Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

With over 60,000 attendees, Burning Man is not as simple as just showing up and surviving for a week. With extreme climate conditions and a remote desert location, there’s a lot to know about preparing for this event physically, emotionally, and financially.

Here is a beginner’s guide to Burning Man on booking, getting to and surviving!

– Buying Tickets –

The first step to getting to Burning Man is getting the ticket- and it’s also the hardest step. It’s no secret that getting tickets is not easy and they sell out fast. Be prepared to get online as soon as tickets go on sale and know how many tickets you’re planning to buy.

Also, be sure that your credit card is ready for the purchase if the amount of several tickets is unusually high for your typical purchases.

Important Ticket Dates:

  • January 14th – Pre-Registration
  • January 21st -Pre Sales ($800)
  • February 4th – Group Sales ($390)
  • February 18th -Individual Sales ($390)

If you miss out on ticket sales, be sure to get involved in forums and the community to see if you can get your hands on a ticket. Tickets shouldn’t be resold at a profit, so be sure to keep that in mind if you’re buying OR selling a ticket. More info on buying tickets here.

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– Joining a Camp –

Joining a camp at Burning Man is possible through the Burning Man Website and online. Reddit is a great place to find other Burners, check Facebook for regional groups or head to events in your area where you can make friends and join a camp ahead of time.

While you can head there on your own in an RV or with a tent, infrastructure is one of the biggest benefits of joining a camp as there likely will be shade and other features made possible by traveling into Burning Man as a group with a plan.

Keep in mind, a camp is also about community, so try to choose with your own personality and interests in mind. Your camp will play a big part in your overall experience.

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– Getting There –

Burning Man is located in Black Rock City, Nevada and is referred to as the “Playa” by Burners. Reno is one of the closest cities to Black Rock City and the most popular for flying into Burning Man. There are also charter buses from Reno and San Francisco, as well as a small airport on the Playa for private planes.

If you’ve got friends that can bring your stuff in for you, skydiving in is also an option.

(Maybe I’ll try that next year?!)

Wherever you come in from, be prepared for traffic. Getting in and out of Black Rock City can take anywhere up to 12 hours (or longer). More information on getting to Burning Man here.

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– What to Bring? –

Burning Man is about self-reliance and embracing a gifting culture, meaning that you are expected to bring everything you will need for that week and you won’t spend money once you’re there.

Bring plenty of food (and enough to share with your neighbors), at least 2 gallons of water per person per day, a bicycle & bike lock (this is essential), clothes, somewhere to sleep (an RV or tent is most common) and something to gift.

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– Food –

One of the hardest parts of packing for Burning Man is wrapping your head around what to bring for food. Some people staying in fully air-conditioned RV’s may have a few more options than most, but the best rule of thumb is to pack non-perishable food just like you would for a camping trip.

You don’t want to bring anything that needs to be refrigerated if you’re camping. Many people bring BBQs, but, again, it’s pretty much impossible to keep perishable food cold for any length of time out there without an RV and a generator.

Some ideas for food:

  • Fully-cooked quinoa (high protein & filling)
  • Fruit cups
  • Canned tuna (or the pouches so you don’t need a can opener)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Peanut butter (individual packages are perfect)
  • Etc.

Don’t bring a bunch of stuff that will create a lot of waste either as you need to keep your own trash and remove it from the Playa when you leave.

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– Gifting –

If you’re having trouble thinking of something to bring to gift, think outside the box. What would you crave in the middle of the desert after a long days of little sleep in an extreme climate?

I brought a TON of Pop-TartsRandom. I know. But I made a LOT of friends when I held impromptu Pop-Tart parties in the middle of deep Playa at sunrise.

Some people bring huge boxes of face wipes to hand to people who are hot and dirty from the chalky Playa dust. One of my favorite gifts were when camps had giant barrels of homemade pickles.

The salty-sweet after days without fresh food was like a dream come true!

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– What to Wear? –

Literally, anything goes. Wear whatever you feel personally self-expressed in- even if it’s nothing at all! Whether you rock a tutu or your birthday suit, here are a few essentials that you should bring:

  • Sturdy boots (for riding your bikes and protecting your feet)
  • Heavy coat (for freezing cold nights)
  • Goggles (for blocking the dust)
  • Scarf (also for blocking the dust)
  • Camel Back (for carrying drinking water)

During the day, I pretty much wore bikinis and boots every day with some fun add-ons like tutus, a big feathered hat and a vest. It is really hot, so lightweight & breathable fabrics are best.

At night, it gets really, really cold. I brought a big faux-fur coat that I found at a thrift store for $15. You’ll likely not want to bring anything you want to keep in nice condition because the Playa dust will come home home with you on all of your stuff.

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– Light it Up –

One of the most fun parts about Burning Man is the CRUCIAL need to light yourself up at night. This can range from glow in the dark shoelaces all the way up to headwear and glow sticks.

The reason being lit up at night is so important is because of the lack of light on the Playa, the massive amount of people moving in all directions on bicycles, and the danger of the moving art cars. You’ll want to wrap your bicycle (and yourself) in L-Wire and bring lots of extra batteries so you don’t run out of power.

Once you think you have enough lights on you, add one more string… the brighter the better!

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

– Let it Go! –

Burning Man is all about the emotional and physical sense of leaving the weight of society behind. You are encouraged to have a spiritual experience of letting it all go, embracing self-acceptance and self-love, as well as surviving on only what you need.

Each day, it gets a little bit easier to leave it all behind!

Check out my experience at Burning Man on YouTube!

– Leave No Trace –

As I mentioned, over 60,000 people come to Black Rock City for one week and everyone is encouraged to come and enjoy themselves but leave nothing behind. And I mean nothing.

Waste is referred to as MOOP (Matter Out of Place) and leaving no trace is Burning Man’s biggest principle. Even pouring water on the desert is a “no no.”

These ethics aren’t just about Black Rock City, it’s about caring for our entire plane.

Be sure to check out the Burning Man website for more details on preparing for your first burn!

READ NEXT: How to Experience Burning Man in Reno Year Round

The Beginner's Guide to Burning Man

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.