Burning man - packing list

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About

NOTE: This page is a daughter page of: Burning man


Burning Man is an iconic annual week long event in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Up to 100,000 people go and one of the main principles is radical self-reliance. If you want to read more about the event, start with my main Burning man page... this specific page gives you a list of items you should consider taking to (a) survive a week in this flat fine-dust desert and (b) have a great time.

Everyone there forgets *something*, but read this list and you'll be better prepared than most newbies. It's taken from my own experiences and other lists too. Hope it helps!

The lists below have quite a bit of stuff, yet also assumes you're staying with a camp with a meal plan, and thus I haven't really included food.


Useful Phone Apps

Before you leave, you will want to install these apps on your phone:

  • iBurn 201X App. This is an offline map with all camp addresses and events etc. You should update just before you leave, because some camp addresses are added only just before it starts. Sadly the search feature is a bit janky, as is the map - it's hard to navigate.
  • Time To Burn App. Similar to iBurn, with a cheesier interface, but I actually thought it was better.... it has nice features like an arrow to get to the nearest restroom.
  • Sign up to Facebook's Burner Map early on and you might be surprised which of your friends are going. You might like to print this out, but don't be surprised or disappointed that you don't have time to visit any of your friends in neighboring camps... it's just too hard to coordinate without cell phones! Hopefully you'll have too much fun to care.
  • Find the latest unofficial map, like this Unofficial Map (unofficialbrcmap.com) and note your camp location.


Storage Containers and Transport Tips

What you pack is limited to how you are traveling there. If you're in an RV... you're pretty golden - you can pack lots.... if you're on a burner bus you might only be limited to a couple of backpacks, and you really have to economize. For me, I was in a friend's van, which is somewhere in the middle.

If you have a big tent and transport space, I highly recommend you store everything in plastic storage containers. Cheapest/best option are the 27 gallon black and yellow bins for ~$10 at Cosco, but if you're strapped for time they exist (more expensive) at Home Depot and on Amazon. Almost every good burner has these same bins, they can't all be wrong.

On my second year, I thought to put everything in duffel bags, which makes sense for the bus where you want to compact things but I wish I'd done the bins. Dust will get into your tent (and even RVs honestly) so all your bags get very dusty, and although they came out *okay* in the laundry, an airtight plastic bin is far more ideal. Plan all your storage bins/bags as well as possible and label them clearly - you won't regret it - otherwise it gets very easy to lose things in a hot tent.


Burning Man - Packing List

Here's what I will bring next time. I've broken this down into each main "piece".

  • IMPORTANT: On each piece write your name and camp address in case you lose it. A business card can help too. I met a guy who lost his whole backpack... and with 70,000 people that year, there's a huge chance he never found it again. That said, there is a huge lost and found in center city where they take photos of everything and you can search on a laptop for a missing item.


Burning man mug with fake id on it (use a photo copy of your real one!)
Burning man mug with my id


Drinking Mug

Every good burner has a mug. I was gifted a titanium camping mug, which clipped nicely to my backpack... but smarter people had a lidded mug so they could take drinks to go. Smarter still, get a big mug (they'll give you more alcohol) and stick to the front a photocopy of your driver's license. About 90% of places will accept a photocopy and you'll look pretty baller.

To make your mug even more functional, make sure it has a carabiner to attach to your belt and/or backpack, and with a simple keyring you can add:

  • lip balm ...................................... (some have little hooks else get a holder).
  • camp chores ............................. (best if you print it laminated and include your camp address and playa name, I actually love how everyone saw this and asked questions)
  • baby sharpie ............................. (a mini sharpie to write on your wrist or someone else's wrist... or label something inanimate)
  • multitool keychain ..................... (to look really badass, because most multitool keychains have a screwdrivers and can opener)


Phone

If you are lucky a friend will have solar or some way to charge your phone... else bring a big charge pack. Don't waste time waiting for spotty cell connection to contact people, just put your phone onto airport mode AND battery saver mode immediately to extend the battery. Use your phone for photos only and collect the emails of people you want to Facebook / share photos with when you return. Your experience of burning man is better if you surrender the idea of electronics immediately.... some people are funny about even the use of phone for photos, but if you are respectful and ask permission most people understand that you want to take home picture memories of special moments. Just don't be one of those instagram people who focuses 90% on getting good pics and 10% on experiences. Try for 1% picture opportunities and 99% experiences and deep connection.


Pockets

I love wearing costumes, but I found it really handy to wear those mesh running pants underneath so I could have real pockets. Pockets for my:

  • phone ............................................. (photos)
  • drivers license ............................... (for free drinks)

For girls, you might think about some arm strap etc. It would be horrible to leave your phone on your bike and lose it forever. For me, I put my real drivers license inside a transparent case on my phone, because I know I don't lose my phone.


