Recommendations for virgin Burners
(and reminders for veteran Burners)

By BrotherWolf (of the HBGB Healer Camp)

Recommendations for virgin Burners (and a review/recap for veteran Burners):

Note: This is a long post. I’ve put headings in ALL CAPS so you can easily scroll to the sections of interest to you.  

Below is my response to a query within the HBGB group from a virgin Burner who wanted advice from veterans. Below is my supposed ‘wisdom’ from 4 prior Burns.

WHAT TO DO AT BURNING MAN

  • * Allow serendipity. The playa is magic and you will meet people that you will connect with for years and decades.
  • * Be sure to visit the big center pieces of Burning Man: Center Camp, Temple, and the Man.
  • * Special note on the Temple: Go to the Temple, often, and write on the walls all the negativity and sorrow and stress carried through one’s life. If you have things to burn away (diaries, wedding dresses post-divorce, pictures of people lost…). I’ve gone every year and it’s been really powerful for me. It’s hard to explain, but here is a video that describes it: http://www.ianmack.com/videos/dear-temple-of-transition/
  • * For contrast, go to Thunderdome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-DOsWWR-Ak
  • * Go to classes and workshops. You’ll get a guidebook at Burning Man with the official listings of hundreds of classes, performances, and other events.
  • * Listen to the music, and sometimes you won’t have the option not to. Music is an integral part of Burning Man. Fortunately the larger sound camps are now located or aimed at ‘deep playa’ (away from the ‘city’) to cut on the noise pollution.
  • * Go on an art tour, it’s worth it. I’m repeating myself here, but these artists have literally spent months designing and building these pieces, much less hauling and installing them out in the Playa.

LEARN ABOUT THE ART

  • * Go on an Art Tour while at Burning Man. It’s worth it. https://burningman.org/…/infrastr…/the-artery/art-discovery/
  • * Pre-Burn (and post-Burn): Google “Best Burning Man Photos” and enjoy the show. * * One of the most famous photographers is Scott London, for a good reason: http://www.scottlondon.com/photography/burningman/
  • * Pre-Burn (and post-Burn): Google “Burning Man Art” and enjoy the ride, especially admire the mutant art cars.

OFFICIAL BURNING MAN SURVIVAL GUIDE:

Recommendation #1 (and always #1): Read the official Burning Man survival guide, like 5-10x, no joke. That thing is pure gold to ensure you won’t get yourself accidentally injured, sick, or severely dehydrated (which happens). https://burningman.org/event/preparation/

WHAT TO BRING/PACK:

  • * Note: There are a lot of good resources that are much more complete (e.g. Dazzle’s list at http://siliconvillageburners.org/pods/resources/dazzle/) or the writings on the official site (https://burningman.org/…/prepar…/playa-living/on-playa-tips/) The ones below are only a few of the real highlights that made a big difference for me.
  • * Bring several sets of ear plugs: ones for sleeping that drown out all sound and ones for music (the hollow ones that maintain fidelity but just cut volume).
  • * A backpack or other method to carry items while freeing your hands so you can travel on your bike. It also gets *cold* at night and quickly. Backpacks can carry layers.
  • * Lots of blinkies, especially the battery powered flexible “Chasers” that you can weave into your bicycle spokes that make you *super* visible. I got mine at www.extremeglow.com.
  • * Carry salt with you in a separate bag or container along with water to keep your minerals up.
  • * When traveling about the Playa, think about others and consider bringing, e.g. a small gift to grace another Burner (e.g. a small blinky) or some emergency support if you find a burner in need, e.g. spare water + salt, bandaids, simple dust mask, or bandana

COSTUMES

  • * Costumes are a big part of Burning Man, as Burning Man is an opportunity for people to ‘try on’ different personas or express a side of yourself authentically that hasn’t had its time to shine.
  • * You can bring your own or visit some of the costume themed camps that can be at Burning Man, eg. Kostume Cult has racks of clothes to use.
  • * You can use costumes to try on different identities, push your comfort zone, or just aim for what makes you feel amazing and free.

