You may or may not have friends you are going with, but you’ve requested that vacation time & you are determined to make it to Black Rock City & see what everybody keeps talking about.
Make sure you’re well acquainted with the guides that BM provides. Make sure you have a car pass for the vehicle you are traveling in (they want to encourage carpooling, you will not get in without your car having a car pass). The next thing you do is you end up asking one of your friends who has been going if they have a recommended supply list.
There are so many out there on the web & all of them are pretty awesome. Mine is a decent, every-growing production that has served numerous friends of mine in the past, particularly as I add colorful contextual commentary. However, there are definitely more comprehensive lists out there, I promise you that if you follow my list you won’t forget anything essential. You just might miss some of the treasures Mama’s dug up.
For the following list, I have included Amazon.com links that go through my affiliate program, so if you feel like buying “through” me, I appreciate the support. Thanks!
Try To Remember
- The environment is kinda trying to kill you. You were not made for this. Take care of yourself.
- After Reno there is another town or two (Gerlach, Empire), but at this point 65,000 people are driving through around the same time & you want to make sure you have all your supplies before you leave Reno. You will not be able to buy stuff once you’ve passed the last town. Make sure you have all your supplies.
- You may be waiting in line for a while, as the traffic to get in is pretty crazy. You can find recommendations online about peak hours & stuff. I’ve gotten through the gates in less than an hour, I’ve also sat there for THIRTY hours (that’s pretty abnormal). Make sure some of your things are accessible from your seat in the car just in case.
- Don’t ask strangers for drugs.
- There are police on the Playa & sometimes they are undercover.
- Do not give alcohol to minors.
- Do not implicate your camp mates in crimes.
- Do not give cops a reason to search your camp or your friends.
- Your ticket. You will need this before you get to the gate. In fact, you should make sure you have it before you get in your car. Every Burner has had one nightmare involving forgetting their ticket. Check for your ticket before you get in your car & then put it in your glove box & do not remove it until requested to at the gate. Trust me.
- A photocopy of your photo ID. You’ll also need your actual photo ID for, you know, legal stuff, but here’s the deal — most camps will card you before giving you booze. You don’t want to lose your actual ID out there in the desert. So bring a few photocopies of your ID & keep one on you at all times. Camps will accept that as ID.
- AAA card & insurance stuff & jumper cables & all that car-related goodness. If you’re driving in, I recommend this for the obvious reasons. Also, get your car an oil change. You don’t want to have a car die out there in the desert.
- Cash. They don’t take credit on the playa! You can’t really buy much there – just coffee at Center Camp & ice as well. You’ll want to buy ice, for sure. There are other things you might want cash for, but we didn’t say anything about that, Officer.
- Notebook, pen & sharpie. For various notes, contact info, camp addresses, etc. Permanent markers are wicked useful for marking stuff or anything else.
Various Necessary Supplies
- Plastic storage bins. These are an awesome way to get your gear out there. Keeps dust out. Keeps stuff more organized. Easy to wash post-Playa. Can double as a table. I typically bring 2-3 out.
- Ziplock bags. I get a bunch of gallon-size & quart. I use them for everything. I store my clothing in them, by day & mark them with marker. This means nothing gets dusty until I am ready to wear it. This is also good for food that normally comes in non-resealable bags. Note: you will want to “unpack” any items before going to the Burn to ensure they don’t have a lot of extra plastic or wrapping on them. This is MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) & it is also stuff you don’t want to have to carry out.
- Garbage bags. You will want heavy duty garbage bags. You do NOT want this breaking/leaking on the Playa or in your car on the way home. You will have to carry it all out.
- Toilet paper. Single ply for the porta-potties. I recommend always carrying a roll with you, because sometimes the porta-potties don’t have it. Trust me.
- Paper towels. For every use you can think of in your camp.
- Extra set of keys. This is recommended because locking yourself out of your car (or losing your keys on the Playa) royally sucks.
- A reusable water bottle. Maybe even more than one, but at least one. You’ll want to refill frequently.
- A plastic or metal cup. This is separate from your water bottle. You want a drink from a bar? They will usually only serve you if you have your own cup. No litter, no extra trash. I recommend one with a handle to make it easy to attach to your stuff. NO GLASS.
- Carabiners. These are so handy in lots of ways, but especially to keep track of your water bottle or cups.
