Last year was our first time going to Burning Man and honestly, we had NO IDEA what we were in for. We were Burning Man “Newbies”… pioneers even! None of our friends or family members had gone before us – we were exploring unchartered lands… or should I say “Deep Playa.” While knew we needed bikes, crazy costumes and tons of water, we were pretty much shooting in the dark beyond that.
Needless to say, WE LEARNED A LOT after our first burn – about ourselves, about each other, about the dust and about what it takes to truly be prepared for an event as EXTRAordinary as THIS:
Before we get into the details of BRC, let me just mention the fact that we had been adventuring across America in our #RollingHome for nearly 7 months by the time Burning Man had arrived, and while we had seen a number of incredible sites… nothing, and we mean NOTHING, could have prepared us for what awaited us THERE…One thing you’re going to want to get acquainted with (because it’s hilarious and surprisingly useful) is the officially unofficial Burner terminology, our fave? MOOP aka. “Matter Out Of Place” aka. Litter. Debris. Rubbish. Why is this one so important to know? Because Leaving No Trace is arguably Burning Man’s most important principle.
Some antiMOOP habits to adopt: Carry around a reusable cup/thermos at all times. Unwrap all packaging prior to making your journey to The Playa and try your best not to use anything disposable. You will want to have strong + sturdy garbage bags at your camp. We kept our garbage bags and coolers in a separate little supply tent (below) – this worked out GREAT.
Ok, back to the GETTING THERE part. The journey to Black Rock City lead us through the tiny, desolate town of Gerlach where a “population of wanted” relies of the business brought in by Burners. We stopped here for a bite to eat and browsed the collection of incredibly-tempting, last-minute accessories, ie. neon lights, brightly-colored faux-fur coats, used playa bikes and tons of other super cool gadgets that made us question whether we were truly prepared or not… Note: Being that it’s THE LAST resort, things sold in Gerlach are usually sold at a premium, but it DOES go towards helping build a community.
GETTING SUPPLIES. Like I said, we knew needed bikes, costumes and tons of water… but beyond and within those guidelines the possibilities are truly endless. Orange, fuzzy Caddy anyone?
Let’s start with the BIKES. Think big and create an “Art Car,” aka mini art studio on wheels, or think HUGE and engineer a “Mutant Vehicle,” aka. incredible dream-like structure that will make jaws drop, hearts stop and heads roll… on wheels.
If all that sounds and looks a bit overwhelming, have no fear! Those projects seemed to be for experienced Burners, highly-skilled architects and astronauts (seriously). There are a ton of simple ways to transform your bike into a Playa-roaming masterpiece… here’s how:
DURING THE DAY: You’ll want your bike to have its own unique look. Imagine trying to find your dust-covered bike that looks like every other dust-covered bike, in the middle of a giant sea of… DUST:
Think strips of cloth, silk flowers, feather boas, stuffed animals… you can even transform it into a unicorn! The more unique, the more FUN!
AT NIGHT THINK NEON. The more lights, the merrier. Take our word on this one, you don’t want to be a “darkwad.” Not only will lights keep you from getting run over, but they make it POSSIBLE(ish) for you to follow and find your friends, to locate your bike after you’ve hopped off to join an irresistible dance party or climb a random structure, PLUS you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you’ve helped make The Playa a brighter, more beautiful place for all.
THE BEST lighting options: LED solar powered fairy lights and neon electroluminescent wire rope. We had one per bike + Monkey Lights on each of our back tires. Be sure to bring zip ties, duck tape or a thin rope of some sort to fasten your lights and other decor with.
Other bike supplies worth mentioning: A bell, a cup holder, a basket (front or back), a lock and a sweet helmet if you fancy one:
Now that we’ve got the bikes taken care of, WHAT ABOUT YOU?!
CLOTHES aka. COSTUMES. Think 80’s music video, meets techo DJ, meets daisy field full of hippies, meets closet full of sweet threads from the thrift shop, meets the circus:
Check the weather forecast before embarking on your journey, but during the day The Playa tends to be warm and sunny, while nighttime feels like you’re on the moon, aka. it’s FREEZING. We had NO IDEA that it got so cold, and so we had NO JACKETS. Learn from us, BRING JACKETS (the extremely warm, fuzzy kind, with a hood)! + moon boots (more on boots below) + wool socks + warm hats + gloves + Hot Hands + layers + a thermos (carry a hot beverage with you when you leave for the night – it will be your saving grace) + head lamp (we found them necessary) . We honestly didn’t care what we looked like at night, we were just trying to stay warm so we could enjoy EVERYTHING ELSE:Pretty sure Drew has 3 hoodies on here:
Tip: Sleep after sunrise until early afternoon, then go off exploring and return to camp for dinner + change into your Arctic gear. The Playa is absolute MAGIC at sunset and sunrise… and everywhere in between.
During the day you can pretty much wear whatever you do or don’t want. Sequins + glitter + metallic tattoos + metallic anything + hat (with chinstrap – it’s windy!) + umbrella + colorful wigs + boas + cape!
