First things first: Getting there
Tickets, tickets, tickets
Make sure everyone has is before leaving for BRC. Do not make the trip twice.
Get printed version of Google Maps to BRC
There will be areas with absolutely no cell reception, so please do not rely on your phone. Also check check your car, oil, tires, etc.
Download your favorite music for the drive before leaving
Spare car keys.
Lots of stories about people losing the car keys on the Playa.
Phone Car Charger
Driving to BRC can be long, and there are not that many places to stop and recharge your phone after Reno, do not forget one of these burner tested car car chargers and inverters.
If you get to Burning Man at night, it will be pitch black check some Burner tested flashlights.
Ratchet tie downs
Much better than regular bungees.
Living and Sleeping in Black Rock City
This is basic. Do not die. Do not be miserable. Getting enough sleep is basic in a harsh environment like BRC:
It is essential to have some escape from the sun – and something that can sustain high winds. If you don’t know where to start, get some ideas here.
My advice: bring a decent shade structure. Anything. Whatever you can find. I didn’t have a proper one on my first two years and it was horrible. Also: do not bring an EZ-UP, they are kites on the playa.
I take an RV out with my group each year because during the day it’s (way) too hot to sleep in tents and provided your RV has a generator, the air-con will save your life and make you lots of friends. And it can mean the difference between getting sand-blasted in a Black Rock windstorm to being inside, rolling doobies and cooking quesadillas.
Unfortunately, RVs are crazy expensive for this week because every rental place knows about Burning Man. If you can’t afford to rent an RV the traditional way, I’ve had luck scanning Craigslist for RVs that are listed “for sale,” and cold calling each owner to see if he would be interested in making a quick $1200 for a one-week rental before putting it right back on the market. If you can pull this off and split the cost between friends it’s well worth it.
If you have more than one tent, I would suggest bringing two. Anything left “out in the elements” will be covered in dust within 20 minutes of arriving on the Playa. It’s nice to have one tent to sleep in and one to store all your stuff in.
Extra-long tent stakes or rebar
I would go with 12 inches minimum.
As I said above, the wind is no joke in the Black Rock Desert. I have seen 60mph gusts at Burning Man and I’ve also seen tents cartwheeling down the Playa like tumbleweeds. No fun…so when setting up your tent you need to batten down the hatches and expect the worst. Sometimes, for larger tents, it’s a good idea to bring skinny rebars, which can be bent and driven down deep into the Playa to hold your tent in place.
Yes, it is hot most of the time, but around 3 AM temperatures plummet and it can get very cold. Get a warm one.
Sleeping pads and pillow(s)
The more the better.
and if you want to be fancy:
To go under your tent.
If you have more than one, bring them all. It’s really nice to have a table to eat / cook on and just sit at when drinking / playing cards.
Folding chairs, camping chairs, etc.
Preferably with cup holders. Or a ridiculous one. Whatever you prefer.
Bikes (very important!)
You’ll need a bike during the event
This is absolutely essential Burning Man is massive and you will want to go and do things that are very far away from each other.
BRC can be biked from side to side in few minutes. Many people like walking (and I usually walk around most nights) but a bike is a must. You may have heard about the yellow bike program, but please do not rely on them or you’ll likely get dissappointed and sad during the event.
Do not forget:
- LEDs: Light your bike with as many LEDs as you can
- Get a decent lock as many bikes can be accedentally taken (no keys since they can get lose, use a combination one) - this happens. It happened to me several years in a row (few years ago, a group stole my LED covered bike just to watch it at night while they were high)
Camping stove and extra gas
The bigger the better, so if you have a Coleman that you use for car camping, better take that over an MSR backpacking stove.
Critical for finding things at night in your camp and riding a bike at night. No seriously, bring one.
Quick advice: Be mindful of not flashing anyone when you arrive to camps. It’s more common that it seems.
Lanterns, tiki torches, or other sources of ‘space light’
Christmas lights or strands of LED lights to give your camp a nice glow.
E-wire or battery- / solar-powered Christmas lights
Use them to decorate your tent, bike, self, etc.
A large tub for cleaning your feet
After running around in sandals all day it’s SO nice to clean your feet off and put some clean socks on before going out at night.
Add it to that tub with water to soak your feet and help avoid “Playa foot,” a chemical burn caused by the alkali dust in the desert.
Especially if you’re going to, you know, burn anything.
Kitchen and cooking
Being a ninja about planning your food / booze and kitchen is well worth the effort.
Check my article on Cooking and Food at Burning Man
This is what you need:
A huge cooler
I bring all the coolers I own and one of them could fit a body in it. I store food (after a Costco mission) in a few of the smaller ones and pack the big one with ice. You will be able to buy ice in BRC but it’s expensive and a pain to carry back to your camp from Center Camp, so bring as much ice as possible. Dry Ice is even better.
Pots, pans, cooking spoons, strainer, cutting board
Something you have lying around, seriously. I favor cast iron pans, as they are easy to clea.
You can go fancy and bring something ridiculous as this french fry cutter
or get a simple camping set, it works
A couple sharp kitchen knives
Whatever you have lying around is fine.
