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by Casa de la Rumba (adapted from Pineapple Motel’s guide)
 
Hola Rumberos 💃! As you are about to realize, Burning Man is a magical place. Its art, music, serendipity, community, and generosity are all unparalleled. In our experience, showing up to the Burn prepared made a world of difference in being able to really enjoy the experience.
The intent of this guide is to provide a practical approach to prepping for the Playa, in order to make the most of your time there. Ultimately the goal is to arm you with as much information as possible, so when you arrive to Black Rock City, you can forget your worries and just play!
Suggested reading:

Packing guide

What to bring

  • Burning Man ticket and car pass. DUH! But people do forget these. Make sure you have a plan to have them with you by the time you leave San Francisco, or pick them up at Will Call.
  • Your belongings.
    • Food
    • Drinks
    • Clothes
    • Toiletries
    • Other items (listed below)
  • A bike. Walking from side to side of Black Rock City takes probably more than an hour. A bicycle saves you time and multiplies the exploration range.
  • Water: to drink and shower.
  • Lights for you and your bike

How to pack:

If you haven’t heard, the playa is dusty AF. And what is the playa, you may ask? It’s the alkali dust surface, hard as rock at places and softer, sandier at others. It will be the only surface you will set foot on when you arrive to Burning Man. It’s completely flat because Black Rock City used to be a lake (Lake Lahontan) tens of thousands of years ago! What remains is a beautiful, ancient lakebed that is, well, full of dust.
  • Don’t bring anything too precious to the playa.
  • Pack your things in plastic boxes like the one in the image bellow. A backpack or suitcase will get so dusty that will be hard to use elsewhere, the boxes will keep your stuff clean.
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  • Pack your clothing/everything in large zip lock bags. This helps keep them dust-free, and you can squish everything in an airtight bag to maximize space
  • Pack your post-burn / travel home clothing separately, so they don’t get dusty.
  • Pack mindfully, considering packaging and waste. If you can unbox something before Burning Man, do it. Just bring what’s essential.
  • Think through what you’d need day to day, as well as if something unexpected happens. Some delicacy you ate right across the street from Distrikt wasn’t good? You fell off your bike? Got too hungover from last night? Not that this last one is unexpected, but plan, plan, plan!
  • Don’t leave packing to the last minute. Take at least a weekend (yes, the full weekend) to pack, shop and get everything together well before the Burn.

Items:

  • Enclosed liquid container. You NEED this. BM bars will serve you drinks on your mugs/cups. Why enclosed? Because you will cycle around and don’t want to spill some precious liquids in the Playa. You better get two since you will probably lose one during the burn, and it’s always a good idea to have water in one and leave drinks on the other one. Although a camping mug with a lid is okay, we recommend a fully closeable small water bottle like these ones (you don’t want a really big one since you will need to finish your drink before going to the next camp):
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  • Photo ID – this is needed for getting drinks and accessing some adult-only places, so carry one with you.
  • Lights for you and your bikes. Yes, tons of them! This is really really important. Lights are the only thing that prevents others at night to run through you. Plus is a great opportunity to show off 🤩
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  • Shorts, leggings, skirts and/or kilts, t-shirts, kimonos, etc. It’s hot during the day, so bring light clothing that protects you from the sun but keep you cool at the same time.
  • A lock for the bike (IMPORTANT!). Do yourself a favor and buy one that has a numeric, easy-to-open combination. It doesn’t need to be very heavy-duty since there are no professional bike thieves on playa. The main problem are drunk/disoriented people who think they’re taking their bike but instead take yours, so a simple lock will be enough.
  • Warm coat for the night – it gets cold late at night! Temperatures can get as low as 8 degrees Celsius/45 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re fancy as hell and want to visit Robot Heart in the morning, your coat should be as furry as possible.
  • Sweater/jacket. Layers and layers to battle that cold!
  • A bandana. Remember the playa being dusty? Protect your airways with one – they are a good balance between comfort and protection. If you really, really hate the dust, you can sacrifice comfort for more protection by using a full-on dust mask.
  • Boots! The playa is unforgiving to your feet. Get yourself some hardy boots and avoid using flip-flops/walking barefoot as much as you can. Bonus tip: get boots with a zip on the side. Trust me, you will appreciate it when getting in and out of your shoes.
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  • Goggles. Back to the dust protection, this time for your eyes. We recommend ski goggles since they are the comfiest and most protective, but you can also use welding goggles if you’re feeling the steampunk/Mad Max vibes.
  • A hat, or something to avoid overheating your head.
  • Sunglasses. You’re not gonna wear the ski goggles all the damn time right?! When it’s sunny but isn’t dusty, wear these. The playa is a huge white reflector, so it’s CRAZY bright during calm, non-dusty days.
  • Fresh underwear and socks. I mean… Even in the default world you’re using these, right?
  • Ziplock for MOOP. What is MOOP? MOOP is trash. Since there are NO trash cans at Burning Man, bring a ziplock as your personal trash can.
  • Multi-tool* you never know
  • Carabiners
  • Water bottle
  • Hydration packs and a granola/energy bars
  • Nuts
  • Zip lock for personal garbage (those granola wrappers or cigarette butts!).
  • Mints
  • Head lamp
  • Batteries
  • There are unofficial day costumes/outfits that you can gear up for (totally optional):
    • Tutu for Tutu Tuesday (this one is the most popular)
    • White outfit for White Wednesday (some folks are trying to make this a thing, but not succeeding)
  • Burning Man ticket and car pass! WE WILL REPEAT THIS A MILLION TIMES.

