Be as organized as you can
There’s nothing worse than spending your entire time at Burning Man searching for stuff. In general, I try to keep everything in clear bins, as they are easier to find things in than suitcases (and can be cleaned afterwards). I subdivide those by grouping things in smaller bins or large ZIPPERED Ziploc bags (trying to seal regular Ziploc pouches in the dark or once they are dusty sucks). I keep my bags for re-use the next year once I unpack. Group outfits all together, keeps the hunting for a missing piece down when the sun is going down, and if you use the sliding zippered ones, you can easily make them “vacuum sealed” (ish) for tighter packing and keeps them dust free(ish) till you use them. When I fly in, I buy a few bins at Target on the way in to transfer my suitcase items into, so worth the $5 you’ll spend and a driving friend will love the gift afterwards. When packing your car, it can be easier to put clothes in garbage bags (or use the can-liner bags you brought for trash!) and have bins stacked so that you can pack more in your car, then expand into the bins when you get to the playa for easier organization.
Keep on Person
- Sun hat with strap (wind will eat your favorite hat)
- Dust mask/neckerchief/bandana
- Sunscreen (bring backups of this in case you lose it, I like spray-on so you can use it sans-help)
- Drinking water (bottle or Camel Pak, I use one camel pack for water and one for wine or flavored vodka, yum)
- Cup with handle (attaches to backpack/belt/pod belt)
- Car key (an EXTRA spare, just in case)
- Watch/clock (to get to events on time, I like kiddie watches)
Keep in Backpack/on Pod Belt
These are things I keep with me at all times… because you never know when you’ll fall asleep in some art instillation and wake up across the playa from home. I carry them in a backpack (I prefer the kiddie backpacks, hate carrying a bunch of stuff) or my new favorite, on my Pod Belt (http://www.podbelt.com, though don't wait till the last minute to get yours, as they'll be on the playa with us!).
- Toilet paper (there are camp versions without the center spool that are easy to carry… remember, single-ply TP only in port-o-potties. Cheapest I’ve found here: http://medisimpleshoppe.com/charmin-toilet-paper-to-go-for-tissue-needs-while-traveling.html)
- Swiss army knife
- Lighter (attached by retractable cord to my Pod Belt so I never lose it)
- Small flashlight (I bring several, somehow they always disappear, or you meet some poor soul who desperately needs one)
- Goggles with clear lenses (perfect for night dust storms)
- Pen and paper/mini notepad (I have a retractable pen on my Pod Belt so I never lose it)
- Trading cards (with your camp location or email address/phone number to keep up with all the amazing people you’ll meet)
- Safety pins (you’ll never know why you need them until you can’t live without them)
- Ash tin for smokers (Altoids cans work great)
- Headlamp when I’m not using it
- Handkerchief in case of dust storms (wet it when it’s hot – mmm, in clean ice chest water is awesome – and you’ll be happy happy)
- Folding toothbrush and toothpaste – will save your life when the playa has crawled into your mouth and set up camp…
- Cheap chopsticks (never know when someone might feed you! They're like burnable forks! Burn them when you're done using them!)
Don’t think you need a bike? You’ll change your mind when you wish you could chop your feet off for new ones mid-week. Best to get them at a resale shop (Goodwill or Salvation Army's are great), make sure you have it serviced before you come out. Many people buy them at Wal-Mart on the way in… but be sure you plan on taking it back out, there are so many bikes abandoned at the event every year, it’s impossible to deal with them all. There will be a Yellow Bike program again this year, if you see a yellow (really lime green) bike somewhere on playa and need to go somewhere… use it! And leave it somewhere obvious and UNLOCKED for the next person! For Your Bike Bring:
- Bike basket or rear rack (a must for transporting ice)
- Bike lock (I prefer combination locks, no keys to lose)
- Lights of some sort on the frame (so people can see you at night, battery operated Christmas lights or EL-wire work best)
- Headlight so you can see (dollar store flashlight and duct tape works ok if you’re broke)
- Tire pump (or make sure you know who has one)
- Bike tool kit (or make sure you know who has one)
- Tire patch kit (everyone should bring one, you’d be surprised how many people need theirs)
Keep in Car
- BM Ticket (yes, put it in your glove box now, save yourself a headache, ok?)
- Good flashlight (for unpacking at night, or break downs, or whatever)
- First aid kit
- $20 spare cash just in case
- Car essentials, oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, jug of water, jumper cables
- Don’t forget to take your car in for a “trip check” to prevent any car-break-down-surprises.
Your Tent, Your Home
First, your tent. Don’t get the cheapest one you can get… weather on the playa is temperamental (understatement?) and cheap tents will die in the wind and rain that can come and go at BM. Tent picking tips:
- Get one you can stand up in. Seems like this isn’t that big of a deal, till you’ve been hunched over in it every day for a week.
