No matter how much and how long you prep for Burning Man, you will ALWAYS forget something. It’s inevitable. I’ve racked my brain and gone through lists from past years trying to remember every little thing that has made my playa experiences easier and more enjoyable. I’m hoping that this list will help you plan, prep and run around like a mad person the week(s) before The Burn, so during your week there you can party stress-free, knowing that you have over-planned and are ready for anything. Well, almost anything. No one is ever quite ready to be squirted in the face with breast milk aboard a fire-breathing unicorn on a high dose of LSD, whilst trying to contemplate how to pee off the side without anyone noticing or getting your tutu dirty. But for most other things this list will help.
Update: this list was originally created in 2012, and this year for 2014 I’ve gone through and added updates throughout as well as create a downloadable PDF for y’all. <3
For General Camp Living
1. Ticket- I don’t even know how many stories I’ve heard about people forgetting their tickets. Make sure you have it when you arrive. Update: Make sure you also have a vehicle ticket!
2. Tent/Living Space- If, like me, you are too poor for an RV, or too lazy to build a hexayurt, invest in a tent with ceilings high enough to change comfortably under, and make sure that all the mesh in the tent can be zipped up or your tent will get filled with the aftermath of the storm(s) that will hit. Update: I built a hexayurt and it changed my life.
3. Painter’s Plastic- Cover your bed with it when you leave for the day. Your tent will get dusty no matter what, but this will protect your bedding.
4. Blankets- I prefer bringing blankets to bringing a sleeping bag. They’re better for cuddling with guests, and you can kick off layers as the sun slowly roasts you alive. A good friend of mine recommends instilling a No Clothes policy in bed, both to keep it clean, and to promote sexy time!
5. Comfy Bed- I bring an air mattress, giant pillow and a foam pad. Which reminds me…
6. Air Mattress Pump- Don’t buy the cheaper one that only works when plugged into the car like I did one year. Get the kind with batteries. Better yet, get an air mattress with a built in pump. Update – don’t forget extra batteries!
7. Giant Stakes/Rebar- These hold your tent to the ground during heavy winds.
8. Pool Noodle/Tennis Balls- Best and cheapest thing I’ve found to mark rebar so no one busts their foot on it at night. Also good for noodling douches, or playing tennis.
9. Rug- It works inside your tent to help with dust, and/or a welcome mat. Grab one off the street before you head out.
10. Shade Structure- Make sure it is secured properly and strong enough to withstand playa storms.
11. Camping Chair- It should be big and comfy. Drink holders and side pockets are great too.
12. Giant Plastic Tubs with Secure Lids- They keep your kitchen stuff, clothes, hardware, etc. separated and mildly dust-proof.
13. White Board- Helps communicate with camp members, and friends can leave you notes when you are not home.
14. Mail Box- BRC has an operating post office, and sending mail is super fun on the playa! You will accumulate an excess of stickers and comics in your mailbox. Good fun.
15. Camp Light- A big lantern or something.
16. Tent Lights- LED battery-powered lights are my favorite to string up.
17. Solar Shower- If you want to shower. Make sure you have a proper water evaporation system set up for grey water!
18. A Rake- For combing through the dust for MOOP during camp clean-up.
19. Flag- As a landmark for your friends to find you, and also so you can find your way back home.
21. Dishwashing Bucket/Tub
22. Sponge and Dish Soap
23. Funnel- For grey water. Or yellow water.
25. Folding Table
1. Buba Keg– These things keep your drinks cold all day and all night on the playa, and come in all sizes, from normal size to Let’s Go All Night size. They’re perfect for housing enough vodka and juice for a post-sunrise trek across the playa to your camp. If you don’t have a buba keg, you can make due with a regular boring old cup.
2. Coconut Water- Liquid gold. It tastes delicious, and has the highest natural concentration of electrolytes found in nature. Get the kind without added sugar for maximum hydration.
3. Camel Pack- The easiest way to remember to drink enough water is to have it on your back at all times.
4. E3 Live– It’s important to get your vitamins and keep yourself healthy in harsh climates. Most vitamins will not help you if you eat them on an empty stomach. With E3 Live you can drink it on an empty stomach and all your vitamins and nutrients go right into your blood stream. Make it a point to have two tablespoons every morning, hungry or not. It makes a huge difference.
