What To Pack For Burning Man When You’re A First-Timer
Going to Burning Man requires a lot of time, planning, and dedication. If you're a first-timer, it can be a struggle deciding what to pack. You've likely heard tales of a week in the desert filled with wonder, yet you might not know exactly what this experience will have in store for you, as no one can really describe it. So, how do you meticulously plan and prepare for something you don’t know much about? Fear not, because I have created a list of exactly what to pack for Burning Man if you are going for the first time.
These are tips, tricks, and hacks that will allow you to seamlessly transition from reality into the Burn. While costumes, art installations, and means of transportation are all up to the individual, there are things you need to have with you to ensure a smooth week without any regrets. I wish I had this list when I was packing for my first time, as it can become a totally daunting task. If you pack knowing that it gets extremely hot during the day and can get very cold at night, and make sure to bring all the things below, that should be a perfect starting point for your very first Burn.
1. A Decorated Bike
The need for a bike is absolutely non-negotiable; the area where Burning Man takes place is vast, and there is so much to see that a bike is a necessity for exploration. The secret: The less expensive, the better. This bike is going to get a lot of wear and tear, so it's best to get a cruiser one-speed for $70–$90, so that it's not so bad when the chains are completely covered in dust. Also, don't forget to put lights on your bike. It is extremely important for night rides so that people can see you when you're biking. You should also try and decorate your bike in your own unique way. Tens of thousands of people attend Burning Man and almost all of them have bikes, so making yours unique allows you to locate your bike that much faster.
2. A Strong Bike Lock
A lock is as important as the bike itself. People at Burning Man lose their bikes, forget where they parked them, or genuinely mistake someone else's bike for their own, so it's smart to purchase a bike lock to ensure yours doesn't get taken. Also, having a cable lock with a code entry is best so you don't have to carry keys around. Keep it simple.
One of the most notable things about Burning Man is the climate and geography. The Playa is very dry, and silty dust gets all over everything. With the slightest wind, you won't be able to see a thing, so it is very important to have goggles to protect your eyes from the dust and bright desert sun.
4. A Water Canteen
The first year I went, I had no clue that there was such a big movement against plastic, trash, and any matter out of place. So, you not only need a canteen for water when you're thirsty, you also need it if you are at a camp or bar and want to enjoy complimentary drinks and cocktails. None of the places give out cups, so this is a staple. Why not get a cute one that fits your Playa name?
5. Cough Drops
Cough drops might seem like a totally unnecessary item, until you are in the heat with dust everywhere. Your throat can get sore quickly, as very few people are acclimated to such intense conditions. You'd be surprised just how wonderful a cough drop can be after a long day spent exploring the Esplanade.
The sun is extremely powerful in the middle of Black Rock City, so it is beyond important to pack tons of SPF. You really don't want to get caught on a bike ride without it. People also often forget it and want to borrow, so pack more than you think you'll need. SPF 50 is a great option, especially to protect your face.
7. Cleansing Wipes
At Burning Man, you never quite know when your next shower is coming. You could be out all day and find some of the best people, music, and parties of your life. Pack a shower sheet to keep fresh and cleansed during the Burn. It allowed me to feel like a human after biking so long in the desert heat.
8. Dry Snacks
9. Your Ticket
10. Your Gifting Element
This is a unique concept that isn't always clear for first-timers. At Burning Man, there is a spirit of gifting that runs true to the core of the community. These gifts are don't necessarily have to be extremely expensive. It can be in the form of labor (last year at my camp I worked shifts for five hours in a kitchen, as well as being a bartender in our main tent), artwork, or other thoughtful elements.
The first year I went I set up a braiding stand. I helped braid fellow burners' hair as it was so hot and dusty that all people wanted and needed was their hair off their face. Last year, I decided to make crystal necklaces for everyone. I would read their aura and give them the piece that I thought suited them best. It was great because it was unisex and it was all about energy. Get creative and feel the concept.