Water 101

Water 101
Image by Doug Crissman

I am going to start this series on the physical and tangible aspects of Radical Self Reliance by talking about one of the most important things you’ll need on playa, water. A person can go about three minutes without oxygen, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Luckily, the oxygen is provided for you on the playa, so the next most important thing that you are required to bring to Burning Man is water! I am going to talk about how much water you need to bring, and where all that water will go, other than into your body. I’ll also address how to get all of that water safely to Black Rock City.

The minimum amount of water that you should bring to the playa is 1.5 gallons, per person, per day. If you’re there from Monday morning to Monday evening, that is 8 days worth of water, which comes to 12 gallons. Now, keep in mind that this is the minimum recommended amount. If you want to shower every day, or if you have a swamp cooler, or if you’re going to carry around a garden sprayer filled with ice water and lavender oil, you will want to bring more than 1.5 gallons per day (and yes, I will be talking about all of these fun things in upcoming months!). I personally bring 2 gallons per day, plus 2 extra gallons to donate to the camp kitchen. I usually have some left over, but it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!

You should drink at least a gallon of water per day while at Burning Man. When you are in Black Rock City, you are at a higher altitude than most people normally live at, the humidity is extremely low, and the alkaline dust will start sucking the moisture out of you before you even find your camp lot. All of these factors, combined with the fact that most people push their limits while on playa, will contribute to dehydration, so your best bet is to drink a lot of water! There are many other things that you’ll need your water for at Burning Man. If you want to shower often, you should bring more than 1.5 gallons per day. You will also want to consider your cooking needs. If you are eating out of cans, and surviving on energy bars and seaweed snacks, you will need less water than if you are cooking two big meals per day. Many theme camps ask for a donation of water to the community kitchen, to help with dishes and other kitchen needs.

Transporting your water to the playa can be one of the bigger obstacles that you or a group of people will come across when getting to the playa. A gallon of water weighs about 8.35 pounds, so a weeks worth of water clocks in at around 100 pounds. Now consider a car with four people in it, now you have to transport 400 pounds of water! A van with 6 people would be 600 pounds of water!!! Water for a theme camp of 25 people: 2500 pounds, which is pushing the carrying capacity of most rental cars, and the towing capacity of most lighter duty cars and trucks. This large amount of weight is something you must plan for and consider when planning your trip to playa. If you are driving to Burning Man from your home, stop somewhere closer to the playa for your water. It will save you in gas mileage, and possibly comfort, especially if you are stuffing the footwells of your car with jugs. When you load your car up with water, try to distribute the weight as evenly as possible throughout the vehicle.

Water is obviously one of the most vital things that you must plan for in your Black Rock City adventures, but with a little of forethought, it shouldn’t be a problem. Next week, I will be talking about the different options and solutions for showering, bathing and hydrating your body on playa (Water 102). I will also be taking some time in the future to talk about acquiring and transporting larger amounts of water, the quantity that a theme camp will need (Water 201). I’ll also discuss a few different forms of evaporative cooling, all of which consume water (Cooling 101). Always take the time to be prepared, and if you have any thoughts or questions, please post them below!


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