- Get the biggest tent you feel comfortable in. My first year, I thought, I’ll just leave all my bins outside, and fill my small tent with an air mattress, and be done with it. My stuff was coated in playa, no matter how tight my bin lids were, and finding things in a dust storm was a nightmare.
- Get a tent with the least amount of vents you can. This is harder than it seems, as most boxes don’t show you what a tent looks like without the rainfly. Vents = dust catchers.
- Cover your vents with a towel (that you tape or fasten down) under your rainfly… works as a filter for dust.
- Understand that no matter what, you’re going to get dust in your tent. Own it.
- Put shade over your tent… even a tarp (good one, not cheap one) from the ground, over your tent, to the top of your (hopefully tall) car will help. Then you can put your folding chair under the shade you’ve created.
- Put distance between your tarp and your tent. A bit of air between the tarp and tent absorbs much of the heat and will keep your tent exponentially cooler… unless, as my friend (and Ranger, and smart man) Mithra does… you have Aluminet.Aluminet is aluminum-based “fabric” that is virtually indestructible, keeps his tent cool, and doesn’t need any space between it and his tent, and even saying the word “Aluminet” to him makes him smile (he’s that happy with his discovery). http://ae-zone.org/bm-camping-tips/
I prefer to be off of the often-uneven-rocky-no fun ground (plus the ground transfers heat/cold, so you’ll have a hard time keeping warm at night and cool during the day).
- Some people think that means air-mattress… but I hate waking up on the ground, or if you sleep with a partner, waking up squished together in the center. Tip there… get two smaller mattresses to put side by side, that way you don’t bounce each other as you move at night, but can be side by side. If you can afford an Aerobed, you will be very, very happy.
- I have a camping cot with an egg-crate folded in half on top of it. Perfect for one, do-able for two (though not necessarily when in motion, cough cough) but my favorite (cheap) solution thus far.
- The only thing that makes Mithra happier than his Aluminet is his trampoline tent. That’s right, trampoline… gets him off the ground, gives him great protection from the wind and rains, and gets his stuff off of the ground. He keeps his ice chest and a few other dust-ridden things under the trampoline in the shade, and stretches Aluminet across the whole thing for the added big smile. It takes a while for him to set up, but he’s there for more than a week, so it’s worth it for him.
- From Crunchy… use a Velour blanket as your bottom sheet, it will keep the playa dust off your skin (and is easy to shake out on playa, wash off-playa)
Now for the inside of your home:
Crunchy suggests getting a 3-drawer bin from Big-Lots as your “bedside table.” I’ve done this the past 2 years and it was my favorite new trick after just 5 minutes on the playa. See the packing checklist for how this can rock your world. The pocket just inside your tent is your “key bowl”, great place to put anything you usually carry in your hands at night (flashlight, drinking cup, whatever). Overhead net is perfect for a tap light or battery powered xmas lights, perfect to see when you get home late at night. I also keep a notepad and pen up there (and tell my friends it’s there) so people can leave me notes when I’m not there. The mystery, scribbled, unintelligible ones are the greatest… Drawer 1: General First Aid Kit:
- First aid booklet
- Band aids
- Sterile pads
- Adhesive tape
- Elastic bandage
- Safety pins
- Instant cold pack
- Sterile gloves
- Cotton swabs
- Cotton balls
- Alcohol wipes
- Iodine swabs
- Antiseptic or Neosporin
- Aloe vera (or burn cream)
- Hydrogen peroxide
Drawer 2: Basic primp kit and accessories:
- Small flashlight (you’ll be so happy it’s always there waiting for you in case you can’t find/lost your others)
- Hair ties
- Toothbrush/toothpaste (oh my, knowing JUST where this is after a long night out is heavenly)
- Facial cleaning pads (even for you boys, feels so great to get that grime off before passing out)
- Extra chapstick/lip balm
- Nasal spray (just plain saline, use it every night before you go to bed (and maybe again in the morning) and blow your nose with baby wipes, and you’ll love yourself for it. Moisten with Vaseline/carmex/neosporen inside your nose to be in heaven by morning.)
- Small tissue packets
Drawer 3: Trinkets
- Trading cards
- Contact info for people you meet
- Small notepad/pen (I carry one with me and have one in my tent)
- Trinkets you are giving out/receive (don’t give junk, either make cool stuff or give a hug, much more appreciated than trash on the ground at the end of a week)
I put all of this in a small bin so it’s right where I need it.
