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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Burning Man Packing List - What You REALLY Need

So I've seen about 4241525456436 packing lists for Burning Man and most of them I feel like are really excessive.   I've edited my list from last year based on my experience and what I plan to take this year along with comments.  I also provided photos where possible.

  • Costumes - I planned all sorts of outfits and then basically wore none of them and just tooled around in shorts, bikini tops, and flowy clothes by day and my animal fleece onesie at night.  The key is flowy and loose.  Jeans, even shorts, are really uncomfortable and remember no logos!  Plus you don't want to do feathers, glitter, etc, because it's MOOP.  Here are example outfits:
  • Fleece onesie - CRUCIAL - I cannot explain to you HOW COLD it gets at night.  I don't care if you have the warmest beer jacket ever you will freeze.  I was wearing a thick, full body, animal onesie (pictured below) and if I was standing away from people I was cold. 
  • Full WINTER outfit if you don't go onesie.  It can get to FREEZING temps out there so think post ski day - fleece pants, warm jacket, tall wool socks.  Layers are the best so you can add and subtract.

  • Boots - CRUCIAL - You would think in the desert you'd be all about the flip flops but honestly I wore flipflops Day One and then my ankle black boots the rest of the time.  Keeps your feet in better condition because they don't dry out and means you avoid stepping on anything unpleasant and protects your feet at night.  Here are the ones I'm wearing this year:

  • Socks - CRUCIAL
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuits - CRUCIAL - just way easier than underwear in a lot of cases.  I just wore swimsuits all day everyday
  • Face Mask/Scarf/Handkerchief - I used this face mask last year and it was kind of annoying so I rarely used it.  When I'd breathe in the fabric would go into my mouth which was uncomfortable.  I'd either do a hard mask (like the ones people wearing on planes) or just a small handkerchief that you can just wear around your neck and use when needed.  Even having a face mask I rarely used it.
Vogmask Microfiber High-Filtration Dust Mask
Photo Credit:

  • Pasties - if you are going this far just be naked 
  • Hat  - I brought one last year and it was annoying and I stopped wearing it after the first day.  If you do bring a hat make sure it is tight on your head or has a tie so it doesn't blow off when you are biking.  Mine kept flying off my head and made me crazy!
  • Contacts - DAILIES are key.  You do not want to be putting the same contacts back in your eyes.  It is GROSS out there and you are forever unclean.  I also highly recommend carrying a pair on your person at all times.  I missed an awesome burn last year because my contact came out and I was miles from camp and had to go all the way back to get a new pair.
  • Kleenex - you get so much dust and crap on your face, hands, up your nose, in your ears, that tissues were key (just don't litter!)
  • Hairbrush/Comb - For girls I recommend a comb because it's a little easier to get through the tangles.  If you are camping and there for a week there ain't no showers so your hair is going to be your worst enemy especially if it's long.  I was there 4 days last year and went from clean hair down to dirty hair down to two french braids.
  • Chapstick - CRUCIAL - you will dry out like a leaf - I used mine a ton.  Again always have this on you since you never know when you'll be back at camp
  • Hair ties
  • Sunscreen - CRUCIAL
  • Makeup - Honestly you can if you want.  I used a little in full disclosure but you don't need to bring out the big guns
  • Toe nail clippers - Sounds random but I did use them
  • Deodorant - CRUCIAL
  • Bobby pins
  • Dry shampoo
  • Bandaids
  • Tampons - just in case
  • Razor - CRUCIAL - look I can camp with the best of them and certainly didn't shave my legs in the four days I was there but there came a time when I HAD to shave my armpits.  TMI sorry but even just that literally act made me feel 10 x cleaner.
  • Shampoo and conditioner in 1 - If you have access to an RV it makes sense to bring.  The hippie side of me says NO SHOWERS AT BURNING MAN.  My skin and hair says... I'd do it if I could.
  • Shaving cream
  • Floss - another thing that will make you feel SO much cleaner just from that one little act
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrush
  • Lotion - CRUCIAL - the playa dust eats away at the moisture in your skin - my daily routine was baby wipes to get all the dust off me and then lotion.
  • Baby Wipes - CRUCIAL - this is the best bath you are getting
  • Mouth guard
  • Eye drops - CRUCIAL - there's that dust again! 
  • Tweezers
  • Head Lamp - CRUCIAL - I used this SO much and way easier than a flashlight.  Here's the one I'm bringing: 
  • Headphones - There is plenty of music surrounding you.  Be present.
  • Phone - There isn't any service but obviously had with me.  I bought one of those water/dirt resistant phone cases but never ended up using my phone especially because that's an expensive thing to lose or break which is highly likely in the craziness of Burning Man.  Instead I suggest bringing a water/dirt resistant CAMERA which I used A TON.
  • Aux cable - brought it for the car ride - key
  • Camera - Again I recommend a water/dirt resistant camera that isn't too expensive in case you do lose it.  I used mine a ton.  Here's a photo of mine (so meta):
  • Batteries - good to have for headlamp, etc.  Only need to bring one extra round.  I'm likely bringing an external power pack this year since I'll be there longer but last year I didn't need a second charge on anything.  
  • Phone charger - didn't use it until I got to the hotel after Burning Man but good to have packed
  • Kindle for car ride - You'll likely be sleeping or so excited that you can't sleep or driving so you don't really need
  • Watch - A throw-away cheap watch is a great thing to have to keep track of when different events occur.  Time can get away from you easily on the playa!

