Prepare to burn

Burning Man survival kit

Getting ready for Burning Man is nothing like preparing for your average camping trip. The high desert can be an inhospitable place if you are unprepared. As the 2008 Burning Man Survival Guide from Black Rock LLC pronounces, “The desert is a place worlds away from that which most of us are accustomed and is governed by physical laws that cannot be ignored. You are responsible for your own survival, safety and comfort.”Veterans of the event emphasize that planning can help make the trip easier and more enjoyable. Here are some of the most important things to take with you to survive a week in the desert.

1. Water

Jessica Riedel has worked at Twin City Surplus for the past seven years during the Burning Man festival. The first things she says is, “You want plenty of clean drinking water.” There is no water available once you enter Black Rock City. It is recommended that you carry 1.5 gallons of water for each person per day. Kim Musser of Reno says, “Don’t go out on the playa without a water bottle, and if you’re drinking alcohol, have a water bottle in your other hand.” Dehydration can be deadly and, at the very least, is not fun.

2. Food

Bring enough for the entire week—there is nowhere to buy food once you are there. In fact, you can’t buy much of anything at the festival. According to the 2008 Burning Man Survival Guide, “The sale of products and services is prohibited within our community.” The only exceptions are ice and coffee, which are available for purchase. Several people recommend bringing small items with which to barter, such as stickers and other trinkets. You are also responsible for hauling out all of your trash.

3. Shelter and shade structures

The wind can get pretty bad out there in the desert, and it kicks up a lot of dust. Also, the heat can be intense during the day. You’ll want a place to go to keep from getting sandblasted and to get out of the sun. A tarp or camouflage net comes in handy. Plus, you’ll need poles to hold it up and prevent it from blowing away.

4. Tent

Be sure to secure the tent with stakes. Bring sleeping bags and plenty of warm clothing. Despite the searing daytime heat, temperatures can drop to the 40s at night.

5. Sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm

6. Goggles

Remember the previously mentioned dust storms? You will want something covering your eyes that won’t let in the dust. Bandanas help, too.

7. Flashlights

It gets very dark on the Black Rock at night. A flashlight will ensure that you will be able to find your way back to your tent after the sun goes down. It is highly recommended that you light yourself at night, as well, unless you like getting run over by the thousands of bike riders on the playa. Glow sticks are popular and inexpensive, and The Melting Pot World Emporium sells a variety of blinky lights that work well for this.

8. Watertight bags and containers

Again, these are for the dust. You will want to protect your gear—especially electronics and food. Mairin Tausch, who has been to Burning Man several years, recommends using cling wrap to cover things such as iPods and cameras.

9. Hats

Big sun hats that shade your face during the day and warm wool hats for the night. Don’t be afraid to get crazy with your accessories, either. Costumes are a big part of the festival and an easy and fun way to participate.

10. An open mind

While it might sound cheesy, the most surefire way to enjoy Burning Man and to survive the intensity of this weeklong exploration of creativity and freedom is to go without preconceptions and be ready for anything.