Burning Man Supplies
This is a review and commentary of the supplies I took to Burning Man 2004 - 2008. I hope you
(and I) can benefit from it!
2004: I had my gear shipped out in a train container with Thesticknyc.org. Mad
props! I slept in my own tent in my own camp on Neptune at about 5:20.
2005: I drove out from San Francisco (!!). Everything fit in my 1998 Chrysler
Sebring, + a passenger and luggage from Reno to the playa. Again, I went
"light". I ended up joining up with Barry's Octopelvis crowd.
2006-2008: Drove out from San Francisco, hauling everything in my 1998 Chrysler
Sebring. In 2006 and 2007 Charlotte and I drove together, fitting everything in the car.
In 2008, we went in separate cars.
- Bike - It's 1,800 feet from 6:00 & Sedna/Hysteria to center camp. 4,200
feet from 3:00 & Esplanade to 9:00 and Esplanade... in the hot hot burning
sun. I felt my bike was essential. Consider making your bike into art. Big
nobby tires are essential. In 2008 my bike had 1 1/2" road tires and it often got bogged
down in rough patches :-(. Ways to get a bike there: Buy a $80 bike at Walmart
in Reno. Buy it used and ship it out in a container (I did that one year). Participate
in a bike borrowing or rental plan with one of the Burning Man groups. Rent a
bike from a company in Reno. Stick it on the back of your car.
- Replacement bike tube (the most likely thing to break). I haven't
needed one yet .
- Bike Flashers - 1 for front, 1 for back. Sciplus.com "Safety Flasher" $3.
Essential for night riding and finding your bike where you left it at night. I left both flashing
in groovy pattern #6 of 8 all night most nights for a week and never ran the 2 AA batteries
- Bike pannier - I tried to travel around with a milk crate on the back
of my bike but owing to the high winds and soft ground I'd often have to lie the bike down
and everything would fall out of the milk crate. Everything I generally needed for the day
fit in 1 cloth framed, zippered pannier just fine.
- Bike lock - for peace of mind, especially when going to big events "I
can't find my bike but I know it wasn't stolen, :-)"
On My Person
Essential at night. sciplus.com LED "Head Lamp" item 92190 $9 just as good as
the $40 Petzel lamp. 3 AAA batteries kept me going all week. It's built to slide
off the head-mount and stick with a magnet as well but I glued it in place with
a drop of glue. A non-LED light would give better color rendition but I'm so
happy with how light, cheap, & long lasting this lamp is, I might never use my
regular flashlight again. Another downside: the light can't be focused so range
is limited to about 30'.
- Respirator/dust mask -
Bring at least three. I lost one and wore one out. I used
a fancier respirator that I had lying around from my days worrying about
the end of the world, post-9/11. A 3M 8511. It costs $6 at Home Depot for 1 or
$19 for 10 at Uline.com. Buy 10. Paint them with magic markers and give them away to
friends. It worked great except that the rubber straps broke several times (it had been
sitting in my emergency drawer for 3 years). After 2 days + 1 dust storm, it was
getting difficult to draw air through it. Even in a dust storm, it drew
perfectly clean air. :-) Draw pretty pictures and funny noses on it! The super-cheap dust masks
work ok but they don't give a good seal on my big face so I have to hold it on for the most
- Sunglasses - I never use sunglasses... except in the desert at
3,900 feet. I wear prescription glasses so I got $12 spring loaded over-sunglasses from
some nice Chinese lady at a rest stop on the NY Thruway. Worked great.
- Goggles - 40mph dust storm vs. eyes: Dust wins. The $1.75 ones from
Sciplus.com didn't cover my entire (large, eyeglass laden) face but were way
better than nothing. Get goggles you like. You'll meet lots of people while
wearing them. $9 MSA safety goggles from Home Depot worked well enough. They
fit over my glasses (I STILL haven't found cool goggles that can go over
glasses). I only noticed that they don't seal when in high winds; pressing
them to my face was a fine workaround.
- Lip balm - I didn't need it much as long as I kept hydrated.
- Good Camera kept in a plastic bag - Some years I take 400 pictures. One year
I took 24 (my good camera was stolen before I got to the event, leaving me with just my
disposable). Bring a camera. Keep it in a plastic bag or the
dust will kill your camera dead in a matter of hours.
