Burning Man Shopping/Packing Checklist
This is a more thorough version of the burning man survival guide checklist.
Note: Don't bring things that you aren't okay getting very dusty. Most of the dust washes out, but be aware.
Roughly ordered by how frequently you will use them.
- Water/hydration backpack or backpack + water bottles.
- Water -- 1.5 gallons/person/day. You can get this at Safeway/etc.
Ideally, get some sort of water/hydration pak. This is a solid hydration backpack. This one is specifically recommended as it is a combined hydration pack and backpack in one. This way, you don't need a separate backpack, and can keep all your most used items together. Most hydration packs don't have much storage room. You don't want those. You do not want to have to carry two backpacks. Trust me! The other option is to use a regular backpack and carry 1-2 water bottles (the more the better -- many groups go out at night for 5+ hours without coming back to fill up water. You don't want to have to go back to camp to fill up -- it'll likely take 40+ minutes to go there and back).
Things to have in your backpack
- Your ticket (or photo ID + confirmation number for will call). Definitely keep this in your backpack so you don't have to search for it at the gate.
- Food tools/utensils -- i.e. whatever you'll need to eat your food (if you need a spoon, use a metal spoon)
- Cup + ID/passport (if you want to drink). Ideally, attach your ID to your cup (perhaps an expired ID?), and your cup to your backpack. Use wet wipes + water to clean your cup out if needed. You will get IDd if you want to drink.
- Notebook + pen, and/or book (optional)
- Wet wipes. For wiping face, cleaning things, etc. Suggestion: take 10-15 wet wipes, and put them in a zip lock bag, and keep that in your backpack. Have a separate zip lock bag to store the used wet wipes.
- Zip lock bags. Great for organizing things in your bag, and for keeping the dust out of things.
- A small amount of backup 1-ply RV safe toilet paper (the porta-potties need this kind of TP), in a zip lock bag in your backpack. Assume that roughly 50% of the time you go to the bathroom, you'll need your own toilet paper because the porta-potties will be out. 2-ply paper is unfortunately not ok. Buy one or two rolls and just rip of sections and keep them in a zip lock bag for easy use.
- Snacks. Mamma chia are fantastic if you like fruit. Trail mix is also great. Keep the majority in your other storage, with a few items in your backpack.
- Night stuff:
- Eye mask (perhaps, you'll likely want to sleep while it's light -- also, if you're going to buy one on Amazon get the one I linked and not a bedtime bliss one, I have both and the linked one is cheaper and better)
- Earplugs (one or two sets in your backpack, the rest in other storage)
- Any face cream you need
- Mouthwash (optional)
- Morning stuff. Toothbrush/toothpaste. Mini or regular size doesn't really matter.
- Earplugs for going out (optional: if you want to protect your ears from tinnitus)
- Visor/eye goggles for dust storms (get ones that are UV protective). I used these but in hindsight wish I had spent a little more to get more comfortable ones, and would get these next time.
- Dust mask. Don't get a full face mask, they are very inconvenient and bulky. Instead, you want to use a piece of cloth. This is good.
- Electric wiring for your body/bike. If you forget, you should be able to buy some on the side of the road ~10 miles out. This is basically a must have, even if it doesn't seem like one. Helps friends identify you, as well as other bikers. Put some on your backpack if you'll carry that at night. Otherwise, find electric wire clothing or add some to your night clothes.
- Oil for your hands. Trust me, this stuff is a godsend. Your hands will be dry as fuck. Also don't get cream, use oil.
- Sunscreen. The spray kind works well. (Also, wow, Amazon has literally everything... I bought my sunscreen at Safeway, which in hindsight I regret)
- Chapstick with SPF
We strongly suggest setting up this backpack before you leave. It is entirely possible that there will be a duststorm while you are waiting to get in at the gate in your car, and so you'll want to have your snacks, visor and dust mask, for example.
Suggestion: Keep some of your warm clothes in your backpack (perhaps just a jacket) in case you go out at night before returning to camp.
- Two+ sets of outer clothes for during the day (i.e. non-underwear). Many guys will do topless with a pair of shorts during the day. Many girls will do casual clothing or bikini/swim-wear during the day. Two sets of outer clothes is likely enough.
- Two+ sets of clothes for during the night (much colder). You'll want a cold set (jacket, pants) and a very cold set (perhaps some kind of long heat underwear).
- Bike + bike lock. Cheap combination lock is ideal. Especially one that uses letters for the code instead of numbers -- those are easier to remember. This one is good. Don't bring a bike unless you are okay getting it dirty. If you really want to risk it, you can likely buy a bike on the side of the road near ~10 miles out of the entrance (assuming you arrive in the first few days).
- Big bag for trash and another for recycling
- Car charger for your phone on way there/back
- Optional: portable phone charger (make sure it's charged!)
- Speakers/jambox (make sure you're ok with it getting dusty). Either that, or you'll likely want to spend most of your time during the day at a camp with speakers.
- Small first aid kid.
- Duct tape
- A few spare batteries for your headlamp (likely AAA) + electric lights (likely AA).
