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All photos by Ian Mackenzie.

Don’t forget these items and follow these rules and you will have a blast at Burning Man this year!

The first step to a successful trip to Burning Man is the trip itself.

1. Don’t make the trip twice – make sure you have your tickets!

2. Printed out google directions to Black Rock City (BRC) — there will be long stretches where you are out of cell service area, so don’t rely on directions from your phone. Directions from SF are here.

3. A spare car key – in case one of them is lost in the Playa.

4. A hide-a-key – so that you can leave the spare and people from your group can get into the car if need be, while everyone is out running around.

5. Car charger for your phone

6. Flash light

7. Make sure your tires are in good shape and you have a spare.

8. Either bring a small gas can or be very sure to fill up often — Gas stations are very rare during the 90 mile stretch from Fernley to BRC).

9. Some people choose to take illegal substances out to Black Rock City. Keep in mind that you will be driving through Nevada which has some of the toughest drug laws in the country.

IF you are going to take illegal drugs to Burning Man, make sure you drive the speed limit and don’t give a cop any reason to pull you over. Having open containers in the car or allowing your passengers to smoke ganja is asking for trouble, as either one would warrant a full car/trunk search.


The Black Rock Desert is not designed to sustain human life. It is hot, flat, windy, dusty, devoid of vegetation and water and very inhospitable. The more of the following things you can bring out, the more comfortable you and your group are going to be.

1. Shade structure! Get creative…it is essential to have some escape from the sun – and something that can sustain high winds. If you don’t know where to start, get some ideas here.

2. An RV — this is a big one. I take an RV out with my group each year because during the day it’s (way) too hot to sleep in tents and provided your RV has a generator, the air-con will save your life and make you lots of friends. And it can mean the difference between getting sand-blasted in a Black Rock wind storm to being inside, rolling doobies and cooking quesadillas.

Unfortunately, RVs are crazy expensive for this week because it’s Labor Day and every rental place knows about Burning Man. If you can’t afford to rent an RV the traditional way, I have had luck the past two years scanning Craigslist for RVs that are listed “for sale”, and cold calling each owner to see if he would be interested in making a quick $1200 for a one week rental before putting it right back on the market. If you can pull this off and split the cost between friends it’s well worth it.

3. Tent(s) – If you have more than one tent, I would suggest bringing two. Anything left “out in the elements” will be covered in dust within 20 minutes of arriving on the playa. It’s nice to have one tent to sleep in and one to store all your stuff in.

4. Extra-long tent stakes – As I said above, the wind is no joke in the Black Rock Desert. I have seen 60 mph gusts at Burning Man and I’ve also seen tents cartwheeling down the playa like tumble weeds.

No fun…so when setting up your tent you need to batten down the hatches and expect the worst. Sometimes for larger tents it’s a good idea to bring super skinny rebar, which can be bent and driven down deep into the playa to hold your tent in place.

5. Warm sleeping bag – yes, it is hot most of the time, but around 3am, temps plummet and it can get very cold.

6. Sleeping pad – the more the better.

7. Pillow(s)

8. A tarp – to go under your tent

9. A large piece of carpet that you are willing to sacrifice — this is a really nice element to have in your camp. It will allow you to take off your shoes and and chill, and will also cut down on the overall dust-swirls where you’ll be cooking and eating. That green AstroTurf they sell at Home Depot works great if you don’t have an old carpet.

10. Folding card table(s) – if you have more than one, bring them all. It’s really nice to have a table to eat/cook on and just sit at when drinking/playing cards.

11. Folding chairs, camping chairs…preferably with cup holders

12. Lanters, tiki torches or other sources of ‘space light’.

13. Camping stove and extra gas – the bigger the better, so if you have a Coleman that you use for car camping, better take that over a an MSR backpacking stove.

14. Christmas lights or strands of LED lights to give your camp a nice glow.

15. A large tub for cleaning feet – after running around in sandals all day it’s SO nice to clean your feet off and put some clean socks on before going out at night.


Being a ninja about planning your food/booze and kitchen is well worth the effort.

1. A huge cooler. I bring all the coolers I own and one of them could fit a body in it. I store food (after the Costco mission) in a few of the smaller ones and pack the big one with ice. (You will be able to buy ice in BRC but it’s expensive and a pain to carry back to your camp from Center Camp. Bring as much ice as possible. Dry Ice is even better.