Medium Backpack

I started with a camel-pack, but it wasn't big enough so I finally shifted to my large backpack. Get one with comfortable straps, sometimes you might just leave it with your bike.

  • drinking mug ....................................... (for free drinks, don't forget photocopy of license)
  • big (2 liter) water bottle
  • another small water bottle
  • 2 x chapstick
  • sunscreen
  • hand sanitizer
  • clear googles .................................... (for dust storms)
  • light dusk mask ................................ (for dust storms)
  • 5 granola bars
  • gifts .................................................. (at least 5 per day)
  • markers ............................................ (sharpies are great for labeling things, like your stuff... or another person's arm, as your property)
  • headlamp ......................................... (for when day becomes night - your minimum safety)


Bike

Get a burner bike with the fat tires and no gears. Bikes with gears break more easy in the desert - happened to me. People who decorate their bike with LEDs, stuffed animals, inflatable things, or giant poles are smart - they find thier bikes more easily. Always try to remember where you parked it too of course, but if your bike looks like all other bikes, you are screwed. The more lights on your person the better - if you walk or ride your bike in playa at night without lights are likely to get hit by someone on a bike - they just won't see you! Here's the minimum you should get for your bike:

  • lights ................................................ (at an absolute minimum front and rear lights for only $8)
  • bike lock .......................................... (use it every time)
  • bike basket ..................................... (tie on with cable ties, store extra stuff)
  • unique decoration ........................... (leds for night and streamers etc can also help identify. I used a plush dog)
  • bike safety flag ............................... (our camp put a flag on each bike and it was a huge help to find my bike each time)
    • Tip: to help discorage bike theft (and return), tie a luggage tag to your bike with you name and address.


Bike Basket

If your backpack is heavy, you might transfer some of it to your bike basket!

  • extra 2 liter water
  • shaded goggles
  • jacket .................................. (when it gets cold)
  • more snacks


Utility Belt

If you're going to help built at all (I hope you do) a utility belt is hugely helpful. Walking around camp, this belt can be used to attach your mug (you'll get thirsty) and store your gloves plus other useful stuff, like:

  • knife .......................................... (it doesn't have to be large, but it will be a big help, else at least a small pair of scissors)
  • multitool .................................. (don't have to be expensive, but you won't always have a real screwdriver/electric drill next to you)
  • work gloves ............................ (some good work gloves are essential, I suggest two pairs, both breathable)
  • zip ties .................................... (helpful around camp and for attaching lights)
  • carabiners .............................. (spare carabiners are precious like gold)
  • duct tape ................................ (often useful too)
  • sun screen ............................ (remind yourself to apply at the start of the day and at least once more during the day)
  • little mirror ............................. (like a foldable makeup mirror)

... and wonderfully essential, precious things like an electric drill you can usually borrow, you don't have to buy your own or risk losing it. Write your name and camp address on anything expensive. Some burners get stylish tool belts, personally I wouldn't spent $200 on a fancy leather belt, when $20 will get you something great. Make sure it has at least one big carabiners, you may want to carry around your spray bottle. My second year I just got a $8 belt from roll and clipped stuff to it, but it wasn't really ideal. Some people like bum bags.


Clothes

This assumes the full 7 days. The best advice I got was to ziplock everything!

  • 8 x underpants
  • 6 x hankies
  • 7 x socks
  • 1 x $10 comfortable shoes from discount store .................... (they will get destroyed, I went to Ross)
  • 1 x $10 flip-flops
  • 3 x costume outfits
  • hat
  • bandanna
  • e-wire
  • small sewing kit .................... (safety pins are your friend)
  • gloves
  • jacket


Costumes

I had fun with a cape, but ultimately I really wore my barbarian outfit most days. For some reason the dust didn't stick to the material. I wore white pants for hippy dancing one day, but the dust destroyed them. They say "White Wednesday", but if you're doing burning man the fun way, you'll get white destroyed.


Toiletry Bag

  • toiletry bags
    • earplugs
    • more lip balm
    • body lotion ............................ (post-sun burn stuff)


Other

  • 20 gallons of water
  • baby wipes tub .................... (you'll want a few per day)
  • hand sanitizer bottle
  • white vinegar
  • first aid kit
  • spray bottle
    • Tip: You'll want to attach a carabiner and add lavender oil. I wrote some funny text on mine, so people were being sprayed with "owl water".
  • shower system ................................... (you can actually shower with a single 1 liter bottle with practice)
  • pee container ..................................... (use something opaque like a bleach bottle)
  • 1 x roll of single ply toilet paper (must be 1 ply) ...... (probably you'll always find toilet paper in the toilet structures, but just in case)
  • ziplocks
  • garbage bag ..................................... (for used clothes)
  • zip ties
  • bungee cords
  • more duct tape
  • little dustpan and broom .................... (to clean out your tent)


Cooking equipment / food

You won't need cooking equipment if your camp has a meal plan... but you should always have emergency snacks:

  • lots of trail mix
  • energy bars
  • cranberry juice ..................... (I bought a gallon bottle of apple juice and one of cranberry and it was divine to come home to it.... the apple juice would eventually have gone bad, but wish I had bought 5 of the cranberry)
  • cured meat .......................... (tends to last, get a couple of big salamis in your bag)


Tent

In 2017, was lucky to have a big tent and my camp had a shade above all the tents to keep it cooler. People without that luxury might consider something with reflexive properties. Check your tent doesn't have mesh holes like mine did.

