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The Civilized Explorer
Things You Did Not Know You Would Need at Burning Man
This is a list of items you may not know you need to bring to Burning Man.
It is by no means a complete list. This list is just for items that make
survival at the event a little more civilized.
- A broad brimmed hat with a cord. Bring two. You'll need a cord to keep it on
your head during gusts of wind -- tie it under your chin or to the back of
your head like you see on drill instructors. And bring a few caps, too, in
case you lose your hats. You need a head covering.
- A neckerchief or bandanna. A big one. Do not get one the size
of your handkerchief. Get one that you can tie around your neck as a
rectangle. Bandannas have many uses as all those cowboys in the American
Old West well knew. If you carry a water bottle on a strap around your
neck, you may find it chafing if you wear shirts with no collars or no
shirts at all. The bandanna keeps your neck protected from whatever you
carry around your neck. Wearing a cap, and the back of your neck getting
burned? Use your bandanna as a French Foreign Legion neck cover. Getting
cold at night? Tie your bandanna as a triangle with the knot in the back
and the bulk of the triangle in the neck of your shirt -- very helpful to
keep the warmth of your body from escaping out the neck of your shirt. Hot?
Wet your neckerchief and wipe your face, back of your neck, and the
bends of your elbows. (Not as good as a mister, but you may not have one
- Lights to be seen at night. A flashlight is helpful, but you need more to be
seen than to see. Don't wander around unlighted in the dark -- you will get
run down. Wear glow sticks, flashing lights, EL wire -- something that will
be visible from all directions at night to people riding bikes or driving
an art car with no headlights.
- Gifts. Bring lots of cheap toys to give away. Newcomers do not know what
to bring, so bring stuff to give them. Make friends, teach people it is a
gift economy. See A Brief Guide for Second Timers for more information and resources for cheap toys. NOTE: Please buy things that are related to Burning Man (creatively, of course). Giving away cardboard bookmarks from your library is not what we want to encourage. Think glow bracelets, tubes of henna, blinkie toys, and the like.
- Liquids. If you want anything to drink, bring it. Caffeine is a
diuretic (it makes you have to urinate, okay?), so most colas, regular
coffee, and anything else with caffeine should be limited, and you need to
drink non-caffeinated beverages to make up for beverages you drink
with caffeine. My doctor told me I should drink two ounces of
non-caffeinated beverage for every ounce of beverage with caffeine. Alcohol
is also an issue as it drives water out of your cells. Do the two-for-one
measure for alcohol, too -- two ounces of water, juice, non-caffeinated
soda for every ounce of alcohol.
- Shade. Bring your own shade. Your tent will become an oven. Your shade should have an opaque roof and either no walls or walls that will flow with any breeze that passes by. The shade structure should not trap air or restrict the flow of air. You know what it is like getting into your parked car after it has been in the sun for an hour; your tent is like that, too. That is because they have trapped the air, and the sun heats up the interior like an oven. Shade should be open. Put a carpet under your shade. Laying around in the dirt in 107° Fahrenheit heat is not fun.
- Ear plugs. Only if you want to sleep at night. Or during the day.
- Chapstick. Bring a tube for each person. Bring two for each person.
- Skin moisturizer. Bring two full size bottles for each person. Apply
liberally to your whole body, including your feet if you wear sandals.
- Soak your feet. If you wear sandals, soak your feet in
water. On hot days, this takes your breath away and cools your whole body.
On all days, it gets the alkaline playa dust off your feet. Put some of
that skin moisturizer in the water.
- Vaseline. Sometimes, skin moisturizer is not enough.
Bring along some Vaseline to put in the corners of your eyes (they tear
from the wind, and the drying tears are salty) and your mouth (the wind and
sun dry and crack your lips).
- Saline nasal spray. If you do not want to share, bring a bottle for
each person. The desert is extremely dry, and your sinuses will dry out.
You will not notice until the playa powder has blocked up your nose and you
blow it. Blood. Brown, icky stuff. Yuck! You will thank us when you spray
the saline solution up your nose and moisten and clear out your sinuses.
- Toilet paper. Bring a couple of rolls per person. The portapotties will
run out of paper, so bring your own. Having more than one roll means more
than one person can go to the toilet at once. It also means when someone
did not put a roll back, one will be where you can find it when you really,
really need it.
