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Burning Man Packing List

Packed for Burning Man

All packed and ready to go to Burning Man.

All packed and ready to go to Burning Man.

Have More Fun at Burning Man

Burning Man is a great event. It is held once a year in Nevada, in the Black Rock Desert. It is a festival devoted to art, outrageousness, fire, and being who you are. It is also in a very difficult environment. This means what you normally pack for camping just won't cut it.

Not everyone should go to Burning Man. Many people think it is all about partying, but most party people can't handle the requirements to attend. They should just go to a club or other type of festival instead. It'll be cheaper and easier and they'll have just as much fun.

While attending Burning Man you have to bring every single thing you will need to live in a harsh environment. There is no neighborhood store to visit when you run out of toilet paper or water. You need to use your brain and plan ahead.

If you want to attend though, I'm here to help, and to share what you need to bring to 'That Thing in the Desert'.

Carrying What They Need

All packed and ready to go to Burning Man.

All packed and ready to go to Burning Man.

These Burners are lined up, ready to enter the playa and they are bringing everything they need. You will need to do so as well.

These Burners are lined up, ready to enter the playa and they are bringing everything they need. You will need to do so as well.

Use This List As Guidance

Pick and choose what matters most to you from my list. Bring less and plan on suffering a little. Bring everything and live in sorta comfort. What you need will be unique to you, so just take what's on my list as suggestions.

Bring Everything You Need With You

If you will need something at Burning Man, bring it. You can't just run to the store if you forget something. Once you park, you are not allowed to move your vehicle and there is no place to buy anything anyways.

The only things for sale at Black Rock City are ice and cups of coffee. If you forget sunblock, you are out of luck unless someone takes pity on you, and since one of the emphasized elements of Burning Man is self-reliance, I wouldn't count on that if I were you. If you need something, you better bring it.

Using This List

Several things are listed multiple places. These are very important items and ones I want to make sure you don't forget.

Have multiple chapsticks, sunblocks, water, and other items because you will use more than you think and they should be waiting at camp as well as in your backpack with you. Sunburn can ruin your fun and chapped lips can quickly begin to crack and bleed. Be smart and have multiples of easily lost and important items, and have them in multiple places so they're always handy.

A Handy Water Jug

Black Rock Desert

Burning Man is held in the Black Rock Desert, on Black Rock Playa. This is located a few hours northeast of Reno, Nevada, the closest big city.

The Playa is a smooth, dry lakebed where dust storms are common, you will get stuck in the mud if it rains, and hot and cold can easily sweep down from the mountains on either side. You need to prepare for the weather.

Deserts = Weather Extremes

Many people think deserts mean hot and dry and while Black Rock Desert is that, a more accurate description is deserts are places with extreme weather. The lack of vegetation means that they is nothing to soften whatever weather is sweeping through. So when it's hot, it's very, very hot. When it's cold, it's very cold. Nothing blunting the wind sweeping through means it picks up massive amounts of dust and pummels you with the sharp pieces. When rain does fall it falls heavy and fast, creating massive muddy puddles that will try to suck you in.

The weather at Burning Man can vary a lot. It can be over 100* Fahrenheit in the day, and go down to the 40s in the night. Rain is rare, but it's happened on several different years. Dust storms happen almost every year.

What does this mean to you? You have to prepare for the heat and the cold, the possibility of rain, and the almost certain dust storms!

A Good Burner

A smart Burner should never be without a good sunhat, sunglasses, and his hydration backpack. In that pack he also has goggles and a dust mask in case that dust devil turns into a dust storm.

A smart Burner should never be without a good sunhat, sunglasses, and his hydration backpack. In that pack he also has goggles and a dust mask in case that dust devil turns into a dust storm.

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Black Rock City and Other Nearby Cities

Get a Good Sunhat

It Gets Hot on the Playa

The best way to avoid getting heat stroke is to avoid the sun. Hang out at camp during the hottest parts of the day. Don't walk around a lot at the hottest parts of the day.

