I've been going to Burning Man for a few years now, and over those years, I've maintained and tuned a list of my favourite, most necessary things to bring. If you're new to the Burn, or just don't feel like remembering all of the basics, I'm open sourcing my list of What to Bring to Burning Man.
Note: This is just what to bring for YOUR CAMP. If you're building an art piece, hosting a bar, or doing anything of that sort, you will obviously need more things. :)
Step 1: PRE-TRIP CAR CARE
- Get your tires rotated
- Change your oil
- Tell the mechanic you’re about to drive a zillion miles into Hell Itself (TM) and to check the belts and all that Just In Case because it’s one hell of a walk back to town.
Step 2: YOUR CAR
- Jumper cables
- Jack (Make sure you know how to use it. Make sure of this while you are still at home.)
- Spare tire
- Gas can
- Registration (Make sure it does not expire during BM!)
- Proof of car insurance (Make sure it does not expire during BM!)
- Driver’s License (+ State ID, if you have one. Carry the state ID as your proof of age for bars, just in case you lose it. You don’t want to drive home without your license!)
- AAA Card (That 100-mile tow, yo.)
- Two copies of your car key. Keep them in different, extremely safe, outside-of-the-car places.
- Your Burning Man Tickets
- Your Burning Man Car Permit
Step 3: TOOLS
- Mallet (to hammer rebar into the ground)
- Vice grip (to pull rebar out of the ground when it’s time to go)
- Work gloves (for your poor hands. bring some for friends)
- Screw drivers, wrenches, hex keys never hurt. (You might need them for your shade or bike. Make sure they fit your bike.)
Step 4: YOUR TENT
- A tent that sleeps as many of you as there are + fits some of your food/coolers/clothes. You don’t want to walk to the car for everything.
- Rebar (at least 1′-2′ long for tents. 4′ for tall shade.)
- Tennis balls (cut slits in them and use them to cap off rebar for safety)
Step 5: BED
- Pillows and blankets that you don’t mind getting very dirty.
- Sleeping bag (I like to put the sleeping bag on top of the blankets when it’s hot, for padding, and then move the blankets on top of the sleeping bag for warmth when it’s cold.)
Step 6: SHADE
- A shade structure that is very well secured to the ground with rebar (An EZ-UP, or a bunch of metal poles + attachments from Home Depot. Make sure the poles and the attachments all fit BEFORE you leave.)
- Additional shade cloth for the sides/top of your shade structure (I like alluminet, or tough cloth. Tarp is too loud in the wind. If you cut slits in big pieces of cloth, wind will blow through it more easily and be less likely to destroy your shade.)
- Bungees to hold shit together (I like bungeeballs.)
- Big zipties. You’ll need them for something.
- Duct tape. You’ll need it for something.
Step 7: KITCHEN
- Coolers (Make sure they do not leak or you will be sad and wet. I like to have one for food that I rarely open, and one for drinks that I open all the time. The more you open it, the less cool it will be.)
- Small grill
- Extra can of fuel for grill
- One pot, one pan, one spatula, one ladle
- Cup (this item is precious), bowl, plate, spork per person
- One sharp food knife
- Stovetop coffeepot
- Paper towels to wipe scum from pots/pans. (Go easy on these.)
- Small bottle of dish soap
- Sponge (If you want. I just used paper towels.)
Step 8: BATHROOM / PERSONAL ITEMS
- Baby wipes (DO NOT put these in the porta potties. If I were you, I would use these only for wiping my skin in place of showering, and never as toilet paper. Too much hassle.)
- Shower bags are nice but not necessary
- Pads/tampons (and a place to throw them out. You CAN NOT use the porta-potties for these. If you have any big jugs left over from protein powder or juice or whatever, those make great places to store nasty shit, because they shut tightly and trap smells. If this is too gross for you, this is the red flag that Burning Man might not be a good place for you to go.)
- Sun screen (Bring several! They will run out.)
- Neosporin (For wounds, or very chapped lips.)
- Vasiline (For chapped lips and chapped nostrils.)