- Toilet paper (single ply only in port-o-potties, otherwise they clog up – camping TP is awesome bc it’s small and easy to carry… cheapest is here: http://medisimpleshoppe.com/charmin-toilet-paper-to-go-for-tissue-needs-while-traveling.html )
- Handi wipes (Dollar stores carry these awesome aloe-vera wipes that are gentle on the skin)
- Lotion for skin
- Lotion for feet (heavier duty, or just use Vaseline)
- Bath sponge or cloth
- 2 towels (so one can be drying while you use the other)
- Biodegradable soap (Dr. Brauners is my favorite, peppermint makes you feel oh so clean down there)
- Shampoo/conditioner (detangler is great so you don’t have to rinse it out and use more water)
- Some additional emergency supplies, like a mylar blanket, hand warmers (from the hunting section at the dreaded Wal-mart or other sporting goods stores)
Foot LOVE kit
- Small tub (big enough for one foot at a time)
- Vinegar or lemon juice (add a little bit with each foot bath)
- Towel to dry feet
- Vaseline or thick foot lotion
- At least one pair of socks per day
Here’s what you do: ~ Soak feet in vinegar or lemon water (vinegar or lemon cut the acidity of the desert dust) ~ Scrub foot with pumice stone or foot scrubber if you have it ~ Dry off with towel ~ Coat foot with thick lotion or petroleum jelly ~ Put foot sloppy with lotion in clean sock ~ Put on night shoes and play… then sleep with these socks on ~ In the morning your feet will be HAPPY you did this the night before, and you can be a jackass to them again by wearing sandals all day long again)
- Keep one change of clothes for the ride home sealed in a ziplock bag for the ride home. I have a clothes rack ($10 at Ikea, http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/60179434 ) to help use the vertical space in my tent. On it, I have:
- Shoe hanging rack ($3-$7 at Ikea, http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10185588 ) as my “dresser”, I use a cubby for goggles, one for gloves/hats/scarves, one for socks, one for bras/undies, etc.
- Any clothes/jackets I can hang (easier to find than in bins)
- Shorts, Sarongs, both long and short sleeved shirts (long, lightweight shirts protect your arms from the raging sun)
- Bandanas/scarfs to wet to keep cool, or to tie over nose/mouth during dust storms
- Hats (wide brimmed are best)
- Sandals and boots (pre-broken in, blisters on the playa suuuck)
- Change of socks for each day
- Costumes of all kinds (NO FEATHERS or feather boas… Maribou only, feather boas shed and leave trash everywhere. Same goes for glitter or sequins or cheap fur… do a pull test on your fabric, if you pinch it and pull, and you come away with anything, then don’t bring it. Really. Someone has to pick each bit of lint up.)
- Comfortable nighttime shoes (if you wear Tevas, invest in some fleece socks, about $10 at REI, comfortable and warm)
- Warm clothes… flannel and fleece are your friends (I have a few pairs of fleece underclothes that go under all of my night time outfits to make them warm and toasty)
- Crunchy stresses FLEECE again and again… warm and playa dust shakes off of them easily
- Inserts for your shoes… even the cheap ones will be better than no extra padding
A few other random things… Some of my favorite playa-finds:
Podbelt – I know I went on and on about this before, but I’m not kidding. Essential playa wear that I use daily as my purse, it’s so convenient. Again, they are done selling before the playa (getting ready themselves), but get one as soon as you get home, you’ll be thankful. http://podbelt.com/
Cuddl Duds – simply the best thermals, ever. Soft, silky, keeps sweat away from your skin, dries fast, and keeps you warm under your clothes… all without feeling bulky. I wear a pair of black Microwear pants under almost everything… including dresses (just looks like tights). http://www.cuddlduds.com/warmunderwear/microwear.asp
CoolTie – I bought one in a sporting goods store, and wore it till I lost it. It’s simply a closed tube with these water-absorbent crystals in it ($17.95 for enough to make 100 of them!), sooo easy to make. I suggest making it longer than they list, I think a tie that short looks nerdy, and have always wanted to tie it around my waist or have two of them in an X pattern across my back. Mmmmm. Here’s how to make them (with links to where to buy the crystals): http://seworganized.com/sewsimple/cooltie.html
Bicycle Kitchen – They teach people (translation, ME, your average – cough cough – girl) how to build a bike, sometimes in as little as 4 hours. If you have a spare bike on the way back from the playa, donate it to them, will ya? http://www.bicyclekitchen.com/
Oh, and i almost forgot… the most important thing to bring… ~ A GOOD ATTITUDE and OPEN MIND. The rest will follow. One of the things that’s stuck with me from my first burn… “Be as prepared as you possibly can. But if you need a lighter at some point, all you have to say is, “Hey, does anyone have a ligh-” and before you can say “-ter” you’ll have 5 of them whack you in the head.” Just don’t be a mooch ((HUGS)) and good vibes, Plaid