Original Post 2009. Most recent update: August 2013
Before You Leave Town:
10 Important Items
If you are pressed for time, you can at least ensure you have these key items! (Extra toiletries, food and water can be easily acquired on the drive down if needed)
1) Valid ID to enter the USA (passport or enhanced driver’s license etc)
2) Credit card or ATM bank card
3) Some US cash
4) Burning Man ticket (or Will Call information)
5) Any required medicines or medical supplies (but NO illegal drugs)
6) Dust Goggles
7) Travel Medical Insurance Policy Number and Toll Free Claim Number **
8) Cell phone and charger
9) if you are driving: Route map & Directions, Driver’s license, Car Insurance papers, Extra set of car keys, Roadside Assistance info
10) Emergency Contact Numbers (Next of kin or close friends)
** If you step foot in the US, you’ll want some medical coverage. One night in a hospital there can cost over $1000. PC Financial has good single trip medical coverage with no deductible: Call 1-800-826-0339. Prices will range based on your age, province of residence and length of trip. BCAA also offers travel medical coverage at a slightly higher rate for single trip coverage with no deductible – but has a good multi-trip coverage plan if you do many out-of-country trips through the year. Call BCAA 1-877-325-8888
Download this Guide + my Burning Man Packing List!
32 Tips For That Week In The Desert:
1) Use stainless steel cups, bowls, plates and utensils as they clean more easily than plastic and add aesthetic value to the meal…
2) Spray bottles
- Have one bottle filled with water + white vinegar for cleaning playa dust from kitchen dishes, tools, gear and your hands/feet etc
- Have another bottle filled with water + a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a refreshing daytime mist to cool-down or as an efficient “shower”! e.g. My favorite is lavender essential oil
3) Minimize leftover food particles by eating everything off your plates whenever possible. Spray dishes with a water/vinegar solution before wiping dishes clean with a dish towel.
4) Even with an evaporation pond for all your grey water, aim to keep the water usage to a minimum. Use industrial garbage bags to wrap up the filthy pond liner at end of trip, to minimize the smell…
5) Have 1 clean face towel for each day on the playa. Wet the face towel in the morning to freshen up the face and then use again before bed on your arms, legs and feet. Throw into a laundry bag and start with a fresh face towel the next day. Having clean feet when going to bed is a particularly delightful feeling and rubbing them with some soothing lotion is nearly orgasmic…
6) Use sarongs as body towels since they dry very fast, are lightweight and compact. (I like to bring 3 to 4: one for the hair, one for the body and one kept my daypack for multi-use as shade or something to sit on)
7) More comfortable than a sleeping bag are bedsheets and a comforter (if you have space to pack these). Also, having a change of sheets mid-week is such a sweet luxury!
8) Gifting is a great gesture but avoid giving items that are likely be discarded as trash or end up as “moop” (matter out of place) in the desert. A question i ask myself before picking a gift: Is the item meaningful, memorable, useful or beautiful to the one I’m gifting? A joyful mindset or a helping hand are non-physical gifts that don’t take up space in the landfill. e.g. gift your compassionate listening skills when someone needs to be heard or gift your time and energy to help someone setup or cleanup.
9) Don’t bring anything too fragile or breakable. (costume, tools, decor, cherished items)
10) If you are concerned about getting dust in your nice camera, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has some products that offer your camera some waterproof/dustproof protection: prices range $17-50 depending on what you choose. Visit the kayak/paddling gear area for the waterproofing items. MEC is at 130 West Broadway, Vancouver (604) 872-7858 http://www.mec.ca/
11) Giant Plastic Bins (e.g. Rubbermaid bins) is commonly used as storage for clothing and gear. Mark your bins with your name and email if you are camping with others or sharing space.
12) Wear boots instead of sandals when traveling out of your camp area…Keeps your feet clean from the caustic playa dust (which can cause cracking and bleeding in some people’s feet).
13) Have a pair of flip flops for lounging at your camp and for showering.
14) Have a complete set of clean clothes for the trip home in a separate sealed bag. (include clean underwear, socks and shoes!)
15) Include a sewing kit for quick fixes or for completing costumes by hand on the long drive down
16) Plastic Set of Drawers (e.g. available at Canadian Tire or Superstore) to keep small items.
E.g. one drawer for toiletries, one drawer for kitchen tools and one drawer for setup tools.
