Burning Man Festival – planning, preparation & packing guide

burning man festival

Burning Man: one of the most famous and magical festivals in the world. For some it is not even a festival, but ‘to be home again.’ But how you want to call it, Burning Man Festival is one of my best experiences I ever had. To fully enjoy the festival, you need to prepare and plan your trip. In this blog I share my insights, preparations and to do’s with you, so you can have the best time of your life at this amazing festival.

The Burning Man festival itself

Once per year, the Black Rock Desert in Nevada will be transformed into a whole new city, called Black Rock City. How they call it their selves: a city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers. For seven days you live in a different world and it is up to you how you experience this world.

Burning Man is a festival with a strong line-up, a legendary atmosphere and a beautiful location. At the first moment you arrive at Black Rock City, you can feel it immediately: this place is magical. Besides all kinds of music, Black Rock City is famous because of the art and culture. The festival always lasts 8 days and this year it is from 25 August to 2 September 2019. On the last night, the ‘man’ will be burned. Burning Man owes her name to this.

Camps and placement

The majority of people who go to Burning Man are part of planned, registered camps, which ones are organized by groups of people. The main event is everywhere; it’s where people like you contribute interactive, creative, incredible experiences to share with everyone. If you want to go with a group of friends, I can recommend renting a camper.

Burning Man is set up in a half circle. In the middle, you have what they call ‘the playa’. This is an open space. People organize events here, you can cycle around quietly and encounter different artworks, both stationary and moving cars. Especially in the evening, it is magical to cycle around here.

Around the playa, the camps are built up in rings. You can trace where you need to be based on clock times and street names.

The Burning Man vibe

There is no advertising, sponsorship or sale on Burning Man. Money has no value. The only thing you can buy is ice cubes. Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving, without expecting something in return. It does not matter what kind of work you do, what your nationality or sexual orientation is: on Burning Man everyone is equal. Everyone is welcome to participate in the festival. It’s all about radical inclusion.

And perhaps most importantly: leave no trace. The desert is made available and must be left clean. Whenever possible, leave this place in a better state than when we found it. Also read the 10 principles of Burning Man.

It is your first time at Burning Man? Then you will have a pleasant surprise when you’ll enter the festival. I’ll keep that as a secret. But trust me, you feel home immediately.

Activities at Burning man

Upon arrival, you will receive a book with all activities on Burning Man. Various workshops are organized such as ballet lessons, Asian facial treatment and Reiki. In addition, there are different parties during the day and at night. This can be in fixed places, but also every time at a different location because the DJ sets on cars driving around.

In addition, there is a temple to honor the dead. I advise you to take a look here. Also, all the art is worth watching. The laser shows are fantastic. These go miles because there are no distance restrictions.

And in the middle of the day, a sandstorm can suddenly arise. Wonderful to see. In short, you don’t have to get bored.

Food & drinks

As mentioned earlier, you can’t buy anything except for ice cubes. You must bring all the food and drinks yourself. Count on 5 liters of water per person per day. Since it is warm during the day, you need to drink plenty of water next to the alcohol. In addition, ensure you bring enough long-lasting food. Preferably with many nutrients, think of bananas, eggs, kidney beans and canned vegetables. Make sure that you think in advance what you’re going to eat and make a shopping list.

I can advise you to eat three times a day and take multivitamins. We had a cooking schedule to make sure that everybody ate enough and four people were responsible per day for all meals. Cooking duty meant:

  • Prepraring breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snack
  • Cleaning up pots/pans, cutlery
  • Pickup MOOP (garbage) around camp
  • Make sure the coolers are filled with beer, soda and liquor
  • Fill up 0.5-liter bottles of water (fill them from the large water tanks, re-use 0.5-liter bottles)
  • Get ice cubes

Tip: make sure you always have a plastic cup with a cap around your neck. At this way, you can always bring your own drinks, or let it filled when you’re at a party.

