Posts Tagged ‘virgin’

Burning Man: My Complete Gear List, Virgin & Photo Guides

fix final temp shroom

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

~ Scott Adams


So it’s been awhile since I did my original virgin and photography guides part 1 and part 2 for Burning Man.  However, one of the things that I didn’t include with those guides was a really complete gear list, and let’s face it, getting your gear together is one of the bigger tasks at hand before heading to the playa.  So here you go, my complete gear list compiled over 6 burns, items are not listed in order of importance.  Two disclaimers, first I’m sure I’ve overlooked some things, feel free to add to the comments.  Secondly, my list has evolved every year, feel free to hit the comments section with questions and I’ll reply snark free. 🙂

First couple of things should be incredibly obvious, ticket, parking pass, directions to Black Rock City and DON”T bring things on the prohibited list, GATE people will turn your ass around and send you home.  Please leave your pets at home, the playa is a nightmare for them and dogs are prohibited.  Bring your schedules for any volunteering you’re doing, you are volunteering right? 🙂



shade structure (2) – 11 foot metal poles, with T connectors, tarp 8 x 12 & 6 x 10, rebar, old tennis balls to cap the rebar, 100 ft of clothing line rope.  This is a simple and basic structure, keep it tight so that it doesn’t flap and it’s damn near indestructible.  The picture below is a similar design with a better view of the structure from one of the Alternative Energy Zone folks, mine uses steel instead of wood and I also hang camping clothesline wire around the side and have sewn fabric panels I hang for decoration and privacy, punch holes in them so the wind doesn’t catch in them.

burning man, shade structure

Here’s an external shot of my set up:

burning man, shade structure


work gloves

surveyor tape to mark out camp and flag camp lines


water jug cooler – fill with ice and let it melt for cold drinking water and ice for drinks

electric fans

home made AC for tent

Music source w/radio function – BMIR 94.5 is funny and gives good info, there are usually a couple of small radio signals on the playa.  I bring an old boom box with a CD player but you can get much fancier.

Tools (vice grips (not cheap ones, you use this to pull rebar that has become cemented in the playa by twisting and wiggling it out, have a veteran show you how), hammer, screw drivers, wire cutters, duct tape, electrical tape, zip ties (various sizes), pliers, staple gun, nails, screws, 5 pound sledgehammer, 3 in 1 oil, tie downs, bungees, knife, scissors, etc…

tent stakes – but supplement them with rebar on your tent and no dinky stakes, at least 8 inch metal.  I have seen a tent airborne in a dust storm

bucket and rebar – bucket for holding rebar, tools etc… bring extra rebar various lengths

ground cover – I look all year for cheap old carpets, however, if the edges are frayed they can be a huge MOOP problem, I’ve duct taped the edges before going out, works ok.  This year an experiment I’m using a canvas drop cloth, I’ve also seen artificial turf used.

lighting – camp lantern, flashlights, head lamps are essential, I also use cheap solar ground lights and some decorative hanging solar lights as well

Folding table

Sun shades for the inside of the car to keep it from getting super hot inside

camp chairs

small camp table

Shower, evaporation pool – 1 metal pole with hook, solar shower bag, thick black plastic .6 mil (not garbage bags), wood for frame, small platform to stand on, shower chair

Below is a picture of a similar set up from a shot on the web, don’t have a pic of mine, but do some research there are a million shower designs out there, mine is the most basic

burning man, shower


Dr. Bronners soap – can use it to wash dishes, teeth, body whatever

Big bowl and wash cloth – alternatives to showering, bowl (sponge bath) and baby wipes are the most basic alternative




Sleeping tent – and years when camping with others I’ve brought a garage tent for storage, including a stand up mirror, usually use the garage for costumes, food other things I want access to that don’t involve sleeping

plastic painters tarp – put over your mattress, sleeping bag, pillow to keep dust off during the day

sleeping bag


air mattress


small hand broom to sleep out tent


burning man

Dr. Megavolt




can opener

pots, pans, glasses, plates, utensils, etc… – if you go environmentally friendly, bring a bucket for dish washing and remember to evap the grey water, DON’T dump it on the playa

camp cup – if you want a drink at most camps you’ll need to have your own cup

ziplocks – they are great to protect everything from dust

stove – I go minimalistic Mountain House camp food (Beef Stroganoff is awesome) and a pocket rocket or other way to cook off of propane.  However the options are unlimited, camp grills or even full sized propane grills.

extra cooking fuel


burning man



A minimum of 1.5 gallons per person per day, I bring 2.0 to be safe, it allows me to share and lets face it, you don’t want to be short on water.  Don’t forget you do get to buy ice, I fill one drinking cooler just with ice and let it melt for cold drinking water and ice for drinks.


spnonge bob, burning man



This list is utterly personal, I like having my main meals as dehydrated camp food and lots of easy food.  Some fresh stuff for the first day or so, but I avoid things like bananas that leave green waste that will end up stinking.


