Wow, what a week and what a life-changing experience! A few weeks ago I went to my first “Burn”. Tens of thousands people head to Burning Man each year which is an event dedicated to community, art, self-expression and self-reliance. If I could describe it in a sentence to anyone who hasn’t been before I would say it’s an adult pop up version of Disneyland – everything manages to overwhelm and amaze you at once.
It certainly was a once in a lifetime experience. From travelling the playa, exploring and discovering all the different forms of artwork on display and visiting the camps to meet people – you are seeing a completely different way of life. It felt like I had landed on another planet. Everyone was free, self-expressive and enjoying life. The best part of that was feeling I could completely be myself the entire time without judgement.
That being said – this desert “festival” (although more of a community) is something you need to come prepared for. Before I attended this event I didn’t realize how extreme the conditions would be . There are frequent dust storms, it is hot and dry and it is freezing cold at night. Therefore you need to pack accordingly. Here is my list of the essentials you require for a successful “Burn” and to enjoy everything it has to offer.
Outfit – Ladee Taha: Azalea Set
Burning Man Essentials Packing List
1.Flat or platform closed shoes
The number one thing you don’t want to bring is open shoes or heels. The playa is alkaline – which means if you expose your feet to the dust and conditions you will need vinegar to remove the alkalinity each night. Bring anything from covered boots, heeled platform boots, platform boots to enjoy the experience or even sneakers or platform sneakers. I dressed for comfort because you walk or bike around for hours at a time. The lighter and more comfortable the better.
2. Camelback/Hydration reservoir
This was something I was considering not taking because it wouldn’t match my outfits and would be bulkycarry… However I cannot stress enough this is one of the most important things to bring with you. The desert is super dry, you are drinking and outside for hours at a time and the most important thing by far is to keep hydrated. Bring hydrate tablets with you to put inside it and keep your electrolytes up at all times. Other alternatives include a water reservoir that you can place inside your backpack (less to carry).
3. Goggles – tinted and clear
Don’t forget either of these – one tinted for the sun and one clear! In addition to sunglasses, you will need to have goggles on you at all times (especially if you wear contact lenses). The dust storms start randomly and unexpectedly and you need to be able to pull them on. The clear ones are for when the sun goes down. I almost didn’t bring these and I was so happy I did! I stuck some jewels on mine to match my outfits so they didn’t look like safety goggles.
4. Filtered dust masks
When the dust storms hit the second most important thing is a mask to cover your mouth and nose to prevent you from breathing the dust in and it getting in your lungs. I chose one with a filter that covered my mouth and nose and pulled a scarf on over the top (so along with practical I was fashionable). Therefore pick the best filter (even if it’s the ugliest) and throw something cute over it when the storms hit!
You could never bring enough scarves to wrap around your face, neck and hair and cover you during the dust storms or protect you from the sun. If you wear your hair out the whole time keep in mind it is going to be covered in dust by the end of the trip and may be matted. Throwing a scarf around your head will prevent this from happening.
6.Warm fur jackets
I packed two heavy fur jackets thinking I wouldn’t need them but I used them both religiously every night and the one night I didn’t I absolutely froze! Biking around in the desert after the sun is done it turns incredibly cold. Pack something to keep you warm during the nights and you will be thankful. If it has LIGHTS even better because when you are on your bike you want to be SEEN – so there is safety in brightness (bring additional batteries for it).
7. Tissues/Antibacterial gel
The only toilets on the playa besides your RV (if you have one) are portable toilets – and they get dirty! Bring some tissues and gel to throw in your backpack in case you need them.
8. Saline nasal spray and eye drops
This is great to flush the dust out of your nose when you need to. Squirt up some saline spray and blow it all out! Eye drops to flush any dust out.
9. Duffle Bags (no suitcases)
Unless you are driving into Burning Man on an RV I highly suggest bringing a duffle bag. The whole purpose of Burning Man is to be self reliant – so if you bring a suitcase it is up to you to drag or carry it through the dusty playa and get to your camp. Pack light.
10. Zip Lock Bags
Never underestimate the power of having every single outfit you plan to wear in its own separate zip lock bag along with valuables, jewellery, technology… Dust will ingrain itself into every corner of your bag and possessions. Zip lock bags meant every day I had a clean outfit to wear and when I left and showered at a hotel I had an outfit to wear on my plane ride home and it felt amazing.
11. Body and face wipes
I brought biodegradable body wipes with me. Our RV ended up running out of water on the last day (no shower) so they came in useful…
12. Old clothes and tracksuit pants
I didn’t bring any old t-shirts or tracksuit pants to lounge around in at the camp and I wish I had of. When I just wanted to relax around the camp I craved tracksuit or pyjama pants to keep myself warm and comfy, especially at night.. A lot of what you bring will get covered in dust, hence the recommendation to bring old clothes.
13. Gifts to give out to people
Burning Man along with being a self reliant community is also a gifting experience. So be prepared to be given things and it’s nice to be able to give items back in return. We brought sanitising wipes, lights for people who didn’t have any, chewing gym etc.
Bring a backpack with you at all times and fill it up with your water reservoir, tissues, sunglasses, goggles, dust masks, antibacterial gel, phone, camera etc.
15. BYO Cup
Since there are no exchanges of money at Burning Man (except for ice and coffee) you want to bring your own cup with you. I chose one with a lid and a straw which I wedged into my backpack. This meant when I visited the bars I was able to get drinks. A lot of them don’t have cups to give out and you are meant to minimise waste so bring a reusable one you can travel around with. I washed it at the end of each night ready to go for the next day.
I’m gluten intolerant so I made sure I brought snacks such as almonds, protein bars and protein shakes to keep me going throughout the week in case there weren’t options readily available. Since the meal times are usually at random times this turned out to be for the best.
In terms of outfit suggestions at Burning Man – the best part is there really aren’t any rules! Show up in whatever makes you, you (even if that’s your birthday suit). After I went I had so many ideas on what I would have done better. Here is a breakdown of the outfits I wore followed by a list of things I would suggest below:
Things to layer: I wish I would have brought more things to throw together with outfits such as holographic or black body harness sets, chain skirts, fishnet leggings in different colours or with jewels, garter belts, lace kaftans, chains, leg wraps, long socks.
Statement feather pieces
Accessories: Statement headpieces, hats, goggles (steampunk), sunglasses, body jewels, chunky jewellery.
Light up everything! (This is really important at night for safety when you are biking).