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Xavier's List of Burning Man Swag

posted Jul 17, 2008, 1:31 AM by Srinivas Kollipara   [ updated Aug 10, 2011, 11:45 AM ]
Was just talking to Chris about what I need to take care of for Burning Man I started going into all the little details so I figured I would just post my list of stuff that I'm planning on bringing.  I've gone 6 years so I've kind of paired things down to what I need and what I usually find useful - I've over-prepared before and I think the lesson learned is that you'll never have exactly what you need so it pays to bring flexible material that can be constructed to whatever you need on the fly - read on and you will see what I mean. If any vets want to chime in on this feel free. Also FORWARD THIS ONE.

Your Living Space

A decent tent - There is no such thing as a dust proof tent.  If you're afraid of getting dust on something, it should live in a ziploc bag the entire time you're at Burning Man, or don't bring it.  Playa Dust will get on you, your hair, your clothes, your shoes, get up your nose, in your private parts, and it will get anywhere you go.  Your tent will be slightly less dusty than everything else, but to me there is no point in making it "dust proof".  I've found that the smaller 3 man tents work better than the larger ones since they provide less surface area for the wind and won't get blown over. 

A tent cover or shade structure of some kind - I bought reams of white fabric at the fabric store years ago that I use to cover everything - keeps it cool and limits the dust a little.  I've seen other people buy those picnic tents as extra shade so the tent will remain cool when the sun rises..  Personally I find them of dubious value as the first one I ever got blew to the ground, then some dude ran into it with his bike and whoops, I'm out $100.  The most successful structures tend to be made of metal and wood (thus heavy) or low to the ground - in any case for Lovepuddle we'll have some community shade so I'm not stressing it. 

Tie - downs - Any covering or free-standing structure will need some sort of tie-down, even if it's a simple as a cord to a stake that hammers into the ground.

Rebar - Rebar is perhaps the easiest thing to deal with that you've never heard of - just go to Home depot, ask them for some rebar, and buy some 1/2 inch rebar at 2 foot length - takes up no space.  You'll probably want at least 1 stake per tie down, so for a standard tent that four stakes of rebar.  You'll need a hammer to get it into the ground (see later) and a metal pipe that you fit the rebar in, so that you can bend, or "candycane" the rebar so that the stake doesn't poke you in the foot in the middle of the night.   

Two 40 gallon Plastic Tubs, similar to this - can get them at a hardware store or the cheap kind at target - mine are cheap and have functioned since 2003.  one I use to hold food and keep it non-dusty, then other I use for my assortment of dusty Gear - holds all that gear for the rest of the year. 

Sleeping Bag, Blankets, and Pillows - Some people get an air mattress to sleep on - I've never had a problem sleeping on the ground but extra blankets = extra cushion. 

A folding Camping Chair (or two) - they are cheap, don't take up much space, and way preferable to eating, sitting (or sleeping) on the ground.  You'll learn to love your chair.  Bring two, so you can entertain a friend.


Several large plastic tough trash bags - you will be carrying your trash out, as well as some other peoples.  Nothing you own should hit the ground, it should go right into your trashbags - you should have something to carry trash with you at all times, so keep one in your backpack/bike. 

10.5 gallons of water - the general recommendation is 1.5 gallons of water per day but I usually find I have 3-4 gallons of water i never drank.  I'm not a big shower person and I use a lot of water for cooking  and even so I've never run out of water.   Key is thing is to HYDRATE before you leave! Best case scenario I will not be lugging the water across california but buying it in Reno at the Walgreens above the freeway. 

