[Many thanks to Carla who wrote this for our camp last year. It all still applies and is a must read for all new Burners in our camp.]

Fellow Campers,

My apologies in advance if this sounds like a big Do and Don’t List. Everyone’s experience of Burning Man will be vastly different, and what works for one person won’t for another. These ideas represent my own experience as well as information from the Burning Man Web site. Take what works for you and toss the rest. It’s all good.

Top of the list is to encourage you to spend some time with the Burning Man website: www.burningman.com

At minimum, try to read The Survival Guide under the Preparation Section. The second thing to read is the newsletter that is mailed to every ticketholder’s address.

If you’ve read those two things, you already know that Leave No Trace is an integral part of the Burning Man ethos. Making that a reality, though, involves some pre-planning.

More about Leave No Trace (obviously this is very important)

  • Don’t bring extra packaging. Unwrap and toss exterior boxes, plastic, etc., before you pack.
  • Don’t bring nuts like pistachios and peanuts in shells. Pistachio shells are a big source of debris found on the playa post-event.
  • Plan on packing out everything you bring. There are no public trashcans at Burning Man, so whatever you take with you as you tour the playa has to come back to camp to be thrown away.
  • Plan on recycling and bring a container and bags for recyclables and for camp garbage. All garbage needs to be toted far from the playa—not dumped in Gerlach or Reno. Take it home or to a landfill on the way.
  • Bring several small plastic bags so you can have a portable trash bag with you as you journey. If you see something on the ground, PICK IT UP, even if it’s not yours. Keeping the playa clean is a group effort.
  • In addition to keeping our own camp and environs pristine throughout the event and after camp breakdown, Burning Man asks that every participant spend 2 hours cleaning up the playa before departing.
  • Everything in camp needs to be tied or weighted down so it doesn’t blow away. There will be 70 mph dust storms, and chances are you won’t be home when they hit.
  • Remember that it’s inevitable that what fit in your vehicle on the way up, won’t fit on the way home, so leave some extra space to accommodate this phenomenon.
  • Remember the porta-potty mantra: If it doesn’t come out of your body, don’t put it in the potty. That includes tampons, which need to be packed out.

Take the Leave Not Trace Pledge

What NOT to Bring

  • glass
  • feather boas (they shed and create playa garbage).
  • excess packaging
  • way too much water
  • small bits and pieces which will end up flying away in a storm.
  • too much food that needs to be prepared—you won’t feel like eating or
    cooking in the desert.

What TO bring

  • brooms, rakes, flat-blade shovels for cleaning camp
  • rope and string for tying stuff down
  • tarps with grommets
  • carpets or astroturf rugs for shade structures
  • lots of industrial-strength garbage bags and smaller garbage bags
  • ziploc bags for putting everything in to keep it dust-free.
  • work gloves
  • long-handled sledgehammer or rubber mallet for driving in rebar
  • altoids boxes and film canisters for cigarette butts.
  • a sun shower
  • enough water to drink constantly, cook and shower in. recommended amount is 1.5 gallons per day/per person.
  • a camelback water backpack so you’ll always have water with you
  • goggles for the dust storms— clear ones can be worn at night as well as daytime.
  • hats. after 24 hours, your bad hair day will be permanent. stylishly covering it up is essential.
  • bike with a basket, light and lock.
  • lip balm with a SPF
  • sunscreen with a high SPF
  • sunglasses
  • lots of ice and coolers
  • first-aid kit
  • headlamp for riding bike
  • flashlights
  • extra batteries
  • glowsticks, glow toys andother lamps to light you at night--it's dangerous in the dark
  • earplugs/eyeshade
  • decorations and lights for the camp, especially altar-related items and fabrics.
  • radio if you want to check out all the playa radio stations
  • bike repair kit, extra tubes, etc.
  • 2-3 ft. lengths of rebar bent into a candy cane shape at the top for securing tents and shade structures.
  • baby wipes
  • warm sleeping bag
  • ground tarp for under tent
  • towel
  • bungee cords
  • camp/beach/portable chairs for under shade structure
  • a full-length mirror
  • lights/lanterns for shade structure at night
  • wash basin for dishes and hair
  • water bottles for bikes
  • set of personal camp dishes
  • and of course, duct tape!!!