5. Cigarettes- If you smoke, it’s better to bring too many than to run out. Please don’t let your butts become MOOP.
6. Good Booze- It’s fine to drink the cheap stuff, but on that one sunrise with a group of new friends, it is an awesome feeling to remember you have a nice bottle of tequila, scotch, wine, sake or whatever your fancy is, and bust it out.
7. Cooler- The bigger and nicer the better. Make sure it has a drainage spout. I recommend having one for drinks and another for food.
8. Bacon- Lots and lots of bacon. Bring vegi bacon too and support your local vegans. (Although playa dust has a magical power: Once you add it to bacon it becomes vegan.)
9. Camping Stove and Back-up Gas
10. Frying Pan- If you bring nothing else to cook with, bring a frying pan and a spatula.
11. Cutting Board and Knife
12. Quesadillas- Best hot meal on the playa for me. They’re super fast and easy and if you keep the cheese inside your tortilla, then there’s no clean-up. Win!
13. Avocados- Buy a few while they’re under-ripe and they’ll ripen right up in the desert.
14. Cup of Noodles- Easy hot meal. I pimp mine out with mushrooms, hot sauce, cilantro, and other asian accessories.
15. Beer- Have a nice selection available. Cans travel easily and don’t break. 21st Amendment makes GREAT canned beers. Update: I have now sworn to drink no beer on the playa except 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat Beer.
16. Sea Salt- It contains natural minerals that help with dehydration and makes food yummier.
17. Bloody Mary Supplies- Vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, horseradish, olives, celery, salt, pepper and tomato juice. It’s worth making them right.
18. Pickles- OMFG. I don’t know what it is, (maybe the vinegar and its pH?) but these are AMAZING on the playa. Keep them in your cooler or refrigerator and eat in the middle of day with Jameson.
19. Chewing Gum
20. Can Opener
21. Pocket Flask
22. Kettle- For boiling water. Or at least a pot.
23. Coffee Mug- To bring to Center Camp or for yourself.
24. French Press and coffee- For when Center Camp is toooooo fucking far.
25. Water- Duh. Pick it up in Reno. Popular quota is 2 gallons a day for drinking and showering. I always end up with extra. I aim for .75 gallons a day, but I also drink a lot of coconut water and juice. It’s better to buy too much than too little, but be reasonable.
26. Emergen-C Packets
27. Juices and Iced Teas- I find it’s easier to hydrate when you always have yummy things to drink. The more options you have for healthy drinks, the better. Another trick I’ve found is to make large batches of iced tea at home, pour them into plastic bottles, and freeze them. That way you have large chunks of ice to keep your freezer cold, and you will always have cold iced tea.
28. Energy Bars- Stash one in your pocket at all times. You never know when you or someone else will need it.
29. ID- Nevada is cracking down, and many camps will not gift you booze without an ID. At least have a copy. And don’t be a dick if you don’t have one. Update- this is now a normal requirement at ALL bars on-playa. Have your ID on you and don’t be a dick when asked.
1. Camera and extra memory cards- For obvious reasons. Also make sure you have a way to charge it. Update: Now since it is the age of technology, many opt for iPhones instead. I hate this and recommend using an old point and shoot, or else taking out your SIM card and using your iPhone as a camera only. Enjoy not having your phone for a week!
2. Work Gloves
3. Carabiners- The more the better. Get them in all sizes and strengths. Clip up hammocks, attach goggles to your belt, hang your fishnets in your tent for easy reach, anything.
4. Solar Charger / Generator – Easiest way to keep basic appliances charged out in the elements.
5. Zip Ties- Lots and lots and lots of them.
6. Duct Tape- Bonus if you get the fancy printed kind. Utilitarian and great for last minute glasses/bike/whatever fix.
7. Lighters and Lighter Leash– Incredibly useful and also a great playa gift.
8. Drill, drill-bits, toolkit
9. Portable Ashtray- An old Altoid container works great. DO NOT LEAVE BUTTS ON THE PLAYA!
10. Headlight– Invest in one with a red light setting, your friends will thank you.
12. Tent Fan / Swamp Cooler / AC – Update – I went years without any of these. Now I’m hooked.
13. Zip Lock Bags- In all sizes. Use them for storing everything from pasta to lighters to underwear.
14. Bungee Cords
15. Thick Rope and Twine
16. Pocket Knife
17. Mini Sewing Kit- Even just a needle, thread and scissors will get you far.
18. Mister- To keep cool and sane during scorching hung-over days. Misty Mates (mine’s name is Mr. Mister) are my favorite, or grab a pump sprayer from a gardening store.