Food to last for a week -   Minimize the amount of trash you need to pack out - if you buy a box of cereal, for example, toss the box and plastic bag and put the cereal in a plastic container.  Cans of soup work, Chef Boyardee in a can is suddenly relevant (the only time I'll eat it)  Tasty Bites (Indian Fare) works great - I usually find a mix of foods that need some cooking prep and then other times I'm just too beat to cook and then having food you don't need to cook is awesome.  I also find myself snacking way more often then I actually sit down and just eat a big meal.  Cereal's good. (especially with the small, lunch-sized soy milk packs - they last all week)  Oatmeal with boiling water is good  Salty food is a must - The desert is wicking moisture and salt right out of you and coming back to some salty pretzels is like Jesus at a rave party.  Trail Mix, beef jerky, dried fruits, raisins.  Pancake mix (just add water!) and some syrup. Bring a small container of Cooking oil.  Coffee or bags of tea.  My advice - don't worry about ice or perishable foods if you don't have to - it's NOT worth the hassle - maybe bring some fruit/meat/cheese for your first day, then just go non-perishables for the rest of week. 

To drink - a lot of people bring vita-water or gatorade and I would recommend it, but it's not necessary.   If you do, then remember that's water and you might need a few less gallon jugs. 

Alcohol - I usually grab at least one container of my favorite beverage (Rum/Vodka/SoCo) and bring it out - if I don't finish it I'll donate it to a bar.   If you bring out cans of beer CRUSH AND PICK UP YOUR CANS. 

To cook - a standard camping cookware assortment of pots/pans should be fine, and a propane gas stove. 
Bring two sets of silverware, some plates, a bowl, and a camp cup. 

YOUR TRAVEL CUP - This is the equivalent to a TOWEL in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Absolutely necessity - It should have a handle, so that you can tie/clip it to yourself.  Bars generally have loaner cups but its just better for everyone if you have your own cup - they can just fill it up for you - if you have a large cup even better - Bartenders tend to fill your cup to the brim!  

A Water Bottle - separate from your cup - I usually go with the Camelbak now since you just wear it on your back.  You will carry this with you everywhere, so it's also a plus if you have a clip, carrying handle, and sealable lid.  Should be be decently large, something you can carry with you all night and not have to go back to the camp to refill. 

What to Wear

Generally whatever you would normally wear - but be creative -  costumes, mask, outrageous party wear, paint, etc. are all in vogue - again - IT"S GOING TO GET DUSTY.  Probably won't get destroyed, but there's no guarantee.  If you would cry if you lost it at Burning Man, Don't. Bring. iI.

A Coat + Scarf - the temp can drop to below freezing at night, so it doesn't hurt to have your coat. I usually bring a coat for extremes, and a vest/scarf for the night.

Socks - do not go barefoot if you can help it - If you must wear sandals then wear socks.  Bring extra pairs. If your feet get dust on them make sure to wash them asap. 

Sun Hat - A hat makes all the difference in your experience.  You need something to cover your head, even if it's a scarf.  You generally want to minimize direct sun exposure to your body to keep your temp down. 

Dust Cloth/ Handkerchief
  - To wear over your mouth, when the dust kicks up, or wear on your head.  Breathing Dust SUCKS. 

An Extra Pair of Shoes, and a complete set of clean clothing, Wrapped in a Bag.  - Xavier's Secret Sauce - after you've loaded everything else into the van on the way home, you can open your secret treasure stash of CLEAN CLOTHING and leave Black Rock clean!  Helps when dealing with annoyed cops, and you won't track dirt into Denny's on the way home. 

Your Backpack

 Always bring a backpack (now the Camelbak),  and I usually have an assortment of stuff in there so let's get through it really quick.
- Lip Balm - Because it's so dry, you'll often find your lips will dry out really fast - lip balm helps.
- Goggles - Safe in my bag - I usually carry two since they pack together well.  They come out when the dust kicks up.
- Dust Mask - Breathing dust sucks. 
- Baby Wipes - For washing your hands, face, feet, nose, etc.. you won't have ready access to water to clean yourself. 
- Sunblock - Trust me.  You don't want blistered, raw skin at Burning Man.  
- Small notebook and several pens -  You'll meet people, you'll want addresses, they'll want to meet you etc.. self explanatory.  - On the notebook write your name, your camp info, contact info etc in case you lose the bag or something else happens.  Just in case. 
- Headlamp or flashlight - A simple camping headlamp will work just fine. You'll look like a dork, but you won't get hit by a car at night and you'll find yourself using it all the goddamn time at night.  
- Blinkies/Glowsticks - turning yourself into a lightshow isn't just cool, it's safety - you can see people, they can see you at night. 
- Camera - this is more want than need, I keep it in a ziploc bag
- Extra Ziplock bags
- Folded up plastic Trash Bag
- Cigarette tin - a mint tin will work fine, for holding butts or roaches, whatever.  DON"T THROW ANYTHING ON THE PLAYA.