  • rebar stakes .......................................... (small tent pegs won't cut it)
  • warm sleeping bag
  • sleeping pads ......................................... (lots of them, or just a full on inflatable bed if there is room)
  • pillows
  • folding camping chairs ......................... (often only $10 from target if you don't have any)
  • tent light ............................................... (like this solar inflatable one)
  • tarp
  • collapsible trash basket
  • queen air mattress .............. ($50 with built in pump, but you'll also want a $16 wireless air pump as a backup in case you can't bum a generator / electricity off anyone when you arrive)
    • Tip: If your tent is large enough, you'll want a big air mattress.


Getting in the mood

It's surprisingly few burners who "hook up" with anyone they didn't come with.... so don't get your hopes up - as people get dusty they often decide against sex completely, but have a few basics in case the mood does arrive. Keep them accessible near your bed in a separate plastic case.

  • wet wipes ............................. (nobody gets lucky without these, even if you brought your honey with you)
  • led tea lights ........................ (real candles = fire, but four of these led candles set the mood really well in your tent)
  • breath freshener ................. (spray or tic-tacs)
  • condoms & lube .................. (it is the desert)
  • massage oil ......................... (great to have if you have or meet a lady friend)


Car

  • spare keys ..................................... (essential - don't be the guy that loses them! hide them or give one to each of your peoples)
  • duct tape ........................................ (to cover all the cracks)
  • reflective insulation ........................ (for windows)
  • car cover
  • 55 gallon water drum .................... (more than enough for 2 people... fill it up at reno)
  • hand pump


Luxury

  • picnic blanket ............................ (a $12 foldable blanket is great to keep in your bike rack for moments like the burn itself where you want to sit or lay on the desert floor without gettting yourself dirty)
  • inflatable couch ......................... (for $13, and inflatable lounger is great... they less than 3 pounds, inflate in 60 seconds [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92JC6Ncf41A video], or use as a picnic blanket without inflating)
  • massage table .......................... (was a big asset for me, although got ruined)
  • welcome mat ............................ (not large, but just enough to wipe some dust off)
  • arm slinky ................................. (also called flow rings, which you can gift it away one the second day when you get bored of impressing BM newbies with the same trick in this video)
  • cape ......................................... (capes are so much fun, and can double for warmth)
  • fake fur coat ............................. (very popular on the playa on cold nights to impress people. I got gifted one that already has lights sewn in. wohoo)
    • Tip: before spending hundreds of dollars at the last stop before playa on fur, know that Amazon has some fur coat options closer to $20 which look pretty decent.
  • aircon ........................................ (I *might* consider an shiftpod aircon on my 3rd year, not sure.. but not if it's $2000!)
  • wearable spinner ...................... (just an idea I had which I'd like to make a small spinner wheel for my 3rd year, which funny challenges)
  • light up backpack ...................... (Misa had something awesome LED face mask she attached to her backback for light with safety pins.... closest I can find for now is LED backpacks)



Burning Man - Camp Items List

Most camps really appreciate if you can gift to the group beyond what you brought for yourself. Here's some items that they may really appreciate:


  • generator and fuel
  • solar charging option
  • fire extinguisher ........................ (actually overkill I think)
  • little rake ................................... (some camps like to rake for moop - probably you can borrow one though)
  • additional work tools ................. (got some extra tools you don't mind dusty? write your name on them and bring them along)
  • full length mirror ....................... (we bought one for $20 at Marshalls and wow, was it appreciated)
  • broom ....................................... (only if you have space)
  • dolly .......................................... (if your camp has its own trailer and thus lots of heavy stuff to move)


Luxury Tent Options

In 2019, only a week before the burn, I especially lucky that someone on Google's internal burning mailing list was selling a second hand v1.8 shiftpod tent for $700 and my friend said to pounce on it. I'm glad I did. That extra space is awesome - especially if you're lucky enough to have a lady friend over. Here is an that won't break the bank:

  • eskimo fatfish ......... (the Eskimo FatFish tents are massive and only $250-500 new, versus $1800 for a shiftpod... the downside is that it isn't as heat reflective and doesn't have a floor like the shiftpod, but hey - you get luxury size)


My 2nd hand shiftpod


See Also


Links