  • Earplugs - CRUCIAL - if you plan to sleep 
  • Wallet - Duh
  • Paintbrush and paint - My gift last year was body painting.  I'm going to bring paint again this year but am changing up the brand/product.  
  • Here's the stuff I used last year which wasn't great (too light and came off easy) 
 Sargent Art 66-5525 Washable Fluorescent Paint
Photo Credit:
  • Here's the stuff I'm using this year (much more brilliant and harder to get off):
 UV Glow Blacklight Face and Body Paint
Get it on Amazon here
  • Playa Cup - CRUCIAL - One of the most important purchases you will make!  Very important to get one that has a lid and a handle.  The lid prevents dirt from getting into your wet cup when you are biking around (mine last year was undrinkable after day two) and a handle so that you can attach it to your bike, belt, basket, etc, while biking.
Get it at REI here
  • Flask - a nice to have separate from your Playa Cup to add extra liquor to drinks at the different camps or for a pull
  • Glasses - I used mine a lot when I was tooling around the campsite.  Also if you get an eye infection you are going to need them!
  • Sunglasses - CRUCIAL
  • EmergencE
  • Koozie
  • Medicine
  • Eye mask - again if you are sensitive to light nice to have for sleeping
  • Fanny pack - I use a small one by day to house my chapstick, sunscreen and playa cup
Get it at American Apparel here
  • Camelbak or small backpack - CRUCIAL - Once it started getting dark I would switch from fanny pack to Camelbak and pack it like it was an overnight bag - chapstick, sunscreen, glasses, extra contacts, full bladder of water, tissue, toothbrush/paste, etc.  You never know what time you are coming home if you even do.  It makes you feel much safer too because you feel confident that you could get lost in the desert and still survive for a day or two.  And then I'd strap my onesie to the outside (too big to fit inside) and I was ready to go!  Don't get one that is TOO big because you want to be able to dance in it but not so small that you can't fit anything.
Get it at REI here
  • Waterproof iPhone case - nice just to keep your iphone in since dust seeps into everything but you never use your phone so possibly pointless
  • Goggles - CRUCIAL - you never know when a dust storm is going to hit and it can get a little dusty when a lot of people are biking around you so definitely need goggles.  HOWEVER, I disagree that you need two pairs.  Here's a photo of mine - pink tinted which was plenty easy to see day and night.  You are never going to want to bother with switching them.
Get it on Amazon here
  • Pens - Randomly I actually used my pen a lot to write down people's names I met, etc.  Kind of nice to have on you
  • Gum - CRUCIAL
  • Info Papers - I know Burning Man makes a guide that you can use to find parties, lectures, etc.  I carried it around the first day and then left it at camp.  The best part of Burning Man is discovery... don't plan out your days.
  • Cigarette papers
  • Freezer ziplock bags - CRUCIAL - the best decision I made was separating out my clothes for each day into ziplock bags and squishing all the air out of them.  It not only made it so I could fit more in my bag but it greatly reduced contamination of my dirty and clean clothes.  I can't stress HOW dirty you get and how good clean clothes feel. 
  • Lights/decoration for your bike - be prepared to deck out your bike in some way that makes it yours for day AND night.  There are hundreds of bikes and this will make it easier for you to find yours AND for people to find you/follow you in the dark.
  • Lights for your person - same thing as your bike... people are zooming around in the pitch black on their bikes and the last thing you want is for them not to see you.  Plus being all lit up at night is fun!  Just make sure your lights aren't MOOP (glow bracelets that fall off)
  • Bug repellent - I didn't need this last year but never hurts to have ESPECIALLY if insects are particularly favorable to your taste!
  • Bike lock - I recommend a bike lock that has a key not a combo because I find combos in the dark to be a little rough. However, a key can be lost.  Decide which you prefer but definitely lock your bike when you aren't with it.  Burning Man is a very safe, open place but that doesn't mean people won't snag a free ride!


  1. I'm curious how the food/ ice situation works. This is my first year at burning man and my tentative plan is to bring a ton of canned tuna and some eggs in a cooler. I would like to bring some cabbage or some other durable vegetable but ive never tried to store said vegies in the desert so this may be a total bone head move. How does this whole food situation play out? What worked for you?

    1. Hi Skye! I recommend canned food/non-refrigerated items. Don't bother with anything that needs ice. I tried to be fancy last year with "meals" and it was SUCH a pain. I ended up eating a lot of jerky, canned peaches/pears and muffins.

  2. Great list, I loved the inclusion of your PLAYA CUP, so crucial! I also wanted to add to this list a camping festival MUST have: Organic Brushing Rinse! Essential Oxygen Organic Brushing Rinse beats toothpaste by a mile because 1) you don’t need water, and 2) spitting it out on the ground wouldn’t be toxic, but actually cleans the ground and feeds the plants. Yup! It’s a biodegradable liquid you swish with, no water needed, and can beneficially soak right into mother nature! It has saved my mouth so many times at Lightning in a Bottle, Burning Man, etc!

    Check it out here:

  3. The only thing more important than Burning Man tickets for a trip to Burning Man are the right clothes! And you're definitely doing that part right.

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