored method, as the BLM (Bureau of Land Mangement - the homies that Burning Man recieves the permit to use the land from each year) frowns upon it. I used a hospital foot washing basin (one of the lovely shaded pink ones *photo*) to wash my feet in, spit my toothpaste out, crouch over when I had to urinate and could not make it to the port-a-potties in time in my sleep deprived state (no shame - better then making a playa-puddle)
this is a good time to pass along a recommendation for a piss-jug - this can be a gallon jug with the top cut off for one to relieve themselves when in the tent in the middle of the night - just put it somewhere it is not going to be tipped over and empty it out into the port-a-potties in the morning (do not leave your full piss jug in the port-a-potties, this is inconsiderate).
[greywater can be used to water plants at home; blackwater is water that is unsuitable for such because it contains fecal matter]
some humans do go barefoot, it's not something I would recommend due to the possibility of impailing one's foot on rebar stakes or other pointy things on the ground. In the past I have worn cowboy boots, moccasins and five fingers. this year i will be bringing my hiking boots, mocs and five fingers to get the best of all of the worlds.
the playa is a very fine alkaline dust which (for those with sensitive or dry skin) can do a number on your tootsies [it is akin to moon dust in it's behavior, making the playa look like a lunar surface]. the way to counteract this is to wash or spray your feet with an acidic substance such at vinegar or lemon juice perhaps once a day when you return to your shelter for sleep. I have heard of people not bothering with this and having no troubles, but I have also heard stories of 'playa foot' that were frightening. I usually get around to it every other day, by wearing socks one cuts down on foot exposure to the elements. it is likely that you will be fine, don't worry about this too much unless it has been an issue for you in the past, and if it has been, prepare a foot love kit with moleskin, gauze, bandages, socks...)
however, do wear comfortable shoes - you will be walking substantial distances (especially if you do not have a bike) and it is better to be moble for longer then nursing blisters the size of grapes due to cruel-yet-fashionable footware
avoid burn scars on the playa - only burn large pieces of wood/art structures on the burn platforms or in burn barrels, if you want to have a camp fire, obtain an 'off the ground', well-contained backyard burn pit, preferrably with a screen around it and have someone's job be fire troll to constantly monitor and tend the flame - you don't want to be the one to burn down the quite flammable and dry city due to a stray ember.
i have never brought a personal bike to the playa and it is very do-able. A bike is a nice luxury item that will enable you to hoof it around the playa much more rapidly, but it is not a necessity. In addition, in BRC (Black Rock City) there are these nifty bikes called 'yellow bikes' (which are actually painted a lime green) that are public bikes. the only rules for riding them is that you have to have pants on (or affix a secure fabric on there), you can't lock them up, and if you break it, you fix it (there are bike repair camps on playa), and that when you are done using them, you put them somewhere easy to see where someone else can use them (no smuggling them away in your camp - NAUGHTY NAUGHTY). If you see someone locking them up, you are well witing your rights to find someone to liberate the bike from the lock [no these bikes are not 'yours until you're done' as I was informed last year by an entitled individual as they were locking them to a rack - BAD BURNER]. Many recommend a lock, not because of blatant theft, but more because someone may mistake your bike for their own (great excuse to decorate your bike - faux fur and El-wire for night time (a thin cable of varying colors lit by a battery pack) are popular choices)
pets (the poor things would suffer the whole time on playa), glass (if you do Be Aware of your glass. however, don't bring glass beer bottles - easy to break, they are heavy and cumbersome to take back, and bestest of all you can recycle cans at Recycle Camp while you are there), electronics (the playa dust messes with them something aweful, this includes nice cameras, unless you get them professionally de-dusted once you get back, it's your call whether you wish to risk the damage), plants (I love them too but they are unhappy here and need a lot of water), 'entertain me' attitude - you are the show, do what makes you happy and it will be infectious - Be the Trip
Gates officially open Monday after midnight at 12:01 am. However, it is likely that the gate will be open sunday at 6 pm as it has been in years past (unverified rumors, wild speculation). Unless you have an early arrival pass (look into it for next year if your schedule allows you to help out early) to volunteer with a specific team or camp you cannot arrive any sooner then the offical time or you will be turned around back to Reno (you cannot wait 'on the shoulder' of the road because it is a soft sand shoulder and you will get stuck/you will get a ticket from the authority figurines in the area for doing so)
have some food/water ready for the ride in to start your playa adventure hydrated. Pre-departure make sure that your vehickle abides by Nevada state laws so that the authority figurines have no reason to pull you over (no speeding now...). It's also fun to share snacks with your little neighborhood of people on the ride in when you are going slow (this is more-so on the way out if you leave during peak times), which you will be if you arrive anytime from Sunday 6 pm until Monday afteroonish (be prepared to wait several hours to get in - it's a crazy bottleneck of a one lane road in and out for 60, 900 humans - be patient)
Listen to 94.5 - BMIR - Burning Man radio - as you drive in for news and groovy tunes.
