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Burning Man for International Visitors (who can't drive)
March 24, 2014 5:36 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I will be going to Burning Man this year. It was the sort of thing we've both wanted to do forever, and finally bit the bullet to do it. I'm scared, but purely for logistical reasons. Any advice?

I know there have been a bunch of questions on Burning Man, but mine are specific I think to how we are travelling halfway around the world and really have very little cultural context or framework for understanding how this is going to (really) work. I get the abstract stuff (I think), but the logistics kinda scare me.

I've travelled the world and done a lot of hardship travel, but this terrifies me for some reason. I'm even trying to not think about the showering bits.

1. I've only been to the big cities of the US. Never to Nevada. What can I expect from the climate?

2. We come from Singapore, the land of no-reliance, much less self-reliance. Where I come from, we don't even have our own water or meat, I've probably only been camping once, so it's quite a stretch to imagine living out a life of radical self-reliance for a whole week.

3. Dust is fine. But I don't drive, and neither does she (you could get by without ever having to drive a car your whole life in Singapore). I'm trying to look for a camp, but no idea how to lug 1.5 gallons of water/person/day from anywhere to Black Rock City. (It takes about 6 months and $3000 or more for me to obtain a driver's license back home so starting it now isn't an option.)

4. We'll probably fly in to Reno or hitch with friends who will be going from San Francisco. I intend to rent burner bikes while I'm there. Any other tips re: transport?

5. Food. Food is pretty important to me. I don't expect gourmet food, but I think it should be edible. Anyone got food survival (hopefully tasty) tips?

This is going to be an incredible adventure and I cannot wait, but I really don't want to be stuck in the desert or show up and find myself woefully under-prepared!
posted by popagandhi to Travel & Transportation around Black Rock City, NV (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The desert is hot, dry, and dusty. Focus less on food and more on hydration. You will want food that is shelf stable, ready to eat, high calorie, and light weight. So think along the lines of beef jerky, canned tuna, canned beans, etc. avoid junk food like potato chips etc.

But, really, adequate hydration is your critical concern here.

As for flying: if you're coming from Singapore presumably you will enter the US at either SFO or LAX. If it's SFO why not meet your friends in San Fran rather than doing a flight from SFO to Reno?
posted by dfriedman at 5:42 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


You've read the first-timer's guide, yes?

(I would honestly worry less about how you're going to lug water around once you get there - people will help you! - than how you're going to acquire and pack all the stuff you'll want and need at Burning Man once you land in the US.)
posted by rtha at 5:55 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Yep, I've read the guide numerous times. Still seems rather baffling just in terms of stuff-acquisition and transportation, since I don't live in the US.

Thanks for the tips, guys!
posted by popagandhi at 5:58 AM on March 24


You can buy 5 gallon containers of water at many stores, it is heavy. But note what dfriedman says, dust and bad food will be annoying, dehydration can land you in the hospital. Bring lots of tiny light Singapore stuff to give away.
posted by sammyo at 6:31 AM on March 24


1. I've only been to the big cities of the US. Never to Nevada. What can I expect from the climate?

Hot and dry. How hot depends on the year; some years I haven't been able to wear a single shred of fun fur because it's sooooo hot (even at night); other years it's been pleasantly hot during the day and fuuuuucking cold at 3AM. Like, shivering desert cold. Keep an eye on the temperatures out there via your favorite weather web site over the months leading up to the event. Also, some years it rains and turns the whole place into a mud bath.

3. Dust is fine. But I don't drive, and neither does she (you could get by without ever having to drive a car your whole life in Singapore). I'm trying to look for a camp, but no idea how to lug 1.5 gallons of water/person/day from anywhere to Black Rock City.


You can take the Burner Express from either San Francisco or Reno. They'll even take your stuff into Black Rock City for you. YOU MUST BOOK THIS IN ADVANCE.

4. We'll probably fly in to Reno or hitch with friends who will be going from San Francisco. I intend to rent burner bikes while I'm there. Any other tips re: transport?

Rent from the Reno Sparks Kiwanis Bikes Program in Reno. Your money will go back to the local community that way. But again, do so ASAP. Like, now.

5. Food. Food is pretty important to me. I don't expect gourmet food, but I think it should be edible. Anyone got food survival (hopefully tasty) tips?