- Car chargers. You can also bring a generator out there if that’s your thing, but I tend to just charge stuff on my phone & then avoid using too much electricity besides night-lighting if at all possible.
- Headlamp. Trust me this is one of the most useful things to have, particularly in porta-potties after dark. Have a headlamp & make sure it has new batteries. I recommend one like this.
- Flashlights. For the obvious reasons. Here’s a link.
- Lantern. For in camp or in your tent, these are so helpful.
- LED light strings. I bought several of these last year & they were awesome. I ended up stringing one set inside my tent as lighting. Put another set around my bicycle. Then I actually wore one set wrapped around one of my legs two nights. They were awesome. Here’s blue, here’s green, here’s red & here’s white.
- Glowy gear! How crazy you get with this stuff is up to you, but I always buy about 100 glow rings every year & I use them for a lot of different purposes. They’re fun to wear & you can put them on your backpack, bike, or tent spikes to light them in the dark. They’re also really good to carry around, in case you run into someone who isn’t wearing *anything* glowing in the dark. In 2014, I encountered someone sleeping out on the Playa near an art sculpture & they were very groggy/not really waking well. I ended up putting a couple of glow rings on their hand, hat, backpack & shoe, figuring that would at least ensure they didn’t get run over in the night.There are also gloves & other things. Beware: those rings come individually wrapped in plastic. Open them before getting to the Playa to reduce the trash.
Water & Food
- 1.5 gallons of water per day. You will want to drink lots of water. You are at high elevation & you are in extremely dry heat. You may also want to shower (if you bring a shower bag & have a plan for greywater). You will want to wash your dishes & hands & whatever else you may possibly need water for, so seriously, bring it all. Buy it in Reno because water is heavy (so don’t bring it from home) & you may not have another chance after that. Get one of those 2.5 jugs with the spouts. Trust me, they make life easier.
- Cooler. Invest in a larger & higher quality one, something like this or this. You’ll want cold food/beverages in the desert.
- Caffeine. I don’t really drink soda much, but I’ve learned that bringing a couple Coca Colas or Red Bulls & keeping them in my cooler ends up being a nice pick-me-up on a hot day when I can’t seem to rally for the night. You can always do coffee, tea, or whatever your preference.
- Hydration. Besides water, things like Gatorade, coconut water, or those powders you mix into water are kind of wonderful when you’re needing for electrolytes & want something that isn’t water.
- Perishable Food. So, you’ve got a cooler. What to put in it? A jar of dill pickles are awesome on the Playa. Hard-boiled eggs make an awesome source of protein that don’t require any prep – just cook ’em up before you head out to Black Rock City & stick ’em in your cooler (I recommend putting in a ziplock bag, not keeping in carton). I tend to cook up corn on the cob & keep that in my cooler as a cold snack on a hot day. Carrot sticks. Pudding cups. Applesauce cups. Bags of salad. I know a lot of people who bring Trader Joe’s meals to cook up on their skillets. Hot dogs, or whatever you like. I like cheese & crackers out there too.
- Dry food. Salty chips, trail mix, peanut butter, granola bars, bread, nuts. I also like bringing Oreos, because I crave chocolate out there & Oreos won’t melt like other chocolate might.
- Fruit. Clementines are a treat out there. Make sure you keep any fruit in the shade & keep a close eye on it – you don’t want spoiled fruit!
- Condiments. Ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, mayo, whatever. I like mayo & mustard for hard boiled eggs. Salt & pepper is good too. I know a lot of Burners bring individual packets of these things – it’s clever & reduces the chances of stuff going bad. Just remember, you have to carry out any trash you bring in!
- Candy. I always bring candy as one of my gifts out on the Playa. Starburst or similar. Between raver kids wanting sweet chewable wonderfulness & the joy of a slight sugar spike, I just like bringing candy.
- Gum. For similar reasons as candy. Plus, it’s a really polite way of telling that hippie their breath smells.
- Tent. You’ll want a decent-sized one for you & your things, something like this. You’ll want to look for one that has closable windows so your stuff doesn’t get all Playa-fied during a dust storm.
- Mattress. You can go with a pad like this or an air mattress of your preferred size. You will want to make sure you’re not sleeping directly on the ground. The Playa is HARD & it gets very cold at night.
- Pillow & Sleeping Bag / Sheets. It gets very cold at night, so a quality sleeping bag is a must. I actually bring a full set of sheets & a couple blankets.