- Disposable Camera - Take it out to photograph dust storms and crazy
- Personal Cards. It's an easy way to hand someone your phone number and email address
in the default world.
- Compass. A friend told me a story where she was stuck in a dust
storm white-out in the middle of the playa (imagine you're 1,000 feet from any
landmarks and visibility is 5 feet!). She found her way back home with the
help of another friend with a compass. Every time I've been stuck in a dust storm, 3 hours one time,
I've just waited it out. Still, it sounds like
a good idea to have one in the bottom of your bag.
- Presents - If you see someone you appreciate, you might want to
give something of yourself to them. Make it personal. Put your contact information on your
presents! It's nice getting presents. It's even nicer knowing who gave them to you. I have many gifts
that I'd love to be able to track down the giver. But then, I suppose that's part of the fun...
- Some say you should take a mug with you but my mug got all playa-muddy
after just one use :-(.
- Skip the FRS radios - Marah's snazzy "5 mile" 1 watt Motorola FRS radios
only had range from Center Camp to 7:30 & Delirium.... about 1/2 mile. :-((. That's not nearly
enough coverage to make them useful.
- Watch - Without cell phones, we have to rely on that old standard, "I'll
meet you back here at n o'clock.". Wear a watch!!
- Important phone numbers & calling card number on paper, not in your
PDA or cell phone. Just in case.
- Hat - essential! I quickly fell in love with my old Stetson all
over again. Large brim essential to keep the sun off, a cord so the wind
doesn't carry it away. At night, I sometimes used a winter hat to keep me
- Good sneakers / footwear & socks. If playa-foot is 1/2 as bad as the
cracked and painful playa-hands I got, I would have really suffered! If it had
rained, I would have wanted the second pair of shoes that I had packed
- Playa-wear - That's anything from a giant neo-octo-bunny costume to
just a jar of paint.
- Cold weather gear. IE one night it was 60 degrees at midnight and
45 degrees at 4am. Another night didn't fall below 70.
- Rain gear. It didn't rain when I was there but it COULD be 45 and
raining, which TOTALLY SUCKS if you're only wearing a tank top.
- Sunscreen. Trust me on the sunscreen.
- Blinky lights to be seen at night. The playa is lovely, dark and
deep and you don't want to be run over by a bike or art car.
- Gloves in a Bottle - It's this weird stuff that goes on like hand
moisturizer... then it goes away and protects your skin pretty well from
playa-fication for about 4 hours. At the end of each event, my hands are still a
bit beat-up but it really helped keep the playa out. "Invisible Gloves" is a
I've tried bringing my camp stove but I'm just not into cooking out there. I've been very happy
bringing food that didn't need cooking. I just want to eat and get back out there. I've never lit my
stove. I might if it gets cold, rainy, and not too windy to cook.
Food Packing Misc:
- Can opener
- Utensils - Lexan or metal or whatever.
- Plastic bowl - no plate, too much hassle for me.
- Baby wipes - good for washing the dish, cleaning utensils, hands, & face
- A mesh garbage bag - All yucky wet waste goes in the bag, on the playa. In two
days, my banana peels and empty tuna cans were perfectly dried (instead of stinking up the place!)
- Coleman collapsible 5 gallon water containers, $4 each at ??. 15 gallons
per person. So far I've always had extra water at the end but it's better to have extra than to DIE OF
DEHYDRATION. I note that in 2005 1 of my collapsable water containers sprung a leak after 2 years and very little use :-(.
Food I packed and liked:
- Natures Path Optimum Power cereal. It's this organic cereal from Sam's Club. It
looks like twigs and rocks but the mouth-feel and taste are just great. It's my favorite cereal at
home so having it on the playa is a touchstone.
- Better Than Milk - Powered soy. It dissolves in water quicker than other
soy milks, indefinite shelf life, good. I think it's better than milk.