- Sun block. Bring a couple of bottles of full strength. We know that 15
SPF is the real, official maximum, but we buy 45. Bottles labeled 45 have
stickier lotions that do not come off as readily when the skin is wet --
from sweat, a mister, or a watergun, for example.
- Moistened towlettes. We have always gotten the unscented variety, having heard that the smell of scented towlettes become nauseatingly strong in the heat. Moistened towlettes come in handy after using the portapotty, before handling food, as a cooling wipe, and just to get the grit off your face and out of your ear folds after the latest dust storm. (Please do not put the towlettes in the portapotty; they do not disintegrate, and they clog the suction hoses.)
- Dust mask and goggles. There are always dust storms at Burning Man,
some worse than others. We really do not think that dust masks work, but
we use them anyway for whatever relief they offer. Goggles can certainly
be effective to keep that dust and dirt out of your eyes. You may not need
these, but when you do need them, you need them.
- Containers with tight-fitting lids. We have four large plastic boxes
that we bring with us, full of stuff. Two have snap on lids that remove
completely, and two have hinged lids that fold shut. With the winds in 2000
we found that the hinged lids provided no seal at all from the dust, but
that the boxes with snap on lids remained dust- free (inside, of course).
Fortunately, the snap on boxes had our cooking gear, so that stayed clean.
The hinged boxes contained canned and packaged goods for the most part, so
luckily no problem. (Our roll of aluminum foil was in a hinged box, and
when we picked it up after a dust storm, there was a puff of dust squirted
from the opening of the box.)
- Feminine Hygene. Even if your period is not due, bring a supply of tampons or pads. Irregularity happens, and getting sanitary napkins on the playa is a problem.
- Warm clothes in a closed container or bag. In 1998, the weather was warm 24 hours a day. People ran around naked all night in total comfort. In 1999, we froze our buns off day and night. In 2000, it was not hot during the day, and it was downright chilly all night. Recognizing that everything you bring will become coated with playa powder, put some warm clothes in a bag or container you can keep closed for the whole event if it is warm enough not to need them. Use your judgment on what you bring. It may be that you need something warm every night, but maybe just a night or two. Bring clothes you can layer; plan on the coldest being about 40° Fahrenheit, but maybe in the 50s, 60s, or 70s. Maybe a windbreaker and sweaters, or maybe thermal undies, flannel shirts and a warm vest. Just be aware that if you wear them, they will need to be cleaned.
- A first-aid kit. Cuts and scrapes at Burning Man are all too common (think rebar), and if you need to stop some bleeding and do not have clean gauze or adhesive bandages, you end up trekking to Center Camp for a deep cut, leaving a trail of blood on the nice, clean playa. Our Adventure Kits page may be overkill, but start there for more than basic outfits for your medical needs or drop by REI for one of their kits. Please make sure it provides for your specific needs at Burning Man (no snakes there, for example, so no need to waste money on a snake bite kit).
This list is not intended to be a complete list of all you need for Burning
Man. Note that it makes no mention of food, for example. Remember that nothing
is for sale at Burning Man-- except for coffee, tea, and ice at the Center
Camp. Whatever you want at Burning Man is what you have to
We suggest bringing at least two of everything. In the heat of the day,
it is very aggravating trying to find stuff that someone else did not put away or that someone took somewhere, especially if you are looking in your 100° tent or car. Save yourself the aggravation and have a back up or two for all items.
Other people have lists of stuff to bring. Browse through these, as you may
have an epiphany.
The 3M Company (formerly Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing) has a single Web page full of products which fill several of our needs: products for cracked heels, cracked skin, foot cream, skin cleansers, liquid bandages, hand sanitizers, and more. Drop by their NexCare Products page and see if anything applies to your needs.
For individual packets of personal care products, aspirins, even food, see Miminus.
We have pages on our Table of Contents page at
which give information for first time participants, second time participants,
and old time participants. In addition to guides on participating, the Table of
Contents has links to shade and shelter, last minute shopping in Reno, tall
tales from Black Rock, and photographs from 1996 through the latest Burn.
This is not the official Burning Man site. That Web site
is located at
The Burning Man Archives contain every
Web site for the Burning Man known to Man. Please browse that site as
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