Tuesday, October 6, 2009

MUST-haves for the Playa/Burning Man

nebija jau ta ka no rita piecelies, panem saulessbrilles un brauc.


m-dawg's MUST-haves for the Playa

Your backpack (totebags won't cut it - you need both hands free to get around):
You must have a camelbak or a small backpack that has a water bladder (uck, I hate that word) in it to keep with you AT ALL TIMES. A nalgene won't cut it - you've gotta be able to carry a liter or more of water with you everwhere you go, and this is the best way to do it. Dehydration is no joke - drinking water and peeing will be your primary activity sur playa.
In your pack, you should also always have:
Back-up pair of sunglasses
CLEAR goggles for night duststorms
A bandana - to cover your nose and mouth in case of dust storm, but also a handy do-rag, headband, washcloth, etc. Some prefer painter-style dust masks that can be bought cheaply at any hardware store, but I like for my gear to multi-task ;)
Chapstick with sunscreen
Travel-sized super-SPF sunscreen
A small flashlight (LED ones are bright and super-small and use less battery power)
Small bag of high-protein snack - jerky or trail mix - in case of emergency starvingness
I also like to carry emergency electrolytes - like "power goo" or those tabs you can add to water - never used them, but that can cover 80% of playa sickiness if you (or a friend) are feeling funky and are away from camp
For the ladies - a travel tube of one-ply TP can be a god-send when facing a funky Porto
Camelbaks and backpacks with pockets and places to clip stuff are fantastically functional.
Everything else is optional!
Hygene, you dirty hippy:
Baby wipes
Travel-sized pack of face wipes
Deoderant (beware meltage, keep in a ziplock)
A small bottle of Dr. Bronners liquid soap - you'll need this to ward-off playa foot, which happens if your tootsies are exposed to the alkalie dust for too long. For some reason, Dr. B has the right ingredients to keep this at bay, but also doubles as a wash-anything solution.
Toothbrush and paste - won't get used as often as everyone might hope
Consider wearing a bandana on your head while you sleep to keep your nasty hair from rubbing off on your pillow and then your face
Everything else is optional! Seriously, this is enough to keep you clean for four days.
Your playa transportation:
You need a bike that you can ride comfortably. My lesson learned is to get one that is the right size for you. Kids bikes are cheaper, but if you are over 5' 4", you will want to invest in a bike that is tall enough for you - and it goes the other way - riding a bike that is too big sucks too.
You need glow. Your bike needs to be lit up at night, period - or else you or your bike could be run over by an artcar. There's tons of ways to do this, but the easiest is to bring plenty of glow sticks/glow necklaces to wrap through the spokes of your bike and to strap them to the front and back each night. If you can't source a "headlight" for your bike, the headlamp you'll have strapped to your brain at night will do.
Bike lock - bikes get "borrowed," not stolen at Burning Man. Still, it can be inconvenient. The best way to prevent this if you will be traveling as a pack is to get a long bike chain so you can lock all of your bike together, and a combo lock (NOT a key lock), and make sure you all know the combo. I got a cool one that you can set to spell out a word at Target - awesome!
There's tons to do to stoke out your bike, but everything else is optional!
Your playa housing:
Tent and sleeping bag are the basics, but there are a couple of differences to playa life that you might want to consider:
Tents have vents. Vents let in dust. My recommendation is to bring a sarong or a sheet that you can use to cover your bedding and any other stuff that is in the tent when you aren't, and be diligent about "making" your bed and covering it up each "morning". That way you can gather it up and shake it out before you bomb your bed at the end of the night, instead of sleeping in piles of dirt.
Chances are you will have more stuff than room in your tent. There are a variety of drawbacks to keeping it in your car. One way to handle it is to pack your stuff in plastic boxes (under-the-bed or rubbermaid storage) that can be left outside your tent. If they have flat tops, they double a "tables" - tricky!
Comfy sleeping is a big tricky, because usually you go to bed when it is mad cold, and then within two or three hours it's 40 million degrees. One solution is to bring sheets & blankets and use your sleeping bag as a comforter, so you can where lighter PJs and throw everything off of you when it gets hot, facilitating maybe an extra hour of sleep. It helps to have an airmatress in this case.
You'll want earplugs because not everyone is sleeping when you are, and many find facemasks helpful when sleeping in daylight.
Your car, and your car keys:
When you get to the burn, gather up your life essentials and stash them in the glove box, including:
ID/drivers license
Medical info/emergency contact info
iPod/anything valueable (which you shouldn't be bringing, really)
