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Burning Man Gear: What I'm Glad I Brought and Sad I Forgot



I love lists. They hit my brain in just the right way, and they were essential in deciding what to bring to my first burn. Considering I was only bringing two suitcases and would be sleeping in a tent, it was important that everything I brought was important and whatever I left behind could be found elsewhere. This is not a thorough Burning Man preparation list - I won't be the person to tell you that you should bring sunscreen to the desert. Instead I will describe essential gear that made my burn better, some things I felt that I was missing, and my favorite online resources as a first timer.


Things I'm Glad I Brought


A good backpack

While it isn't necessary to carry a backpack around Black Rock City, I like to be prepared for anything that comes my way. To do this, I brought the same backpack to Burning Man that I normally bring to music festivals. It is water (and sand) proof, easy to use, easy to identify, and large enough to carry a few necessities but small enough that it never hurt my back.


Reading a book in an art piece during a dust storm.


A fanny pack

When I didn't plan on carting around enough items to need a backpack, I wore a fanny pack instead. I kept it stocked with a few squares of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, a pen and a small journal. This made me prepared no matter the situation at the porta-potties, and keeping a journal allowed me to write down information for events I wanted to go to people I met. It was also great to have a reliable place to stash my phone.





A food kit

Many registered camps give out food and drinks at specific times throughout the day, and others give it away when they've made too much and have leftovers. While some camps make an effort to provide finger food, radical self reliance is one of the principles of Burning Man - if a camp is giving out soup or smoothies and you don't have a cup, you'll have to find one and come back later. My cup with a carabiner clip, small plate, and camping spoon all got a lot of use during my burn.


Things to attach things to other things

Throughout the burn you'll find the need to decorate your bike or bag, edit an outfit, make a sign, or repair something. After getting this tip from a video, I brought a small bag of bungee cords, rubber bands, safety pins, duct tape and zip ties. They not only came in handy when I needed to add decorations to my bike, but helped out camp mates with their own struggles.


Snacks and easy to cook food

Black Rock City is huge, and biking around playa burns more calories than many people are used to throughout the day. I always carried a fruit or granola bar on me, so that if I got hungry when I was far away from my camp I was not immediately forced to head back.


When I did return to camp, I was too tired to do much cooking. Anticipating this, I had brought several camping meals that I could cook by simply pouring boiling water into them. These were filling and tasted perfectly fine, though they were a little expensive per meal and could have a lot of sodium. My camp mates with refrigeration brought easy to cook or meal-prepped food that allowed them to easily prepare meals with more control over the ingredients. All are great options.


Two pairs of ski goggles

As a glasses-wearer, ski goggles were my best bet at protecting my eyes during sandstorms. They were effective, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive. They can even be found used at sports goods stores. I brought two pairs - a darker one with strong sun protection and a clear pair with less sun protection. This allowed me to protect my eyes from the sun during the day while fully experiencing the brilliance of Black Rock City at night.


Lots of socks

It is helpful to bring more socks than you normally need. Short of a full shower, nothing felt better on playa than cleaning my feet and putting on some nice clean socks. More often than not I wore socks and sandals, as it was a comfortable way of protecting my feet against the alkali dust of the desert. This would leave the socks crusted with sand. However, when I wore sneakers or boots, the socks would be too sweaty and dirty when I took them off to warrant a second wear. Either way, bringing a few extra pairs of socks won't hurt.


Things I'm Sad I Forgot


A properly decorated bike

I brought a used bike outfitted with lights that were only realty visible when the wheels were spinning. It took going to one party for me to realize that this was not enough - in a sea of bikes, especially in the dark, there was no way for me to pick out my bike from the others. I also didn't have a bike basket to carry anything I couldn't fit in my backpack. During the burn I was able to decorate my bike by attaching stuffed animals to it and wrapping it with more lights, but it would have been helpful to have it properly decorated from the beginning.


My bike:



Most other bikes:



Lawn chair

Everyone in my camp brought a lawn chair so I was able to borrow one when I needed to, but it would've been nice to bring my own. There are some camp chairs that are small enough to pack in a suitcase if you are traveling a long distance like I was.