This is covered extensively all over the Internet. Do know that lots of people are serving food all over the Playa all the time, so there's a good chance of catching a hot breakfast or some ice cream or pretty much anything edible involving alcohol ... just don't rely on such things being available. My campmates and I always hit up the Trader Joe's in Reno beforehand; they sell lots of shelf-stable food that keeps all week long with a minimum of refrigeration or preparation. (Mmmm, Indian tasty bites.)
posted by mykescipark at 7:18 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


@mykescipark Wow, great tip re: Kiwanis Bikes. I just sent them an email, will do that right away. Any idea on whether we can take the bikes on the bus, though?
posted by popagandhi at 7:43 AM on March 24


Burner Express is a logical option for transport between Reno and BRC. Lots of international burners use it. You can pay extra to get on a bus that will stop and let you do a provisioning run on the way. Burner Express has only a few drop points inside BRC, so you'll need to think about how you'll get your stuff from there to your eventual campsite.

If you can get connected to a theme camp or art project, you may be able to rely on them to handle some of your logistics (water, wastewater, kitchen, shade). Obviously you want to arrange this well in advance. Theme camps can have pretty expensive buy-ins, but for someone in your situation, it might make sense. Dealing with wastewater is the most challenging logistical problem IMO.

If you haven't been hanging out on ePlaya, check it out. I was also going to suggest getting in touch with the Singapore Regional Contact (RC), but apparently Singapore doesn't currently have one.

Don't worry about the showering. For one thing, it's so amazingly dry that your sweat evaporates instantly. For another, it's so dusty that 15 minutes after you shower, you're covered in dust again anyhow.

The logistics are daunting, but lots of people who have devoted way less thought to the problem than you have gone to Burning Man and survived. You'll be fine.
posted by adamrice at 7:45 AM on March 24


This thread is a good example of how everyone experiences Burning Man differently. While I think that you'll find that suggestions that you prioritize water are pretty much universal, I personally find decent food and showers to be essential to having a good time on the Playa.

I would recommend, especially for first-time Burners, that you find a camp that can help with the logistics. I camped with just my girlfriend the first three years that I attended Burning Man, and it definitely made things much more difficult (both logistically and on a personal level).
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:14 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


While I am sure you are used to heat in Singapore, dry desert heat is a completely different type of heat take the drinking water considerations very seriously, I lived in a touristy desert destination in Australia for a while and watched tourists fall like flies not taking this seriously.

If you are having to lug everything in yourself consider baby wipe type products for cleaning yourself, you can get ones designed for camping or hospital use that don't leave a film, they leave waste you have to lug out or maybe it can be burnt, but showering and disposal of waste water is a pain there and it's lighter than carrying water. This is piece of info I have picked up from talking to a friend that went to Burning Man and not personal experience so make of it what you will.
posted by wwax at 8:41 AM on March 24


You really should find a camp to join. If you have friends in San Francisco, why don't you camp with them? Share car rental cost and chip in other ways (cooking dinner for the entire camp, designing and putting up a shower structure) for your lack of driving. Burning Man is much better experienced communally. I've had years when I basically stayed in our camp pretty much after Wednesday when it gets kinda crowded and still had a wonderful time.
posted by Shusha at 9:38 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


I went to Burning Man a few years ago. I found a ride on Craigslist. We split the gas. The guy drove, in my memory it was 5-7 hours from SF. There were 2 other persons who came along. All through Craigslist.

At some point on our trip we stopped at a Walmart for water (I had 4 or 5 gallon for 1 week don't think I finished those).

In terms of supplies I just bought some food at the Walmart for a week (canned tuna and some other stuff). I bought a sleeping bag and a small tent in a camping store in SF before leaving.

This comment is just to say that logistically for me it wasn't hard at all... I couldn't drive at the time and it was easy. I might have gotten lucky but I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by wolfr at 12:24 PM on March 24


Join a camp. Camps have shade and stuff you forget, like vinegar for your feet, mustard, etc.

Food : Join a camp that does food, but bring tasty snacks yourself. If you want grommet, then join a foodie camp like in the Black Rock French Quarter, but obviously this comes with work shift obligations. I'm a crazy foodie but I never care what I eat at burning man. I've acquaintances who fast to increase their energy level out there.

Water : There aren't nearly as many camps doing water as doing food, so choosing a camp based upon water limits your choices. And you'd need to bring water anyways because even a camp that provides water might screw it up. Just buy a folding shopping trolly cart that'll carry the weight.

Transport : I took the bus my first year, excessively slow and drops you at center camp. It's okay if you buy a folding trolly though. Ride shares are more legwork before the burn, but they save you 30 min walk with all your water on the playa.

Shower : Join a camp with a shower, but likely you must provide your own shower water. And I'd recommend the human carcass wash anyways. ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 2:39 AM on March 25


Can you do a regional burn first? At least join the Singapore list.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:41 AM on March 25


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