Drink lots of water, especially water flavored with some lemon juice or coconut water.

I'm fair skinned, so I wear sunblock, a sunhat (something with a strap so it doesn't blow away), and often carry a parasol when walking in the sun. And during the hot parts of the day, I take a nap, especially since Burning Man is so much better at night and I usually don't get a lot of sleep then.

  • Lots of Water
  • Good Sunblock!
  • Cool Clothing (or go without)
  • Sun Hat
  • Sun Parasol/Umbrella (helps more than you think)
  • Sunglasses
  • Carport (to set up over your car or tent)
  • Shade Cloth
  • Portable Swamp Cooler
  • Personal Mister or Fan

Get a Portable Swamp Cooler

When It's Hot, Kick Back

When it's hot out kick back and relax. Don't fight the heat, it can take you.

When it's hot out kick back and relax. Don't fight the heat, it can take you.

Stay at camp, take a nap, play some cards, make some art. Take a break from roaming when it gets hot.

Stay at camp, take a nap, play some cards, make some art. Take a break from roaming when it gets hot.

Fake Fur Hat

It Gets Cold in the Desert

Most people think of the desert as hot, and it definitely can be, but many people don't realize deserts often get very cold at night. You need to be prepared for very cold nights.

Have a few warm costumes to wear when it gets chilly, and make your tent into a cozy nest with a warm sleeping bag and lots of pillows and blankets. You'll probably also want a blanket to sit around camp in too.

  • Warm Sleeping Bag and Blankets
  • Warm Clothing
  • Faux Fur Coat
  • Warm Hat
  • Socks
  • Camping Hand Warmers

Make Your Own Fur Costume

Faux Fur is Warm and Fun

Faux fur Burning Man costumes.

Faux fur Burning Man costumes.

Prepare for Rain on the Playa

2014 Burning Man had rain so bad on opening day that no one was allowed to go on the playa. And 2015 Fourth of Juplaya had a rainstorm so heavy that cars were stuck in the playa weeks later. A section of plywood under each tire can help prevent this problem.

Rain on the Black Rock Playa causes the dry lakebed to swell rapidly and it will suck things down. Driving or walking on the wet playa with cause massive amounts of mud to stick on and not come off.

When it rains, go out and play in it, but be cautious of the slippery mud and do not attempt to drive anywhere!

Prepare for the Rain:

  • Pieces of Plywood
  • Rain Jacket

Sun and Rain Parasol

Burning Man Rainstorms

The rain fell heavy and early in 2014.

The rain fell heavy and early in 2014.

Some people are prepared for the rain. This lovely lady in 2014 certainly did.

Some people are prepared for the rain. This lovely lady in 2014 certainly did.

Don't drive on the wet playa!

Don't drive on the wet playa!

Dust Mask

Burning Man Wind and Dust Storms are Notorious

Wind is fairly common on the playa. It is a broad, flat area with little to divert the wind. This means there can be really strong winds hitting your camp at any time. Do not leave things laying around that will blow away. Tie down your camp really well.

When a dust storm comes up, find a place to hunker down and wait it out. Dust storms can leave you battered with eyes and mouth full of grit and abraded skin. Do not travel in dust storms.

Always carry with you a dust mask and your goggles. You don't know when a dust storm is going to hit and most likely it will be away from camp. Goggles should be without vents and fairly decent ones. If the ones you get have vents, just tape them off.

  • Goggles
  • Dust Mask
  • Bandana (bring this too)
  • Strong Tent Stakes (preferably 2' pieces of rebar bent into candy cane shape)
  • Clamps and Ropes (so nothing blows away at camp)

Get a Couple Pairs of Goggles

Just a Little Dust

Between dust storms.

Between dust storms.

A snapshot in the dust. These are fun, but be careful of dust clogging your camera.

A snapshot in the dust. These are fun, but be careful of dust clogging your camera.