- Tent Stakes. It’s windy out there on the Playa, you’ll want to be sure to stake your tent down.
- Tarps. Bring a couple of these, for creating shade. If a handful of your campmates bring a few too, you can make a badass shade structure between your tents, keeping you cool & dry & increasing your quality of Playa life.
- Rope. For tying stuff down, for tarps, for bondage, you know, whatever floats your boat. This one glows in the dark, which makes it awesome if it ends up anywhere someone might trip on it.
- Duct tape. Same deal as the rope really, but it’s a quick fix it & you’ll be sorry if you didn’t bring any & needed it.
- Seating. Like this camp chair. You’ll want to sit down occasionally in your camp & though you’ll sit on the Playa plenty over your Burning Man adventure, sometimes you like to pretend you’re a civilized human being.
- Camping plate & utensils. Don’t bring breakable stuff out there. Bring a bowl too! Forks, knives, spoons!
- Towels. Bring at least two. For after showers or clean up of any kind.
- Sunblock. It is the desert. Protect yourself. I’m a pasty white girl & I literally bring a can of the spray on stuff per two days on the Playa. As in: if I’m there for 8 days, I bring 4 cans. Protip: if someone else stops by your camp, it is polite to offer them some sunblock when they’re about to wander off into the sun. So extra is always a good idea.
- Prescriptions. Anything you’ll need, bring it out there with you & make sure you have enough for every day you need to take it.
- Glasses / Contacts. For those of us who wear glasses & contacts, Burning Man presents another set of challenges. In the years that I’ve done the Burn, I’ve only managed to put my contacts in a few times, the rest of the time I relied entirely on my prescription glasses. Given the sunny days, that meant bringing my prescription sunglasses too. If you’re going to brave contact lenses, you’ll want to bring extra pairs & lots of saline solution.
- Tooth brush & tooth paste. I know this is a given, but if you forget, there is nowhere to buy one. You’re already gonna be grimier than usual, at least brush daily.
- Hair brush, hair product, whatever the hell else you want. Unless your camp is totally tricked out, you will not have access to things like hairdryers. You might not even have sun showers. So you may wish to embrace the Playa by braiding your hair or using dry shampoo or generally not fussing too much about your hair. But hey, do you.
- Feminine hygiene products. Having your period on the Playa totally sucks. If at all possible, avoid it by taking extra pills ahead of time or whatever you need to do. But if you bleed on the Playa, you will need tampons & wet wipes & all that. Worse, however, is that you cannot throw that stuff in a porto-potty, so you have to carry it out. My recommendation? Make sure you’re carrying a ziplock bag with you. Like a “trash” ziplock bag. Line it with toilet paper or better yet, use some of that trusty duct-tape to go around the outside, so you don’t mix it up with any other ziplock bags you may have & so people don’t see a flash of blood-red if you pull out the bag for any reason.
- Wet wipes. For all their various purposes, wet wipes are another essential addition & also cannot be thrown away in the porta-potties, so same rules apply as to the feminine hygiene products.
- Saline solution – nasal spray. I find this stuff is a lifesaver on my nose. You will get dust in your nose. You will want to wash out your nasal passages.
- Moisturizing lotion. Your skin will thank you if you moisturize daily. The Playa is very dry.
- Lip balm. Again with the dry. Can I emphasize dry enough? My go-to, instead of regular lip-balm, is actually a tube of Aquaphor. It is great on lips, dry feet & hands, & a chapped nose (which totally happens).
- Ear plugs & a sleeping mask. The Playa never sleeps, but you might want to.
- Hand sanitizer. Seriously, carry this with you all the time. You will be so glad you did.
- Condoms. Seriously, I bring these though I have yet to have sex out on the Playa, better to be prepared, or be able to gift ’em to a friend who needs ’em & didn’t bring ’em.
- Dayquil/Nyquil, Benadryl, Ibuprofen, Advil. This can make your Burn a lot better. Or help someone else’s.
- Vitamins. Don’t forget your vitamins. You will be stressing your body out with heat & elevation, lack of sleep & probably too little food. Take care of yourself! Take your vitamins!
Costumes & Clothing
- Warm clothes. It gets cold at night. You’ll want warm things to sleep in that don’t leave your tent (reduces the amount of Playa dust) & you’ll want some long pants & long sleeves.
