Must Know Burning Man Tips for Newbies

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So it is your first time out on the playa. You get there, starry eyed, looking forward to your upcoming life-changing week, and find out that, as a newbie, you have forgotten a gazillion things that would have made your life easy-peasy. We have had a few readers contacting us about advice that we could give in regards to Black Rock City, so we decided to write a post about it. If you’re heading out to the playa next week, make sure to follow these newbie tips for a great Burning Man experience.

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1. Bring rebar for your tent. I’m not kidding. Our first year we thought that our normal tent stakes would be enough. One thing you don’t take into consideration is that there is 70 mph winds whipping across the desert and you run a risk of losing your shelter while out during a dust storm. Take it serious. Bring your heavy tools.

2. Camelbaks are your friend. Yes, even the best dressed Burner will have their water strapped to their back. You came (possibly) thousands of miles to the middle of the desert and it would be a damn shame to end in the hospital, cutting your week incredibly short. Drink a couple of gallons a day. Keep it with you at all times. If you’re not peeing clear, drink more water (and put down your Bloody Mary).

3. Have a spray bottle of water and lemon – your skin will love you. The sand at the Black Rock Desert is an alkaline, the lemon in the water acts as an acid. Not only will you be carrying portable air conditioning of sorts but you have a way to keep your skin from completely drying out (and you will smell nicer!). “Gift” this experience to passerbys and they will love you forever (carrying bacon as well helps).

4. Don’t plan for extravagant meals (unless you’re in a camp where you are obligated to). You will be spending most of your time exploring what Black Rock City has to offer and it would be a waste of time to have to come back to camp to cook 3 meals a day. We found that trail mix and beef jerky are more than enough to keep you going in between free pancake meals in the morning.

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5. Prepare for the dust. In addition to being an alkaline, the dust on the playa has a similar consistency to talcum powder. Meaning, it gets in EVERYTHING that isn’t air tight. This is why it is not recommended to bring a good bike as all the bearings will likely need to be replaced after that week (that was definitely the case with our bikes). Also, if you have your car on the playa, it’s a good idea to cover your tires as well. The wheel bearing went out in our Subie not too long after getting home from our first Burn.

6. Bring a couple plastic bags to act as shoe covers. Should it rain at any point throughout the week, this is a great way to enjoy venturing out during the downpour. The ‘mud’ doesn’t stick to the plastic so you’ll do less damage to the playa and keep your shoes clean at the same time!

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7. Bring a light. It’s dark at night and you don’t want to risk being run over by a bicyclist or art car as you blend in with the shadows. Many people prefer the necklace style lights that flash different colors and have a normal flashlight on the end, they work great. It should also be noted that ‘whiteouts’ (dust storms) can happen at any point, even at night (don’t believe the rumors), so it helps to have illumination as you wander in the darkness. Another great lighting tool is EL wire. Use it to decorate your bike, costume, or body in artist or fun ways.

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8. Don’t come with preconceived notions of what your Burning Man experience will be. One of the best things about the playa is that your week will unfold for you. Participate in something (or everything) that you wouldn’t do in your “normal” existence. Take part in workshops. Dance until the sun comes up. Give hugs freely. Don’t be a voyeur. Make sure to participate!

While I could write a novel about what you should know about Burning Man before you head out, these will definitely get you started out on the right path. Enjoy this year and WELCOME HOME.

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Are you looking for Burning Man Supplies? Make sure to check out the Burner Supplies section of our store for ideas (or, you know, you can buy something!).

22 Responses to “Must Know Burning Man Tips for Newbies”

  1. Beth - Besudesu Abroad August 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    These are some great tips guys! I have a few friends who are going for the first time this year, so I’ll pass this along to them.

    Once I’m back and settled in the US, I really hope to go as well!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      How did they do?! What did they think? Things looked so different this year.

      • Beth @ Besudesu Abroad September 13, 2013 at 11:27 am #

        They had a great time! They’re already planning to return next year, and if I’m around, I hope to join them.

  2. Kenin Bassart August 28, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Lauren and I absolutely must do this sometime soon! The events look aaaamaaazing!!!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      This year looked like the tipping point to where it is becoming so mainstream! Hurry while you can!

  3. Diana Edelman August 29, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    I want to go sooo badly one year!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      xoxo – it requires a bit but you know who to hit up for advice!

  4. Abby August 29, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    I have never read tips like these, and I had a temporary obsession with researching it to go… Now I think I’m too old lol

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      Abby, the range of ages there are 1-90. You are not too old. It is LITERALLY for everyone.

  5. Mary @ Green Global Travel August 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Great tips! I hope that you are having a wonderful week on the playa! Your suggestions are so simple and so very, very useful for first time burners and a fabulous reminders for those who return year after year! Some day…..!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      <3

      We unfortunately didn't get the opportunity this year (no money) but are looking to heading back "home" in 2014.

  6. Jess August 31, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    This sounds like a crazy experience – I wouldn’t think to prepare for whiteout dust storms! One day, I’ll make it there.

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      Yeah, we got stuck in a really bad storm without goggles once… we learned quickly.

  7. Alex September 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Having just returned from Burning Man I couldn’t agree more! I especially concur about the extravagant meals. My group bought WAY too much food, especially produce (what were we thinking?!) and so much went to waste.

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      OMG. How long did the produce last?!

      • Alex September 12, 2013 at 9:58 am #

        Some of it was okay… the apples and avocados actually lasted the whole time and I was so grateful for them when I couldn’t eat another protein bar! The clementines lasted basically until Saturday and were really refreshing. Bananas and everything leafy went really quick. I would still bring SOME of those things, since eating a fresh salad the first night was really so amazing, but I would bring a LOT less of them!

        I went with a bunch of foodies and they got a little swept away at the grocery store while I was running behind throwing Goldfish and snack bars in the cart. Ha. Live and learn!

        • Erica September 12, 2013 at 10:08 am #

          Thank God they had you behind them buying longer lasting goods! I do admit – having a salad on the playa IS amazing. One of my favorite things were keeping apples in the cooler. SO GOOD.

  8. Dan - A Cruising Couple September 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! Sounds like tons of fun and tons of sand :-p

    • Erica September 25, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Yeah… definitely one way to look at it. No water for MILES! 😛

  9. Dan November 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Why does no one ever mention to bring a cup? It is the single most important thing you can bring with you.

    • Erica November 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

      YES. HOLY SHIT YES. Thanks Dan! Drinky drinky for those picklebacks!

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