Hunker down and ride out dust storms. Don't travel in them.

Hunker down and ride out dust storms. Don't travel in them.

The wind in the Black Rock Desert can rip apart anything. Looks like this camp was hit before they could completely secure themselves. Get set up quickly to avoid damage.

The wind in the Black Rock Desert can rip apart anything. Looks like this camp was hit before they could completely secure themselves. Get set up quickly to avoid damage.

Cooling Wipes Make You Feel Good

Hydration Backpack

Burning Man Backpack Necessities

Most of what you bring to Burning Man will be the stuff you use around camp or the stuff to set up camp. But many people, even those who are good at camping, forget that there is a lot of area to cover at Burning Man. This means nearly every person has a backpack they carry around with them.

The backpack should have all your supplies you'll need for hiking several miles in the sun and through the night.

Black Rock City is big!

You'll spend a lot of time away from camp roaming about. You may even decide to spend the night at someone else's camp or get lost. Plan on it. Bring plenty of water, your goggles, snacks, the stuff you'll need.

A hydration backpack with a decent sized water reservoir is the best. Personally, I think a hydration pack is pretty much a requirement. You will need to drink a lot of water out there and they make it easy to do so. Always fill your water reservoir whenever leaving camp too. Even a short walk can end up turning into a long wandering ramble.

Also, don't forget to bring your cup with you. Burning Man camps do not advocate disposable society, so if they are passing out drinks, you'll likely need a cup to put it in. So, always keep your cup with you. Try to find a plastic cup with a handle and attach it with a carabiner to your backpack. There is debate about lids or not. I prefer without since it makes it easier to clean after it booze residue has been sitting inside for 4 hours, but others like a lid so they can easily take it with them without spilling. I guess it depends on how fast you drink and how much.

  • Backpack (Be picky! Hydration packs are best.)
  • Cup (that will attach to your backpack and won't break easily)
  • Chapstick
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Granola Bars
  • Notepad or Scrap Paper
  • Pens (permanent markers are good)
  • ID (in case of accidents)
  • Camera (disposable waterproof are great. Label with your information)
  • Glowsticks (light yourself up at night and don't get run over)
  • Battery-powered Lights (don't be a darkwad) and Batteries
  • Small Trash Bag (there shouldn't be any trash, but pick up any trash you see)
  • Toilet Paper (the porta-potties are relatively good, but bring some tp in case)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Baby Wipes
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Goggles
  • Dust Mask / Bandana
  • Condoms
  • Lube

Remember how when you were little mom used to write your name and phone number inside your backpack in case you got lost? Yeah, it's a good idea to do that once again. Inside your backpack have a tag written out with your name, camp information and location, and home information as well. If you get hurt or the bag gets lost this information can come in handy.

Retractable Chapstick Holder

Prepared Burners

Notice these Burners with hats, hydration backpacks, shading hat, goggles, warm clothes, chapstick, glow sticks, and other necessary supplies.

Notice these Burners with hats, hydration backpacks, shading hat, goggles, warm clothes, chapstick, glow sticks, and other necessary supplies.

This Burner has her goggles, dust mask, flashlight, backpack, and cup. She's ready.

This Burner has her goggles, dust mask, flashlight, backpack, and cup. She's ready.

Some people forgo the backpack for a belt. It works for some people who like to run light.

Some people forgo the backpack for a belt. It works for some people who like to run light.

Get a Glowman Costume

Don't Be a Darkwad!

The playa is dark. It is very, very dark at night. No streetlights (except the few some volunteers set up and manage) mean that in the areas without camps it is very difficult to see anything. Add in super-bright lights on some of the camps and artcars, and you have a combination of very dark patches with glaring light that makes it difficult for people to see.

So, do not walk around at night, especially in the central part of Black Rock City, without lights. Make sure you have lights on your front and your back so artcars driving on the playa or people riding their bikes can see you before they run you over.