At the Greeter's Station you'll get a map of BRC (hint - it's a circle with spokes and radii) and a Where What When guide that lets you know all of the events that have been planned and submitted beforeJuly 1st.
There are three large waves of leaving - after the Man burns Saturday night, after the Temple burns Sunday night, and Exodus, Monday, by far the most heavily traffic-congested day. Be prepared for wait times up to 6 hours. Exodus crew have devised a method of 'pulsing' which creates 'one-hour neighborhoods'. Instead of idiling you engine for six hours and moving forward at a crawl, a 'pulse' of cars is let onto the highway and cones are set up in form of the next batch of cars who wait for a predetermined time before they are allowed to go. What this means is that you will pull out of Black Rock until you reach all of the cars waiting in line and turn your engine off. You can then exit your vehicle (even the driver), ,socialize and share with those in the cars, RVs, buses around you and you will be able to get back to your vehicle once everyone starts pulling up (games and food are much appreciated at this time). Of note: please do not switch lanes - it is not helpful or nice to try to cut in and get only a few cars ahead.
Burning Man officially ends the 3rd of Septemeber - a Monday, but the cleanup doesn't stop until the job is done. If you are able, look into staying to help out (ideally planning to volunteer with a particular group before you get to Burning Man).
BM is a Do-ocracy:
the most rewarding experiences that I have had on playa have been in the act of giving people things, such as spraying their feet with lemon juice and water, or helping them build a dome or structure, doing fabric dancing, giving hugs, giving food and water, jumping into participatory artworks and performances, and volunteering. If you think someone could use some help (setting up tent, they look confused/lost) mosey on over and ask if they need any assistance - you can meet bunches of people this way.
a great way to meet people and give back to the city which gives so much - it's good to try to arrange volunteering before one gets on playa but if you're there and you find the time, head on over by Center Camp, over by Resitration on Ring Road and you will find a booth/camp for this very purpose (so many different opportunities as well - from Black Rock Solar, to recycling, to Center Camp, to cleanup, construction and deconstruction of various structures...so much to do!)
if you would like to celebrate tutu tuesday bring a tutu. There are several large marches that happen quite consistently- million bunny march - bunny ears (unicorns have one too), there is a topless bike ride - pasties/body paint are fun), there also have been pillow fights and lightsaber duels in the past. Opulent Temple has a White event on Wednesday.
Commonly beheld sights: faux-fur, fuzzy legwarmers, animal hats with ears especially thick ones with long scarf-paws attatched that are pockets, steampunk attire, shirtockers (shirt, no pants), El-wire, bacon, hooping, fire spinning, THINGS ON FIRE, OH LOOK A SHINY THING, WHAT'S THAT LET'S GO THERE, having trouble finding people/meeting up/losing people (some use radios, designate a meetup spot)
if you are arriving at a different time then others whom you wish to camp with, there is a Registration computer terminal right by Center Camp where you can inform your fellow humans where you are/look up members of the city - just be sure to get the name that the person is registering under beforehand.
the only things sold in Black Rock City are Ice from Arctica (on RIng Road around Center Camp) and Coffee from Center Camp.
Due to the heat of the desert, you will eat less then you normally do, but do bring food - you can always share/gift it.
...true awareness of time being...relative...
my packing list:
sunscreen, deodorant crystal, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, sleeping bag, tent, camping backpack, therma rest, hiking boots, mocs, five fingers, massage oil, handkerchief, goggles, henna, 5-HTP, melatonin, hemp, rope of varying widths and lengths, EARPLUGS, eyecovering, headlamp, blinkie, water bladder (eg. camelback), basin/bucket, compass, small notebook and notepad, carabiners, bungee cord, duct tape, mesh bag (to air fruit and veggie peels and pits), my bliss: reusable bowl and spork, eyeglass cleaner, silk liner for sleeping bag, compass, first aid kit, sewing kit, gifts from the earth to share, clock, biodegradable soap, oil diffuser, essential oils.
what you may need/enjoy:
medicines (esp. anti-imflammation/relaxing), pillow (one can stuff a sack with clothes, use a sweater), a shade structure to be able to share with passers-by, a parasol, electrolyte packets
nice things I wish I had:
a weather ballon with blinkie that lights up at night to find camp/easy landmark to direct friends to, a flag/banner pole, a way to heat water for tea, crank radio to listen to BMIR at camp, bike-powered battery recharging station for passerby
sunflower seed butter, kale chips, seaweed, honey, apples, oranges, coconut water, trail mix (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, pecans, dried cranberries, dried rasins, peanuts), dried mangoes, dried pineapple, dried raspberries, oats, nutiritional yeast, iodized salt, chia seeds, dark chocolate, ginger (great for nausea), echinacia, sage, loose teas + tea diffuser, salsa, crackers/chips, corn tortillas, lemon juice, baking soda
refrigerated/pre-cooked: probiotics, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, (roasted chickpeas, hummos, protein bars, roasted root vegetables)
i would love to answer any questions and queries, look for a post all about food coming up ~