GIFTING

  • * Gifts are an integral part of Burning Man’s Ethos. Not sure what to gift people? Think about something small and inexpensive (or even free) that shares some of your spirit as a person. For example, one way I express my love and care for others is looking after their health and safety.
  • * I express this on the Playa by carrying gifts of blinkies, dust masks, water, and salt. If someone yells out, “Hey! You need some more Blinkies so you don’t get run over” and then that someone hands you a small, yet extremely bright blinky, it just might be me. If you see an arm extend through the haze of a dust storm holding a spare dust mask for you, it’s probably not a mirage, but a fellow burner like me making sure you avoid Playa Lung.
  • * Let your gifts be a small expression of yourself, whether it’s being the safety geek, or gifting face-painting, stickers, singing, a hug, schlepping some gear, helping a lost Burner, or making someone laugh.

SAFETY

  • * Reread the official guidelines from Burning Man. Their motto is ‘don’t die’ for a reason.
  • * Take care of your feet and your lungs and your eyes: Playa foot, Playa Lung, and Playa Eye are real things. See below:

BREATHING MASKS

  • * Some people bring 10 bandanas and just layer them as needed.
  • * Fullface mask option: Though a mask + googles work, googles can really interfere with your vision. I prefer something like this: Full face mask3M Fullface respirator (https://goo.gl/iZUxpg) – note: if you have glasses, you’ll either have to poke a small hole through the rubber seal for your glasses stems to go through, or figure a way to buffer the gap created by your glasses. Note, you’ll need some extra filters: Filters for 3M: Regular particulate filters (https://goo.gl/y84ZMv) for mask or Fine particulate filters (https://goo.gl/d57MvL) (I’ve read these are used for asbestos):
  • * Half masks options (require separate goggles)
  • * Half mask using 3M Filters. Standard medium size mask (https://goo.gl/wkrfVo) using 3M clip-on filters
  • * Other Burners have recommended “PlayaLung.com”
  • * Super cheap face masks (https://goo.gl/rGuw7n). I buy a pack of these to keep a few my day bag to hand out as gifts to any maskless burners caught on in a dust storm.
  • * There are other options out there, like “military grade” (https://goo.gl/SndzEJ) masks if you want the minimalist look that claims to be very high quality.

EYE PROTECTION:

  • * If you aren’t doing full faceshield, you want goggles that can handle the brightness of the sun, but give you the peripheral vision and the flexibility to wear glasses. These are the military style goggles (https://goo.gl/ZosXyK) that seem to make the most sense.

PLAYA FOOT:

  • * Alkalinity can really crack your heels. Use the vinegar-in-a-bucket foot bath to soak your feet in on a daily or twice daily basis. Read the official stuff at https://burningman.org/…/preparat…/health-safety/playa-foot/

EAR PROTECTION:

  • * Music is a big part of Burning Man. Enjoy the music, yet don’t enjoy it so much you sacrifice your hearing for the next few decades. As mentioned above, bring several sets of earplugs, including ones that are “concert” worthy ear plugs that maintain fidelity while decreasing volume. Occassionally, you’ll run into a blowhard that yells into a megaphone across the desert for their own personal catharsis or amusement, so keep your earplugs on you at all times just in case

****************PLAY SAFE***********

RISKY BEHAVIOR AND CONSENT:

  • * There are a lot of opportunities to engage in spontaneous activities that carry risk. What’s key are communication, consent, and community awareness (e.g. someone in the community knows where you are).
  • * Watch the “Wheel of Consent” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auokDp_EA80), which is a standard framework for many Burners. Note: you may want to watch this at 1.5x-2x speed.

