Everyone I've told I'm going to Burning Man – and that is not an exaggeration, EVERYONE – has reacted with sheer disbelief.
You know it's really intense, right?
You know you're, like, in the middle of the desert and everyone around you is naked and on wild drugs, right?
Then they turn to my co-worker, Sepp, who's unfortunately fated to chaperone accompany me.
My favorite reaction Sepp's gotten for having me as a Burning Man counterpart is:
Wow, that's actually a huge responsibility on you.
(We've already assumed the Burning Man dynamic will be akin to Sepp pulling me on a golden chariot so my feet never touch the ground.)
Suffice it to say, if I weren't scared shitless before, I definitely am now that every person I know has strongly suggested my survival is unlikely (besides my mom, surprisingly, who says she regrets not going to Woodstock and her only concern is someone slipping me a pot brownie… I don't think she's done her research).
Sepp's been doing his best to prepare me, and I read an Excel spreadsheet breakdown of packing essentials. The list is mostly things you'd expect, like Band-Aids, hand sanitizer... and toothbrush "optional."
Obviously, I understand this will not be a “glamping” excursion, but the “toothbrush optional” is where I draw the line.
This will probably be the grungiest eight days of my life. But until I have accepted that fact -- way too late, when my dust goggles are coated in dirt and broken because why wouldn't they be? -- my future hygiene is still dominating my concerns.
In a last-ditch effort to ward off all the filth and grime I can while camped out in the middle the Nevada desert, I've curated my own Burning Man necessities and broken them up into four Essential Pillars.
Burning Man Survival Essentials
...otherwise known as "Things To Stave Off My Body's Inevitable Disintegration."
1. Sunscreen is paramount (bonus if it smells good because BO). I'm well-equipped with Sun Bum SPF 70, Zinc Oxide SPF 50 and chapstick SPF 30, as well as COOLA's Classic Face Sport in SPF 50, a duel sunscreen and moisturizer, to focus particular care on my face.
2. After sun rehabilitation, which includes Sachajuan Hair After The Sun for my mangled locks, COOLA's ER Radical Recovery After-Sun Lotion for my sandpaper skin and a Tarte lip exfoliant to buff out my pilly-sweater lips.
3. Goggles/sunglasses to protect my eyes from both sun and dust. I'm bringing a lot of pairs of cheap sunglasses but also need some more heavy-duty alternatives to battle the weather, so Sepp and I are also taking Polarized Pit Viper Glasses:
4. Hydration and energy supplements, like drinks and powders from Purps Purpose, will definitely be lifesavers.
5. Last but not least: vinegar. Apparently, it can help relieve "Playa Foot" -- a skin condition similar to a burn -- that you can get from all the dust exposure.
Burning Man Camping Essentials
...as close to "glamping" as we can get living out of a tent in the desert dust.
1. Here Sepp is inflating my WindPouch in slow motion for dramatic effect. This is how I plan on napping at Burning Man, aka nap-of-luxury camping.
3. So many extra pairs of socks and underwear (self-explanatory). Merino wool is ideal for camping.
4. We're bringing Ziploc baggies to protect our clean clothes, which is especially crucial for the day we leave and have to re-enter society/sit amid normal citizens on an enclosed plane.
5. A SHOWER IS A NEED, NOT AN OPTION, and I also have a little water basin to go with it. To make things easy, we're sticking with Dr. Bronner's All-In-One liquid soap to cover all our shampoo and soap needs. (See? I'm v. low maintenance.)
6. Don't worry, I won't forget sleeping bags and sleeping mats for our tent, too.
Burning Man Beauty Essentials
...unless it's possible to look "filth-chic."
1. Anything chemically-infused would seem counter to Burning Man's principles, so I'm bringing all-natural Meow Meow Tweet deodorant.
2. Similarly to having body wipes to fall back on, face cleansing wipes by Ole Henriksen will stand in for actual face washing when running water isn't an option.
3. Aerosols are a Burning Man no-no, so I'll be using Captain Blankenship's Mermaid Dry Shampoo; it's powder.
4. When all my efforts to smell OK fail and it's time for damage control, I'll have Body Spray by the Gnarly Whale up my sleeve. "Throw hygiene to the wind!" - Me, never.
5. I scrounged together myriad head accoutrements -- scarves, hats, bandanas, headbands -- to hide the greasy hair I'll eventually succumb to.
Burning Man Logistical Essentials
...look at us being practical.
1. That's Cool Wire's El Wire is great for wrapping around your bikes so people can see you at night. You can also wrap the LED lights around your body so people on said bikes don't hit you. It also helps that they make your outfit look infinitely cooler and more festival-y.
2. Hydro Flasks will keep our water as cold as possible under a beating desert sun.
3. There are a lot of bars (not in the conventional sense), but you need your own cups. We like Sea To Summit's X-Cups because they're cute, durable and collapsible. People also advise you to photocopy your driver's license and tape it to your cup for your and servers' convenience.
4. Even though I like the idea of "being off the grid" for eight days, I also don't want to lose Sepp and die. Hopefully, goTenna will keep the chances of that low by letting us text and use GPS without any cell service.
I don't know why people made it seem like I can't both be campy and have nice things at Burning Man... See you on the playa!