19. Garbage Bags- Big and strong. And strap them down as you depart. There is nothing sadder than seeing trash all along highway 447 after the event is over, because people bought cheap bags and/or didn’t properly strap them down.
1. Body Lotion- Your body loses more moisture out of your skin than you would think, especially in alkaline dust. Keep your body moisturized so all that water you make yourself chug stays in you! Update: coconut oil is good.
2.Vinegar- Combats alkaline dust and “playa foot.” Give yourself a vinegar foot bath if your feet start to turn funky.
3. Eye Drops
4. First Aid Kit
5. Baby Wipes- Wipe yourself daily. Everywhere! I use them to wash my dishes too. Buy alcohol-free ones. Buy a lot.
7. Condoms and Lube- Everything gets drier. Everything.
8. Toilet Paper- 1 ply only for porta-potties.
9. Ibuprofen- Advil, aspirin, etc. Stuff to make your head stop hurting.
10. Sunscreen- The spray stuff is the most hassle-free.
11. Yeast Infection Treatment- I’ve had many ladies tell me this has been helpful in the desert.
12. Nasal Vapor Inhaler- I go for the natural menthol ones. Nothing like it after a good playa booger-picking.
13. Mouthwash- Don’t listen when the boys in your camp tell you it’s a great idea to snort Listerine. They said it was like getting kicked in the nuts followed by a blow job. I’ve never been kicked in the nuts or gotten a blow job, but let me tell you the blow job was not worth it. It is one of the worst feelings in the world. Please use only for intended purpose or when too lazy to brush teeth.
14. Nose Spray
15. Toothbrush and Toothpaste
17. 5HTP- To keep serotonin replenished.
18. Lip Balm- Preferably with built-in SPF.
19. Tiger Balm- Great for sore muscles and rubbing on your temples.
20. Cough Drops
21. Razor and Shave Gel
22. A Towel- Even if you don’t plan on showering. Haven’t you read The Hitchhikers Guide for Christ’s sake????????
23. Prescription Meds and Prescription- Bring your meds for obvious reasons, and the prescription is just in case you get in trouble with the law you can hold onto your meds without a hassle. Nevada law enforcement is no joke.
24. Facial Wipes
25. Hair ties, Sticks, Bobby Pins, Etc.- (Only if you have hair of course.)
26. Safety Pins– Not sure what category these go in, but I usually pack them with my bobby pins. Don’t buy the ones at the dollar store, they bend, fall off, and turn into MOOP. Splurge on the $5 pack at the drugstore.
27. Make Up – aka “face don’t suck”
28. Face lotion with SPF
30. Shampoo and conditioner
31. Sleeping pills – Tylenol PM works fine, I take Valerian Root and Melatonin
1. Goggles- If you don’t know why you might need goggles you probably should reconsider going to Burning Man.
2. Bandanas- Great for keeping sweat off your forehead, impromptu dust masks, and an instant cool down when soaked in ice water and put on your head.
3. Scarves– The bigger and fluffier the better.
4. Pocket Belt- (Basically a sexy version of a fanny pack, not that there is anything wrong with wearing fanny packs) It makes all the difference to have your important things strapped to your waist and your hands free.
5. Sunglasses- Odds are you will lose/break at least one pair. Go to your local Chinatown or Dollar Plus and invest in a bunch of the weirdest ones you can find.
6. Playa Boots- The bigger and more badass the better. These will protect your feet all week from the alkaline dust. But make sure you can walk in them comfortably for hours and days on end. If you are not used to wearing heavy platform boots, they will make your feet hurt.
7. Insoles- To keep your feet happy.
8. New Socks- Nothing like them after a foot bath. Save a pair for the ride home.
9. Flip Flops- Not for everyday use but for late night bathroom runs if you choose to go sans pee-funnel setup.
10. Fishnets- The ultimate versatile accessory. They’re super cheap, they come in all colors and sizes, and you can cut them up to make shirts, stockings, arm decorations, etc.
