The burgin’s guide (part 1)
So...there are a couple of in jokes that have to do with Burning Man. People telling you how cold it is going to be, or how much you have to prepare are **not** jokes.
Understand that there is nothing out there for you. Nothing. Nothing nothing nothing except portos, and be sure to bring extra TP for when those run out (1 Ply! Regular stuff clogs the portos! Bad virgin!). By the way, they are fucking *disgusting* after a week. The crews that take care of them do a great job, but this isn't a hotel. it's a harsh-as-shit dry lake bed bed where 50,000 hippies live for a week.
There is no water, there is nowhere to buy water when you get there, there is no food, there is no shelter. There is nothing. You can’t pop over to Gerlach and stock up on supplies midway through the event. Prepare as if you were going to this environment on your own, and the closest resupply was several hours away.
There are dust storms. As in: plan for 50mph sustained for multiple days. Total white-out as in: I cannot see the more than 2 inches in front of my own face and need to hide in my vehicle with a dust mask on so that I can breathe. Antarctica-style whiteouts where if you need to get from one place to another you should tie a rope between these two places and follow it so that you do not get fucking lost.
What does this mean?
It means that when you build your shade structure (you need one. Yes, you really really need one), you need to engineer it such that when those 70mph gusts come along, it doesn't get ripped out of the playa and end up killing somebody. Let’s put this in perspective: could we set your camp up on a flat bed and drive it down the freeway at 70mph without any problems? Good, you’re ready for Burning Man!
Do you like rebar? Do you know how to work with it? Well you better learn. Bring a big sledgehammer.
Let's talk shelter for a second
It gets goddamned hot out there. I live in Arizona, land of "oh fuck I'm going to die because it is so hot here", and burning man gets HOT. I don't care how much you think you can deal with the sun, you absolutely **NEED** to build a shade structure of some kind (something to put your tent underneath of. The shade flap it came with does not count). There are a bunch of different types, the most common being:
Yurts (hexayurts). This is what a yurt looks like:
You will see a lot of them.
Domes: This is what a dome looks like:
You will see a lot of them.
Monkey Huts: This is what a monkey hut looks like:
You *almost definitely* want to build a monkey hut. It’s playa tested and playa approved. You’ll see them everywhere because they work.
Here is a guide to build a monkey hut: http://www.chromatest.net/Lovemonkey/
Seriously monkey huts are cheap, durable, good shade structures. You need one.
Whatever your shelter is, you need to set it up before you get to the playa. Set it up on a windy day. You must must do this. I cannot stress enough that once you get to the playa, there is *nothing* there for you.
2 gallons per person per day. In fact, 3 gallons per person per day just to be on the safe side.
You really really *need* water out here. It’s hot, it’s dusty, you’re going to be walking around, and maybe dancing, and probably drinking alcohol. You really need water.
Not only do you need water to keep yourself from dying, you need water to wash your dishes and to shower.
Remember, I said there is nothing out here. You need around 2000 calories per person per day of food. One of our campmates ($Natalie) did a fantastic job with our food in 2011, meaning we ate like kings, but going that big really isn’t needed. My suggestion is spaghetti, with angelhair noodles.
Get yourself a propane stove, and remember that thing about the water?
This is the stove we used:
Like I said, we ate like kings, so this might be overkill for you, but it boils water really quickly, meaning makes spaghetti really quickly. Other options are peanut butter and jelly, or mac n’ cheese.
One thing to remember about this is the trash it can create. Open your packages *before* you get to the playa and put the ingredients into baggies. Throw the trash in the trash before you leave your house. If you bring trash to the playa, you must bring it home with you (there are no dumpsters). Do you really want to waste time, space, and energy hauling spaghetti boxes around? No, you don’t. Open the packages and put the food into something reusable.
Don’t worry so much about the clothing. Yes, you could dress all out as sparkling unicorn (or a sparkling pony!), or a four legged black monster from another dimension, or a bird, or an angel or a fairy, or even a Doctor Seuss character (which might be appropriate this year), but for the most part wear whatever you want.