- Jacket & Gloves. Again, it gets cold at night. You will want to keep warm.
- Socks & shoes. Clean socks are amazing out there. You’ll want a few different shoe options. During the days it gets really hot. I always bring a pair of flip flops for wandering around my own camp. I also bring a pair of sneakers. Lastly, a pair of quality boots for wandering the Playa at night.
- Summer clothes. I honestly spend a large portion of my Burning Man days in bikinis. Shorts & tank tops are recommended for the daytime. Remember to sunblock any uncovered skin!
- Rain gear. It can rain on the Playa. An umbrella & some boots that can handle rain, maybe a rain poncho, can make all the difference out there.
- A parasol! I only ever bring umbrellas, but every once in a while I see someone with a parasol & I love it. So here it is in my list.
- Hat. A wide brimmed hat with a chin strap is really handy out there.
- Themes. If you’re part of a camp, see if there are any theme nights, or check with other camps. Tuesday seems to be Tu-Tu Tuesday, so you will encounter lots of Tu-Tus.
- Animal hoods. This is totally a thing out there & I’m not embarrassed to admit I own five or six of these.
- The Untouchable Clothes. I think I already mentioned you should try to pack your clothes individually in Ziplock bags to reduce dust access until you’re ready to wear them. But THE NEXT THING that is amazing is the bag of untouched clothes. This is clean underwear, a clean pair of shorts, a clean tank top or t-shirt. Clean socks. You do not open this on the Playa. You have a long drive ahead of you — you open this at your first rest stop off the Playa (Gerlach, Reno), when you have a chance to clean yourself up a little bit. This bag of clean clothes will make your trip back home so much nicer. You will feel just slightly more human. Trust me.
- Sunglasses. I always bring cheap sunglasses because they may get destroyed on the Playa from dust, wind, the elements in general. Or lost. That happens too.
- Goggles. You want goggles that can protect your eyes during a dust storm – this means they go all the way around your eyes & close against your skin. If you wear glasses, you want goggles that can fit over them. If you don’t, you can get much more creative. But you will need goggles. Take your pick of the different styles, but don’t forget them!
- Face mask. That Playa dust will blow & you do not want to inhale it. There are many different kinds of face masks you can get, from straight-up respirator masks to shemaghs or scarves, but my preferred style is regular old bandanas.
- Backpack. You can use a purse, backpack, waist packs, Camelpak style backpacks, holsters, whatever you want, but trust me when I say there are a number of random items you will want to carry with you at all times: a light source, a bit of toilet paper, a notebook & pen to write down people’s names if you meet cool folks or want to remember a camp address, sunblock, hand sanitizer & water. Oh, also make sure you always have a mask & goggles with you in case a dust storm happens. Keep ’em in your bag, or be like me & wear a bandana around your neck all Burning Man & a goggles like a headband.
- Gifts. Burning Man is a community of giving. Some people make jewelry or art & give it to people they meet. Others make meals & share them with strangers. I have a tendency to share fruit, candy & extra costume gear. Some people freak out because they don’t know what to bring to gift, but a lot of times you find that your gift is within your supplies – ice cold water, an extra can of sunscreen, food, candy, glow toys, an extra jacket, an extra blanket you brought. The key is that we are open to providing without expecting things in return. However you find you can make someone’s day better/special is a gift.
- Bicycle. Fatter tires, such as a beach cruiser or mountain bike are ideal. This will get pretty beaten up on the Playa. I recommend adding LED lights to this & decorating it with fake fur or other distinctive things. Also, investing in a wider seat (if you get a mountain bike) will make your bicycling much more comfortable.
- Bicycle lock. Unfortunately, theft happens on the Playa. Bring a bike lock & keep your bike locked up. However, many cases of bike theft are accidental, so make sure you also tag your bike with your name & camp address so a good Sumeritan who wakes up from a wild night realizing they rode off with your bike can return it to you.
- Bike repair kit. Everyone should have one of these, but if you have a couple within your camp, that can work too.
- Extra batteries. Check your batteries in all your equipment. Then bring extras of all sizes. Keep these in a ziplock bag in your gear. Try to remember to check battery life during the day so you aren’t stuck trying to do it at night.
Communal Camp Things
These are things you may want to coordinate with your fellow camp-mates regarding. If you’re camping solo, you’ll probably need all of this. But if you’re camping with a group, you may want to see who has what & can bring what – reducing the number of superfluous items & embracing a communal spirit.
