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.
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.
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!
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.
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.