If you don't light yourself up enough we're going to call you a darkwad and assume you want to get run over. Don't be an idiot darkwad, bring lights and enough batteries to work them.

Use whatever light-up stuff you want. Glow sticks aren't especially bright, but they work okay. Bring lots. There are all sorts of glow items out there. I really like el wire. It's a thin length of wire that when plugged into batteries will glow brightly. It's easy to wrap it around whatever you want to light up. Make sure you get el wire with an attached battery pack though for instant plug and play.

  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Glowsticks
  • Light-up Stuff
  • El Wire

Get an El Wire Lined Top

El Wire for the Win

A cephalopod coat featuring cute octopi el wire creatures.

A cephalopod coat featuring cute octopi el wire creatures.

El wire wrapped bike to make it more fun and easier to see at night.

El wire wrapped bike to make it more fun and easier to see at night.

Fun El wire costumes. El wire cannot make an sharp turns, but you can still make all kinds of shapes and when you add it to sweatsuits you can make fun people.

Fun El wire costumes. El wire cannot make an sharp turns, but you can still make all kinds of shapes and when you add it to sweatsuits you can make fun people.

El wire can make any outfit awesome.

El wire can make any outfit awesome.

El Wire is Fabulous!

A Nice Cruiser

Burner Bikes

A bicycle is a fairly essential piece of Burning Man equipment. Black Rock City is big, and a bike helps you get around it. Once you get there and get to your camp, there is no driving allowed except by art cars approved by Department of Mutant Vehicles. This means to cross the city you either need to walk or ride your bike.

Most people decorate their bikes because Burning Man is an event all about participating. The playa is harsh on bikes though, so plan accordingly. Bring hex keys, wrenches, lube, whatever you need to keep your bike in good shape.

  • Bicycle
  • Extra Tubes (you will likely need at least one)
  • Repair Kit (the playa can screw bikes up quickly)
  • Decorations
  • Lights - pedal lights, headlight, taillights, decor lights
  • Bike Lock (sadly, there have been bike thefts)
  • Bike Rack (to get the bike there and back)
  • Mirrors
  • Canopy
  • Basket

Light Up Your Bike

Burning Man Bikes

Biking around Black Rock City. Notice someone using a handcart as a trailer to go get ice from Artica.

Biking around Black Rock City. Notice someone using a handcart as a trailer to go get ice from Artica.

This bike has some fun faux fur and a cute tail.

This bike has some fun faux fur and a cute tail.

Fun costume and bike.

Fun costume and bike.

Make your bike a fun ride. Some people spend a lot of time and effort on their bikes before the Burn.

Make your bike a fun ride. Some people spend a lot of time and effort on their bikes before the Burn.

Of course any bike will do when you want to joust.

Of course any bike will do when you want to joust.

Not That Everyone Uses Bicycles

Pony play couple playing around on the playa.

Pony play couple playing around on the playa.

Light Up Unicorn Hood

Get a Light Up Fur Coat

Costumes and Clothing

You do not have to wear costumes at Burning Man. It's all about being who you are, and costumes are often a fun way to express that, but they are not a requirement. That being said, costumes are a great way to contribute.

Burning Man is not a spectator event, that means no standing around gawking as it parades by to entertain you. Burning Man is all about participating. You have to participate. If you like dressing up, costumes are an easy way to participate and contribute to overall fun for everyone.

Don't worry about gender either, wear what you want! A friend of mine, he likes to wear mumus out there. Another guy I know wore pasties. Lots of guys rock kilts. I know I adore men in sarongs. Don't let society's notions influence what you want to wear. This goes for ladies too.

  • Clothes for Warm Weather
  • Clothes for Cold Weather (things you can layer are best)
  • Costumes
  • Socks
  • Good Shoes (some people recommend ankle-high boots)
  • Another Pair of Good Shoes (you'll do a lot of walking)
  • Storage Bins (good ones to keep the dust out)
  • A Clean Outfit Sealed Up (wearing clean clothes