With thousands of attendees and extreme weather conditions, Burning Man is not as simple as just showing up and chilling out for a week. There’s a lot to know about preparing for this event physically, emotionally, and financially.
After securing a ticket, your next step is to gather and efficiently pack everything you’ll need for a week on the playa. And I mean EVERYTHING.
If you need more information, don’t miss my Beginner’s Guide to Burning Man!
I have made three trips out to Black Rock City for Burning Man. Each year, I did things a little differently. I self-camped my first year, I joined a camp my second year (but brought my own food), and I flew directly into BRC and stayed at a fully hosted camp my third year. I’ve even ventured to AfrikaBurn in South Africa to experience the burn in an entirely new way.
Regardless of how you choose to experience the burn, there are some absolute essentials you need to pack for Burning Man in order to stay safe, be prepared and have fun!
Here’s my survival packing guide for Burning Man!
Don’t Forget Your Ticket!
This is obvious but essential.
Camping Essentials for Burning Man
Depending on your camp setup, these are some of the most vital things you will need to survive out in Black Rock City!
- Large Tent
- Heavy-Duty Camp Chair
- Shade Structure — there’s no shade in the desert and you will need it!
- Head Lamp
- Batteries — check what size all of your electronics (bike lights, headlamps, etc.) will need.
- Duct Tape
- Sleeping Bag
- Insulated Cooler Bag
- Ziploc Bags
- Trash Bags
- Weatherproof Matches
- Top Sheet — use to cover your bed during the day so it doesn’t get covered with dust.
- Walkie Talkies
Reminder: Make sure that you secure your structure / tent!
Toiletry Essentials for Burning Man
Long days in the sun and dust can wreak havoc on the skin and health, so make sure to bring these toiletry essentials along with you.
- Wet Wipes
- Toilet Paper
- Lip Balm
- Body Lotion — coconut oil is also a dream!
- Vinegar — the dust on the playa is alkali, so you’ll want to wipe down with a water and a small amount of vinegar solution each day to prevent your skin from cracking!
- Ear Plugs — the burn is 24 hours a day, so you’ll need heavy-duty ear plugs to drown out the noise.
Just in case: Advil, antacids, Neosporin, hydrocortisone, EmergenC, cold + flu medicine!
Food + Drink Essentials for Burning Man
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. Depending on your camp, you’ll need to determine if you are on your own for food, or if your camp will be pooling responsibilities.
Regardless, I always bring a lot of snacks to get me through the days. Here are some ideas for snacks and easy to make meals:
- Protein Bars
- Fully cooked Quinoa — high protein & filling
- Fruit Cups
- Tuna Pouches — so you don’t need a can opener
- Fresh Fruit
- Peanut Butter Pouches — individual packages are perfect
- Pop Tarts — how I earned my playa name “Pop Tart” 😉
- Giant Jar of Pickles — my go-to!
Reminder: 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.
For drinking receptacles, I’d recommend bringing 2 large, reusable water bottles— one or water, and one for alcohol.
For the bottle with your “adult beverages”, make sure to photocopy your ID and tape it onto your bottle — you will be carded throughout the day and in different camps. Also, bring a reusable coffee mug for your morning beverages!
Lastly, don’t forget WATER, WATER, WATER!
I can’t stress WATER enough. 1.5 gallons of water per day per person is recommended.
Make sure that the water is POTABLE. You can find more info on water recommendations here.
Bike Essentials for Burning Man
You absolutely 100% need a bike for Burning Man. Your stuff is mostly safe on the playa, but you do NOT want to have someone “accidentally” take your bike. Burning Man without a bike is a huge buzz kill. Always, always ALWAYS lock your bike.
- Zip Up Bike Bag — to carry some essentials around with you
- Light Wire — you NEED to be lit up at night for safety reasons (you can’t have too many!)
- Zip Ties — to attach the lights
- Tire Pump
- Bike Lock
- Fun Wheel Light — because why not?
The playa provides some community bicycles that you’re free to use. The idea is that you’re allowed to use it to get from point A to point B, then it’s up for grabs, so do not rely on using them!
There are also bike camps that will help you repair flats and any issues you have, but the lines tend to be hours long. Come prepared!
Helpful Tip: Tag your bike lock/bag with your name, playa camp coordinates, and contact information!
Buying and Renting Bicycles for Burning Man
Depending on how you plan to arrive on the playa, it is sometimes easier and more practical to rent a bike than to buy one and bring it out yourself. Renting can sometimes cost the same as buying one, so just determine whether you’ll use the bike again.
If you’re flying directly into BRC, Playa Bike Repair lets you order online and then you can pick up and return your bike at their camp on the playa.
If you’re flying into Reno, Black Rock Bicycles sells and rents bikes out of Reno.
If you have a local shipping address and are driving out, I’d suggest investing in a beach cruiser that you can use again and again.
Clothing + Accessories for Burning Man
Burning Man is all about radical self-expression, so wear whatever you want, or nothing at all! These are some absolute essentials for surviving the cold, heat and dust!
- Riding Boots
- Combat Boots
- Fur Coat — it gets COLD at night, so look for vintage furs at thrift shops or bring a faux fur (just make sure it’s actually warm)
- Goggles — for dust storms
- Dust Mask — did I mention it gets dusty?
- Sunglasses — it’s bright out
- Scarfs — you’ll want to protect yourself from the dust and heat
- Gloves — wear gloves during the day to prevent blisters from your bike handlebars
- Fishnet Stockings — I wear fishnets pretty much every day
- Comfy Socks — bring 2 pairs for every day
- Hydration Pack — did I mention you need water?
- Wrist watch — keep track of the time!
Be sure to pack a “Post Playa Outfit” safely away in a Ziploc so you can return to life in clean clothes on the way back home. Also, be sure to pack extra plastic bags/garbage bags for all your dusty clothes!