fix a1 sunrise



I bring my by good cameras but that’s a choice, the photo guide will give you more info.  Using your phone for photos will open up your phone to a lot of dust.  I recommend cheap digital cameras or even the temporary digitals if you’re just recording fun shots.  If you’re shooting more seriously take a look at my photo guides part 1  and part 2 for more info.  One warning I have had cameras die after being on the playa for one burn.


burning man, temple




seat post rack – particularly good for carrying ice but if a bigger camp bring a little kids wagon

tie downs, bungees – to hold ice on the bike rack

bike pump

extra tubes, patch kit

bike lock

items to decorate your bike with


burning man, bliss



backpack – I bring both a small backpack and my camelback that has a bladder a small amount of storage space

goggles – really, sunglasses just don’t cut it in a dust storm

dust mask & bandanas

crocs, sandles or other shoes for late night porta potty runs

personal lighting – EL wire is best, glow sticks are MOOPey, but don’t be a darkwad on the playa

cold weather gear – layers to warm up, gloves, warm hat, sweat pants to wear in your sleeping bag if need be

hats – for sun protection, warmth and decoration


burning man



Completely personalized but remember to have costumes for all the potential temperatures, something for sunny hot, warm evenings or freakin cold nights.  I’ve seen every temperature from 115 to 35 on the playa.


burning man



1st aid kit

Emergen-C, aspirin, ibuprofen any other meds you ordinarily use

vinegar – helps with playa foot (the acid counterbalances the alkalai)

baby wipes

hand sanitizer

car battery charger – this is a stand alone car battery charger I bring to be able to jump other cars or mine 🙂

garbage bags – for your trash and MOOP pick up, don’t throw your bags on the side of the road on the way out, there are lots of trash drop options on the way back to the default world

batteries, bring extra

sun screen

skin lotion – your skin will dry out on the playa

chap stick

toiletries and toilet paper – the porta potties usually have some but be safe and remember nothing but toilet paper and your bodily products in the porta potties, NO BABY WIPES in the porta pottie.

personal items – anything from sanitary products, to condoms to whatever you might need

journal, pens – I’m a writer so I spend some time on the playa writing

List of locations where people told you they are camping.

extra car key to hide in your camp

night time potty alternative if you don’t want to walk to the porta potties, here’s a final image for you


burning man

Art Project – if you are doing a project you know what you need


Gifts – bring something to gift people who have been helpful or nice or just because you want to.


burning man








30 Days of Burning Man – Virgin Guide (Part 2)


This year there is a possibility that there will be a much higher percentage of newbies heading to the desert so I thought I’d spend the 30 days before the gates open throwing out some information, some images and a little bit of wisdom, advice and snark about the place I love so much. These posts will be generally directed at Burning Man virgins but hopefully some of you old dogs out there will contribute through comments or get some enjoyment out of them as well. So here we go.  .  I’ll include at least one photo from Burning Man each day and once a week I’ll do nothing but photos.  I hope the posts are sometimes helpful and also enjoyable, enjoy ~ ZD Blue

The second of the three part Virgin Guide

Preparing for your trip to Burning Man 

The first resource, after reading this of course, that you should turn to is the Survival Guide, produced by the Burning Man organization.  It is aptly named and contains tons of information and links that will make your week in BRC much more enjoyable.  If you are prepared for what is to come on the Playa, you can focus more time on having fun and exploring everything Burning Man has to offer.  You can find a link to the survival guide at:

Now I realize there are broadly two types of people out there, those like me who will read everything they can get their hands on and try to be as prepared as possible when they get there.  And of course those of you who will throw a bunch of stuff in the car relatively last-minute, talk to a couple of folks and show up on the Playa.  The second group will end up depending on the kindness of others, and for the most part burners are pretty good about helping you out if you forgot some small things.  But please, DO NOT BE THIS GUY, I met him my second year on the Playa.  He hitchhiked into BRC, he had a backpack, clothes, a little water, a few bags of snacks, a bed roll and a blanket.  He was thoroughly and utterly unprepared for what was to come.  People took care of him, but he was a huge imposition to everyone, his extreme need diminished everyone else’s experience on the Playa that he came in contact with, again, please don’t be that guy.  If you do nothing else in preparation, at least take a look through the survival guide and believe what it says.

For the preparers out there who after reading the last paragraph are grinning broadly and feeling very much superior, stop.  If you have never been to the Playa during Burning Man, you have no idea what you have just gotten yourself into.  You will forget something, you will run into things you are just not prepared for.  My first year I did all of my reading and decided to bring a pop-up shade structure.  Now, I knew a simple pop-up would never survive the wind and conditions on the playa.  So I re-engineered it a bit, found a pop-up with legs big enough to fit a piece of rebar and had open bottom legs.  So I put rebar in the ground, and set the pop-up legs over the rebar.  These were 3 foot rebar pieces that extended 18 inches out of the ground, veteran burners just smiled at the set-up.  I felt pretty good as the set up lasted the first two days and even through one wind storm, or at least what I thought was a wind storm.  On the third day a two-day dust storm started and within an hour of it starting the pop-up folded over exactly one inch above the top of rebar.  Every year on the Playa is a learning experience, last year I found out what it looks like when it rains on the Playa.