11. Hats- To block the sun in the day and keep you warm at night.
12. Full Length Mirror- Make sure it is properly secured to something, not just leaning up against your tent. (Virgin mistake I made. Not fun to clean up broken glass while tripping.)
13. Giant Warm Jacket- The bigger and furrier the better. It gets cold at night.
14. Gloves- For those cold nights. I pick up the cheap ones and cut off the fingers.
15. Tutu- For Tutu Tuesday and any day!
16. Utilikilt- Every man I know who has one of these swears by it.
17. Clean “Normal” Clothes- For the trip home. You’ll thank me. Underwear, leggings, socks, shirt, etc. in a zip-locked bag.
18. Dancer Tights- Or any kind of super warm tights geared towards movement. My new favorite trick is to rock these at night with bootie shorts. Danskin makes a great pair.
20. The obvious stuff – leggings, pants, shirts, studded thongs, etc
1. Fire Dancing Equipment
2. Musical Instruments
4. Yoga Mat
6. Sharpie Pen- For many purposes, but especially for leaving messages in the temple.
7. Calling cards- You will make a million friends, and the easiest way to ensure contact off playa is to either write down their info in a small book or print off cheap business cards with your email, Facebook, whatever, and a cute message or meaningful quote.
8. Face Paint
9. Glitter- Disclaimer: Glitter can be fun or it can be MOOP. The best kind of glitter to buy for respectful fun is biodegradable gel glitter. Updated: same goes for bindis.
10. Altar- I always bring out some tapestries, crystals, tarot cards and special things to make a sacred altar for my camp. Someone always leaves decapitated Barbies on it, but it is still a nice thing to have around to remind yourself that you are part of a community, not just a giant party; and that it’s okay to do beer bongs before AUM-ing at the temple.
11. Parasol- Best useful accessory ever! Try to take a bad photo with a parasol. Just try. I bet you can’t.
13. Things that blink
14. Anything that makes you smile
1. A Bike- Make sure it’s in decent shape. Cruisers are the best. You will be trekking across a desert and your street bike will make you miserable.
2. Bike Lock- It’s not so much that people steal things at Burning Man (even though there are bad Burners) it’s more the fact that people get so high they jump on your bike thinking it is a flashing gift from the acid gods, so they jump on, ride off, and don’t realize their mistake until sunrise. I recommend combo locks rather than lock and key ones. Update: after lecturing my friend about this, her bike was stolen at Distrikt and she was very upset. Don’t be my friend Bunny.
3. Label- In case someone does ride off with your bike, and wants to return it, have your camp name and address somewhere obvious on your bike.
4. Bike Basket- To store your Bubba Keg and other fun things in while riding around.
5. Extra Tubes- Make sure they are your tire size. It’s easy to find someone to fix your bike on the playa, but searching for a matching tube will be a mission.
6. Lights- So people see you at night. Battery-powered LED ones work the best, I use the same kind on my bike as I do in my tent.
7. Bike Seat- Make it comfortable to keep your booty happy.
8. Decorations- Make your bike unique! Whatever floats your boat. Word of advice: Do NOT decorate your bike with fur with pieces of tinsel. The metal pieces will chafe your thighs after one ride on the first day. Not fun.
Things NOT to Bring!
1. Playa Gifts that will turn into MOOP- (Or end up in a landfill.) Try to think of something meaningful and/or functional. When in doubt, hugs and whiskey are always a good idea.
2. Feathers- Up there in the MOOP Hall of Fame.
3. Styrofoam Coolers– They will break up into a million pieces.
4. Glow Sticks- At least not the disposable ones. Battery powered lights are such a better investment. And those stupid tiny plastic connectors on disposable glow sticks are basically impossible to find after they land in the dust.
5. Pets- Human pets are fine.
6. A pee bucket for your tent without a lid
7. Dried Fruit- I know a bunch of people who always bring dried fruit and I’m probably going to get some shit for this, but hear me out, okay? In order to digest the dried fruit your body must first hydrate it. It seems silly to consume anything out there that dehydrates you (besides alcohol of course).
8. Anything that will endanger you or those around you beyond reason. This includes obvious drug using that may get your camp searched.
9. Expectations, Judgments or Non-Ironic Negativity