Needed supplies

Besides food and drinks, you have other needed supplies. Do not forget to bring these items:

  • A bike and bike locks. Burning Man is big, so you want to travel by bike.
  • Lights for your bike and head. It is really dangerous to drive or walk around in the evening without lights. Make you sure you buy a headband with lights as well.
  • Warm and airy clothing. During the day it’s hot but during the nights it can be cold. Sometimes even colder than minus 10 degrees! During the day it can be 40 degrees, so bring airy clothes as well. Or wear nothing. It is also okay to walk naked at Burning Man.
  • Baby wipes. They’ll save you! Most people can’t take shower, you can fresh up yourself by using baby wipes.
  • Earplugs. Music can be really loud, so protect your ears at all times.
  • Shade structure and steel poles shade structure. During the day the sun can be bright, so you might like to sit in the shadow.
  • Sun protector and sunglasses
  • Closed shoes
  • Foot cream. Yes, you need it. Playa dust hurts your feet.
  • Nose spray. Dust in your nose hurts
  • Some bandages, cold pack, etc
  • Goggles, for daytime and nighttime
  • Mouth bandana
  • Pink tutu. Every Tuesday it’s Tutu Tuesday!
  • Chill bed and pump, for relaxing at your camper during the day
  • Plastic cups, plastic plates and cutlery
  • Garbage bags
  • XXL Zip Locks 2 pack to protect your luggage from playa dust
  • Labello
  • Neck mugs
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Tent (storage)

Safety first

Prevent sunstroke, dehydration and burning. Drink enough and use sunburn regularly. Burning Man has enough parties, but also take a siesta. https://survival.burningman.org/View the survival guide of Burning Man. There are always rangers present. These are volunteers who help you in all kinds of situations.

At Burning Man you are free to do what you want. But don’t forget that you are in Nevada and the laws and regulations of this state also apply to Burning Man. Drugs are prohibited at all times and drinking under 21 is not allowed. Always take your ID with you, otherwise, people won’t serve you alcohol. And do not confuse the rangers with the federal police. The federal police are there to ensure that the laws and regulations are complied with. And hopefully you do not need this, but if they want to frisk you, you always have the right to say: I do not consent for a search.

Plan your trip in advance

Going to Burning Man means you have to arrange a lot of things in advance. The most important things:

Camper
Most people who are going to Burning Man, are going by camper. And most of the people are having a small road trip in California before or after Burning Man as well. Make sure you book your camper at least a half year in advance. You can pick up your camper in San Francisco, which is the biggest city near Black Rock City. You can also choose to pick up your camper in Seattle, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. At most companies, you have the option to pick up and drop off the camper in different cities. It is cheaper to pick up and drop off the camper in the same city.

Be aware that it is more expensive to rent a camper during the period of Burning Man. And make sure that you clean your camper carefully afterward because the vines are quite high.

Food, drinks and other needed supplies
Make a shopping list and buy all the supplies in advance. Make sure you also buy all the needed supplies in advance. We ordered everything at AliExpress & Amazon and delivering could take a while.

Flight tickets
Most of the times, the sooner you buy your flight tickets, the cheaper they are.

ESTA or VISA
You need an ESTA or VISA to travel to the United States. To prevent stress, make sure you have arranged this on time. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months.

How to get tickets for Burning Man

Buying tickets for Burning Man works differently than for other festivals. All sales require registration through Burner Profiles. Make sure your Profile is complete, current, set up with your preferred email address, and that you know your log-in details. Then you sign up for the main sale. Registering for a sale does not guarantee a ticket or vehicle pass. Then comes the real sale. Make sure you check the origin time at your country. You can buy only 2 tickets and 1 vehicle pass per person. Read here all about getting tickets for Burning Man.

Tip: to increase your chances of getting tickets, ask as many people as possible to buy tickets for you. Make sure you are not at the same IP address! And no matter how long it takes, do not refresh the page. You’ll lose your place in line.

Important note: You don’t receive an electronic ticket from Burning Man. You can pick up your ticket at the entrance or have it sent by post. And are not you going unexpectedly? Sell your ticket for the original price. It is not consistent with the Burning Man principle to sell your ticket more expensive.

Costs

We spend around €3000 per person for three weeks, including Burning Man and a road trip in California by camper. One big plus, you pay in phases (tickets, the camper in two parts, tickets, groceries) and you won’t buy anything at the festival itself.

Ticket: around $425 each
Vehicle passes: around $100
Plain ticket: between €500 and €800
Camper: around €600 per person for three weeks

Burning Man is expensive but totally worth every cent. Enjoy!

More inspiration? Check out the video below.

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Manon
Manon

Hi! My name is Manon, an Amsterdam based travel junkie who wants to explore at least three new destinations each year. Follow my personal Instagram: @manonheitkamp

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