Where will you camp?

One of the first questions to address in regards to being at Burning Man is where to camp.  At the first level you need to decide whether you will camp on your own, with a group of friends or with a theme camp.  My own personal feeling is that if you know people involved in a theme camp it’s a good place to camp your first year.  Camping with a theme camp typically gives you access to a lot of veteran burners, gives you a way to be involved your first year and will help you meet a lot of people.  It’s a great way to get introduced to the Burning Man community, the event and learn enough to figure out what you want to do in future years.  Veteran burners are also a great source of information, history and connection to what happens during the week.

The reason I favor this option is that there are lots of things that will escape your attention if you are camping on your own and don’t meet veteran burners along the way.  Last year, around Thursday or Friday of the week I met a couple of virgin burners, I was on my way to the Temple to do a shift as a Temple Guardian, they asked me what the Temple was?  Now for newbies out there that may not seem like a big deal, but the Temple is a significant and sacred part of Burning Man and I can’t imagine someone camping with a theme camp not knowing what the Temple is or what it means to the community.

An archive on theme camps from the organization:

If you don’t know any folks involved with a theme camp, there are some out there who take new members, you can find them on Facebook, and Twitter and occasionally through the Jack Rabbit Speaks (JRS) newsletter.  Here is a link to JRS, it’s a great source of information that comes via e-mail year round:

And here is a link to the JRS archives for the current year:

A quick word on the set up of BRC, the city is laid out like a clock with the Man at 12, Center Camp at 6 and the streets running in a circle around the clock with the Esplanade on the inside and then the streets in alphabetical order extending to the outside of the city.  Here’s a link to the layout from 2005 and each year it’s essentially the same:

Traveling to the Playa has two components, first getting there and second your vehicle.  Let’s tackle the second one first.  You will hear lots of horror stories about what the Playa does to a vehicle, and you may have even seen Playa dusted vehicles rolling down the highway on Labor Day weekend.  Without a doubt, the temperature variations, the unstoppable nature of Playa dust  and the constant sun can definitely do a number on any machine.  However, people typically don’t have any problems with bringing their vehicles to the playa.  There are things you will deal with, playa dust will get everywhere in your car inside and out, it’s not a bad idea to replace your air filter right after the event and an oil change shortly after isn’t the worst idea either.  Also, I really recommend getting your car hosed down at the charity car wash in Gerlach on the way out.  It’s another way to help out the local community, gets your car cleaned up and makes you a little less conspicuous to law enforcement that might be looking to hassle burners.

Travelling to Burning Man

There are directions to the site on the Burning Man website, here is the link:

The roads leading into and out of the Playa can be very dangerous, these are small roads, many without shoulders or soft sand shoulders that can be dangerous.  It’s possible to encounter livestock on the road or that special idiot or just has to pass you.  Drivers on the way out always are more dangerous, after a great mellow week where people are kind, many folks turn into normal commuting idiots on the drive home, don’t be one, hang onto what you gained over the week on the drive home.

A tradition that accidentally started because my birthday was the night before we went into BRC has really become a great idea.  We stay a night in Reno on the way in each year and most years on the way out.  It shortens the drive both ways and on the way out gets you a night of good sleep, a hot shower and good food before you go home.  On the way in, it makes a nice transition from the default world to the Playa.  This message brought to you by the Reno Hotel and Casino Association, kidding of course but if they want to kick me a free room for saying this, well, I’m amenable.

Arriving at Burning Man

Keep abreast through JRS and the website as to when the gate opens, expect on opening night/morning to spend several hours waiting to get in.  Being there at the opening is a tradition for some folks, but I’d prefer to not sit in traffic for hours waiting to get in, however gauging the best time is a crap shoot.  You will not be let in prior to the opening without special permission gained in advance and you’ll know if that’s you.

Once inside you’ll get your ticket and vehicle checked, including searched for people trying to sneak in and then you’ll be sent to the greeter station.  They’ll welcome you to Burning Man in their own special way and I’ll let it be a surprise for you.

Finding your camp is really something you should plan in advance, theme camps will have designated points and are easy to find.  A group of friends can be something different.  You cannot guarantee you’ll get a spot at 3 O’Clock and C, by time you get there it may be occupied.  Have some back up and communication plans and remember your cell phone will not be working once you get there  Also at Playa Info in Center Camp you can register your location to help others find you.  It’s also not a bad idea to have a plan of let’s meet at Center Camp at this day and time so that you can hook up.