2. Pots, pans, cooking spoons, strainer, cutting board.

3. A couple sharp kitchen knives.

4. Cleaning supplies for dishes, sponges, paper towels.

5. A pack of large ziplock bags.

6. A wash tub for doing dishes.

7. Bowls, plates, forks and knives – I would recommend either hard plastic stuff that can be washed or paper stuff that can be burned.

8. A large pack of the heftiest garbage bags you can find.

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Burning Man


About The Author

Ross Borden

Ross Borden has been a travel addict since he was 14. He's the founder of Matador and lives in San Francisco.

  • lazy burners


    If the ends are frayed, which most cut up carpet and especially astro-turf is, the frayed pieces blow away in the wind and get on the playa.

    It is absolutely horrible to try and clean up.

    If you have picked up other’s trash on the playa or stayed behind and cleaned up, you would know how easily this spreads and difficult to pick up.

    This is one thing that is preventable by just not bringing it.

    the exception would be use small carpets that are sewn/sealed on the edges, or using duct tape to make sure the carpet fibers don’t separate from the carpet itself.

  • Nick

    Ah… I SOOOOOOO want to go to Burning Man.

    Funny how little of the stuff on this list I own, though!

  • Sophia

    For me, what I can say is that, you will really feel that you are camping when you feel comfortable when you are in the campground or in the wild. I think that bringing things like camping tables or chairs will give you this comfort. Good experiences are lifetime treasures so be sure you got the treasure.

  • mitch

    A CUP!!!! most important thing to have at any and all times.

    and LIGHT UP AT NIGHT!!!

  • Kiwitravelbug

    1. Googles to keep out the sand – some of the huge sandstorms that blow through are intense. I bought ex-military desert goggles off ebay – perfect.
    2. A tutu – any colour. If you’ve never worn a tutu in your life, you will at BM. Trust me.
    3. Trail mix, packet food that you can eat without any preparation, heating, additional water, whatsoever – preferably in packaging that will crush lite.
    4. Big garbage bags – as you empty coolers, keep your bagged garbage in them. Stops your vehicle from being stunk out in the heat.
    5. Bungy cords and more long tent pegs than you expect to need. Anything not seriously tied down will blow away.
    6. A set of ratchet tie-downs are great for keeping tents and ropes tight.
    7. A 2nd hat for when you lose the first one.
    8. E-wire, or battery powered or solar powered christmas lights – for your tent, your bike, and your costume.
    9. Flashing badges from $1 store make great small gifts.
    - Brett, New Zealand (Kiwitravelbug)

  • The Resilient Family

    Thanks for the packing list!  Although I’ve been before its been a LONG time!  Can’t wait to practice my own radical self relience

  • Rrandy Fecundity

    Dust Mask, triathalon swim goggles w/UV protection (good for non-contact lens wearers too).

  • Artist, Laura Kimpton

    Pretty cool that an image of MOM is featured in this Ultimate Burning Man Packing List:)

  • Pandora Giacomo

    pussies take rv’s.

    • Adam Meyerson

      The RVs get pussy!

    • Pandora Giacomo

      lmao. I am A sexual so I never thought of that

  • Jackie Bavaro

    Electrolyte tablets! If you constantly put them in your water it’s a lot easier to stay hydrated. I think this is both because the electrolytes help, and because they make your water yummy so you’ll drink more of it.

  • April Doerr

    Apple cider vinegar works well on the feet to avoid playa foot!

  • Sun Flower

    I would recommend adding FOR SURE vinegar water in a spray bottle, about half and half. The playa dust is very alkaline and can dry skin out to cracking and bleeding by the end of the week (esp. if wearing sandals!) so the vinegar spray used to wash feet/hands each day helps restore your skin’s pH balance. I used this in addition to lotion.

    Secondly, I would add that Burning Man is not the time to buy cheap knockoff Ziplock baggies. I did this last year and almost all of mine broke- making them quite useless. Definitely worth the extra dollar or two to have reliable dust proof containers.

    Thirdly, a bike with a COMFY SEAT is good, especially for those with a bony butt like mine. Comfy seat (I ended up duct-taping two shirts to my seat one day in!), fat wheels, and possible shocks are good things to aim for when bike garage-sailing.

    Happy Sailing! :) )’(

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