Scissors

I brought tiny scissors as part of a sewing kit and ended up using them for way more than that. During Burning Man you will be making repairs to your gear, adjusting your outfits and camp setup, opening stubborn food packages, and more. A real pair of scissors would have been helpful!


Sharpie

You’re going to find at least one interactive art piece that is missing its marker, a person who is letting others write messages on them, or an interactive porta potty poll. Perhaps you decide to go to the temple and want to pay homage for your loved one. In the name of immediacy, it will be helpful to be able to whip out your own Sharpie instead of having to hunt for one. They’re also helpful for writing addresses on yourself if you are avoiding using your phone and don’t have a journal.






Speaker

While we weren’t a sound camp, there were times when it was fun to listen to music. I would’ve liked to have my own speaker to listen to while relaxing, eating, or cleaning up


Less clothes

I brought two large suitcases, one filled almost entirely with clothes. Much of it went unused, as I mostly wore athletic clothes and some “costumes”. For some clothing items, I brought them with me only to realize that I didn't want to get them sandy or they would be uncomfortable to wear. So it might be worth giving a second glance to your wardrobe and making sure you actually need everything you’re bringing.


Pee jug

I forgot my pee jug and ended up using a large mason jar for those nights when I just couldn’t hold it but didn’t want to leave the comfort of my tent. While I was able to improvise, having a designated container is helpful for tent campers or if your vehicle doesn't have a toilet. Ensure that you empty any waste in a porta-potty and dispose of any toilet paper thicker than the provided one-ply with the rest of your garbage.


MOOP bag

MOOP is an acronym for "Matter Out of Place". It refers to anything that was not originally on the land on which Burning Man takes place. This includes grey water, food, abandoned items, debris and more. Everyone has a responsibility to pick up after ourselves and each other to keep the playa clean. By carrying a moop bag, you can easily collect and dispose of trash, especially small things like bottle caps, cloth fibers, feathers and zip ties. I hadn't thought to bring my own, but was gifted a hand made bag by a bike repair camp.


More Resources

These were my favorite resources when deciding what to bring to Burning Man. Any advice can be tailored to your individual needs, including your budget and camping situation.


Matador Network: The Ultimate Burning Man Packing List

A well organized and comprehensive list. I can't count how many times I've read it all the way through.


Surviving Burning Man by Jessie Newburn

While I haven't read this book, many people highly recommend it. If you are not a seasoned traveler or are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of logistics involved, this can be a helpful guide.


How to Pack for Burning Man by The Indie Travel Podcast

I love podcasts! The Indie Travel Podcast has been one of my favorites to listen to when I have the travel bug or want to learn some tips. Their blog is also very helpful.


Halcyon is one of the most inspiring burners I've met, spreading love and positivity while being honest about his personal struggles. I absolutely loved joining him for the Pink Ride, and will be camping with Pink Heart in 2024. Burning Man Boot Camp is a series of videos not just about what to pack but also about the ten principles, how to be a good burner, and more.


The Burning Man Project official website

Every year an official survival guide is posted to help burners prepare. Burningman.org is well organized, constantly updated, and has a lot of important information. It can be worth it to look here first if you have questions, or subscribe to The Jackrabbit Speaks for news.



Summary

Being prepared will allow you to more fully participate in and enjoy Burning Man, but you will never have a "perfect" burn. Knowing this, I was never truly sad when I found myself wishing for a certain piece of gear - these instances can always be used as a learning experience or an opportunity to make a new friend by asking for help.



Interested in getting on Playa? Learn more about the 10 Principles of Burning Man!




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Hi, I'm Koi!

I'm an environmental project manager who decided to make a change from office life to to outdoor projects and small business ownership.

My goal is to help promote forward movement in outdoor spaces and live events towards full accessibility and diversity by giving everyone the inspiration and tools to create their own adventure.

I love self expression, hiking, music festivals, and Burning Man, and want to show that celebrating diversity in the outdoors makes it better for everyone.

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