- Cytomax sport drink. I am a convert! After a few hours in the sun on the first day, I was
feeling woozy, even after drinking water. 5 min after a big swig of this and I
was really noticeably refreshed. Whatever magic is in it really works. It's
good that it's a mixable power and not liquid. Downside: when I drank too
much, I got really gassy. It's expensive: I drank 1/2 of a $20 container in a
week. The usual recommendation is to have 2 bottles, 1 with water, 1 with Cytomax. Drink from whichever you feel like, taste-wise and energy-wise.
- PowerBars - some people like 'em, some don't. They were moderately goopy in the
sun but recovered when cool.
- GenSoy bars - The chocolate coating got really yucky in the sun but they
recovered when cool.
- Tiger Bars - Yummy! Yummie. They even take the heat pretty well.
- Canned tuna - if you like it straight out of the can, it's easy and
nutritious. I put the can in my bowl to catch the potentially yucky tuna
- Bananas - I had them for 3 days... They kept just fine in the heat.
- Bread - The temperature was moderate so it kept for 4 days while I
finished it with...
- Goobers Peanut Butter and Jelly together - Yummy taste from home.
Actually, Goobers isn't my favorite but the label doesn't say that it requires
refrigeration (I don't really want to know how they got the jelly to keep at
room temperature). I ate 1 1/3 jars of the stuff.
- Raisins - in the little Sun Maid boxes. Yum.
- Instant mashed potatoes - I hope this doesn't gross you out but I just mix warm water
with it and eat. It tastes great. I like the garlic and onion variety.
- Tasty Bites - Those indian meals in a packet. Yum
- Canned vegetables and soups like corn, peas, chicken soup, refried beans,
minestrone... all that good stuff is Mmm mmm good
Food I packed and didn't use (probably would have been good)
- Matzo - This was going to sub for bread but I never needed to resort to
- Couscous and Raisins - I was going to cook it but never cooked.
- Instant Pasta dish - One of those "just add boiling water and stir" deals.
Food I packed and didn't like:
- Nature Valley Granola bars - It's a dry granola bar. I felt like I was
eating playa dust. I'll be wary of bringing totally dry food in the future.
- All-nut bars - various brands. All of the bars that are mostly nuts are
held together with sugar and/or honey. They get totally totally gooey on the
playa and pretty much stay that way.
- Entenmann's Donut Holes - I dunno, sweet, fat & greasy donuts on the playa
just don't work
- Entenmann's Brownies - Like the Donut Holes, they just didn't taste good
on the playa.
- In 2004, I stayed at Circus Circus inbound $80 Saturday, $30 Sunday. Outbound,
stayed at the Golden Phoenix. The Burner vibe was much more present at the
Golden Phoenix so I'll be staying there inbound and outbound next time. The
midway in Circus Circus is moderately fun though. Real circus acts every 1/2
hr all day and night. In 2005, Golden Phoenix all the way. Their wireless high
speed internet is worthless. The burner vibe was only barely there in 2005...
- But water at Simply Water in Reno. I'm glad we did.
It tastes better than the tap water. To me, the tap water tastes "dusty". $11 for
- The Circus Circus Sunday Brunch is awful and expensive.
- Victoria Station Buffet near the Silver Legacy is AWFUL and EXPENSIVE. $20
and I honestly couldn't find a single good thing on their menu.
- Pneumatic Diner - I think it might be the only good food in Reno. I ate there 3 times in the 4 days I spent in Reno.
Veggie, friendly, great vibe. Nuff said.
- Truckee River - They made the river into a (class 0.75) kayaking park
downtown. The water sounds and feels great after the desert.
- Before leaving home, I printed a list of all camps and locations (of
course, I forgot it at home too....)
- Liquor for gifts at bars (if you're into going to bars on the playa) - try
to get it in plastic
- beer (if that's your thing) - Cans, not bottles!
- Pack your "survival bag" before you hit they playa, you will be
ready to go the instant you get there!
- Clothing - optional
I spent 35,000 Continental Onepass miles to fly round-trip from Newark, NJ to
Reno, with a layover in Detroit. I ordered my tickets on 7-11-04 for travel on
August 28th and September 8th. I had to pad my trip by 2 days on both ends in
order to keep the pricetag down to 35,000 miles. (The cheapest flights are
25,000 miles round-trip). The extra 10,000 miles bought me a 1st class ticket on
the way home.
Some of my sources: