10 Items to Survive and Thrive at Burning Man
Our favorite gear for the playa
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Your neighbor is bedazzling her bike. Your cousin just dyed his hair blue. The hardware stores are out of dust masks and glow sticks. This can mean only one thing, it’s time for Burning Man again. Oh yeah, and you have a ticket and you haven’t bought anything yet. Fear not! The following is a list of some of our favorite outdoor gear that happens to work exceptionally well on the playa.
1. Shiftpod MIR Shelter
Looking at the Shiftpod MIR ($1,200) you’d almost think it was designed specifically for the conditions at Burning Man. That’s because it was. It’s a 12-by-12-by-6.5-foot-tall dome that sets up in less than two minutes. That’s plenty big enough for a queen-sized bed, some chairs, and all kinds of other gear. It’s as dustproof as anything you can buy yet it has mesh vents that are easy to open and can accommodate specific fans or AC units. It has zippered windows and ports for running electricity. The silver fabric supposedly reflects 98 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays, keeping it cooler by day, and it should keep you warmer at night, too. You can even get an optional 60W roof-mounted solar panel for charging your gear. Not only that, for every 20 pods they sell they donate one to a family in need and other relief efforts. At $1,200 it isn’t cheap, but you can’t buy a better pre-made solution. They’ve been so popular that they’re actually sold out already, but if you’re wily you may be able to find one elsewhere online, or at an outfitter in Gerlach, Nevada, (the last town before entering BRC).
2. Canvas Tents
If you can’t get your hands on a Shiftpod or build yourself an insulated hexayurt of some type, a canvas tent is probably your best bet. They’re thicker and heavier than backpacking tents, but they breathe much better while keeping dust out (mesh is your enemy!). You have high-end solutions like 13 Foot Lotus Belle Outback Tent ($1,950) and low end solutions like Springbar’s Vagabond 4 tent ($500). There are tons of options, depending on the size of your crew and the size of your budget.
3. Exped Megamat Duo 10
Simply the most comfortable car camping mattress ever made. The Megamat Duo 10 ($350) has four inches of foam insulation, plus the air you blow into it, which makes it feel incredibly luxurious. The playa at Burning Man is more or less rock free, so one could argue that all that padding is unnecessary, but if you knew how hard it is to get ANY sleep there at all, you’ll want take all the comfort you can get. The Duo is built for two, but they have a cheaper, single version if you’re absolutely sure you won’t be sharing a bed.
4. Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed Queen Syn 2
Don’t be fooled by the blasting daytime heat; the desert can get cold at night. So you need something warm that fits your mattress. The Frontcountry Bed 2 ($230) should fit the bill nicely. It’s a giant, zipperless sleeping bag that gobbles up two people and allows them to sleep in any position they like. It’ll attach to the mattress and keep you toasty down to 27 degrees F, which should be just about perfect for average nights there.
5. Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
Between the sweat and the dust and the costumes you probably picked up at a vintage shop and didn’t bother to wash, you’re going to have the funk in a big way if you don’t wash. Solar showers are great, but as there are no trees on the playa you may be struggling to find a place to hold your five gallon bag of water high enough. Enter the Helio Pressure Shower ($100). It circumvents the need for gravity by adding a pump that pressurizes it. It’s 2.9 gallon capacity is a bit small if you were planning on sharing, but it should still get two people a nice warm rinse as the sun goes down.
6. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
At night it’s vital that you can see where you’re going, especially if you’re on a bike. The Black Diamond Storm ($50) is just about perfect for the Burn. Why? It’s waterproof. Obviously, there isn’t much water there, but there’s tons and tons of alkaline dust that will get into every nook and cranny of your electronics. That shouldn’t be a problem with the Storm. It also busts out 250 lumens of light and has dim red modes when you’re back inside your tent.
7. REI Flash 22 Pack
You need a good daypack. One that’s super light and breathable, but has room enough for a layer, some food, plenty of water, and other necessities. The Flash 22 ($50) should cover you. It has a hydration sleeve and port, plenty of pockets to organize your little things, and its straps are padded mesh so they should breathe nicely. It’s also cheap enough that you won’t mind that it gets pummeled with dust.
8. Camp Chef Everest Stove
You’re not going to find a better car camping stove out there. The Camp Chef Everest ($120) has two burners that put out 20,000 BTU each which should get your water boiling in a mighty big hurry. On the flip side, they can simmer low and evenly, too. It has matchless ignition and strong, three-sided windbreaks, which you might very much need. If you’re cooking for more than five you might want to consider one of their 14” Cooking Systems like the Tailgater Combo ($240) which stands up taller and includes a grilling surface.
9. EL Wire
At Burning Man, glowing at night isn’t just a part of looking, like, super trippy while you’re dancing, it’s also vital for not getting run over by some drunk person on a bike. Which happens, every year. While many people buy massive packs of glow necklaces and adorn themselves and their bikes, EL Wire (short for Electroluminescent wire) is a brighter and far more environmentally-minded solution. You can get cheap kits in just about every color you can imagine. Many even have different flashing modes. They run off of AA batteries (use rechargeable ones). Tape them to your bike, sew them to your costumes. Shine brightly. Approximatley $10 per nine-foot set.
10. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator Kit
Modern times! You have gadgets that you want to keep charged. Cameras, phones, batteries for EL wire, fans for your tent. How do you charge them at night? Goal Zero has a ton of solutions, but I like the Yeti 400 Solar Generator Kit ($660). It includes a 33Ah battery (which you should pre-charge at home) and a 20W solar panel to help keep it topped up. You may need more or less power depending on how many gadgets you need to charge, but the 400 is a middle of the road solution.
Ultimately, there’s a ton of stuff you want to bring. Earplugs, and dust masks, and sunblock, and eye goggles, and leather shorts, and much, much more. Make sure you check the official First-Timer’s Guide, and if you have any items you find especially indispensable, please leave them in the comments. Be safe, and have fun!
Brent Rose is a freelance writer and regular Outside contributor. He is currently traveling the U.S. living in a high tech van, looking for stories to tell. Follow his adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and ConnectedStates.com