For dishes, sponges, paper towels and a washtub for doing dishes
Large ziplock bags
You’ll need them.
Buy the biggest ziplocks you can find and bag up your stuff. For example, it’s always nice to have a completely clean pair of clothes to drive home in. You’ll also need the bags for any cameras / phones / electronics, and for cooler food.
Bowl, plates, forks, and knives
I would recommend either hard plastic stuff that can be washed or paper stuff that can be burned.
A large pack of the heftiest garbage bags you can find.
And a decent bin
Mugs and cups
Drinks are free, but drinking out of your dusty hands might not be the way to go.
or be fancy as I am
A cup of noodles at 11 PM is sometimes the best thing you can imagine.
I use this one (also for showering) although it’s not for everybody
Food and drinks
Camel Back or Water Bottle – You’ll take it with you everywhere; make sure to get a reusable one so you’re not creating unnecessary waste with plastic water bottles.
Be strategic about food. Anything that goes out with you either needs to be consumed or brought back out of the desert with you. I would recommend planning every meal before you go shopping and bringing things that compress well or burn.
Water– A good rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person per day for drinking. Add another half gallon for cleaning and showering.
Seriously, plan on each person in your group drinking a gallon of water per day. Yes, a gallon per day per person is a shit-ton, but if you are not constantly drinking water you will get dehydrated.
Be green! I highly recommend getting reusable containers and filling them up before leaving Reno
A camelback hydration system
This will be nice to have during the day when you’re cruising around on your bike. You’ll see most burners have a form of this.
Note: Putting margaritas in it at night can be dangerous. Putting electrolytes is ok-ish but they may leave a bad taste (and potentially some bacteria).
Check some Camelbacks for Burning Man here.
Booze is good, usually better cold so don’t forget your cooler(s) and ice. If you bring beers, it’s better to bring cans.
You want to bring things that are easy to prepare and have a lot of calories — there might be days where you only get one real meal.
Something quick : The more ‘preparing’ you can do at your house before Burning Man, the better.
For example, it’s great to BBQ a bunch of chicken breasts before you leave and seal them up in ziplocks to be frozen in the cooler.
You can bring no-prep foods that don’t require heating or water such as trail mix, cereal, etc.
Let’s start with the basics. This is important if you are a virgin, have seen way too many instagram shots at burning man and are completely clueless on what to bring.
Safety third! : Buy some LED lights and keep yourself visible at all times during the night. BRC can be a dark place during the night and there have been multiple accidents already. Please do not bring glowsticks, as they become MOOP really quickly.
If not for aesthetics, you need to be well lit when walking and riding your bike around the Playa at night. You certainly don’t want to get hit by an art car or someone else not paying attention on their bike.
The sky is the limit for costumes at Burning Man. Go thrift store shopping if you can for ideas and costumes. You will never go too big.
If you need, here are some suggestions from experienced Burners you can buy online:
Essential ideas for your costumes
My advice: Bring functional clothes, and as many layers as you can. Leave the brand names at home since the playa dust gets into absolutely everything. Again: bring layers as it can get really cold or really hot.
You’ll notice a lot of people aren’t wearing clothes that have the brand stitched right across the front. Better to rock random stuff you find at thrift stores.
Warm jacket or hoodie
This is basic, carry it with you at night. It can get chilly.
It can be HOT during the day, so get your lighter, sexier, crazier costumes at this time of the day.
YES: Anything comfortable, shiny, crazy, made out of breathable material (otherwise you’ll stink, you dirty hippy)
- asin B00TP88WFI is not in db
- asin B079BJNWDL is not in db
NO: Feathers (unless they are secured… y’know what, forget it, do not bring feathers, they are MOOP)
Warmer costumes for your night adventures. Bring lights, LEDs and ElWire. Do not bring glowsticks, they are lame, dim and become MOOP way too often.
- asin B01KQ7NKS0 is not in db
Bring good decent or crazy boots. Sturdy rather than stylish. As Burners say, “Your costume ends at the ankles.”
One of my favorites are Japanese Construction work. They are made out of playa-proof velcro, they are comfortable and breathable and they are resistant. Everybody who wears them swear by them.
Another very popular choice is goth boots.
Or flip flops. I use them to go to the toilets and walk around camp.
Bring a few, please. they fly off and at BRC it can get really sunny
Taking Care of Yourself under the Sun
Staying out of the sun is important at Burning Man, so why not carry around a beautifully fun and simple paper parasol! They’re quite popular on the playa, super affordable, and will help prevent sunburn / overheating. They also look amazing in photos, which is an added bonus!
The brand-less, gas station kind are best, and buy a few pairs because those are made in China and won’t all survive the week, plus they are always a hell of a gift.
Also consider crazy glasses like this
- asin B01LZ3UXWU is not in db
Bandanna (big enough to tie around your neck)
It’ll help keep your skin from chafing from things hanging around it, like cameras and Christmas lights.
Portable sewing kit
Potential costume emergencies abound in the desert.
