Playa Guide: 10 Critical Items Every Burner Needs

Preparing for the burn can, at times, feel overwhelming. Packing lists can grow to hundreds of items, and if you're on a budget, you may start to question what you can omit from the list. But there are some things you just can't do without, which is why I've created a round up of the ten most critical items you need for your burn. These things don't necessarily have to be bought, many of them can be borrowed, but none of them should be left behind. 

1. Transportation: Bicycles are the main mode of transportation on the playa, and not something I recommend going without, especially if it's your first year! You will want to choose a bicycle that has knobby tires to you get you through the drifts of dust in deep playa, and preferably has a few gears, but you can make do with a beach cruiser. And while theft isn't common at the burn, there are lots of people enjoying many extra curricular substances, and bicycles have been known to wander off in the hands of people in an altered state, so be sure to bring a bike lock. And make sure you accessorize your bicycle with a basket to make your trips across the playa smooth.

If this is your first year, there's no need to start stressing about how you are going to buy a bicycle and store it post-burn, because rest assured, there are many options. Traditionally you can buy a bicycle en route to the burn from one of the many vendors that dot the road on the way to the Black Rock Desert, and then sell it back afterward. If you don't have the ability to haul one, you can rent one from Playa Bike Repair, or Hammer and Cyclery, and have it delivered to the playa. There are also communal bicycles provided by The Org, but they get scarce as the week goes on.

If you have a larger budget, want to skip the cardio, and have the ability to haul something, you can try motorized bicycles, Segways, and even electric trikes (but they have to be plugged in at night). Above all, don't forget to light up your bicycle.


2. Playa Coat: Don't underestimate how chilly it can get on the playa. Every year the weather may be different, but the cold is consistent. A full length jacket will transform your nights and free you to go anywhere at any time. And don't forget to grab some gloves and hats in case we have the same weather as the 2015 burn. You can read out entire blog on how to stay warm on the playa here.


3. Shoes: Everyone has an opinion on the best shoes for The Burn. My first year I had someone recommend Dr. Martin boots, but they failed to mention I should break them in. So I spent a week in painful boots with no alternatives. The next year I brought my Teva boots along with some Demonia platform boots. The downside I discovered was the zippers really slowed me down when they got mucked up by the playa dust. Bottom line: you need both fashion and function. Bring a pair of easy, slip on shoes or boots that are comfortable and breathable. Any other fashion boots are great for going out, but you still need your every day, walk around camp, or grab a coffee pair of shoes. Browse some of our suggested footwear.


4. Shelter: Those of you staying in RVs or yurts can skip to number five, but the rest of you, pay attention: you need a decent to good tent. One that will keep most of the playa dust out, and can withstand the wind. And you can't skimp on shade. It makes all the difference to be able to nap in the middle of the day in a relatively dust-free, quiet, and shaded tent. You can read our tent recommendation blog for more information.  


5. Dust MasksIt's likely that on a good year, you will only see a handful of dust storms, and thus a mask might not seem so critical. But when you are caught in one, they can make all the difference. Generally speaking, when a dust storm rolls through, I use the scarf wound round my neck to protect me, but there are times when the dust is thick enough, or when I'm building camp, and my hands aren't free, than I use a more robust mask like this one. Whatever you choose to protect your lungs, bring something for the dust storms. 


6. GogglesI personally don't enjoy wearing goggles because I find them to be hot and they block my peripheral vision too much. But they are not something you can skip, even at night, because dusty storms role in at all hours, and they can easily blind you. Of course you can choose the wild and crazy goggles that are studded and bedazzled, or just get some simples ones online, but don't neglect this wardrobe item. Even if you mostly wear your sunnies, keep your goggles in your bag at all times. Also, consider getting goggles that are clear for night time.


7. Adventure Bags: When I'm heading out in the morning, I have one rule: pack my bags like I'm not coming back for a while. That means a full water bladder, snacks, headlamp, cup, I.D., sunscreen, etc. The last thing you want is to be on an amazing adventure, and then realize you are out of water, or it's getting dark and you can't see any more. A day bag works best when complimented with a fanny pack, utility belt, or holster for the small items you want to keep with you at all times. Let your back pack hold your water bottle, snacks, etc. and leave it with your bike whie your fanny pack holds your I.D., camera, etc. 


8. Sunhat: When it comes to hats at the burn, it doesn't matter if you burn easily, or not at all. Spending eight or more days in the desert can take it's toll on you, so beat the heat with a wide brim hat that will ward off the sun. And you don't have to stick with cowboy style hats. Consider dressing up your headwear with beads, leather, or EL wire. 


9. Lights: As mentioned above, you need to light bike, but also yourself, and your camp in order to be safe. This really can't be stressed enough. Every year people are injured at the burn because they aren't lit. Even in deep playa it's possible to be hit by a cyclist, or worse, an art car that can't see your darktard ass. There was a time when The Burn was aglow with glow sticks, but thanks to their moopy reputations and the superior light given off by LED lights and EL wire, your options are vast. You can see some of our suggestions here. 


10. Cup: The drinks are free at the burn. Just head to any open bar and present your I.D. if you're over 21, and they'll serve you whatever they have. However, be aware that many bars don't provide cups, so if you want to be served, bring your own cup. I've made the mistake in the past of bringing bottles with small mouths that make it difficult to pour ice and beverages into them. These days, the carabiner cup has become popular.  

Want more ideas? Visit our essentials guide for more inspiration.