You’re also going to want to carry around a day-time bag with all your essentials. Be sure it’s something you don’t mind looking like this at the end of the day: #JanSportlove
IMPORTANT GEAR: Be sure to have goggles (non-tinted so you can wear at night) + sunglasses + breathing mask (honestly, just decorate the simple paper ones – in the end they were the most comfortable and convenient – BUT be sure to fortify the straps) + WATER BOTTLE (Nalgene is always our fave) + carabiner (to easily clip your water bottle to whatever) + close-toed shoes (some form of boot with socks is ideal). Why boots? We’re at The Playa aren’t we?! Yes, but the sand on The Playa isn’t your average sand… in fact, it’s not sand at all. Read about “Playa Foot” here.
Other precautionary measures, since you most likely won’t have a shower (though you may find a talking shower…) to rinse any of that magic dust off: Baby wipes – buy a box from Costco and use them on everything. Lotion – apply after the baby wipes and before bed only, never apply it before going out on The Playa unless you are really determined to be one with the dust. Chapstick – also only apply when you’re done with The Playa for the day. Eye drops, nose spray and apple cider vinegar (take a swig each night and each morning for good measure). Those sturdy garbage bags I mentioned earlier, use one for dirty clothes and another for storing your dusty gear. Playa dust is SERIOUS stuff. Here we are in the middle of a “White Out” in “Deep Playa” below:
We read a lot of very concerning blog posts that really scared us about what happens to cameras on The Playa… and images like the one above don’t really help ease any concerns. BEST ADVICE: Make a custom DIY camera case using a giant ziplock bag + electrical/ duck tape + rubber band around the lens. Helpful article here. Or you can always go the full-proof route and just use your GoPro + waterproof casing. We are happy to report that none of our cameras suffered from any injuries 🙂 LIVING QUARTERS:
Van, Truck, RV, tent, giant pod of umbrellas?! We recommend choosing your shelter based on the amount of time you have to prep before Burning Man, how much time you have to clean up after, your budget and how much you are willing to be one with the dust.
Cooooool:NOTE: Many car/RV rental places will NOT let you rent one of their vehicles for Burning Man. Either rent from afar and make an epic road trip out of it, or be prepared to CLEAN. We spent 10 hours cleaning our #rollinghome post-playa. Think Clorox wipes, Armor all, white vinegar (to cut the alkaline dust), a vacuum (under the hood and EVERYTHING) and a bucket to soak your vinegar rag and other various dusty accessories in (goggles, phone case, whatever).
FOOD + WATER:
The simpler the food, the more likely you will eat it because when you’re out in the middle of The Playa and the dust is blowing with nowhere to hide, you’ll be grateful you have a PBJ and a (reusable) plastic bag to hide your face in.
Most meals will take place at your camp, the PBJs and granolas are just necessary fuel for when you’re out adventuring on The Playa.
Tupperware – this is what you put your food in after you take it out of the packaging, before you arrive to BRC so you don’t create MOOP
Two big coolers (we were 3 people for 6 days)
Ice blocks – not cubes, they will melt, our ice blocks were still frozen after 3 days
Portable stove top/Jet Boil – you will be happy to make a cup of tea, hot cocoa, cook a hot meal, etc.
Camping plates made out of metal or thick plastic that you can take home (have everyone write their name on one to reuse) + Sharpie, paper towels
Lots of FRUIT. Apples, bananas, pineapple and grapes were all a hit
Sandwiches – pre-make them if you are car/tent camping – PBJ’s were clutch
Food for grilling – people also brought sausages and s’mores to cook over the burning embers of The Man on Saturday night and Sunday morning!
Finger food, ie. veggies + hummus + crackers + cheese – remember think simple
Two gallons per person per day is plenty
GIFTS: This is a fun tradition you will want to be a part of.
☆Make/bring something unique to share with others☆ For our first time, we didn’t really know what this meant so we brought lollipops… Next time I would like to actually MAKE something. Think BRC bracelets, a cool pendant made out of recycled materials… or OMGosh… a Burning Man smashed penny machine!! We’re gonna have to figure that one out. Fortune cookies are another great idea! Whatever you do, just have fun with it! And always remember, tis better to give.
OTHER FUN + RANDOM SUPPLIES:
Light-up, strobing hula hoop
Notebook and pen for writing/sketching
Solar powered lantern
Prayer flags/lights to decorate your camp
Blanket to sit on for watching the sunset/sunrise/The Burn
Fanny pack (I used this at night, instead of our backpack)
Camelbak vs. water bottle
Post cards + stamps to send from The Playa! (we made ours out of MOOP)
Burning Man is all about being open to what The Playa gives you. A final “peace” of advice: EMBRACE THE DUST. Find magic in all the uncertainties, trust in every outcome and dance with everything in between. May our guide help lead you exactly where YOU are meant to be.