17) Alarm Clock AND a Watch: I find it’s useful to have an alarm clock in my sleep area for keeping my Burning Man sleep schedule and a watch in my backpack for attending special events that do have a start time. If we are not enslaved by time-keeping, a watch is a very useful tool.
18) Get a quiet battery-powered fan that you can use if sleeping between 7am-10am or for afternoon naps – really keeps it cooler in your vehicle or tent. The one my partner and I found is about 10 inches high and quiet. Stores like Canadian Tire, Superstore, Walmart should have options…
19) For women: I highly recommend learning how to use the Diva Cup or the Keeper (for menstruation) at least a month before the festival. I’ve used mine since year 2000 and it’s one of the best products I ever bought in my life! Available at most local health food stores such as Sweet Cherubim, Drive Organics, Choices, Whole Foods etc.
- Very environmental (no tampons/pads dumped into landfills or clogging up porta-potties)
- Very economical (no need to buy tampons/pads and a cup lasts over a decade)
- Very comfortable when used correctly
- No leaking when used correctly
- Very compact (fits in your purse when traveling)
- Much healthier and can be easily cleaned
- Can be kept in overnight (no Toxic Shock Syndrome risks)
- Can be used while swimming
- Great for both light and heavy menstruation
20) Ora-MD drops (liquid toothpaste): I love this product as well. You don’t need to rinse out after brushing as the essential oils continue to work in your mouth through the day. Tastes great and works really well. Perfect for camping or regular use (note: our bodies need breaks from essential oil use so switching off occasionally is helpful).
- All natural, 100% pure, herbal toothpaste, mouthwash and breath freshener.
- The main ingredients are peppermint oils, spearmint and almond
- Cleans teeth, gums and mouth of bacteria causing germs, cleans plaque and relieves gum disease, gingivitis, bleeding gums and bad breath
- Small compact bottle, lasts about a month (at 2 drops per use)
- Allow several weeks to ship from the US http://www.oramd.com/
21) Ear-Plugs For Sleeping & Dancing: High-fidelity earplugs (like ones from Etymotic) are great for use on the dance floor or whenever you need to cut down the noise level.
- Affordable but allow time to ship from the US. (do a bulk order with friends)
- Reduces sound levels evenly (music/speech are clear not muffled)
- There is even an option for people with narrow ear canals like me! (most foam ones pop out of my ears). Not suited for sleeping as the hard plastic end protrudes from your ear.
- The common foam ones (or better yet, the silicone moldable ones) are good for sleeping as they muffle everything and are soft.
22) Have a small backpack that you carry everywhere with all your essential items:
- water bottle
- camera (labeled with your email address & camp name/address if applicable)
- snacks (my favorite backpack snacks are beef jerky and dried mango)
- reusable mug (people may gift you a drink but you must have your own mug)
- lipbalm + small bottle of hand lotion
- goggles and bandana (for dust storms)
- sarong (helpful as shade and to sit on if needed)
- medications if needed
- small bottle of hand sanitizer
- roll of single-ply toilet paper (they sometimes run out of paper + double-ply will clog porta-potties)
- earplugs (for those really loud soundstages)
- a watch (if you have responsibilities or want to attend specific workshops)
- gum or mints
- notebook + pen
- small folding fan
- Burning Man “what where when” booklet (you’ll receive this at the gate)
23) Contact Lenses & Glasses
- Use disposable soft lenses since the dust is harsh on contact lenses. Wear a fresh pair after a few days or at end of the week.
- If you wear hard contact lenses, ensure you put on your dust goggles during a storm!
- Always bring a pair of glasses as backup
24) Basic Lighting:
- Have solar garden lights around your camp (around your vehicle or your tent)
- Have a headlamp handy in your backpack
-Put lights on your backpack AND on your bike so others can see you at night (especially so other cyclists and art cars don’t run over you!)
- Strands of lights powered by a small battery pack (AA) can be bought at places like Home Hardware on Commercial Drive (they stock it every year at this time for Burners) or solar powered strands of lights are often found at IKEA.
- Bring sufficient batteries for your various lights, camera, etc.
25) Shade Structures, Shade Cloth & Stakes
You can build various types of shade structures but two very popular options are car ports and “Monkey Huts”. Other common options are self-built yurts and domes.