Camp Lamp  - Did I mention there's no electricity at Burning Man?  And there's no light in your tent at 4am in the morning?  Good to have a backup lamp to your headlamp. 

First Aid Kit  - it's on the survival guide, and you generally need one anyway, so bring it.

Duct Tape - You will always find a use for this stuff..  Just bring a roll.

Zip Ties - Thick plastic ones - Super useful. 

Rope - See Zip Ties.

Tarp -  usually have a large plastic one - doesn't always get taken out, but if needed it can act as shade, or serve as a floor, etc..

Lighter - Bring Several.  For cooking, if nothing else.

Clips - last year I got several sizes of Carabiners and they proved incredibly useful - whether it was holding my water bottle, or holding my tent down, or just keeping my gear attached to the car!

Toilet Paper - There are porta-potties at BM, but they don't always have TP in them all the time - and you can't use your babywipes (they clog)

A Mallet  - Bought a 5 pounder a few years ago and I always use every year - everyone should have a big old hammer. 

"Emergency" Blanket -  Chances are the same place selling the First Aid Kit will have one of those Metal Reflective Emergency Blankets - I've never used it to keep warm, but I have used it twice - once for a makeshift costume and once I cut it up and duct-taped it to the inside windows of my car to keep the interior slightly less hot. 


Bring something personal, from you to the people you interact with.   Take some time to think about what you want to bring.  Depending on the circumstances I was not always able to afford/transport gifts to burning man, but here are some thing I have given/received at Black Rock to give you an idea of the sheer variety.

- Suckers, mints, assorted candy
- Instant print-out photographs (of me, friends, etc)
- Pornographic playing cards with your future on them.
- Blinkies/glowsticks
- Jewelery (Bonus points if it glows or has lights)
- Drugs & Alchohol
- Tea
- Personalized Buttons, Stickers, temporary tattoos
- Personalized T-Shirts
- A small bottle of bee's honey
- A small bottle of Playa dust
- A Leather bag with Magic Stones in them.
- A faux check in the amount of $40 in exchange for my sins.
- A song.
- A poem.
- A postcard mailed through the Black Rock Post Office
- Pancakes and Bacon.
- Personalized Shotglasses
- A Laminated "Genital Portrait"
- A Laminated "Black Rock City Citizen ID"
- A personalized gambling token
- Blinky Dice
- A Sno Cone
- A Sno Cone made from tequila and juice. 
- Hugs 

Your Bike.
Just read the Burning Man guide -

Bikes are not merely a convenience; they are part of our culture. Our city was designed for pedestrians and bikes, but there is no bike repair available, so be sure your bike is in good working order BEFORE the event, and bring tools, a wire brush, chain lube, and extra tire tubes.

LOCK YOUR BIKE! - It is recommended you lock your bike at all times when not in use. NEVER ever lock your bike to guy wires on the Café or any other structures. This can pose a safety hazard. Also, do not lock your bike to artwork as this may hamper performances and scheduled burns. No bike is considered stolen unless the lock was cut, and no bike is considered lost until the event is over on Monday.

DECORATE YOUR BIKE - It is much less likely your bike will be borrowed without permission if it looks unique.

MARK YOUR BIKE - and ALL of your significant processions (backpack, camera, etc) with your name, home address and camp location.

LIGHT UP YOUR BIKE - All participants are asked to light their bike to avoid injury and damage.


Table  - if no one has one, you'll often find yourself cooking on the ground. 
Metal Pipe -  For rebar bending - it's sort of a one use item, and I'll have one... so..
Sunglasses - if you would wear sunglasses normally, then bring them - but not expensive ones.