If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’m more than a little excited about Burning Man. Like, really excited. Burning Man is an indescribable experience, and I’m lucky enough to be able to attend once again this year (!!!). I can’t wait to go home, and I’m already thinking up how to best prepare for it.
Last year, I had readers message me about what they should pack for the Burn, and it made me want to put together a reliable Burning Man packing list this year (you can find it here: Burning Man Packing List). But Burning Man happens at the end of August and it’s only March, you say? Well, you should start preparing now, especially if it’s your first time, because:
* You’ll have to invest in some equipment that is specifically Playa-only, since it will get dusty and never become completely clean again. So unless you’re fine with tainting your current equipment, this means you’ll either have to buy new stuff entirely, find it used somewhere, or borrow from someone who is totally a-okay with it being returned in a different condition than it was loaned. The Camelbak my brother gave me will never, ever be dust-free. Neither will my tent or my bike. I actually do still use them at other times throughout the year, but they are forever dusty.
* The cost of your supplies will out-cost the cost of your ticket. Yup, when people lament the cost of Burning Man tickets, they don’t realize it’s actually not the most expensive thing to consider. You have to take a week off of work, you have to get to and from Black Rock City, and you have to have everything you’ll need for the week with you. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I’m not rich, but I am making a point to go because it’s important to me. For a week of amazing art, wonderful people, fulfilling adventures, self-discovery, personal reflection, new experiences, challenges, and hitting my internal reset button, it’s worth every penny.
* Waiting until the last minute to prepare is stupid. I said it, it’s stupid. You will not only be massively stressed out, but it could very easily ruin your Burn if you’re not careful. There is no harm in starting to slowly gather equipment now and setting things in the back of your closet. Everyone and their grandmas will be buying up supplies in mid-August, so beat that rush and do a little every week instead.
Is preparing now, in March, a little excessive? Eh, maybe. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I told you, I’m excited! But it does leave you with a good 5 months to gradually gather what you need and spread out your expenses. Even starting to prep in May or early June is far better than waiting until August. Save the week before the Burn for freaking out that you’re going to the Burn — and not freaking out that you might literally not be able to survive it.
I’ve put together a pretty thorough packing list for the Burn, so here it is: Burning Man Packing List. Consult with other people you might be traveling with to avoid doubling up and also to buy in bulk for certain items. This is, by no means, the “ultimate” packing list, but it’s pretty dern close, especially if it’s your first time going to the Playa.
A lot of the items speak for themselves (toothbrush, prescription meds you take, brush or comb, etc.), but some might seem odd or downright weird. I’ve included notes in the documents and I’ve explained a few of the less-obvious things below, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Questions, comments, or additions to the list — you can write them below in the comments section or contact me via social media or email.
So what should you pack for Burning Man?
Lots of lights and EL wire — Last year I felt like there were a lot of people wandering around at night unlit. This doesn’t sound too awful I suppose, but when you add vehicles and fire and people on bikes in a city of 60k, it’s incredibly unsafe. No one likes a darkwad. Stay well-lit when you’re walking at night, and light up your bike, too.
A bike and bike lock — It’s possible to get around on foot, but to get from one end of the city to the other (and then return) by foot is ambitious and I wouldn’t attempt it. A combination lock is preferable as locks with keys can get jammed easily and/or you might lose the key. People don’t really wander around the Playa looking for bikes to steal, but people do accidentally take bikes that aren’t theirs for a quick ride to the bathroom and then forget where they got it from.
Portable shower — I do not shower on the Playa, even though my camp has a shower system set up. Why? Because you’re just going to get dirty again in less than an hour anyway. I think it’s more trouble than it’s worth and baby wipes for the week are just how I roll. But I would be remiss if I didn’t include this, as some people are a little more hygiene-focused out there than I am.
Goggles — Ideally you’ll have a pair for daytime and and a pair for nighttime. The pair I have (which I have adorned with many, many rhinestones) works for both bright and dark situations.
Copies of your license — In general, if something is super valuable (license, car keys, etc.) you shouldn’t be walking around the Playa with it. Print off multiple copies of your ID so you’re still okay if you lose one and so you’re not traipsing around the desert with your original. I saw clever people last year use packing tape to attach a copy of their license to the mug they used for non-water.
Spare flat sheet — Look, everything you bring will be dusty by the end of the week, no matter how hard you try to keep it clean. But if you’d like to prolong that clean bed feeling, cover your mattress and sheets and pillow each day with an additional flat sheet. Any dust that seeps into your tent or that you drag into your RV won’t land on the sheets you’re sleeping in.
A “Go Home” outfit — Pack this in a Ziploc bag and don’t touch it until you have left Black Rock City. It is the best way to slip into dust-free clothing when you leave.
Latex or nitrile gloves — Pack up pairs in Ziploc baggies and use them for putting in or taking out contacts. Dirty Playa hands are the worst for stuff like that!
Playa wear — When packing clothes for the Playa, plan on layers. The weather at Burning Man varies and it can be excruciatingly hot in the daytime and super cold at night. That said, bring fun things to layer. Whatever wacky stuff you want to wear, it’ll go over great out there. Flower crowns, alien outfits, steampunk gear, whatever — just be true to yourself.
How early do you start preparing for your trips? What unexpected things do you pack when traveling?
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