SEXY TIME

  • * Recommended reading: https://burningman.org/…/prepar…/playa-living/relationships/
  • * Burning Man is where relationships are started, consummated, tested, and occasionally combusted. If you go to the Temple, you will see multiple joyous weddings juxtaposed next to a pile of old wedding dresses waiting to be burned on Sunday evening. Of relevance: https://burningman.org/e…/preparation/playa-living/weddings/
  • * If you are already in a relationship going into Burning Man, please, for the love of all things dusty and blinky-laden, talk about your expectations before getting onto the Playa. There are a lot of cute and open-minded people at Burning Man, but that doesn’t mean your partner wants you flirting with others. Just because the playa is an open canvas to explore one’s sense of self doesn’t mean you have implicit permission to explore an open relationship in any capacity without permission and consent by your pre-playa relationship.
  • * And of course play safe, use consent (see the “Wheel” mentioned above), bring protection, be sanitary and bring hand sanitizer, have the uncomfortable conversations about STDs, pregnancy protection, boundaries, and other adult discussions that you should have before doing those fun adult things you do.  

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL

  • * Yes, there is a drug and alcohol sub-culture of a certain percentage of participants at Burning Man. However, the larger media who just wants some easy clickbait portrays Burning Man like the drug and drinking sub-culture is all there and all that anyone ‘really’ does.
  • * I look forward to a day when the media emphasizes the other reality of Burning Man, namely art culture, creativity, gifting, 10 Principles, and other more worthy subjects for public illumination. I personally don’t partake in any recreationals, as I have already overcome 2 additions (sugar and video games) and am not looking for a 3rd.
  • * If you do participate in recreationals, please be safe about it and extra safe because you are in a very dry, dusty, and otherwise hazardous environment. Buddy up, make sure people know where you are wandering off to, be really hydrated, well illuminated with blinkies, and warmly dressed if you are wandering around in an altered state at night.
  • * If you are part of a large camp or a group of campers all together, remember you are part of your camp and are looking out for each other amidst the dusty (and sometimes dangerous) backdrop of the playa. If you have inclinations to party hardy, just plan accordingly.
  • * Remember you may have responsibilities next day to your fellow campers and people may be depending on you, so plan accordingly with your team if you are going to voluntarily and temporarily incapacitate yourself.
  • * Communicate with your team so your responsibilities are taken care of preemptively or deferred to someone else temporarily or delayed to later in the day so you can recover.  

MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE

  • * Consider the emergency chopper airlift insurance. Better to pay $50 now and not $30,000 in bills if you have to be airlifted out. See the Burning Man page on the insurance: https://burningman.org/…/health-safety/medflight-evacuation/. WARNING: It takes 15 days for the policy to take affect, so get your application in asap.

EMERGENCY HYDRATION DRINK.

This saved the life of at least one person in the 2010 burn:

  • * 1/2 tsp Salt, 1-3 tsp of apple cider vinegar (or lime/lemon), 1-2 TBS of coconut sugar, and water. Note: the ratios will vary and will ‘taste right’.
  • * This mimics gatorade and will keep water in when it would otherwise jet out. I walked around with this mixture on me as an emergency option for myself or someone else.
  • * Note: Coconut water is also a good standby  

BLINKIES

Definition: Bright things that alert art cars and other Burners to your presence so you aren’t accidently run over. This is real. When biking on the desert at night, it’s hard to see someone also on a bike unless they have blinkies.  

BLINKIES Definition: Bright things that alert art cars and other Burners to your presence so you aren’t accidently run over. This is real. When biking on the desert at night, it’s hard to see someone also on a bike unless they have blinkies.  

Recommended Blinkies: Here is an image of what I got from Extremeglow.com – I strongly recommend the ‘chasers’ because they can be woven into your bicycle spokes for super high visibility. I use 2 chasers per wheel.

Here is an image of what I got from Extremeglow.com – I strongly recommend the ‘chasers’ because they can be woven into your bicycle spokes for super high visibility. I use 2 chasers per wheel.

If you want good gift ideas, get the “red-green-yellow-body-lights” as small cheap gifts to give “blinky-less burners” who wander around the playa at night who are at risk of being run over. If you want fancier gift ideas, get leg warmer blinkies. This can double not only as a gift, but if the temperature drops suddenly at night and they need some extra insulation on top of being visible.  