- Camp stove. I like to coordinate with my camp mates on this, because you don’t need one stove per person within your camp. Bringing propane fuel & camping pots & pans is important too. I hate cooking on the Playa, so I tend to avoid this, but if you want hot food, don’t forget this.
- Water cooler. This one’s an optional but it enhances quality of life to have. If you have a couple camp mates, see if you can just bring one like this between the bunch of you & contribute to water & ice in it.
- Camping shower. This will be handy if you want to be clean. Be sure to have a set up for your grey water. The type you can hang up is great if you build/set up your own shelter, or you can purchase something like a shower shelter. If you have a group of people – you could share the cost for the shower and bring a couple extra shower bags, making sure everybody can shower. Protip: you don’t need 5 gallons to shower with. Also, you should re-use your cooler water in your food cooler. It’ll warm up if you leave the bag in the sun for a bit.
- White vinegar. White vinegar is the only thing that will cut through the Playa dust properly. Use it for cleaning anything, your skin, your clothes, your plates. Have a few jugs as a camp & you’ll be happy. Protip: if you walk around the Playa in flip flops during the day, wash your feet with water & vinegar, then moisturize them & put on socks & shoes. Your feet will thank you for it.
- First Aid Kit. Seriously get one. There is a med tent, but you don’t want to go there unless absolutely necessary.
- A rake. I know this sounds random, but having a rake in your camp can make cleaning up post-Burn a breeze. Helps you to check for MOOP.
- Booze! Lots of camps have bars & alcohol is a popular thing on the Playa. Bring some booze with you, share it amongst your camp mates or open up a bar & serve the new friends you meet!
- Tiki Lights. Lighting up camp boundaries can be good.
- Community Living Room Stuff. Many camps bring rugs & couches & all sorts of wonderfulness. Shade structures are awesome out there & the bigger & more creative you get, the more fun! Just don’t over stress, especially your first time.
- Equipment. To be perfectly honest, I don’t do fire gear myself (I prefer to watch awesome spinners than fumble around myself). If you’re into it, however, I understand your gear, your fuel & your safety equipment are all necessary. I made this item in the list to remind you to make your own list of this stuff if this is your thing.
- Burn Barrel. Many camps do these communally – a place to burn various burnable materials & reduce waste you need to carry out. You’ll want a way to dispose of ashes & a shovel.
- Matches & Lighters. For various reasons. Make sure you have these.
- Housesitting/petsitting. Make sure to coordinate with someone to check in on your house/pets while you’re gone.
- Car repairs. Before heading out to the desert, make sure you get a tune-up on your car so there are no surprises. You will need a car wash (& possibly detail) when you get back to civilization.
- Pay Your Bills. Helpful tip – you’re gonna be out of reach for over a week or so, make sure you didn’t forget any bills & you have let the necessary people know you’ll be out of town.
- Hotels & Rentals. If you’re renting a car or staying a night in a Reno hotel there or back, you will need to reserve that early!
- Print directions. There will be periods of time that you don’t have cell phone signal on your drive. Print a map.
- Tag things. As much as you can, having your name & Playa address on your stuff will help it get returned to you if for some reason it leaves your sight. Bikes, water bottles, cups, clothes, anything.
- Avoid MOOP. A lot of fake fur & anything with feathers WILL drop MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) so leave your boas at home & double check all your furry stuff for shedding before bringing it out.
- Phone. Some people brave using their phone on the Playa. Chances are you won’t have signal anyway. I don’t like to risk losing it, or having anything happen to mine. So I bring a small ziplock bag & as soon as I reach the dust, I turn off my phone & put it in there & don’t touch it again until I’ve gotten in my car to leave.
- Make sure your license plate is visible. Cops love any excuse to pull Burners over. Make sure all your lights are working & your license plate is visible. Follow all speed limits.
That’s it! You’re good to go. Check other lists if you want & we’ll see you out there.
This year, 2015, I’ll be camped at Steampunk Saloon which will be located at 5:00 & Esplanade. That’s right by PedalBump (bumper cars!) & pretty close to the infamous Thunderdome. Stop by & say hi – we’ve got DJs & drinks most nights. I’ll be there Monday night through the following Monday!
Have a wonderful Burn & feel free to comment to tell me if you think I missed anything! I will add to this & mention my edits.