After you leave highway 80 past Reno, be VERY careful driving the next 2+ hours. As you approach the different small towns along the way, DO NOT SPEED. They are lying in wait for you. Speeding tickets are a huge revenue stream for these small towns, and they just sit and wait for you to come barreling through. The roads are small, and the speed limit varies, so be really cautious, especially at night since some of the road is open range.

Finding Our Camp

If all goes well, we will know in advance the coordinates of our camp location. However, there is a chance that we will not have a location in advance, and that we will have to stake out our territory once we arrive. I’ll send out more info about this a week before the burn.

How Will We Find Each Other?

If we don’t have a location in advance, there are several ways to locate someone on the playa. The first thing you do upon arrival is ask the Greeters at the gate if there is a way to find people (computer registration) at the gate. If not, you will need to go to Center Camp.So, just drive in towards the center, (you’ll have a map from the Greeters), find a parking space near a bank of porta potties (they have space around them for this purpose), and then walk into Center Camp. There you will find The Directory, which is part of Burning Man Information Services. They’re open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm throughout the event, and we will have registered the name Palenque Norte there once we find our location. Give them the name and they will do a computer search, and tell you where we are camped. As a backup, or if they’re closed, we will also post a sign in a specific spot on the bulletin board located in the same place. I’ll give out that info later as well. Then go back to your car, and drive to our campsite, and park and unpack and relax and get in the vibe of the playa. It’s actually pretty easy and kind of a fun scavenger hunt. By the way, as of last year, there was no cell phone reception on the playa. To make a call, you need to go to Gerlach on the provided bus service for $5.

What to Wear

In 2000 it was so cold on the playa that I wore boots, flannel pants, a fleece top and a full-length wool poncho, and that was during the day!! At night I wore everything that was in my bag. In 2001, I [Carla D. :-)] wore a bikini top and a mini skirt during the day, and I was sweating, and at night I wore pants and a backless top, and I was quite comfy until about 3:00 am, when I needed to add a jacket. What 2002 will be like is anyone’s guess, but it’s best to prepare for 100-degree days, cool to cold nights and rain and windstorms throughout. [Note: 2002 had the best weather imaginable (for a desert!) . . . so we might have used up our mild weather tokens.]

Shoes need to be really comfortable because you will walk for miles. Open sandals or bare feet on the alkali playa will soon make your feet crack and bleed so closed toe shoes are good. Of course, you can always go naked and not worry about what to wear at all. The one thing you need to put on, though, is sunscreen. Hats are pretty important, too for shade.

Gourmet Gatherings

Food will obviously depend on your own desires along with those you plan on sharing food with, but I’ve found that prepared food that can be grabbed and grazed is the way to go. Odds are you will be hungry at random times, and in the desert your appetite is diminished. It is critical that you eat, however, so plan on packing things that are low maintenance and easy. Fresh fruit and bread spoil very quickly so don’t bring enough for the whole week. Cook food in advance and put it in Tupperware so it’s ready to eat when you’re hungry. You can freeze it in advance and let it thaw throughout the week. Last year, we had a RV, and we used the oven to serve pre-made lasagna and black bean chili on different nights to the masses. It was especially well received by those who didn’t have a way to eat hot meals. If you want to share food like that, you will be well loved, but don’t bring too much. Power bars are a great idea as well. Drinks are essential. Bring lots of juices as well as water and electrolyte drinks. Coffee, tea, chai and lemonade can be bought at the Center Camp Café as well as ice at Camp Arctica. These are the only two things for sale at Burning Man, and the ice line can be loooong and hot. [Note: This is a good chance to try going on a raw food diet. It's healthy, tasty, and fun!]


The Burning Man Web site gives a wonderful description of what a gift economy is and how it differs from a barter economy, so I encourage you to read it. Basically, no money is spent at Burning Man, but you are encouraged to give of yourself as well as to create some sort of gift you might like to share with people you encounter along the way. Maybe you’d like to bake some brownies or make some beaded necklaces or whatever speaks to you. It’s a wonderful opportunity to truly give of yourself—give the gift of who you are—whether it’s helping some new arrivals set up their tents or making a batch of margaritas to share with the passing crowd. One of the best parts of Burning Man is seeing how everyone invents this idea for themselves.

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