Just be sure to get backup batteries for the chasers as they run out after 3-5 days. They need the “LR44/AG13” batteries. The rings use these too. TheLR44/AG13 button batteries can be gotten here: https://www.amazon.com/…/B00I…/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage…  

For most other blinkies, you’ll need CR2032 batteries: (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2…).  

Pro-tip: only get blinkies that use one of 2 types of batteries (e.g. LR44/AG13 + CR2032). If you get too many blinkies requiring more than 2 types of batteries to power all of them, it can get real frustrating juggling different battery types.  

ExtremeGlow do free shipping if you get $69 worth of stuff, and if you sign up for their newsletter they give you 10% off. I do not work for them nor do I do any affiliate deals with them. I just think they have some good stuff and are relatively inexpensive and are very Burner friendly.  

Don’t underestimate the ‘rainbow lightstick”. It’s very visible and useful to carry in one’s back pocket or stickout out of a backpack. It has a small ribbon to hang it from things as well, at least it did when I got one years ago.  

The Medallions are *super* bright. They are very useful to have in a mesh pocket in the back of your backpack so you have a clear blinkie on your backside, especially while walking at night.  

When looking at Blinkies, think of aiming at multi-color lights that shift between colors and change brightness of light. This will draw the eye better to ensure people see you because the eye is hardwired to target any object that rapidly changes movement, color, or brightness (think walking in the jungle and seeing an orange object move out of the corner of your eye, and your eye automatically will target it thinking it might be a tiger). For the neuro nerds out there, it’s the tectospinal reflex. Hurray for neurology!  

Don’t skimp on blinkies because they can prevent you from being run over. 

DRIVING INTO AND OUT OF BURNING MAN:

[This section on driving was written by a fellow HeeBeeGeeBee Healer: Eric “Papa Bear”]  

First, never bring anything to the playa you can’t afford to lose or have damaged. While rare, hazards include winds hard enough to strip paint, and poorly anchored shade structures from other camps breaking free and landing on the vehicle.  

That said, here’s absolutely everything I can think of in terms of cars:  

  • * Make sure your car is well-maintained and serviced before leaving for the playa (standard road trip advice, but lots of people neglect it).
  • * Before you leave home, buy a spare air filter for your car, and make sure you know how to change it. As soon as possible after leaving the playa, stop somewhere and put in the new one.
  • * Also before you leave home, double check to make sure you have your ticket and vehicle pass. I recommend waiting to affic the pass until just before you get to the playa – should something happen and you have to switch cars, you’ll be glad you didn’t.
  • * If you are driving in from the east, don’t even think about taking the “shortcut” from Winnemucca to Gerlach. That’s Jungo road, it will ruin your car and ruin your trip. You want 447 from I80.
  • * Be very careful to adhere to the speed limit in the little towns of Wadsworth, Nixon, Empire, and Gerlach along 447.
  • * Try to fill up your gas tank in Fernley, and consider topping it off again in Gerlach or Empire if you can. You want to make sure you have enough in case exodus takes an excessively long time.
  • * Driving on 447, you may see suicide rabbits run across the highway. Do not swerve to avoid them – the shoulders are soft, and it’s better they die than you.
  • * Also on 447, you may see cows wander across the highway. These, you don’t want to hit. Still, favor braking over swerving.
  • * Just before you pull off the pavement on to the playa, put your vents on “recirculate”. Keep them that way until you are back on pavement afterward.
  • * Make sure you have food, water, and other necessities readily available to you as you come in. You could wind up spending hours (or even a day) on gate road.
  • * It may be hot when arriving or leaving, but keep an eye on your car’s engine temperature if you are using AC. You’re not getting any cooling from the air passing through, and don’t want to overheat the engine.
  • * Once on playa, keep your car completely closed as much as humanly possible. Dust will still get in, but that will help keep it down a little.
  • * The desert sun can really heat up a car’s interior. You can cut mylar “space blankets” and use painters tape to cover the windows, which will help a lot.
  • * Do not allow ropes, straps, or fabric from a structure to touch your car. It’ll rub the paint off. No car cover either, for the same reason.
  • * Do not attach tarps, etc to the roof rack or handles of your car. It can become a sail that lets the wind tear those components off of the car.
  • * If it’s feasible, try parking the car away from the prevailing winds. They can blow any direction, but the strongest usually come from SSW to NNE, and to a lesser extent from NE to SW.
  • * Get plenty of sleep before exodus, and don’t try to pass people on the highway.