- Ear plugs
- Eye drops
- Contacts + solution + container
- Spare glasses + cases + sunglasses (Don’t leave these in the car. It gets hot. Once it got so hot in the car, my crummy glasses shattered in there.)
- Bandaids (Before you buy a pre-made first aid kit, check and see what’s actually in it.)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Prescriptions. Do you have any? Bring extra.
- Chap stick
- Birth control + condoms
- Tooth brush
- Tooth paste
- Mouth wash
- Spit bottle for brushing teeth. (Again, just bring an empty jug that shuts tightly. Use a different one for this than the tampons. Come on.)
- Toilet paper (I usually bring like… 3 rolls for two people. And it’s too much every time.)
- Map with directions to the medical tent, just in case you drunkenly step on rebar or something else bad happens.
Step 9: BIKES
- Bike rack
- Crummy bikes (No good bikes or else they will turn into crummy bikes.)
- Bike tire tubes (Make sure to get the right sizes for your bikes.)
- Bike pump
- Tire irons (to change flats)
- Bike lock (Doesn’t need to be a very good one.)
Step 10: GLOW
- Flash lights (At least one per person)
- EL Wire + controllers
- AA, AAA batteries at least (Check what your equipment uses. You may need CR button batteries for some things.)
- Bike lights
- Head lamps
- Lantern for inside the tent
Step 11: FOOD & WATER
Probably bring less food than you think you’ll need. Many people share their food.
For water: 1.5 gallons per person per day, minimum.
- Some cash to buy bags of ice.
- Pre-cooking and marinating chicken breast. Put each cooked breast in it’s own sandwich bag, and throw all the bags in a cooler on ice. Heat it up on the grill in minutes. Fresh, delicious chicken all week! Protein is important in the crazy climate. And if your friends are tired and starving, you can throw them a bag and they can have a cold chicken snack with no prep. It’s nice.
- Instant mashed potatoes are delicious
- Just-add-water pancake mix
- Canned coffee or ground coffee for your stovetop pot (The latter is a pain to clean.)
- Limited fruits and veggies. Don’t bring too much to each before they go bag. Pick ones that don't leave a core.
- Canned soups
- Salami and other treated meats
- Wasabi Peas
- Tasty Bites
I don't like:
- Bread (It turns to mold out there very fast)
- Raw meat (Too hard to keep cold)
- Anything that takes more than 15 minutes to prepare
- Chocolate (In hot, dry weather it is VERY unappealing. Also: melts.)
Step 12: ALCOHOL
You’re over 21, right?
- The basics: vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.
- Ginger beer (Especially tasty on the playa! Crabbies is a great brand of alcoholic ginger beer.)
- Champagne for the burns and other large events (Be very careful with glass!)
- Canned beer
Personally, I think wine tastes terrible on playa. Also, glass is a nice thing to avoid out there. You don't want to bring the shattered pieces back home with you.
Step 13: BACKPACK
The stuff to put in your day bag / night bag.
Oh, also: Don’t put your phone in here. Stick it in a ziplock bag to keep it clean, and leave it in a safe place in your tent. It will get destroyed out on the playa, and you don’t need it.
- Water (Either via a camel back or a big water bottle.
- Snacks (It’s easy to think you’ll be gone 10 minutes and end up being gone for hours. Bring enough to not die. Think: nuts, granola, a Tastey Bite, etc.)
- Zip-lock bag of toilet paper. The porta-potties rarely have any.
- Hand sanitizer. The porta-potties are usually out.
- A cup (People will offer you alcohol. You will put it in this cup. A lid is nice.)
- A flask or bottle of your own alcohol.
- Your ID to prove you are 21.
- The key to your bike lock (I usually clip this to my backpack on the inside.)
- Flash light (I like the small ones that you can clip to your zipper, for easy use in the dark porta-potty.)
- Extra batteries for whatever glowy stuff you’re wearing
- Hat, bandana, or some form of extra sun protection
- Gifts. If you brought things to give, bring them with you in your bag to give to your new friends.