There are major oopsies that can occur related to car and keys on the playa, including: oops - I left the light on and the car battery is dead, oops - I must have set the keys down somewhere around here, oops - I gave them to someone that's not here at the moment, oops - I locked them in the car/trunk, oops - they're on my bike that someone "borrowed" three days ago, oops - they flew out of my pocket while I was zipping on the zipline, oops - I must have left them on the plane, etc. There ain't no AAA on the playa folks! The best way to handle this is to minimize the required in-and-out of the car, and to designate A PLACE where they should always be that is not hard to get to. Everyone with access to that car should know where that is and be DILIGENT about returning the keys there.
Easy E's Unhelpful Rangerly Advice: As stated, no AAA on the playa. Options for lost keys include:
rebar - it breaks windows quite easily
playa info - you can call for a tow / unlock service from there. good luck with that.
You during the day:
Option 1: wear as little clothing as possible and lots of sunscreen. Assume you are not a nudist, that's shorts/skirt and shoes for boys, bikini tops/tanks and shorts/mini-skirt and shoes for girls. Sandles are OK if you are good about washing your feet - keep in mind, black flipflops will get mad hot when left in the sun.
Option 2: cover up but keep it light. Cotton PJs and scrubs are great for this, as are sarongs and long hippie skirts.
You will probably want to cover both options due to the fact that you will be riding bikes all the time - chaffing is no-bueno, and heat rash is possible - nice to be able to cover the skin if this occurs.
If your hair is long, braid it up or let it dread. You will want to be able to pull it back or up to keep it out of your face while riding your bike, climbing things or during windstorms.
Sunhats are great - even with sunglasses the sun is glaring and can cause headaches.
Everything else is optional! Bring what you like, but you don't have to stress costumes your first year. There are plenty of camps where you can get or make cool stuff to augment what you have.
You at night:
While planning your night costumes, REMEMBER that you will be in and out of the porto constantly. Onesies are the wrong answer, including jumpsuits, one-piece long underwear, bodysuits, etc. Save yourself and avoid wearing anything that might dip into the porto - oh the terror. Think also about avoiding aspects of your costume that could get caught in your bike while riding at warp speeds.
Think layers too. It can be VERY cold and windy at night, so tights or stretchy under-layers can be helpful. Hats, scarves, gloves, leg and arm-warmers can be great additions and as funky as you please. Also think about investing in a funky playa jacket or coat from Goodwill. It doesn't have to fit well, but be careful about the weight - nothing sucks more than dealing with a heavy coat that you aren't wearing at night.
You don't have to have to have a different costumes for every day, and you don't have to go with the yearly theme. Some folks get away with just one for the entire week.
Headlamps are super cool. I promise. You'll want at least one, and you will thank me as you are riding your bike to the porto at night.
In addition to your headlamp, you will want something glowy on your back so that folks in vehicles behind you can see you. A glowstick on a string that you can throw over your shoulder will do the trick. You might want to consider cliping/ducktaping something glowy to your backpack at night for the same reason.
Everything else is AWESOME, and optional!
Your mechanical stuff:
Anything with moving parts in it is liable to be gummed up on the playa by the dust. If it's valuable, like speakers, digital cameras, iPods, whatever - you will need to take precautions to keep it working, and be diligent about it. Digital cameras need to be kept in their case all the time, and probably in a ziplock besides - maybe bring disposables your first year. Anything you bring out there might be ruined, so think twice about what you really need/want to bring, and "let it go" in advance in case it comes back f'ed. All of this stuff is truly optional.
Your alcohol:
Bring your beer in cans, not bottles. There are no trash cans at burning man. We (you) haul out our (your) own trash. This is one reason cans work a lot better that bottles. They can be stomped when finished and make much lighter and compact trash. Another reason is the potential breakage factor of bottles. I'm not even sure they're allowed on the playa. Finally, when Meri gets soused, you would much rather have her hit you over the head with a can than a bottle.
I swear, you will never taste a better can of (insert name of cheap watery beer here) in your life. It's like these beers were designed for desert life. A porter would make me vomit out there. I'm not ever sure I could handle an IPA. Oh, but those American and Mexican lagers...So nice. Bring limes for your Tecate's.
Bring a foam beer koozie to keep your can cold. This is the weather for which it was designed.

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