Wear whatever it is that you feel comfortable in. Last year I met one of the architects for The Temple, one of the [if not the] largest art project on the playa. He wasn't dressed in a blinking fur suit. Wear whatever you feel most like yourself in :) (If I had to give one piece of advice, though, I'd say not to wear anything with a logo on it)
(It could be fun to bring out a bunch of clothing to try while there, though, stuff you might be nervous to wear back in the default world)
Matter Out Of Place. This is a big one. Do NOT leave “moop” (that is: litter) on the ground. Do not do not do not. Bad virgin. When you’re walking around, if you see trash on the ground, pick it up and put it in your pocket. This will make crusty old timers smile at you :).
I’m not kidding about this. This is *your* city, and moop in *your* city should bother you. If you see trash, pick it up and put it in your pocket. Drop it in the trash back at your camp and then transport it home with you.
Pack it in pack it out
There are no dumpsters here. Literally everything you bring needs to go home with you. The only thing you get to sortof leave on the playa is water...sortof. You need to build an “evap pond”, that is: a small pool made out of black tarp with sides made out of 2x4s
This is what an evap pond looks like:
You absolutely *can not* pour your grey water out on the playa. This is considered moop, this is bad.
Instead, pour your grey water (stuff for washing your dishes, brushing your teeth, etc.) into the evap pond and let it evaporate. Then roll up the tarp and take it home with you. Do NOT pour grey water into the portos.
This is not a relaxing escape to a wonderful paradise in the desert full of naked chix for you to ogle, and dudes giving you free drugs. It is not something you “go to” it is something you participate in. If you feel compelled to share something with the world, burning man is the place to do it. If you’re hoping for a fun party to end your summer break, I’d suggest Mexico instead.
Burning man is in the middle of nowhere, right out side of a very small town called Gerlach. When you get “there”, prepare to wait in line in your car for up to 8 hours before you get to actually enter the city. When you leave, prepare to wait in the same line for another 8 hours.
Be sure to have enough gas for this.
What to do when you get there
There is no set list, this isn’t a music festival. Really it’s not a music festival, it is not a more underground version of Coachella. If you’re wondering to yourself “I wonder what I’ll get to SEE at Burning Man”, maybe rethink your perception of this a little. Instead, you should be thinking about what you’ll get to SHOW people at Burning Man or PARTICIPATE IN at Burning Man.
Imagine this: for the last 5 days you have not stopped hearing the rumble of dubstep music. It’s 3:00am, you’re curled up under a winter sleeping bag, wearing a winter coat, and still freezing. Every 5 minutes or so, an art car drives by blasting WUBs into your camp. You’re dirty, you haven’t gotten more than a few hours of sleep at a time the entire time you’ve been here.
You also haven’t stopped smiling the entire time you’ve been here.
If this is a problem for you, you’re going to want to camp on the outskirts of the city, but you’re still not going to escape the faint rumble of dance music, or the occasional HIISSSS POOOOOFFFFFFFFF of flame throwers.
If you go to Burning Man, it will be one of the most profoundly wonderful things you ever do. If and when you figure out how to build yourself a shade structure, pack food for a week, pack water for a week, get it all out to the desert, and bring it all back from the desert, it will be one of the best feelings you will ever have. Some of the stuff that I’m saying here might be a little exaggerated, but that is because I’m worried about you. No, you probably won’t die, but the dust storms are very very serious, and the temperatures hit both extremes every day. Prepare for the worst.
If you’re a virgin, and you’re reading this, ignore all of the people who are making it sound like you’re not welcome in the city. You are absolutely, by default, welcomed with wide open arms ready to give you a hug and tell you that you’re home.
But we want you to participate, and we don’t want you to get hurt. Flying carports, dehydration, or heat exhaustion are real risks, and you need to be prepared for them. Like I've said, you're not going on vacation, this thing is really hard. People are nervous because they don’t want you to miss out on this wonderful thing that we all love.
And crusty old-timers: if you’re worried that it’s just not going to be the same this year (because it was better last year), make it your MISSION to prevent that from happening. You DO get the culture, this is your call to action to build whatever you’ve had in the pipeline for the last few years. Make positive that the virgins get it. Make positive that you’re sharing this thing with them. Make positive that they don’t WANT to moop all over the place because they’ve realized that this is their home, and they want to take care of it. Make positive that they go home inspired to build something next year.
See you all out there (if I can find a damned ticket!),
(Watch for part two of this: "How to not be a darktard", "Are there drugs at burning man?", "Where do I camp?", "Vinegar!", "Wet wipes!", "Block ice and you")