Midland Liquidators in Vancouver BC have some solid options: http://www.midlandcanopies.com/
More about Monkey Huts: http://www.chromatest.net/Lovemonkey/ http://grasshoppernight.org/shade.php
Aluminet Shade Cloth: This type of “shade cloth” cuts out a significant portion of the heat/sunlight yet allows some wind to pass through the fibers. A quick search online provides many Aluminet options. You probably have to order online from the US so allow lots of time for shipping. (A few years ago, a friend helped us buy two pieces approx 7 x 15 feet each) to create a shade structure over our van.)
Here is one company that looks good price-wise and quality-wise at a glance: http://www.shadeclothstore.com/products/aluminetcoolshade70__aluminetshadecloth.html
Staking Your Shade Structures: https://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/rebarfaq
26) Tools, Cords, Ropes and Straps
- A sledgehammer to pound stakes and rebar into the ground.
- zap straps are great for many purposes but especially useful for securing lights onto shade structures, backpacks and bikes.
- Heavy duty rope for tying down structures etc
- Bungee cords for multi-purpose use
- A tool kit (e.g. screwdriver, hammer, wrench, pliers etc)
- A pair of work gloves to protect your hands during setup and tear down…
27) Tent & Mattress
- If you are camping in a tent, then ensure it is a high-enough quality to withstand the strong winds at Burning Man
- A larger tent is useful for containing all your gear AND so you don’t cook in a tiny tent in the hot mornings
- If possible, bring a second tent to hold your bins of stuff
- Also, a tent with very little or no mesh is best (since you wish to block the dust as much as possible)
- A shade structure over your tent is very helpful if you wish to sleeping anytime after 7am…
- Make sure you check your air mattress for holes and bring a repair kit OR use a foam mattress instead
- Having a bike on the playa is very useful to cover larger distances or for speedy trips to a workshop or camp
- However, if you really cannot bring one, walking around has its advantages (like being able to see things or meet people that you otherwise would have missed on a bike)
- You can also catch the occasional lift from art cars when you are not on a bike
Useful accessories for your Bike:
- A kickstand to prop up for quick stops
- A basket often comes in handy e.g. carrying ice blocks for your cooler
- Light strands and a spotlight so art cars and other bikes can see you at night.
- Bike lock (most people are not planning to steal a bike but if they are intoxicated or sleepy, they might mistakenly take your bike if it’s not locked)
29) Get Most of Your Food in the US
It’s nice to get some special items that you may only be able to get in your local area but if you can, purchase most of your groceries in the US. You cannot bring vegetables or meat over the border anyway and you can buy all that you need (food and water) once you’re closer to the destination. This will reduce your gas consumption as your load is lighter for most of the way down. (and grocery prices are reasonable in the US) Read the Burning Man website for tips on amount of water to bring… (remember that you need water for drinking, cooking and showering)
30) Label Your Expensive Gear
a) Label your camera or other gear with your email address, camp name + camp address if possible. Most people will return an item if you make it easy for them to find you.
b) Label your phone with your email address (in case battery dies) and in your cell phone directory, add the listing “Home phone” or “Owner of this Phone”. (Use a different number where they can reach you or leave a message.)
31) Back up Your Computer
Might be a good time to back up important files on additional hard drives or on your cloud accounts (e.g. Zipcloud or Dropbox).
32) Autoresponders and Voicemail Greetings
If you are able to, set autoresponders on your email addresses to let people know you are offline until a specified date. Also set your voicemail on extended absence greeting. (unless you plan to find wifi hotspots everyday at Burning Man – not the greatest reception there and perhaps not the best use of your time at Burning Man!
Even if you’ve been to Burning Man before, some of these links are helpful to review!
Radial Self-Reliance: What To Pack
More Packing tips
About the Elements
First Timer’s Guide
the Burning Man forum (Q&A and info)
Driving to Burning Man: Directions
Different Driving Route Options
Much much love!
xox little woo
Download this Guide + my Burning Man Packing List
Costume Guide! 9 Things To Inspire Your Creativity
13 Simple Foods for Burning Man
Health and Happiness on the Playa
These articles are educational and informational resources for Burners. I make no guarantees about the information and recommendations provided herein. Following any info or suggestions provided here is at your own risk.
Tips For That Week In The Desert by Little Woo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://littlewoo.org/preparing-for-burning-man-tips-for-the-week-in-the-desert/
~ Written in 2009. Most recent update: August 2013 with love from littlewoo.org ~