********END PLAY SAFE (and drive safe) SECTION********

SLEEP:

  • * Remember to sleep at least 5-6 hours a night (or during the day?) and do strategic napping in the afternoon to catch up on sleep if needed.
  • * Why 5-6 hours? Because nobody gets 7-8 hours at Burning Man because there is too much amazing stuff to do and see and people to meet. I think 5-6 hours of sleep + strategic napping is at least reasonable to ask of people so they can be functional and get an extra 2 hours a day of (semi)-wakefulness.
  • * You will enjoy Burning Man a lot more if you have sleep. I know it’s hard to let the night go, but really, sleep is your friend. Coffee can be useful, albeit required sometimes. I’m surprised there isn’t a “Coffee IV Drip”-themed camp somewhere.  

 

FOOD:

  • *There are many many opinions on food at Burning Man. Here are just some basics.
  • * Bring extra water. This is no joke. Follow the guidelines in the Survival Guide and bring extra anyway.
  • * You’ll want salty and fatty foods out there. Bacon takes on a whole new meaning in the desert.
  • * Elaborate cooking at Burning Man is no fun unless you are with other people and having fun doing it. It sucks to waste a huge amout of time prepping, cooking, and cleaning unless it’s part of the social environment. Keep food simple otherwise.
  • * Make sure you have a really large and strong breakfast. You’d be suprised how distracted you can be as the day goes on and you find yourself not anywhere near a proper meal.
  • * Stay hydrated during the day. Add salt to your water as well.  

 

COMIC RELIEF about Burning Man:

  • *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_djs2x8yKQ – “Ultra Spiritual Life”
  • * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CV4i7dWeu0c – Hitler plans Burning Man (yes, this is a comic piece, it’s based off the internet meme (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Hitler-Downfall-parodies-25-w…) of changing the subtitles of a small section of the movie “Downfall”).  

 

YOUR “PLAYA NAME”:

  • * You probably noticed that people have “Playa Names”. There is a persistent question of whether you should name yourself or let other people name you. Most Burners I’ve asked say that someone else at Burning Man should gift you your new name as appropriate or fitting to the situation or your personality (and it’s your choice to accept that new name or not).
  • * This naming criteria is half-truth/half-guideline, partly because it’s very typical for other people see your essence better than you can see it yourself. I think it’s a useful guideline to let someone else name you, but not necessary.
  • * Playa names, like life, are a work in progress. If you find a name that better fits you, then change it. Yet, avoid changing your name too often (or at all) at the same Burn because it confuses the rest of us (and possibly yourself).  

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

Burning Man means different things to different people. It’s really whatever you make of it and experience of it. Some people find it’s the first time they can be authentic, that they can drop all masks and pre-conceptions…and sometimes that is a scary place to be.  

With all one’s identities stripped away by the alkali dust, we are left with the eternal question: “Who am I?”  

 

  • Love & Blinkies,
  • BrotherWolf 

BrotherWolf first went to Burning Man from 2007-2009 as HBGB, then again in 2011 with the Contact Dance camp and was a Temple Guardian. He’s now returning in 2018 to the HBGBs.  

You’ll find BrotherWolf at the HBGB camp either cooking for his beloved Heebee family or teaching in the HBGB classroom on biohacking, stopping sugar addiction, unplugging from tech/video games, or identifying one’s unique diet. 

If you run into BrotherWolf on the playa, you’ll notice he usually carries an oversized backpack and will most likely ask you if you need a spare dust mask or blinky (and hand you either or both if you’re in need). 

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