Burning Man is known for its whiteout dust storms that bring Black Rock City to a halt at any time, day or night. Winds can reach up 80 mph (130km/h) creating dangerous whiteout conditions that will have you choking on the playa dust if you aren’t prepared. As a veteran burner I can vouch that breathing in too much playa dust can wreak havoc on your lungs and vocal chords.
Generally speaking the most intense dust storms are rare, and only happen a few times at any burn. But just biking around the playa can result in breathing in enough playa dust to irritate your lungs.
My approach to avoid injuring my lungs is to always have three kinds of dust masks available. The first item that I keep with me day and night is my favorite scarf.
I recommend everyone have a scarf like the one here because it is the most versatile thing you can carry. I have used mine to cover my head, protect my shoulders, cool me by wetting it down, provide ground or seat cover, and yes, become a makeshift dust mask in a pinch.
Aside from the scarf, I carry a technical dust mask with me at all times. These masks have professional filtering and are meant to keep dust and pollutants from reaching your lungs. And just because they keep dust particles out doesn't mean they are boring. You can see some suggestions below:
Now my scarf is a great impromptu mask, but isn't as convenient as a simple, less technical mask. When the need arises I also have a small cloth mask that isn't as good at filtering dust as the masks above, but it will give some protection and they are generally more comfortable. These masks are colorful, and some of them even light up!
Check out my suggestions below:
Feeling crafty and want to make your own dust mask? Check out my blog on how to sew your own custom dust mask.