- Any prescriptions/health things you need
- Extra set of car keys (in case you lose the first set)
- Dust-proof tent. Look for a 4-season tent. Or, even better, try and rent/borrow one. Though if you do that, make sure you go *early* because they will all be sold out/rented.
- This is a good one on Amazon. Most tents on Amazon are shitty, so be careful and read the reviews. Though it's not the end of the world to have a shitty tent at burning man, but see below on the next bullet point about dust.
- If you get one on Walmart, make sure it is a 4-season tent with protection from the dust (i.e. no exposed mesh) -- otherwise, you'll want to tape/sew some knd of cover over the mesh so your tent doesn't end up full of dust.
- A set of longer tent stakes. You do not want your tent flying away in the high winds. This is better than using rebar because you don't have the issue of sharp corners to cover. Plus, they are really easy to remove. And 10 inches is enough to hold down a small-medium size tent.
- Sleeping bag
- Optional: air mattress/mattress pad
- Raver gloves
- Essential oils (someone at my camp had these, they were a hit)
- Chewing gum (but don't do what I did and bring a ton unless you really chew a lot of gum)
- RollSafe supplements + supplement schedule (remember, you won't have internet access to look it up)
- TripSafe info saved/printed
- Some kind of distinct lighting/headgear that is visible at night that your group can all wear if you want to stick together. You specifically want headgear, as that is visible from all directions rather than just one side.
Things that you don't need unless your camp doesn't have any
- 5 gallon utility bucket/emergency toilet (porta-potties are fine, though probably good if at least a couple people in your camp have one)
- Rope or tie down straps
- Shade structure (important that you can either get this at your camp or yourself)
- Cooking stove
- Bike tyre repair kit
- Maybe: Portable shower with drain system
- Battery powered AM/FM radio (e.g. allows you to listen to radio and discern wait times at the gate when leaving)
- Camp chair/foldable chair
Ice (depending on how much alcohol you personally plan to drink, and bring -- I'm not a big drinker)
Gas for the generator (if your camp has one) -- though consider bringing some extra gas to contribute
- Coolers (depending on how much alcohol you personally plan to drink, and bring -- I'm not a big drinker)
Likely not needed
- Shampoo, body wash. If you get to shower, which you might once or twice, they will have it.
- Sun shower. Definitely not needed. You can't use these unless you have a greywater tank or somewhere to evaporate the grey water. (You cannot create puddles of water on the ground at burning man. If you have water you need to pour, you can do so only if you spread out the water enough so that they are basically each individual droplets -- i.e. no puddles).
- Bike light. Use electric wire (don't forget to also buy batteries) instead.
- Anything that seems unnecessary -- e.g. multiple notepads, a big jar for drinks (just a cup is good), spare water bottles, too many batteries, etc.
- Eye drops or nasal spray (you probably won't get a chance to use them)
Questions and Tips
Tips and tricks.
Do I need a costume?
It's not a requirement, and perhaps 50% of people do have costumes, and 50% don't. Or maybe 70% don't and 30% do, depending on the time of day. Totally up to you.
Having a great experience: Go with great people!
It's all about the camp! If you are going with a great camp, you will certainly have a great time. If you aren't, you can still have an awesome time, it will just require a bit more effort from you.
Pack your stuff so that it is ready to use as soon as you arrive, if possible.
Take note of the items you will use most frequently, and organize your things around this.
I didn't get a ticket
Ask friends and friends of friends as early as possible to keep an eye out for you.
Assume that you won't get one at the OMG sale.
Avoid paying >$400 on Stubhub.
If you can wait until the absolute last minute (days/a week before), many become available then. But obviously this makes planning difficult.
Where is my camp
Before you get to BM, make sure you memorize/write down the address of your camp.
Consider writing it on your hand before you arrive if you're not with others.
You will likely *not* have cell reception to retrieve it (or anything else, for that matter).
For each address, if you stand in the middle of that intersection, your camp could be on any of the four corners of the intersection.
Do I need a map?
You will be given one when you enter.
What is the toilet situation?
Tons of porta-potties all over burning man.
Not unusably gross, but expectedly not exactly delightfully smelling.
Sometimes they have toilet paper in them, though often they have run out.
Do I really need a utility bucket for burning man?
No, probably not.
What tent stakes do I need for burning man?
10 inch stakes like these are fine.
Any bike advice?
Only bring a bike that you are okay getting extremely dusty.
Suggestion: buy a shitty second hand bike, or get a rental.
Can I use an Ozark Trail tent at burning man?
Yes, but make sure you get a 4-season version or cover the open mesh to protect against dust.
Tips for watching the man burn?
Before watching the man burn, go to the bathroom! It's really difficult to get up and go find the bathroom.
What is a cheap tent for burning man?
For one person, either rent one (make sure you go really early to rent -- the stores in the Bay Area get empty fast), or buy one like this: LINK (it's relatively protected against the dust).
Do I need a tarp?
Only if it looks like it's going to rain the week of your burn, or if you want to use it as a shade structure.
What food should I bring?
Good snack foods include:
- Nuts/trail mix
- Snack bars
- Mamma chia
Good meals include:
- Tacos (with guacamole)
- Anything where you just need to add water
Sharing widely is not needed.
Just think of the one or two people you know who might find this useful.