Illustrations by Jena Ardell
Unlike some festivals, you can't just casually roll up to Burning Man with only a bottle of Jack and a spirit hoodie. Prepping for a week in the desert is only slightly less complicated than the space launch, and that's on a normal year.
THIS year, however, promises to be one of the harshest ever, with powerful windstorms and sustained sandstorm whiteouts predicted for the event, which begins Monday. Don't get us wrong; despite the haters, it's still going to be off the charts epic, but only if you come prepared. Just make sure you bring ample sunscreen, plenty of water (1.5 gallons per person per day minimum) and the following other surreal-sounding necessities. Consult the site's personal survival checklist for more.
Particle Mask: Yeah, about that dust. It's no fucking joke. Desert debris is going to be coming at you at 70 miles per hour. Presumably it's going to feel like getting your face sandpapered. Do your lungs a solid by wearing a basic particle mask. Go ahead and fancy it up with some glitter or something. Better yet, upgrade to a couture steampunk gas mask (easier to find than you'd think), or snag one of those terrifying bondage-type contraptions from the army navy surplus. A basic bandana will also work just fine.
Goggles: You're not going to want that dust in your eyes either. Bring a pair of sturdy goggles like you might wear snowboarding, motorcycling or aviating to keep your peepers from shriveling up like raisins.
Beach Cruiser: Bikes are the primary mode of transportation at Burning Man, and imperative in order to effectively cruise the roughly two mile wide playa. Fat-tired beach cruisers or mountain bikes are best to navigate the sand and push through heavy dunes. Bring extra tubes in case of flats and a pack a lock as well. It would be a bummer to lose your ride just after wrapping it in two hundred dollars worth of string lights. Make sure your lock that has both your playa and “default world” contact info written on it.
Food and Drinks: This isn't like Coachella where you can make out with a hottie from Pacoima in the dance tent all day and then just casually mosey to the concession area and find falafels, fish tacos and pizza. Although grub is available at various camps, it's necessary to pack enough food and drink to sustain yourself and your crew for the duration of The Burn. That's a lot of kale and quinoa salad, so you best start cooking now.
LED headlamp/LED blinking lights/EL Wire: After dark, providing your own light source becomes paramount to the cause of seeing where the hell you're going. And also because lighting is a groovy accessory! Combine function and fashion (let's just go ahead and call in FUNshion) with a high output headlamp and blinking LED lights and/or electroluminescent wire to wrap around your bike, your body and anything you're going to be carrying with you. If you look like a human disco ball, you're in good shape. Bring extra batteries.
Shelter: Having a suitable place of refuge from the sand, wind, sun and naked old guys (just kidding naked old guys we love you) is going to be of fundamental importance to your overall health, well-being and sanity. With this year's weather conditions erring on the side of hand-of-God style shitstorm, the Burning Man folks warn that basic nylon camp tents will likely get shredded by the wind. RVs are a vastly superior option if you've got money (or are a cute girl who knows people with money), as are yurts, domes and any other walled structure that isn't going to blow off while you're dancing naked in the moonlight.
Camp Marker: There is a solid chance that you might enter an altered state of consciousness at some point during your stay. As such, it might be a bitch to find your way back to camp when you're pondering the existential implications of permaculture design theory while tripping balls on sassafras at dawn. Raise a flag, a blinking beacon — or anything unique and tall — at your campsite to guide yourself safely and efficiently back to home base.
Hot/Cold Weather Clothing: Hey remember FUNshion? Weather reports out of Black Rock City are forecasting triple digit temperatures by day and low forties at night. This substantial swing requires minimalist ensembles during daylight hours (think bikinis and total nudity) and heavy outerwear (hats, pants and long sleeves in an assortment of thick and luxurious fabrics) after dark.
Costumes: Seriously guys, if there was ever a time to break out those bedazzled chaps you bought at a rummage sale in Mar Vista three years ago, this is it. Burning Man is all about letting your freak flag fly, and a big part of that means dressing up as whomever and whatever you want to be. Astronaut? Sure! Woodsy nymph enchantress? Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner? Yeah do it! Just don't bring boas, headdresses, or anything else with feathers that might break off and blow away, as they are prohibited due to litter concerns. Stuff like this is totally cool though. Have fun!