Remember, the atmosphere at 4,000 feet is less protective against UV rays so apply a minimum of SPF 45 sunscreen every few hours! Even if you’re going for that deep, dark, Black Rock Desert tan, bring some high SPF for your face and shoulders. The sun is eff-ing hot.
Surviving and moving around
A bunch of essentials you need to survive and move around. Including basics for personal care at Burning Man.
Inhaling alkali dust is also no fun!
Playa dust should be a major concern for anyone making their way to Burning Man, and you want to be protect your face! Pick up one or two of these affordable and cool face masks keep it around your neck, and then pull it up over your face when the weather gets a bit crazy.
When it’s paired with some goggles and a hat, it’s a damn good look.
Burning Man is a very photogenic place. You will get amazing shots if you always have your camera on you. Make sure to bring a few ziplock bags to ensure it’s not affected by the dust.
Sandstorms are serious and getting alkali dust in your eyes is no fun; wear tight fitting goggles so dust won’t seep in. Check here this awesome collection of goggles for Burning Man
Goggles are a great burning man accessory, I love the kaleidoscope lenses are crazy fun and trippy to look through. They’re affordable, stylish, and just an overall fun purchases. There are several different options / color schemes available, so take a quick browse and pick up a pair.
Burning Man doesn’t stop when you do, so if you’re a light sleeper it’s a good idea to bring some. The parties go on all night, so if you want to sleep peacefully, foam earplugs are an absolute must.
I usually bring a pair of wax earplugs AND ear muffs to be able to sleep at night (I usually camp streets C and closer)
And I have been using this Ear Muffs (over my earplugs!) successfully for 10+ years on the playa. I love it so much that I usually bring some of them to give them as gifts.
Usually there is TP at the portos. Usually. Bring one-ply one.
Basic hygiene kit
Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, whatever you need.
Lip balm with sunblock in it
Bring a few, I usually like camping towels.
- asin B000AM82R6 is not in db
Lotion, or aloe vera post-sun burn stuff
The wind and dust can be hard on your eyes.
Solar shower with a drain system
These are great since your only other options for cleaning off are a shower in an RV or stripping down and chasing one of the non-potable water trucks that spray the playa during the day.
Please bring a drain/evaporation system since Burning Man is a leave no trace event.
Smokes and gum
You can’t just run down to the gas station to get either one, and both of these can be constantly gifted. Both are crowd pleasers.
Also, I do not smoke myself, but I have a serious adition to sour patch, which taste so good on the playa.
Saline nasal spray
The desert can really dry out your nose.
Be they birth control, contact lens solution, just anything that you might possibly need, and enough for a few weeks.
You can pack some small wet cloths in zip lock bags and stick them in your cooler.
DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT put them on the potties. They get clogged af, and it’s really bad Burner Etiquette.
You are building a city, bring some serious tools. Not that you can go back to Home Depot to buy what you need.
This is a quick list of essentials:
Extension cords and power strips
Really useful if your camp has AC power and/or is connected to the BM grid.
Duct tape, zip ties, and bungee cords
I actually use gorilla tape on absolutely everything. Duct tape is what keeps BRC together.
A small sledgehammer
to put in your extra-long tent stakes.
Useful on your tent. Useful on bondage camps and workshops.
From the Burning Man Blog:
If you’re planning anything tall and vertical and are using guy lines to keep it from tipping over, you might be shocked at the price of decent ropes or cable when you go to the hardware store. 80 cents a foot doesn’t sound like much but if you need 200 feet, it adds up.
A good option for larger structures is used climbing rope – it is unbelievably strong and has a small amount of stretch to it, which helps a tiny bit in sudden wind gusts. Purchased new, it is very expensive. But regular climbers often ditch their used ropes after a short time for safety reasons, and if you call some climbing gyms or put up a notice at a mountaineering store, you may be able to get a cheap or free deal on a 150′ coil. The common sizes are in the 9-11mm range, all are plenty strong for securing most structures, and they hold knots very well. When you cut the rope to the length you want, take a lighter and melt the end down a bit, this will keep it from unraveling.
If you get your rope from a hardware store, try to avoid that slick stiff yellow stuff, which is by far the cheapest and fairly strong for most purposes, but doesn’t hold knots worth a damn.
If you have one, bring it. If you have an RV, bringing a full-sized vacuum is not a bad idea.
For combing through sand and keeping your camp clean.
BRC runs on gift economy. It’s not bartering, it’s pure ‘give forward’ gifting. Many (if not most) burners bring gifts to give away. Be it after they have a great connection or just because. It won’t be unusual to find oneself on the receiving end of gifting. Do not feel forced to give back. Again, this is not bartering. Just give and gift next time you have an incredible encounter. Karma style.
My advice: Do not obsess about gifting if this is your first year at Burning Man. It’s really difficult to figure out what to bring. Many first times bring stuff that ends up being serious moop (glow sticks, seriously?). But still, if you want to bring stuff, this will put you way ahead of the rest of virgins.
Some quick ideas: bring small items you may need such as lip balm, condoms, lube or something hand made (necklaces are very popular).