Toiletries:

  • Baby Wipes. They’re fantastic to keep yourself as clean as possible at all times. You might be able to shower at most once a day, but it always feels great to have baby wipes as a backup after a huge dust storm.
  • Sunscreen & aftersun. It’s a desert, and it’s sunny.
  • Lip balm. It’s very dry out there, and your lips are the first body part to feel it.
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste.
  • If you are like me and lose your voice easily I really recommend bringing a bunch of Ricola candies for your throat. They work!
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  • Eye drops. For when the dust in your eyes is too much :)
  • Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory meds.
  • Tampons/menstrual cup.
  • Hair elastics & brush.
  • Body lotion.
  • Hand sanitizer (pocket size).
  • Some extra small and medium ziplock bags (2 each).
  • Mini first-aid kit, for those bruises you undertake while falling off the bike because the world doesn’t seem to be horizontal anymore.

Extended General Advice and things to take into account

Photo ID always with you

Many camps gift alcohol. This might sound surprising to you but at Burning Man it is required to check if the person served is over 21.
You need to always carry with you your photo ID. Most of the camps accept a photo ID scan taped into your drinking cap.
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Lights

Oh, the Playa at night. Arguably, the most beautiful sight in the world.
But! It’s dark out there. The playa gets very dark during the night, and there are gorgeous art cars and bikes cruising all around you. If you don’t have lights on you, they might run over you and you will have a serious problem.
For this reason, it is VERY important to light yourself and your bike. If only, do it because it is oh-so-cool to shine bright and colorful at night. Believe us, you will be jealous of others. Bring as many lights as you can, the crazier they are, the better. Use EL wire, or just plain LED wire to light yourself up. There are a ton of bike lighting appliances in stores, so get them!

Bike lock

You MUST have a bike lock, or your bike will be stolen. Period.
Sometimes there will be times when thousands of people are together, and thousands of bikes are parked. Unfortunately, when people can’t find their bikes, they tend to pick whichever they find. If your bike has a lock, it will never be stolen.

Water

You must bring your own water, to drink and to shower (if you are going to do this) with the camp shower.
The recommended quantity is 1 gallon per person per day.
People, especially first-timers, tend to bring tons of water that then gets back to San Francisco untouched. Water is heavy, takes a lot of space and is hard to carry. Be mindful with this.

Waste

Waste management is not easy, it is one of the hardest problems for a camp.
Please take this into account and try to reduce as much as possible the waste you generate.
Unpack things before bringing everything to Black Rock City, for example to avoid bringing cardbox, or plastic that will just go to the trash.

Prioritize bringing aluminum cans vs glass & plastic bottles

Almost everything that gets in the Playa must be taken out by you when leaving Burning Man. I say almost because the Recycle Camp collects aluminum cans and recycle them for us. So please, please, please try to avoid glass & plastic bottles in favor of aluminum cans so we can leave them at the Playa with them for recycle and save waste on our way back.
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Grey Water

Grey water is all that’s not drinking water but isn’t what you put in the portapotties – think water left from showering, brushing your teeth, cooking, etc. Same as waste. Management of greywater is not easy. All the greywater the camps generate, needs to be taken back to the default world.
So, even if you have plenty of water, don’t overuse it, don’t waste it. Don’t take more showers than you should. Trust me, you don’t need to shower everyday (baby wipes are your best friend on the playa).

Food and cooking

The camp provides a basic kitchen so you can cook but you need to bring your pots, pans, etc.
  • It is up to you how fancy you want to get with your food, some people will take it easy and bring just camping dehydrated food so they don’t have to cook.
  • Take into account that cleaning pots, pans, silverware and plates is not as easy as at home, you won’t have a water tap, the water to wash is scarce.
  • Clean right after you cook. There are other campmates that will use the kitchen so be mindful with them,

Alcohol

It is hot, so just make sure you stay hydrated, since lots of camps are gifting alcohol.
Better booze options from a packaging perspective are canned beer, liquor in a plastic bottles or wine in a carton. *Remember, whatever you bring in, you bring out, so pack accordingly*. Be careful with excessive alcohol intake – being hungover in a desert is not the most pleasant feeling.

Weed

In Nevada, cannabis is legal, but it is important to know what within Black Rock City limits, Nevada’s law doesn’t apply, the law that applies is the federal one, where weed is prohibited. Same applies to other prohibited substances. Be mindful and careful if a complete stranger with no connection to the group asks you for “stuff” – they could be a cop!

Driving in Black Rock City

You only need to drive once you get in and once you get out, no more.
Respect the speed limits (5 MPH for cars), always use turning signs and yield to pedestrians and bikes. The officers at Black Rock City are VERY strict with this. We don’t want you to get into trouble. Don’t think that Black Rock City is a lawless place.

Injured? Feeling sick? Use the Red Cross

Yes, you should be self-reliant, but probably you are not a doctor, so if you are not feeling OK, you get injured or something is just not OK with you, go to the Red Cross, there are multiple Red Cross points around in Black Rock City running 24 hours that will help you out.

For those of you who menstruate

A quick note on bleeding at the burn – this can be tricky, since you can’t leave tampons or pads in the portapotty, so you’ll need to take them with you until you can dispose of them.

Be careful if you bring these!

The following are items you need to be extra careful if you bring, so as not to MOOP the whole thing. MOOP (a widely used burner concept) means Matter Out Of Place – i.e. trash.
  • Loose glitter. Glitter is definitely dirty and pollutes the surface of the playa. If you bring it, make sure it sticks well to your skin/clothes.
  • Loose feathers. If you bring feathers, make sure to stick them with solid glue, or have them sewn solidly to your clothing. Same as glitter – they’re very hard to pick up.
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